LAPD: Chickens Coming Home?

My first experience of the LAPD was as a child back in Wales, staring at the TV screen in horror and fascination, watching a grainy image of police officers beat a black man to a pulp. I’d never seen anything like it. None of us had. Six thousand miles away, in a tiny village in Wales with only five hundred inhabitants, we talked about Rodney King and racism in Los Angeles . T-shirts sprang up on local market stalls bearing the slogan LAPD – treat you like a King! Los Angeles seemed like a place of horrors, a place so utterly backward and corrupt that none of us would ever want to even visit, let alone live there. I never thought of Los Angeles as the home of the movie industry. I thought of Los Angeles as the home of racism, police brutality, and Skid Row.

And then I moved to Los Angeles in my twenties, and I became exposed to a different kind of policing. I became exposed to the LAPD. While reporting on Occupy LA‘s raid night, I watched cops beat peaceful activists with batons in a quiet side street. I wrote about it, and Mayor Villaraigosa called me a liar on CNN. While protesting outside a downtown jail, a friend of mine was physically assaulted by a Police Officer. Despite video evidence to the contrary, he was accused of felony resisting and encouraged to take a plea deal. He is now on probation for being assaulted by a Police Officer. I regularly saw homeless people on Skid Row harassed by police, arrested for sitting on the sidewalk, their belongings confiscated and never returned. As a white, British woman, I did not ever experience the same levels of abuse, oppression and harassment that I saw exacted upon people of color, the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable, marginalized groups. But working as a community organizer and activist in Downtown LA and Skid Row made me realize that the Rodney King incident and the days of Rampart weren’t a part of history. They were part of the present. It is how the Los Angeles Police Department still operates today.

The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse. The consent decree should never have been lifted. The only thing that has evolved from the consent decree is those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions…

– Christopher Dorner

The problem is that most of the people who LAPD target aren’t, like me or you, white, privileged and well educated. They aren’t, like me or you, able to articulate their outrage and speak out against violations of their civil rights. They maybe can’t afford good lawyers and no one cares if they are beaten or shot. I’m talking about Steven Eugene Washington, an unarmed black, autistic 27-year-old shot in drive-by fashion  by the LAPD [Chief Charlie Beck decided they were justified in their shooting, the civilian commission overruled him unanimously] . I’m talking about Kennedy Garcia, critically wounded by the LAPD while handcuffed — lying on his stomach. No one has any idea why the fact that he was cuffed and on his stomach wasn’t included in the press release on the incident. I’m talking about Alesia Thomas, a drug addicted young mother who tried to abandon her children at a police station, knowing she couldn’t care for them – and was taken into custody for doing so, repeatedly assaulted by Police Officers during her arrest, and then died from the injuries she sustained. The video evidence has yet to be released by LAPD despite repeated requests. Nor have the names of the officers responsible for her murder been made known to the public. Abdul Arian ran from the LAPD. Somehow, in the double-speak for the department, running away is aggression, contrary to what every normal person knows to be true — that running away is almost the least aggressive thing one can do. Abdul was 19, the LAPD emptied out 90 shots to bring down an unarmed teenager on foot who was running for his life.

These are not isolated incidents. Every 36 hours a black person is killed by the police, security guards or white vigilantes (but mostly by the police). They also say that the largest killer of cops is a self-inflicted gunshot wound, presumably from those unable to handle the knowledge that ‘protecting’ and ‘serving’ has a different definition within the PD…

On September 10, 2012 the Los Angeles Times published an article with the headline: “LAPD to hold meetings on use of force policies.”

Top Los Angeles police officials announced those community meetings to counter growing criticism about videoed brutality incidents involving LA police officers in the preceding months, that article noted.

On November 24, 2012 The Daily Beast posted an article with the headline: “In Los Angeles, Questions of Police Brutality Dog LAPD” reporting abuse incidents by officers of that department placed under federal oversight between 2001 and 2009 after repeated brutality and corruption scandals.

Over two months after that Daily Beast posting about LAPD brutality a fired LAPD officer unleashed a murderous rampage as revenge against his claimed unfair firing by the LAPD.

That former LAPD cop, military veteran Christopher Dorner, claimed his attack campaign was retaliation against retaliation LAPD personnel directed against him for his reporting a 2007 brutality incident he observed while on duty.

LAPD officials found Dorner’s brutality claim against a policewoman unfounded and fired him for filing false statements. The father of the alleged victim said his mentally ill son confirmed Dorner’s account.

LA police officials contend that man sustained facial injuries from falling into some bushes while resisting arrest by Dorner, not from the female officer’s kick.

Despite the recent record of brutality detailed in news coverage last fall, a New York Times article on the Dorner rampage inferred brutality by Los Angeles police – brutality that sparked two of America’s most destructive urban riots – was not a current problem.

The last sentence in the seventh paragraph of that February 7, 2013 New York Times article stated: “Mr. Dorner laid out grievances against a police department that he said remained riddled with racism and corruption, a reference to a chapter of the department’s history that, in the view of many people, was swept aside long ago.”

That ‘view’ of many people cited in the NY Times article obviously did not include the views of the dozens participating in an October 2012 demonstration against police brutality outside the LAPD headquarters…

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