It seemed, three decades ago, like a triumph of reform and empowerment.
Amid rising allegations of brutality and cover-ups, Long Beach residents voted to rein-in their police department through a new civilian oversight panel, whose 11 mayoral-appointed members would represent the city’s rich diversity.
The charter amendment that created the pioneering Citizen Police Complaint Commission was the work of a grass-roots movement that promised voters a new era of police accountability, especially in Black communities.
The effort was championed by two neighborhood activists. One, Barbara Shoag of the League of Women Voters, would later be named as the CPCC’s first chair. The other, Alan Lowenthal, would become a City Council member and then move on to Congress. “We were all jubilant,” Shoag recalls of the measure’s passage in April 1990. “We had worked very hard and it passed in all nine [council] districts. We were so excited to have achieved our goal of civilian review of the police department.” But as Shoag and Lowenthal now concede, the jubilation faded long ago when it became apparent that the winds of change would not be blowing through City Hall or the Police Department. “I was naïve enough to think that true […]