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 64)
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 an American politician, currently serving as 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 re-elected in 2014 with an 84% vote. He led efforts to renovate and reopen the sports stadium The Forum in Inglewood and develop a plan for a new NFL stadium in Inglewood. Butts holds an MBA degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and a Bachelor of Science from California State University, Los Angeles.[2]


According to James Butts, he lost an opportunity for a basketball scholarship to go to Cal State-Los Angeles in his youth, due to an injury. To pay for college, he worked part-time at the Inglewood Police Department as the division's second African American cadet, it later turned into a full-time job.[3] Butts earned 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,[4] he held several positions as a police officer, commander of a SWAT team, an undercover officer,[5] and homicide detective.[3] 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.[5] 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.[5]

In 1991, Butts moved to Santa Monica to accept a job as the city's Chief of Police,[4] a position he served until 2006,[6] during Butts' tenure, crime was reduced by 64 percent.[7] Early in his tenure, Butts conducted a month-long crime assessment at the request of the city council; in his assessment, Butts 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; its enforcement was opposed by city attorney Robert M. Myers, who refused to prosecute homeless people arrested for violating the ordinance,[8][9] this made it difficult for Butts to it, since those arrested would not be prosecuted.[10]

In 1995, Butts 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.[11][12][13] 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.[14][15]

In 2006, Butts took a position as the head of security and law enforcement for Public Safety Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).[16] According to the Los Angeles Times, Butts improved training and discipline at LAWA and fostered better relationships with local law enforcement agencies.[17]


After returning to Inglewood, Butts began campaigning for mayor, his primary platform was a promise to reduce crime. Inglewood has a high crime rate and its prior mayor plead guilty to charges of public corruption,[18] he 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.[19] The city was operating at an $18 million deficit. Butts said he would overhaul the city's finances,[19] his first State of the City address focused on public safety, finances and city leadership.[20]

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 six unions to reduce this to 15 years with benefits that scale down over time.[7] 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.[7] In December 2013, citizens protested in front of Butts' personal residence in response to expected layoffs of 50 city employees. Butts and the unions disagreed over whether the layoffs were necessary to balance the city budget.[21]

According to the Los Angeles Sentinel, Butts was the "driving force" behind a renovation of Inglewood's sports stadium, The Forum,[4][22] which was approved by the Inglewood City Council in May 2012.[23] As a police officer, Butts worked at Lakers games at the Forum for almost two decades,[4] he is credited with "cutting through bureaucratic red tape" to move the renovation project forward.[24] The Forum was re-launched in 2014 with a $100 million renovation.[18] Butts was re-elected as mayor in November 2014 with 83 percent of the vote, the largest margin in Inglewood history,[25] he was elected to the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in December 2014, succeeding Santa Monica Mayor Pam O'Connor.[26]

Butts lobbied for a $1.86 billion proposal to build an NFL stadium, which the city council approved in February 2015.[18] He also convinced the NFL to bring the Rams to the stadium in 2016, after 20 years without a professional team in the Los Angeles area, and brokered a deal with Stockbridge Capital Group to purchase 238 acres where the stadium will be built.[3][27]

According to USA Today, Butts has been "flattered by supporters" and "irritated by skeptics" on the deal.[3] According to a March 2015 article in The Los Angeles Times, Butts made Inglewood an "unlikely frontrunner" as a potential home to an NFL team, but he was "criticized as dictatorial." Some citizens suspected budget approval was rushed, because the city was under the influence of stadium developers, who made $100,000 in donations to the city. Butts said the same stadium developers also donated to his political opponents;[18] in a 14-page report commissioned by opponents of the stadium plan, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned that because of its proximity to LAX, terrorists could score a "terrorist event 'twofer' by shooting down an airplane over the stadium. Aviation experts, in a study commissioned by city of Inglewood, disputed the report’s claims. Butts called the Ridge report "fraudulent."[28]

In August 2015, the city of Inglewood initiated a widely criticized copyright infringement lawsuit against a citizen who was posting negative videos about Butts on YouTube using footage from city council meetings.[29]


  1. ^ The Birth of James Butts, California Birth Index, retrieved September 21, 2014 
  2. ^ a b Official biography, City of Inglewood, retrieved June 12, 2014 
  3. ^ a b c d Peter, Josh (February 15, 2015). "Inglewood 'all in' on bringing NFL to Los Angeles area". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d Piellucci, Mike (March 5, 2014). "Fabulous Once Again". Sports on Earth. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c "Inglewood: Narcotics Officer Promoted". Los Angeles Times. November 6, 1986. pp. SB2. 
  6. ^ Archibald, Ashley (August 6, 2012). "New chief offers view on policing Santa Monica". Santa Monica Daily Press. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c Nusbaum, David (July 7, 2014). "Development: Inglewood works to pull in business". Los Angeles Business Journal. p. 2. 
  8. ^ Hill-Holtzman, Nancy (October 31, 1991). "Palisades Park Called Magnet for Crime". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  9. ^ Hill-Holtzman, Nancy (July 2, 1992). "Bid to Oust Myers Over Homeless Impasse Fails". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2014. 
  10. ^ Kramer, Jeff (August 26, 1992). "Conflict With Homeless Put in D.A.'s Lap". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  11. ^ Times, The New York (21 December 1995). "2 California Police Departments Often Violate Rights, Suit Says". The New York Times. p. 23. 
  12. ^ Newton, Jim (December 20, 1995). "Suit: Police Snub Miranda Warning -- LAPD Said To Ignore Silence Right". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ "L.A., Santa Monica police cited in suit". Associated Press. December 21, 1995. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Rutledge, Devallis (September 1, 2003). "Departments : Point of Law Cops and Civil Liability". Police Magazine. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Former SMPD Police Chief Wins Mayoral Election in Inglewood". Santa Monica Mirror. January 11, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  17. ^ Blankstein, Andrew (September 8, 2009). "Head of LA. World Airports police and security services announces his departure". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c d Bergman, Ben (March 19, 2015). "How James Butts made Inglewood LA's unlikely NFL frontrunner". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b "James Butts, Mayor-Elect of Inglewood". The Los Angeles Sentinel. January 27, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, Jr. Gives State of the City Address". Los Angeles Sentinel. April 3, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  21. ^ Pleasant, Betty (December 12, 2013). "Inglewood employees stage vigil outside mayor’s house". Los Angeles Wave. 
  22. ^ Miller, Kenneth (August 1, 2013). "MSG Banking $100 Million The Forum Will Be Fabulous Again". Los Angeles Sentinel. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  23. ^ Simmonds, Yussuf (May 16, 2012). "Mayor Butts has Inglewood on the move!". Los Angeles Sentinel. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  24. ^ Lewis, Randy (January 9, 2014). "The name of the game is music at the new Forum". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Butts Wins By Largest Margin in Inglewood Mayoral History". Inglewood Today. November 6, 2014. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  26. ^ Green, Nick (December 11, 2014). "South Bay officials select Inglewood mayor to represent area on Metro board". The Daily Breeze. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  27. ^ Rogers, Martin (January 12, 2016). "Inglewood mayor: Rams deal 'transformative moment' for one-time Lakers home". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ Times, Los Angeles (August 3, 2015). "Inglewood sues resident over YouTube videos using council footage to bash mayor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 

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