By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Hey, Mayor, you’re Catholic, rite? I mean, isn’t that where you’re coming from in the middle of all this — with the programs and the focus on education? From a spiritual platform, rite? It’s like a slow-motion uprise for the underclass. That’s why the kids love you. You’re like Che and JFK, in L.A.
“In my faith there is a notion,” the mayor tells me, “a principle called social justice — that we all have a responsibility to improve the human condition, particularly where that human condition is based on social or economic inequality. And I feel strongly that who I am comes, in part, from the sense that we have a responsibility to those who are less fortunate.”
Whew. That’s a relief, especially with the gaping chasm between LAPD command staff, which espouses community policing, and the rank-and-file boots on the ground, who aren’t always so nice. Some call it paramilitary suppression/containment policing or radio-call policing, even unconstitutional institutionalized abuse — stuff like that. And with the kids caught in the fray, it’s a disaster. At least, that’s what some people say.
“I recognize that there are times when injustices occur, and when they do, I’m committed to rectifying them,” Villaraigosa responds. “That’s why we appointed what by most estimates is the most progressive police commission in L.A. history: a former civil rights leader, John Mack; a former U.S. attorney, Andrea Ordin, who actually worked on the Christopher Commission; former Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Pacheco, from the Rampart Commission investigation.
Tru dat. It’s great. It’s all there on the LAPD Web site, and anybody who doesn’t think William Bratton is good for L.A. hasn’t been looking at the stats. It’s amazing. Incredible. Fantastic. So hopeful. Even a lot of people in Watts say so. The LAPD is almost transparent, rite, Mayor?
“We put together protocols in the department, which ensure, as much as possible, that we are holding people accountable when their conduct does not conform to policy regulations and the law,” the mayor says. “We’re always open when we make mistakes as a city, whether it’s the police department or another department — we’re always ready to correct them.”
That’s dope. Fact is, crime rates are down all over the U.S., but L.A. has done particularly well. Violent crime in the city, according to the LAPD’s crime-and-arrest weekly statistics, has been reduced by 45.9 percent since 2002, the year Bratton took office. (Part of that drop came after the department stopped reporting child and spousal simple assaults as aggravated assaults in 2005 to comply with FBI guidelines, but there has also been a steady drop each year since the change.) The problem is that Los Angeles still has some of the country’s bloodiest neighborhoods. Not Third World police-state bloody. Not Tijuana bloody. But still bloody. Even as overall violent-crime numbers decline, justifiable homicides by peace officers for all of Los Angeles County have remained fairly constant: There were 34 in 2000; 28 in 2001; 30 in 2002; 35 in 2003; 30 in 2004; 21 in 2005; 30 in 2006; and 36 in 2007.
LAPD use of critical force resulted in the deaths of 16 people in 2000; 7 in 2001; 15 in 2002; 14 in 2003; 16 in 2004; 11 in 2005; 13 in 2006; 20 in 2007; and 21 to date in 2008, according to Force Investigations Division (FID). From January 4 to July 15, 2008, there were 17 officer-involved shootings (OIS), with hits that resulted in the suspect’s fatality.
The flip side is commensurately grim.
Six officers were feloniously killed during 2006 in California, the state with the highest number among the 48 totaled nationally that year. Historically, those numbers used to be highest in the Southern states.
And yet they say the stage is set in Los Angeles for a long-awaited new paradigm in law enforcement. Community policing is on the table, even if no stable financial infrastructure exists in L.A.’s poorer neighborhoods — let’s just say Microsoft won’t be opening an office in Watts anytime soon. But for any of this to matter, minds must be changed, minds that have been shaped by a myopic, hood-based worldview. Minds like Mauricio’s.
“There’re a lot of fuckin’ crooked cops,” Mauricio says. “They just play the part. They used to fuck around with me when I was 13 and 14, 15. They were the ones that got me caught up in the system for stupid little shit. They wanted me to go and fucking fuck someone up for them. They wanted me to do dirty jobs for them. If I wouldn’t do it, they would be, like, ‘Imma take you to fucking jail.’ So you’re, like, fuck, what can I do? I don’t have no choice.”
“It’s gotten more violent in the field,” says Sergeant Jeffrey Wenninger, of the LAPD’s Categorical Use of Force division. “Chief Bratton’s leadership style is getting us more bang for the buck — improved intelligence and directed patrol. We’re focusing our resources toward more violent criminals. Technology like cameras and facial recognition all plays a role. Now one guy can do the job of four or five observation posts.”
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