James T. Butts, Jr.

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James T. Butts, Jr.
A headshot of James T. Butts, Jr., mayor of Inglewood, California.jpg
Butts in 2009
Born James Thurman Butts, Jr.
(1953-08-01) August 1, 1953 (age 62)
Los Angeles, California, United States[1]

Masters in Business Administration, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Bachelor of Science, California State University at Los Angeles
Occupation politician, former law enforcement official

James Thurman Butts, Jr. (born August 1, 1953) is the mayor of Inglewood, California. He rose through the ranks of law enforcement in Inglewood during the 1970s and 1980s, eventually becoming a captain. He then worked as Chief of Police in Santa Monica, California from 1991 to 2006. Butts then took a public safety position with Los Angeles World Airports in 2006. He was elected mayor of Inglewood in 2010 and led efforts that culminated in the 2013 renovation and reopening of The Forum in Inglewood as a sports and performance venue. Butts holds an MBA degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and a Bachelor of Science from California State University, Los Angeles.[2]

Law enforcement career[edit]

James Butts joined the police force of Inglewood, California in 1972.[3] He held several roles as a police officer, commander of a SWAT team and as an undercover officer.[4] Butts was promoted to Sergeant in 1981, to Lieutenant in 1984, and then to Commanding Officer of the narcotics division in 1986. He led a team of 30 undercover agents that helped reduce drug trafficking in the Dixon-Darby and Lockhaven neighborhoods.[4] In 1986, Butts was promoted to Chief of Operations and became the first African American at that level within a South Bay, California police department.[4]

In 1991, Butts moved to Santa Monica to accept a job as the city's Chief of Police.[3] He served as Chief until 2006.[5] During Butts' tenure as Chief of Police in Santa Monica, crime was reduced by 64 percent.[6] Early in his tenure, Butts conducted a month-long crime assessment at the request of the city council and concluded that drug dealing and violent crime at Palisades Park could be reduced by enforcing a city ordinance against sleeping in public parks. The city ordinance had been controversial and its enforcement was opposed by city attorney Robert M. Myers, who refused to prosecute homeless people arrested for violating the ordinance.[7][8] This made it difficult for Butts to enforce the ordinance, since those arrested would not be prosecuted.[9]

In 1995, he was one of five police officers named as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging the police department was engaging in forceful questioning that violated Miranda rights.[10][11][12] In 2000, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the police officers were accountable for Miranda violations, despite arguments by the police officers that they qualify for immunity since they were trained that continued questioning was allowed.[13][14]

In 2006, Butts took a position as the head of security and law enforcement for Public Safety Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).[15] According to the Los Angeles Times, Butts improved training and discipline at LAWA and fostered better relationships with local law enforcement agencies.[16] Upon returning to Inglewood, he said the city's infrastructure and economy had decayed since he had left for Santa Monica.[3]


Butts was officially elected as the mayor of Inglewood, California, on January 27, 2011. He won against incumbent Danny Tabor by a vote of 3,776 to 3,000. The Los Angeles Sentinel described it as a "tumultuous year of elections" for the city, with a close race between the two candidates.[17] The city was operating at an $18 million deficit and Butts said he would overhaul the city's finances.[17] His first State of the City address focused on public safety, finances and city leadership.[18]

According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, the city's biggest budgeting problem at the time was unfunded liabilities. The city had an agreement with local unions that required the city to pay for benefits for the rest of an employee's life, even if they only worked for the city for a few years. Butts negotiated with unions to reduce this to 15 years with benefits that scale down over time in order to prevent the city from going into bankruptcy.[6]

Butts and the City Council initiated a series of infrastructure repair and renovation projects. $1.18 million was spent on sewer projects in comparison to $140,000 the prior year.[6]

In December 2013, citizens protested in front of Butts' personal residence in response to expected layoffs of 50 city employees. Butts said layoffs were necessary to balance the budget, while local union representatives said the layoffs were unnecessary.[19]

