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PALMDALE — A coalition of local leaders have launched a campaign calling for the Cities and schools of Palmdale and Lancaster to cancel their contracts with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

The Antelope Valley Coalition launched #CanceltheContractAV on Thursday in response to the lack of accountability of Sheriff Alex Villanueva and calls to reinvest dollars into a new vision of community safety and meaningful services for students and the community.

Waunette Cullors, a trustee for the Keppel Union School District Board and coalition member, said #CanceltheContractAV is just the first step in reimagining what a community looks like.

“This campaign isn’t just about stopping violence; it’s about re-envisioning care for our communities,” she said. “It’s about reinvesting in our children and our schools, mental health services, housing, green spaces and so much more.”

The #CanceltheContractAV campaign aims to create a new vision of public safety with millions of dollars of taxpayer money being reinvested into community-based care for children, mental health services and affordable housing.

Beth Cayetano, a member of the Alliance for Black Student Equity and the coalition, said that as a teacher she constantly thinks about what’s best for her students.

“Our demands are about building a safe community for (students) lives and their learning,” she said. “They’re about creating a future that’s free of law enforcement violence and full of opportunities for their joy, passions, and progress.

The campaign is also intended to hold the Sheriff’s department accountable for the deputy-involved shooting death of Michael Thomas, 61, of Lancaster on June 11.

The coalition claims that use of force is up over 50% in Palmdale and Lancaster after more than five years of federal oversight.

The two Antelope Valley sheriff’s stations conducted 39,232 discretionary stops in 2019, targeting vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians, an average of over 100 unwarranted stops a day, 365 days a year, according to a statement released by the coalition.

The coalition lists the following for its campaign demands:

• Cancel the Antelope Valley Union High School District contract with the LASD.

• Call for the California Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into the historical and ongoing state violence and white supremacist activities in the Antelope Valley.

• Arrest the sheriff’s deputies who killed Michael Thomas in Lancaster in June 2020.

• Demand the LA County Board of Supervisors comply with the Antelope Valley Settlement Agreement and stop using County Counsel to thwart compliance.

• Cancel the Cities of Palmdale and Lancaster contracts with LASD.

The campaign was launched on Thursday, the anniversary of Measure R, also known as the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission Ordinance. It is also supported by the Reform LA Jails initiative.

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