Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Looking at the LAPD

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Mark Horowitz reviews the book Blue in the NY Times:

Being fired in New York and moving to Los Angeles is usually a smart career move. For William Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, it was a no-brainer.

As Giuliani’s crime-fighting partner back in the ’90s, Bratton had performed a righteous miracle, calming an angry, frightened city. But he couldn’t get respect, not from the egomaniacal mayor who hired him and then forced him to resign; not from an ungrateful commentariat, which churlishly suggested that the reason crime in New York dropped so dramatically had nothing to do with Bratton’s reforms and everything to do with national economic and demographic shifts. Bratton wasn’t a genius, by their lights. He was the Forrest Gump of public safety, the fluky beneficiary of right-time, right-place dumb luck.

In 2002, Los Angeles gave him a second chance. The city was in even worse shape than New York, with crime that defied national trends and a police force renowned for corruption, racism and brutality. If he could replicate the results of his New York experiment there, then it wasn’t dumb luck after all: It was Bratton. Los Angeles, in other words, needed a savior, and William Bratton needed redemption. In “Blue,” Joe Domanick’s dramatic account of the Los Angeles Police Department’s recent fall and rise, both get what they wanted.

The timing is impeccable. Deadly encounters between young black men and the urban police in Ferguson, Baltimore and Staten Island have resurrected the urgent issue of reform, and race is at the center of “Blue.” Domanick, a Los Angeles journalist and longtime critic of the police force, was clearly drawn to Bratton because Bratton was willing to admit what other big-city police chiefs would not: “The flash point for racial tension in America’s cities for decades, Bratton believed, had been the police — and if they were ever to get the consent of the poor people of color they were policing, they’d have to stop being part of the problem.”

Domanick’s hero, however, doesn’t show up until very late in the story. This is largely a book about how bad things were in Los Angeles before Bratton got there. Crime in Los Angeles had been increasing at twice the national average. Between 1980 and 2000, there were 11,500 gang-related homicides in Los Angeles County. “L.A.’s gangs were not simply growing but metastasizing.”

The city’s incompetent and brutal police functioned like “an army of occupation that waged war on the residents of black South L.A., Mexican East L.A. and Central American Pico-Union in the name of crime suppression.” During one operation, in South Los Angeles, 25,000 were arrested, though relatively few were charged with any crime. “It seems astounding,” Domanick writes, “that such a plan of concentrated, indiscriminate mass arrests would be executed in a major, liberal American city a quarter of a century into the post-civil-rights era.” Even the police dogs were out of control, surely a metaphor of some kind. Between 1989 and 1992, they bit 900 people, resulting in countless lawsuits.

Domanick is steeped in his city’s rich history, its fraught racial and ethnic conflicts and the complex demographics that befuddle so many outsiders. I lived there in the ’80s and ’90s, during recessions, earthquakes, the Rodney King beating and the ’92 riots: Domanick gets everything right. His brief portrait of the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, for example, is a valuable corrective. O.J.’s lawyer Johnnie Cochran was no racial show boater, though the national media treated him like some sort of West Coast Al Sharpton. Cochran was a brilliant and highly respected local attorney who made his reputation trying police-abuse cases. “He knew what black jurors knew deep in their bones,” Domanick writes, “that racism, planting evidence, shading the truth and lying in court had been part of the Los Angeles Police Department’s modus operandi throughout its history.” The trial was always about the dysfunctional L.A.P.D., never O.J.

Validating Cochran, the decade climaxed with the infamous Rampart Division scandal. Officers were discovered to be routinely framing people, robbing and shooting them, planting evidence and stealing drugs. How long it had been going on or how many other units were involved, nobody ever knew. There was no in-depth probe. The department proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was incapable of policing itself.

Enter Bratton. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2015 at 6:51 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.



    3 August 2015 at 11:55 pm

  2. Jack Maple was the breakthrough artist for revamping police forces, Bratton exploited him to the nth degree, & not crediting him enough or properly in my limited observation.



    4 August 2015 at 6:03 am

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