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Transcript: Rep. Karen Bass on "Face the Nation," Nov. 20, 2022

Incoming L.A. Mayor Karen Bass on her agenda
Incoming L.A. Mayor Karen Bass on crime, homelessness and her agenda 05:35

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California that aired Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass, who made history last week when she became the first woman and the first Black woman to be elected mayor of Los Angeles. Good morning to you.

REP. KAREN BASS: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are going to be sworn in as mayor of L.A. December the 12th. You've got a lot of work cut out for you. And I know you- you campaigned hard on the- you did you campaigned hard on the issue of crime and homelessness and I want to get right into that. Homicides up 14% from two years ago, robberies up almost 16% in L.A. over that same time. Do you plan to keep the current police chief?

REP. BASS: Yes, there's no desire on my part to remove the current police chief. You know, we have a crisis in our city with homelessness as well. 40,000 people are asleep in tents all throughout our city and four or five of them pass away every morning. And so we have multiple crises right now. And so it's my intent on day one, to address that issue. And it's my understanding that the chief of police's contract is up at the end of next year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you could revisit it at that time, in other words. But–

REP. BASS: Right. Revisit that along with many other general managers as well. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. When I ask about your approach to policing, I'm mindful that you're in a pretty unique position because you worked on this in Congress, in putting forward the George Floyd Policing Act. In your public safety plan for L.A., you talk about hiring more officers. And I know in the past, you've said that "defund the police" was one of the worst slogans ever. How do you bring all that to changing policing in L.A.? What specifically do you do that's different?

REP. BASS: Well, first of all, I think what's most important about police reform, whether we're talking in Los Angeles or anyplace else, is accountability and transparency. Those are two things that are critical. In terms of hiring police officers, we've had several hundred police officers retire or move on for other reasons. And what I am proposing is that we replace the ones that the city has allotted for, in other words, bringing the police department up to its full force that is budgeted. The other thing is, is that in many communities, they want to see an increased police presence. And so I am calling for moving officers off of administrative duty and putting them on the streets. That's the way we can hire them as soon as possible. But in addition to that, I believe in obviously, stopping crime when it occurs, but doubling down and tripling down in communities where crime prevention strategies and different approaches are required. And I've worked on this for a number of years. And so I want to fully fund programs to prevent crime, to intervene, especially with young people. And one of the things that our current chief of police said is that he accounted for a spike in crime, especially post restrictions of the pandemic, because many of the crime prevention programs shut down due to COVID.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You disclosed back in September that- that you yourself, were a victim of burglary at your home, and you had two guns stolen at that time. And I wonder, did you have those guns because you felt unsafe in your own home? And did you go out and purchase new weapons?

REP. BASS: I have not purchased new weapons. I had two handguns. I had owned them for a very, very, very long time. And I certainly believe in an individual's right to legally possess guns and properly store them. Mine were legally purchased and properly stored.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you wouldn't encourage people to feel that they have to arm themselves to defend their own homes?

REP. BASS: I certainly hope. And you know, one of the things that happened in the pandemic, not just in Los Angeles, but all across the country was an increase in gun purchasing. One of the reasons why we've had an increase in crime in Los Angeles is because of ghost guns, and ghost guns absolutely need to be cracked down on and that's something that will be a focus of mine as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is the long term solution to the homelessness and housing crisis? Because housing affordability is pretty big problem in Los Angeles.

REP. BASS: Absolutely right. Los Angeles has become unaffordable. You have to have a comprehensive approach. There's no magic bullet. So first and foremost, you have to prevent people from falling into homelessness. And clearly affordability is key to that. But you know, people are on the streets for a variety of issues. And you have to address why they're there. Is it substance abuse? Is it mental illness? Is it just straight up affordability? We have people who are in tents who actually work full time. We have thousands of children who are in tents. Some with mothers who fled domestic violence, some who are teenagers who aged out of foster care. Some people who were formerly incarcerated because they are not able to find housing are in tents. So we have to have a comprehensive approach and address the reasons why people were unhoused. But first and foremost, we have to get people off the streets. People are literally dying on the streets in Los Angeles and this has got to stop.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will be watching, Mayor-elect, how you do just that. It's a tall order. Thank you for joining us this morning. And we will be right back.

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