Letting loose months of frustration, commissioners indicated they were tired of sitting idle while the community characterized them as acting oblivious to FBI and Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigations into alleged police misconduct.
Commissioner Nat Rubinfeld speculated whether failing to react to the investigations could spell legal troubles down the road.
Simmering tensions at the meeting boiled over when Commissioner Jim Etter launched into a three-minute diatribe, blasting fellow commissioners as being uncooperative and continuing a tradition of “having nothing more than rotten, stained ideas.”
“You guys have your heads in the sand,” Etter said before storming out of the meeting. “This is my fourth meeting, and I’ve had enough.”
Commissioners then floated the possibilities of participating in investigations, being briefed on legal matters in private and sharing information with the council.
“I think this commission — its goals and its objectives — need to be beefed up,” Commissioner Ray Adams said. “I think the community is looking at us as a buffer. [But] as each meeting goes by, our hands are extremely tied based on code.”
The Charter gives commissioners the power to initiate studies and surveys, conduct hearings and investigations at the request of the council, act in an advisory capacity to the council, field non-traffic related complaints and examine department records that aren’t deemed confidential.
But Commissioner Hagop Hergelian characterized the description of duties as a floor, not the ceiling. He joined a unanimous vote to meet Oct. 28 to craft a formal request to the council.
The investigations and a series of civil rights lawsuits filed by seven current and former officers cast a spotlight on the commission this spring. Since then, it has taken on a more formal approach, even hearing its first public comments in more than two years.
But the process has been arduous. The City Council in August granted the commission the authority to determine the frequency and place of its meetings, roughly one month after commissioners voted to move their meetings from quarterly to monthly.
One commissioner said she was fine with taking on added responsibilities, but added that her peers should not fault themselves.
“It is not our fault that we’re not doing what you think we should be doing,” Claudia Bonis said. “It’s that we haven’t been asked.”