Growing up, my mom, my brother and I watched my stepdad leave for work every day not knowing whether he would make it home. As a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, he put his life on the line to ensure the safety of our communities and protect our most vulnerable.
The vast majority of our law enforcement officers are just like my stepfather, upstanding citizens who believe that someone must stand up and protect our families, children and neighborhoods from lawlessness and chaos.
Unfortunately, these officers too often go unnoticed or are taken for granted.
This has never been truer than in the past few months.
A troubling movement to defund our police departments is taking hold in several major cities across America, including right here in Los Angeles County.
#DefundThePolice is now a real threat in our district. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has approved $145 million in proposed cuts for our Sheriff’s Department, including the elimination of the Special Victims Bureau, which deals with abuse of children, rape and human trafficking.
Here in the 25th Congressional District, we are no stranger to the reckless policies coming out of Sacramento. For a brief period, they even experimented with policies like “zero dollar bail,” which meant our communities had to deal with more criminals allowed back onto the streets.
That includes allowing a man to be arrested for driving a stolen vehicle and drug crimes three times in one day only to be released each time.
Thankfully, that policy was rescinded.
Defunding our local police force, however, goes beyond the experimental realm of criminal justice reform.
It has real consequences, which will undoubtedly make our neighborhoods less safe.
Americans agree that law enforcement needs reform and that abusive officers should be held accountable. Those who murdered George Floyd should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any officer who violates their oath and duty to our citizenry must answer for those violations, no exceptions.
What we cannot do, if we expect improvements to our law enforcement community, is cut funding and handicap officers with foolish and ineffective rules in life-and-death situations.
I have experience operating in dangerous situations with missiles and fighter jets from miles away, but these officers have to make split-second decisions when threats are just feet away. We have to allow law enforcement to have the ability to protect their lives and the lives others while still preventing the type of brutality we saw in Minneapolis.
As law enforcement is such a difficult job, it is crucial that we provide our officers with the tools they need in order to improve. As a former Navy fighter pilot, it is clear to me that the only way to become proficient in an extremely dangerous and high-stress profession is through rigorous and consistent training.
That is why I was proud to co-sponsor the JUSTICE Act, which would increase transparency in policing and invest in training and resources for our officers.
Unfortunately, several of our local elected officials, like my opponent, are hiding in the shadows when asked to speak out on this issue of defunding the police.
Now is not the time to stand by and tacitly approve of policy decisions that threaten public safety.
Now is the time to stand up for law enforcement and invest in community policing.
We can do both. We must.
I am proud to represent a district that is home to so many men and women who serve our communities with honor. That’s why I am donating 10% of my July salary to local foundations across the 25th District that support law enforcement officers and their families.
Our officers have made all the sacrifices we’ve asked of them. Now we must hold up our end of the bargain and make sure they have what they need to best serve the people they’ve sworn to protect.
Mike Garcia is the congressman for California’s 25th Congressional District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.