A new kind of scandal has overtaken the LAPD's old, boarded-up Rampart Station in Historic Filipinotown.
It's a lot less hip-hop than the last one, but infuriating all the same: “This old station has now been abandoned for at least the past 3 years, and has been a magnet for graffiti, vagrants, and urban decay,” writes an Echo Park collective on Facebook event “Reclaim Rampart.”
And in the last few months, reports the Eastsider LA, the building has become a hotspot for metal thieves:
While the cops moved out, criminals in search of valuable pieces of scrap metal and copper have moved in — or more like broken in — to the former station at Temple Street and Benton Way. Residents who attended a community meeting last month heard that the station sustained water damage in late November after copper thieves cut into pipes that were still in use. A few months earlier, burglars broke into the building and made off with electrical boxes, said burglary [Detective] Teresa Hernandez of the Rampart Division, which is now housed in a new building on Sixth Street. “We have been having ongoing problems.”
“How many hundreds of thousands of dollars will tax payers have to shell out to cover the damage through neglect that the property has undergone?” activist Anne Hars reportedly wrote in an email to City Councilman Eric Garcetti.
Residents have been holding “Reclaim Rampart” meetings and camp-out protests in front of the station.
(Which, for better or worse, would probably have gotten more media play under the “Occupy” meme. Or if Rampart Scandal star Woody Harrelson showed up with picket sign, as another Facebook commenter jokingly suggests.)
Their plea to city officials: Let us give this haunted house a kumbaya makeover. Community members could turn it into an “arts education center, a community garden, affordable housing, etc.,” brainstorms Hars to the Eastsider.
But the LAPD has bigger (and excruciatingly slower) plans for its former castle of corruption.
Namely, erecting a new $17.6 million station in its place — yes, these are tax dollars at work — and using it to house the SWAT team for the LAPD's Metropolitan Division, according to the Eastsider.
Well wouldn't that be ironic! If you'll recall, Metro's SWAT team played a huge role in possibly the second largest scandal in LAPD history, second only to Rampart: the 2008 brutality against protesters and journalists at MacArthur Park. Officers broke out the tear gas, rubber bullets and batons in full force, sending dozens to the hospital.
Aside from scandal-on-scandal superstitions, though, this is a classic case of our-way-or-the-highway city officials ignoring the real wants of their constituents. It reminds us a bit of the L.A. youth group recently barred from turning their shuttered Hyde Park library back into a place of learning, or the South Central Farmers whose dreams were shut down in favor of a clothing factory.
The city has allowed the station at Temple and Benton to deteriorate to degrading lows. KPCC radio reported from the blight scene in December:
Community members armed helpers with brooms, shovels and wax. General Dogon, human rights defender of Skid Row for the Los Angeles Community Action Network, recalled finding a lot of garbage while cleaning the back side of the station.
“Beer bottles, 40 ounce bottles,” Dogon said. “I noticed there were a lot of those plastic marijuana vials from the pharmacy … and as I was raking and raking and raking, getting all the way down to one end of the block, I noticed that at the end of the police station, a child daycare is right there.”
Yet instead of letting the community heal their infamous Rampart wound — addressing crime the preventative way — the LAPD insists on turning it back into a police state. Rampart 2.0!