Last summer, news broke that famed Los Angeles Police Department Det. Frank Lyga had been recorded telling a class of fellow law-enforcement officers that when he looked back at his 1997 shooting of black cop Kevin Gaines, “I could have killed a whole truckload of them … and would have been happily doing it.”
Lyga was working undercover that fateful day nearly 20 years ago, and Gaines was off-duty, when the two men became entangled in a deadly road-rage incident in North Hollywood.
Lyga's fatal shooting of Gaines was determined by LAPD to have been justified. But it pulled at an ugly thread that led to the department's darkest hour, the Rampart scandal. And years later, Lyga's comment during an professional development session on Nov. 15, 2013, was recorded — and then revealed to the world mainly by one Jasmyne Cannick, an outspoken blogger and political consultant.
Calls for Lyga's firing, which succeeded late last year, illustrated Cannick's growing role as the police department's critic-in-chief. But it wasn't her only shot. Using her extensive email list and her blog, jasmyneacannick.com, she would also raise questions about LAPD's purchase of a $6,000 quarterhorse from Chief Charlie Beck's daughter, an LAPD officer, and about Beck's alleged soft treatment of a sergeant who reportedly was dating her.
When Cannick, 37, was arrested in November during a downtown Los Angeles street protest against the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, she felt it was payback from the cops. She says she was there to observe but was pushed by police into a corner and couldn't disperse when cops ordered her to do so.
“Beck saw me there,” she says. “He knows who I am. He knows I'm not a protester. At the height of that stuff with Lyga, I had a lot of friends who were cops tell me 'watch your six'” — cop talk for watch your back.
Cannick grew up in Hermosa Beach and Compton and, when she was old enough, found work as a youth counselor at a gay and lesbian youth center, she says. She went to college, then did odd jobs for politician Mervyn M. Dymally when he was in the California state Senate. That led to her job as Dymally's spokeswoman and subsequent work for politicians Karen Bass, Curren Price, Laura Richardson and Herb Wesson.
Cannick has now gone indie, taking on campaign, political and communications consulting work, and counting among her clients the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, the union that represents LAX police.
Her criticism of police, Cannick says, “has cost me work before.”
At least she can sleep tight knowing that not all cops hate her. In fact, many of the bombshell stories about LAPD she has revealed through her 10-year blogging effort come from officers themselves.
“I'm grateful that people trust me enough to come to me,” she says. “These are stories that need to be told.”