By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
“In playing chess, you’re not just moving one piece at a time, you’re literally watching all the other pieces on the board, and you have to have an endgame. You have to have a strategy that the move you’re making now ultimately helps the moves you hope to make three or four down the line, while at the same time constantly anticipating the countermoves from your opponent.
“The first thing we have to deal with here, in regards to the Watts community, is to deal with the violent crime, which in South Bureau has been prevalent for so many generations. That’s where the boots on the ground [come in], the cops who are face to face with this incredible violence, not only the incredible toll on human beings but also the dehumanizing of people. It’s very difficult to get control of it without the potential for alienation,” Bratton says. “You’ve been down there enough to see these incredible scenes of grief and anger, frustration, and the cops trying to sort it all out.”
South Bureau oversees 57.6 square miles, with a population of about 640,000 people, which includes Watts and Inglewood, so it’s no joke. There’s always a lot of bad news down there.
“The good news is, like that trauma surgeon, like that chess game, the first major moves have been made, in that it is undeniable that the crime levels in those areas are down, and down by phenomenal numbers,” Bratton notes. “While people there still live in great fear, and there is still a lot of violence, it is nowhere what it was in the early ’90s. And frankly, it is significantly down in the six years I’ve been here. We can give you those figures ad nauseam. Case in point, our July homicide numbers: Last year we had 42. Quite likely we will end the month with a 50 percent decline in what is traditionally one of our worst crime months. Benefiting significantly from them is the area that you’re concentrating on right now.”
Well, that’s great about the numbers and all. Good job. Nice work. Well done. But what about community policing and police abuse? What about the disconnect? It seems that cop behavior still might be fueling the problem in ways you can’t calculate in digits yet.
“You’re correct about the disconnect that occurs occasionally between the cops on the frontline and the bosses, but remember, all the bosses in this department, they worked their way up in the LAPD. Cops on the ground, the nature of their jobs is that they’re so busy dealing with the trauma, they oftentimes don’t have the luxury senior officials in the department have, to have this type of [big-picture community] interaction.”
So you get the picture, but maybe all the street-level cops, maybe they haven’t received the community-policing memo because they’re too busy with all those thugs with guns. I wonder how that enlightened vision is going to work its way down the food chain, and when?
“We have come a long way, and the more we can get the crime situation stabilized, then we can get to the point where we are less negative with those young kids. [We can get to] a position with those young kids where they can get out and play, get into the gyms and not be hassled on the street by us. But the violent crime continues to be out there. We have to be very proactive and aggressive in seeking it out, and the reality is that among that youth population, there are some very bad kids. We can’t get around that. I still have all these murders and shootings. So let’s not kid ourselves, in that population, there are a lot of characters.”
Characters. That’s an interesting choice of words. When I mentioned to some kids in Nickerson Gardens that you’d used that word, they fuckin’ flipped. They weren’t feeling that at all. I’m thinking they need to be collectively embraced instead of demonized. Like that’s a big part of the problem. A little sympathy for the devil, you know?
“I can’t help it if some of the gangbangers you’re talking to basically wanna see that as a racist comment. They see race in everything we do. I’m sorry, that’s not the case. It’s a term I use all the time. I can call them mutts, I can call them crooks, I can call them sociopaths, I can call them characters. Characters is actually a benign term. These people are actually sociopaths who will put a bullet in your head just as soon as look at you.”
Touché. Regardless, in the interest of justice, I have to consult D-Black and Marky-D for another point of view. They promise to shed some light from the streets.