A Critique by Paul Jacobs
FEW other police departments in the country are as well known as the LAPD. Jack Webb made it famous for TV viewers in Dragnet, and the popular image of the L.A. policeman as Webb portrayed him was continued by all the imitators of Dragnet. Indeed, no greater contrast in TV images of police departments could be found than in the shortlived comedy about police work Car 54, Where Are You?, which portrayed the New York City police officers as bumbling good-natured fools who survive only through luck, while the slender, athletic, clean-cut, and intelligent men of the efficient LAPD fight crime with all the tools of modern science.
The familiar figure of the policeman selling tickets to the policeman’s ball is unknown in Los Angeles, where the police are prohibited from soliciting financial assistance for any cause, and where the department’s monthly magazine accepts no ads. The structure of the LAPD as it is now, with its emphasis on impersonality and efficiency, grew, partially, from a reaction against the kind of department which had existed before the late William Parker became chief.
In the pre-Parker period, the way in which the police exercised their discretionary power was either haphazard or susceptible to a variety of influences. Then a citizen didn’t know why he was being arrested, or whether or not his arrest could be prevented by either the use of a bribe or of influence. The relationships between some of the police and some of the criminals in Los Angeles were so close that it was difficult to distinguish one from the other. Today, most Los Angelenos know that they cannot bribe one of the “vigilantes,” as the motorcycle policemen are known inside the department, out of giving them a ticket for speeding on the freeway; and they know, too, that graft in its other usual forms is virtually nonexistent inside the LAPD. In his fifteen-year tenure as Chief of the LAPD, Parker converted it into an efficient, technologically advanced, and incorruptible operation, a model emulated by other police departments and police chiefs across the nation.
But despite the LAPD’s incorruptibility, despite its efficiency, despite all the latest advances in technology it uses, despite its own powerful internal loyalty, despite the bravery of its officers, despite its tradition of service, it has been incapable of dealing with the major problems of police work growing from racial and economic tensions: the “fundamental” approach to police work, articulated by the LAPD’s former chief, is useless in these explosive areas. Indeed, it is clear that while Parker was alive, the LAPD was itself a major cause for the racial unrest that finally erupted in August, 1965. His death and the naming of an acting chief who does not seem to share Parker’s views have already resulted in some easing of the tension between the police and the minority groups.
Yet, the philosophy of Chief Parker in running the department was shared enthusiastically by the majority of people in Los Angeles. Both regarded the basic role of the police to be the protection of life and property and the preservation of order through the active repression of crime, the apprehension of criminals, and their speedy conviction. Parker’s main contention, shared by many other police officers, was that crime would be reduced if all offenders were rapidly brought to justice, and made an example of, so that other would-be criminals would think twice because they would be certain to be caught. His was essentially a Calvinistic view of human behavior: “If you want to think the human being will respond to kindness, you are just living in a fool’s paradise,” he said on one occasion. Only tough, ruthless police work would stem the tides of evil. If a policeman had to resort to violence in apprehending a petty thief, that was part of his legitimate function. In Parker’s view America was becoming too softhearted about criminals: “As long as the populace fails to realize the necessity of order through self-discipline . . . the police can only function in a stop-gap capacity as the depredations of the criminal element act to disintegrate the social order.”
Along with the majority of Los Angelenos, Parker had small regard for concepts of crime prevention through positive social action, or for the preservation of human rights that sometimes interfere with the efficient apprehension of criminals. These notions were frills, expensive luxuries, which society could not afford if anarchy were to be avoided. Policemen were policemen, and social workers social workers; the two performed different and totally unrelated functions. Parker’s only concern with minority groups was with the high crime rates in ghetto areas: “The main source of crime in Los Angeles just happens to be in the areas populated heavily by Negroes, and Negroes just happen to be figuring in most of the city’s crime,” he pointed out. “This comes from the record.” His job, and his only job, was to crack down on that crime with repressive police work.
