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
I gotta admit the two black teenagers do kinda look a little thuggish when I pick them up at their home in Watts. Baggy jeans, big shirts and hoodies. I saw some Jewish kids in the Valley working the same look. I don’t think they’re affiliated. I’m not aware of any Chabad Crips.
“Characters! CHARACTERS! That’s just another name for nigga.” Marky-D is livid. “They talk about us like we just trash on the street. We not characters. We American citizens living around this neighborhood, being mistreated by cops fucking with people, not even protecting and serving, just fucking with people!”
The learned D-Black jumps in, “Shit ... make me feel like a slave. Police being racist is making more people corrupted into doing more crimes. I know they too much stuff going around, they start not to trust nobody ... but everybody not a suspect. Everybody not a criminal. Everybody have a right to be treated well, you feel me?”
D-Black and Marky-D aren’t feeling any trickle-down transparent rainbow love from the city. Like that 12-year-old kid we spotted, they’ve been getting hemmed up every time they leave the house, since they were 13. They go out for some chips and end up on the curb in handcuffs. Their ideas about the police were still forming when puberty presented. D-Black was thinking about becoming a cop. He grew a few inches and, on a visual level, he became a perceived threat and subsequently a target for the cops. Cops treat them like criminals and now they hate them for it. It doesn’t take a law-enforcement visionary to see where this is heading and why.
Chief Bratton and Sheriff Baca say they understand and are actually attempting to move the culture of policing into an area where it’s never been before: this century. Obviously, there’s a lot to be done. And D-Black and Marky-D are going to need some of that elephant-habitat money to get the community-policing thing implemented in their hood.
“Community what?” Marky-D asks. He has no idea what I’m talking about when I ask him about community policing in his neighborhood.
“I run a community-policing department. And anybody who doesn’t think that — too bad,” Bratton says when I share the feedback from Marky-D. “This is a department that tries very hard. It is a department that has many demands placed on it. At the same time, it is a department that had a very checkered past, like many police departments in America. We are working very hard to deal with legacy, history and the streets we police.”
Just contemplating the disparity between the opposing voices is enough to make a sensible citizen develop multiple-personality disorder. Who’s the good guy here? Who’s the bad? We need cops, but does every black and brown kid deserve to be treated like a criminal? How do we know the cops are doing what they say? How do we know they’re on point and it’s not a sleight of hand, like D-Black, Marky-D and Mauricio say? What are the facts in evidence?
“There isn’t a police department in America that has as much oversight as the LAPD,” Bratton bites back, “so I’m sorry, but I’m not in the business of satisfying everybody all at the same time. My role is to reduce crime, reduce fear, reduce disorder. Keep the city safe from terrorism. And to have a police department that’s reflective of the city we police — the percentage of officers matched almost exactly to the racial and ethnic makeup of the city. One of the things in policing, we’re never going to satisfy everybody, and if we try, we’re doomed to failure.
“This is a damn good police department, probably one of the best, if not the best, in the United States,” Bratton continues. “It’s doing one hell of a job making this city safer. When you look at the crime numbers in the city [today] versus the early 1990s, they’re phenomenal. If you look at the homicides, about 400, you’re gonna have to go back to the 1970s to see a year when they were that low. And if you’re looking at per capita crime numbers, you’re going to have to go back to the 1950s. Right now, we’re right behind New York. We’re the second safest large city in America based on those per capita figures.”
L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca could be a motivational speaker. Not like the sycophant guy with acromegaly. More like Fran Tarkenton. I heard that if Baca had hair, it would be on fire about this police-culture stuff. His bedside reading is probably The Secret; William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience; and a standard-issue copy of Deanes’ Manual of the History and Science of Fire-Arms. He’s a man of God, with a badge. For the most part, Baca has his heart screwed on straight. But don’t get confused. He’s a cop, and he’ll lock your ass up (with compassion).