James T. Butts, Jr.
|James T. Butts, Jr.|
Butts in 2009
|Born||James Thurman Butts, Jr.
August 1, 1953
Los Angeles, California, United States
Masters in Business Administration, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
|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.
Law enforcement career
James Butts joined the police force of Inglewood, California in 1972. He held several roles as a police officer, commander of a SWAT team and as an undercover officer. 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. 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.
In 1991, Butts moved to Santa Monica to accept a job as the city's Chief of Police. He served as Chief until 2006. During Butts' tenure as Chief of Police in Santa Monica, crime was reduced by 64 percent. 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. This made it difficult for Butts to enforce the ordinance, since those arrested would not be prosecuted.
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. 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.
In 2006, Butts took a position as the head of security and law enforcement for Public Safety Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). According to the Los Angeles Times, Butts improved training and discipline at LAWA and fostered better relationships with local law enforcement agencies. Upon returning to Inglewood, he said the city's infrastructure and economy had decayed since he had left for Santa Monica.
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. The city was operating at an $18 million deficit and Butts said he would overhaul the city's finances. His first State of the City address focused on public safety, finances and city leadership.
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.
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.
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.
According to the Los Angeles Sentinel, Butts was the "driving force" behind a renovation of Inglewood's sports stadium, The Forum, which was approved by City Council in May 2012. 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. He is credited with "cutting through bureaucratic red tape" to move the renovation project forward. 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.
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. He was elected to the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in December 2014, succeeding Santa Monica Mayor Pam O'Connor.
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