Candidate Carmen Trutanich responds to a question during the debate in… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
Taking their cues from a packed crowd at a South Los Angeles coffee shop, the two candidates for Los Angeles city attorney vowed Saturday to review whether the city's controversial gang injunctions unfairly target some people and called for an expansion of gang prevention programs.
Speaking at a debate in Leimert Park, City Councilman Jack Weiss and attorney Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich said they supported the injunctions but believed that those who leave the gang life should have their names removed from the injunction lists.
Civil rights and community activists have long complained that those identified as gang members on the injunctions find it all but impossible to escape the label.
If elected on May 19, Weiss said, he will launch a review of the city's dozens of injunctions -- which bar gang members from such activities as gathering together or carrying graffiti tools -- to determine which had worked and which had not.
"I do not believe that the goal and purpose of gang injunctions ought to be to create life sentences for people," Weiss told a standing-room-only group of more than 50 at the Lucy Florence Coffeehouse.
The issue provided a rare chance for agreement in an election contest that has been notable for its rancor.
Trutanich called for an independent probe of the injunctions and whether they include names that should not be on the lists. He also vowed to help strengthen anti-crime programs in schools and offer alternatives to jail for young offenders. He said the city should be diverting youngsters to the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or similar community programs.
"You take a kid who is 18 years old and you throw him in the county jail and what have you done? You've given him an A.A. [degree] in future gangbanging," said Trutanich.
Trutanich and Weiss are both former prosecutors.
Both painted themselves as eager to address the concerns of residents when they were asked how they would reduce gang violence while protecting civil rights.
But some in the audience expressed skepticism.
"When you guys ran for office in your primary, it was all about crime and punishment, and just now we're hearing about intervention and prevention," said Lita Herron, who runs the Youth Advocacy Coalition.
Several attendees at the debate, which was hosted by the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, criticized the Los Angeles Police Department. In response, the candidates portrayed themselves as police reformers but stayed clear of faulting the work of rank-and-file officers.
Weiss invoked the memory of Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner, who helped improve community-police relationships and was one of the department's highest-ranking African American officers. Garner died last month.
And the councilman objected to a proposal to name the new downtown department headquarters after former chief William H. Parker, whose legacy is tarnished by the department's brutality and discrimination toward African Americans during his tenure.
"The last thing we need is a name or a symbol that harkens backwards," Weiss said.
Trutanich said the city should have released investigative records into the 2005 fatal shooting of a black 13-year-old boy, Devin Brown, by an LAPD officer. And he pledged to launch a community forum that would address the neighborhood's concerns about such issues as policing.
"The African American community feels that they have been preyed upon, and they, in fact, have been preyed upon," Trutanich said to applause.
Trutanich has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and Weiss has been backed by Police Chief William J. Bratton.