LA police investigating racist city council recording

Race in America

(NewsNation) — Police are investigating the legality of a recording of Los Angeles City Council members’ racist remarks.

Under California law, all parties must consent to the recording of a private conversation or phone call. Otherwise, the person who made the recording could face criminal and civil penalties. The state’s wiretapping statutes are among the strongest in the nation and allow the “injured party” — the person being recorded without permission — to sue.

The recording, initially reported by the Los Angeles Times, revealed a conversation between City Council President Nury Martinez and members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo.

Martinez said in the recorded conversation, first reported by the Times, that white council member Mike Bonin handled his young Black son as if he were an “accessory,” and described the son as behaving “parece changuito,” or “like a little monkey.” She also made denigrating comments about other groups, including Indigenous Mexicans from the southern state of Oaxaca, whom she termed “feos,” or ugly.

Protesters disrupted city council meetings in response to the leaked recording.

The recording drew attention to long-standing tensions between the Black and Latino communities in Los Angeles.

Martinez resigned after the recording was made public, but de León and Cedillo have refused to step down. That means they continue to receive salaries of more than $218,000 per year. NPR reported they also receive contributions to their pensions, travel expenses, and a car, plus money for travel and expenses, all funded by taxpayers.

Martinez, de León and Cedillo, all Democrats, asked the Los Angeles Police Department to open an investigation into the recording, according to the department.

But Pete Brown, a spokesperson for de León, said Tuesday night that the councilman had not been involved in the report to police and had not been interviewed by detectives.

So far, the LAPD said no suspects have been identified.

On Wednesday, the council took the next step — although mostly symbolic — of officially censuring their fellow council members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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