UPDATED at 4:15 p.m. Mayor Eric Garcetti criticizes LAPD for arranging inmate's speech.
Seems there was an unusually large police presence on 6th Street in downtown L.A. last night. While the LAPD was cagey about it at first, ultimately it emerged that they were escorting Rene "Boxer" Enriquez to a speaking engagement before a business group.
Enriquez is a former leader of the Mexican Mafia, the powerful prison gang. After being sentenced to two life prison terms for murder, he switched sides and became a government witness. Naturally that puts him in danger, which explains the security and the secrecy. This is not the kind of event that you'd want to advertise beforehand.
The Young Presidents' Organization hosted the event. (The name seems to be a misnomer — they certainly don't look that young.) According to the Times, the group reached out to the LAPD and asked if they could set up a meeting with someone with experience "building a transnational criminal enterprise."
It's not clear what business wisdom they hoped to gain from this. "Snitches get stitches" probably isn't very useful advice when you're trying to expand your real estate brokerage or generate new leads for your tax preparation company.
More likely, they wanted to hear from Enriquez for the same reason people watch Law and Order and read true crime books: rule-breakers are compelling, especially to rule-followers. Anyway, kudos to the Young(ish) Presidents for wanting to expand their horizons and learn about a world completely unlike their own.
Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Steve Soboroff, the president of the L.A. Police Commission, is demanding an investigation.
"A whole lot of city resources were wasted here when they shouldn't have been," Soboroff told KNBC.
Well, perhaps. A caravan of LAPD vehicles was called upon to escort Enriquez to the event and then back to his cell in some undisclosed prison. And the cops did shut down an alley for a while. They probably could have been doing other things at that time.
Maybe the real concern, though, is the exclusivity of the event. Nobody likes the idea of LAPD making special arrangements for rich people. Fortunately, Enriquez' story is very accessible. Anyone suffering from FOMO can avail themselves of Chris Blatchford's 2009 book, The Black Hand: The Story of Rene "Boxer" Enriquez and His Life in the Mexican Mafia, available used from Amazon for as little as $1.25.
Or check out this hour-long radio documentary, available for free on YouTube:
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Update: Add Mayor Eric Garcetti to the list of people freaking out about this. Here's his spokesman, Yusef Robb:
"This was inappropriate and should have never happened. We expect a full accounting of why this occurred and we are going to make sure this sort of thing never happens again. We know Chief [Charlie] Beck is committed to making sure the LAPD always lives up to its status as the nation's finest police department and know he will take appropriate action."
Chief Beck approved this in the first place, so Garcetti is questioning his judgment.