Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rogue LAPD Assaults Demonstrators, Press

There can be no surprise that when the State Supreme Court makes police misconduct the subject of secret proceedings, the Los Angeles city attorney supports the court decision and the Los Angeles mayor and police chief seek to weaken legislation to undo this wrongheaded ruling, that rogue cops are going to feel free to engage in all sorts of misdeeds.

It is in this context that Tuesday night's Los Angeles police assault against demonstrators in MacArthur Park, and news reporters covering them needs to be understood.

The Los Angeles Police Department has a long, sordid history of overreaction to demonstrations, especially by minorities and peace groups. It runs back to and even beyond the Watts riot of 1965 and the Century Plaza antiwar demonstrations of 1967, and it has helped fuel two major riots in Los Angeles that resulted in very heavy property damage and loss of life. There is a time for strong police action, and I do not underestimate the attempts of radical groups to exacerbate matters. But, often in Los Angeles, the police are as much or more to blame for civil unrest as anyone.

I'm not saying in short that there has never been provocation of police officers, but what I am saying is that they have often responded with undue use of force, and numerous LAPD reform efforts have been unavailing. There is also serious question about many police shootings. When disciplinary hearings to control miscreants on the force are kept closed to the public, and the names of errant officers never disclosed, it only encourages more of the same.

It is fine for Police Chief William Bratton to express "grave concern" as he did yesterday, and promise an aggressive investigation, but we have heard that before.

No investigation can possibly be productive unless the officers are named who were responsible for Tuesday night's excesses -- an unclear dispersal order from a helicopter, the firing of rubber bullets and the beating of the crowd and reporters with nightsticks. No investigation can possibly succeed without public punishment of the guilty, which may well include officers in command of the units on the scene.

Yet, let me emphasize, due to a Supreme Court which by its decisions positively abets such misconduct by mandating that individual rogue officers need never be publicly identified, there can be no justice at present in California.

Although State Sen. Gloria Romero has introduced legislation to undo that decision, both Chief Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have backed crippling amendments.

It is going to be hard in this state to clear any legislation that reins in the police, or lawless prison guards who have often made our justice system a mockery. Just last week, prison legislation was passed that would build more prisons but fail to come to grips with the problems of overcrowding, brutal and overpaid prison guards, and errant parole policies. Without the strong, steadfast support of officials like Villaraigosa, Bratton and City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who should be but are not beholden to the public, the prospects of legislation to correct the situation both on the streets and in the prisons are poor to hopeless.

Again, we have been through all this before. But after the cries of public and press outrage die down, we are apt to go back to the bad old days of gross police misconduct of the kind we saw Tuesday night. And the increasing tendency of the courts to neglect First Amendment rights is only adding to the trouble.

It's time there be a housecleaning, and if Bratton can't control his own force any better than he has been doing, then certainly he doesn't deserve a second term as police chief. It is, in fact, a disgrace that 13 City Council members have already endorsed him for another five years.

Times and other media coverage of what happened in MacArthur Park was comprehensive and conscientious. The Times jumped on the story the first night, and has massive coverage today, including, on the Times Web site a first person account of what happened by Jill Leovy, an excellent reporter with much police experience.

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No wonder the Wall Street Journal staff is up in arms over the bid to buy the newspaper by the right wing newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has destroyed the integrity of every journalistic enterprise with which he has ever been involved. His Fox News Network is a travesty of good journalism, his New York Post is a laughing stock for its sensationalism, and he has even managed to downgrade the quality of the London Times. He ought to be escorted back to Australia, not permitted to wreak more havoc by taking over the Wall Street Journal.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous james fulton said...

So you think it was a disgrace for the LA City Council to endorse Bratton for another five years? So please name one former chief who's run a better, more fair-minded department in recent years. Gates, Parks? Surely you jest.

5/03/2007 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Matt Weinstock said...

Going back to Rodney King...

During the initial outbreak of violence that occurred after the unhappiness with the police officer's jury verdict, the police staff responsible for the area near the intersection of Florence and Normandie, failed to come down hard on the miscreants. Citizens went unprotected and were subjected to beatings and mayhem. The riots escalated and you know the story. There was a complete breakdown of civilization in half the city for several days.

This week, if it had been a hot summer night with many demonstrators drunk, the illegal alien march could easily have become another widespread riot. Many of the marchers were probably out there looting in 1992.

For my money, I want LAPD in full control all the time. The press shouldn't get any special privileges. If they are told to move they should MOVE.

5/03/2007 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken,

You give blogging and bloggers a bad name.

All you do is bitch and moan.

And you seem to loathe each and every public official in Los Angeles.

You're like an outsized and obstreperous teenager...a rebellious contrarian...just because.

5/03/2007 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, not everybody at the rally was an illegal alien I was there with many friends and we are all U.S. born citizens. And some of us have served in the military. The police were firing rubber bullets in the crowd of women and children. The few who started the trouble were not even arrested. It was a case of many tugs in uniform beating on unarmed individuals including women, these cops show little education and training and were just conducting themselves like any thug on the street. Shame, shame on you cops who indiscriminately beat and shot at innocent women and kids.

5/03/2007 8:31 PM  
Blogger Tim McGarry said...

Ken, you sum it up very well. I was present as a teenager in Century City in 1967 and will never forget the brutality I saw that day. I can only shake my head that it is repeated time and time again. Yet another LAPD leadership failure.

5/06/2007 12:39 PM  
OpenID martinstjohn said...

The LAPD, in collusion with the LA Times, is responsible for billions of dollars worth of damage to the city center. The LAPD engaged in an open war for decades with the peace-loving gay community in residence in the Wilshire area and finally managed to drive them to West Hollywood, creating a vacuum in the area which gangs quickly took advantage of. For years, the LA Times was aware of this persecution, and privately encouraged the supremely sick Chief Davis to continue the pogrom without considering the consequences of a mass flight from the area. For example, in 1978, the LAPD attacked Tykes, a very quiet and law-abiding neighborhood gay bar in the Mount Washington area, and arrested every third person for public intoxication. The arrestees bravely contested the charges and a trial before a judge took several weeks before the judge dismissed all the charges, pausing long enough to vent his own rage at the LAPD for having created such a debaucle. A team of high-priced attornies led by Sheldon Andelson and Andre Sheehan tore up their six-figured bill because they said it was such a hideous miscarriage of justice they couldn't in good faith charge for it. During the trial the LAPD got caught telling dozens of whoppers. When even a judge doesn't believe the police, there has to be something terribly, terribly wrong. The Times? Nothing. What a bunch of losers.
Martin St.John is the award-winning former city editor of the Advocate.

5/11/2008 6:19 AM  

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