Long Beach plans for change and ‘reconciliation’ amid George Floyd protests

In a show of unity and push for change, the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday voted to move forward with a “Framework for Reconciliation” plan that will focus on racial injustice, police reform and policy changes to address historic inequalities.

The 9-member council voted unanimously for the plan as dozens of protesters gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday evening, calling for police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last month. Long Beach has seen more than two dozen peaceful protests over the past week as demonstrators gather in cities across the country.

Councilmember Rex Richardson, who proposed the plan, said Long Beach, like many cities, needs to acknowledge its history of systemic racism and make change a top priority.

“It demands change and it demands leadership from our local community,” he said. “It’s a moment we can’t ignore.”

For the 3 black members on the city council—Richardson, Dee Andrews and Al Austinit was a time to come together and take action.

“Even though Rex, Al and I do not always see eye to eye, our hearts are always in the right place,” Andrews said. “We are from different areas, but we are brothers.”

The plan will include meetings with community members and stakeholders to hear about experiences with racial injustice with a focus on policy changes and other reforms. Leaders also want to see police reform, including changes to use-of-force policies, internal reviews and disciplinary practices. The city budget could see a boost to youth programs, housing and social services.

Officials said the Long Beach Police Department is gathering data that the city can use for policy changes.

In addition to the framework plan, the council on Tuesday also asked for a review of the city’s Citizens Police Complaint Commission for changes that could make it more transparent.

Austin, who proposed the plan and has served on the commission, said the city is seeing a critical time for change.

“This is arguably the most impactful work we’ll do together as elected leaders,” he said. “In light of what we’re experiencing today, we still have much work to do to improve conditions for a large percentage of our city.”

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].