According to the Los Angeles Sentinel, Butts was the "driving force" behind a renovation of Inglewood's sports stadium, The Forum,[3][20] which was approved by City Council in May 2012.[21] As a police officer, Butts worked at Lakers games at the Forum for almost two decades, including floor duty as a sergeant during the team's later championships.[3] He is credited with "cutting through bureaucratic red tape" to move the renovation project forward.[22] In a 17-page report, Homeland Security said it could be a target for terrorist threats if a plane is crashed into the stadium. Aviation experts and Butts disputed the report’s claims.[23]

Butts was re-elected in November 2014 with an 83 percent vote, the largest ratio of supportive votes in the town's mayoral election history.[24] He was elected to the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in December 2014, succeeding Santa Monica Mayor Pam O'Connor.[25]


  1. ^ The Birth of James Butts, California Birth Index, retrieved September 21, 2014 
  2. ^ Official biography, City of Inglewood, retrieved June 12, 2014 
  3. ^ a b c d e Piellucci, Mike (March 5, 2014). "Fabulous Once Again". Sports on Earth. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Inglewood: Narcotics Officer Promoted". Los Angeles Times. November 6, 1986. pp. SB2. 
  5. ^ Archibald, Ashley (August 6, 2012). "New chief offers view on policing Santa Monica". Santa Monica Daily Press. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Nusbaum, David (July 7, 2014). "Development: Inglewood works to pull in business". Los Angeles Business Journal. p. 2. 
  7. ^ Hill-Holtzman, Nancy (October 31, 1991). "Palisades Park Called Magnet for Crime". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  8. ^ Hill-Holtzman, Nancy (July 2, 1992). "Bid to Oust Myers Over Homeless Impasse Fails". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2014. 
  9. ^ Kramer, Jeff (August 26, 1992). "Conflict With Homeless Put in D.A.'s Lap". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  10. ^ Times, The New York (21 December 1995). "2 California Police Departments Often Violate Rights, Suit Says". The New York Times. p. 23. 
  11. ^ Newton, Jim (December 20, 1995). "Suit: Police Snub Miranda Warning -- LAPD Said To Ignore Silence Right". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  12. ^ "L.A., Santa Monica police cited in suit". Associated Press. December 21, 1995. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  13. ^ Avery, Michael (2002). "You Have a Right to Remain Silent". Fordham Urban Law Journal (The Berkeley Electronic Press) 30 (2): 613. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ Rutledge, Devallis (September 1, 2003). "Departments : Point of Law Cops and Civil Liability". Police Magazine. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Former SMPD Police Chief Wins Mayoral Election in Inglewood". Santa Monica Mirror. January 11, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  16. ^ Blankstein, Andrew (September 8, 2009). "Head of LA. World Airports police and security services announces his departure". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "James Butts, Mayor-Elect of Inglewood". The Los Angeles Sentinel. January 27, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, Jr. Gives State of the City Address". Los Angeles Sentinel. April 3, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  19. ^ Pleasant, Betty (December 12, 2013). "Inglewood employees stage vigil outside mayor’s house". Los Angeles Wave. 
  20. ^ Miller, Kenneth (August 1, 2013). "MSG Banking $100 Million The Forum Will Be Fabulous Again". Los Angeles Sentinel. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  21. ^ Simmonds, Yussuf (May 16, 2012). "Mayor Butts has Inglewood on the move!". Los Angeles Sentinel. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  22. ^ Lewis, Randy (January 9, 2014). "The name of the game is music at the new Forum". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  23. ^ Times, Los Angeles (July 15, 2015). "FAA does routine study of proposed NFL stadium site in Inglewood near LAX". latimes.com. Retrieved July 27, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Butts Wins By Largest Margin in Inglewood Mayoral History". Inglewood Today. November 6, 2014. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  25. ^ Green, Nick (December 11, 2014). "South Bay officials select Inglewood mayor to represent area on Metro board". The Daily Breeze. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 

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