By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Captain Smith has an undeniable humility. He comes off as a humanitarian with a gun and baton. As we leave the station and hit the street for a little stroll around the ’hood, we walk head-on into a squad-car pursuit. Smith pulls his baton and subdues a really big, psychiatric-patient-looking guy who’s ranting at top volume until backup arrives in the form of five cops charging out from the station like cartoon superheroes, led by an all-business, handsome young up-and-comer named Albert Gonzalez. Smith handles the whole thing without dropping his professional demeanor or my tape recorder, which I handed him and which he held within 10 inches of his chin during the entire commotion to get it all on record. Straight-up super dope cop move.
When that’s handled, Captain Smith and I stroll down San Julian Street past a smiling 2-year-old in cornrows pointing a pink balloon-animal Tech-9 at us. I ask Smith if he knows Javier, the kid with the harelip scar. He says he’s not sure and laments how tragic it is with all these skid-kids down here, then he picks up a soggy football from the gutter and tosses it with a teenage kid standing on the sidewalk behind the Union Mission among a bunch of families. He breaks off his plans for fixing City Central. It’s a good plan, I guess, a lot about clear units and D.A.s and DEAs and the FBI and multifaceted this and that, and I swear to God I believe he’s gonna do exactly what he says.
Then we head up Fifth Street and things start to get weird. A large black man in stinky clothes approaches Smith. “What are you up to, captain?” he asks. Then the man goes into a story about his frequent urination problem due to his medical condition, which resulted in a ticket for peeing in MacArthur Park, and on into a paranoid rant about his signature being forged, his existing warrants and some other less intelligible ramblings before Smith interrupts and advises him to bring his documentation by the station. Smith says he’ll help him investigate, and we’re on our way. But before we get more than a few feet I run into my old neighbor, Maria from Silver Lake. The former chola hottie is completely strung out and sleeping in the streets, but she wants to hug and I oblige, which gets a raised eyebrow from the Cap and some angry muttering from her new boyfriend, a Hispanic guy who has recently pissed his pants. Maria tells him we’re just friends and I give her my number, but when I ask where her kids are she gets a little Tourette’s and accidentally tells me to go fuck myself. I don’t bother trying to explain the relationship to the captain, and off we go.
Again, we don’t get more than a few feet before we’re interrupted, this time by a really ripe-smelling border brother who recognizes Smith and initiates a conversation about soccer and their favorite teams. And I think the guy might have a crack pipe palmed. Captain Smith starts to wrap up our talk as we head back to the station. “In my interview for commander — and I say it to my officers in roll call — I said what this department needs is a little less Dirty Harry and a little more Sheriff Andy Taylor. Remember Mayberry RFD?”
I tell him I do remember, after which my friend Otis ... I mean Demetrius... a guy I know from Hollywood who is “on a run,” and who is completely gacked and hasn’t bathed in more days than the captain’s soccer buddy (who is now freely brandishing a crack pipe), steps to me and, like Maria, wants to hug. I oblige him too, introduce him to the captain and we continue on our walk. I don’t think things will be quite the same between me and Captain Smith, but oh well.
Choc in the Box
Kitty-corner from Homicide is the Gang Unit, where Detective Coordinator Bryce Spafford is using a computer program that randomly assembles a photo lineup of some young thugs. It could easily be cover art for a new release by The Game. Senior Officer Robert Quecada and Investigator Adrian Lopez flank Spafford. All three coifed cops look like they could play themselves in a movie... suits and ties with a lot more flavor than the heavy homicide regalia.
Spafford tells me about the unspoken gang-truce zone for the purpose of drug commerce. Meanwhile, Quecada pulls up a Web site for the Snowman Cliq (www.snowmancliq.com), rappers from Watts with alleged drug-dealing ties, then plays the video for the track “Get Them Chips,” which shows some really cool, young black guys lip-synching in front of a “caught on tape” SWAT-team drug raid in their ’hood. The track is tight. The message seems clear: “Sell my weed/Sell my weed/Sell my rock/Sell my rock/Gotta get my chippy on... San Julian is the block/Where I used to sell my rock.” One of the Snowman Cliq’s rappers, a guy called Choc Nitty, got busted and apparently the bio info on the Web site was used to help encourage him to take a plea. These cops are real high-tech.