PARKER’S definition of the duty of the department is still reflected in the behavior of the officers on the force. The L.A. police drive into Negro or Mexican neighborhoods as if they were in occupied territory, in which almost everybody in the population is likely to be cither a criminal or willing to protect criminals from arrest. This strained view is reinforced by the technical conditions under which the patrol force operates. The city is so huge and sprawling that almost all patrol work is done by officers in cars rather than by men walking beats. In smaller cities, or even in a large city like New York, where the physical community is a vertical one, the walking patrol officers have some opportunity to learn about the community. They see the decent people in it as well as the criminal elements, and they develop connections with the neighborhood which allow them to act as preventers of crime as well as apprehenders of criminals.
But this can’t be done very easily from inside a patrol car. Sitting in their cars, surrounded by their shotguns and riot equipment, the Los Angeles police officers learn about the community primarily through the radio calls that come from the dispatcher, and these calls are always related to the occurrence of crime. The dispatcher never tells them to stop by and congratulate Mrs. Johnson because her son has just won a scholarship to college; the police don’t even know Mrs. Johnson exists, and the only time they see her is when her next-door neighbor gets drunk and beats up his wife. Then, Mrs. Johnson is just another black face peering at them from the outskirts of a crowd. When, for example, the tense Bedford-Stuyvesant ghetto of New York was saturated with police in the summer of 1966, the officers were out in the neighborhoods, always on foot, not in cars. And when they had to use cars, the sirens were silent so that the whole area was not brought into turmoil by the screaming noise.
A veteran officer who served for many years in the LAPD juvenile division believes he was able to do his work better before “efficiency” became the most important value in the department. Then, he could establish some kind of relationship with a juvenile, spend some time getting to know the family background and the problems the juvenile was facing. Today, he says bitterly, juvenile officers do little more than process arrests, and have no time for the slow effort required to develop the kind of personal relationships with young people that will keep them from becoming adult criminals. To this view, a Negro lady in Watts adds,
The police is brainwashed that every colored person is a criminal. In the old days, the police were better. They were on the beat, and the parents cooperated with the police. The police would come to the house and talk to the kids if they did something bad. Now they just talk to you on the phone, and the kids hate them and they got no respect for them. The police used to have band groups and boy and girl clubs, but they stopped all that. Now they just give out tickets and arrest you. That’s one of the reasons we had the trouble here.
Another example of the LAPD’s misguided emphasis on “fundamental” police work during the Parker period could be seen in the training program the department administered to new recruits. Learning “how to do it took 529 hours of instruction given to the recruits in twelve weeks. The curriculum reflected accurately what was considered important in the LAPD. Only two of the 529 hours of instruction were given to race and human relations, whereas 75 hours were spent on criminal investigation procedure, 57 on the care and use of firearms, 66 on physical conditioning and control tactics, and 99 on patrol procedures. Currently, the training program is being revised, with more stress placed on human relations.
Despite the changes that are occurring, the real education of a Los Angeles police officer begins after he leaves the Academy and is assigned to a division. There, separated from the other recruits with whom he went through training, he learns a different set of standards and discovers what it’s like to be a working cop. The few hours of formal instruction the new officer receives after graduation from the Academy are likely to be perfunctory. Typically, one watch commander in a division located in a ghetto began one such instruction period by reading three pages from a new manual and then saying to his men, “Those bookworms uptown are bending over backwards to coddle these people. You men know how to do police work. Go out and do your job the way you have to.”
The underlying values of the LAPD are learned in the locker rooms, over cups of coffee, at gatherings of the department’s social clubs, at the parties where very few outsiders are invited, and inside the police cars. Although sixty-seven hours are devoted to “Citation Issuance” at the Academy, and two to the department’s traffic-enforcement policies, once on the job and assigned to traffic enforcement, the rookie discovers that “a greenie a day keeps the sergeant away.” (A “greenie” is a policeman’s duplicate copy of a traffic ticket.) So, he begins to exercise the discretionary powers he possesses; that is, to give or not to give traffic tickets, not only when a clear offense has been committed, but also in marginal situations—a broken taillight, for example —when he responds to his own need to produce citations, the product by which the LAPD judges the officers assigned to trafficenforcement work.
Ordinarily, the motorist thinks of the occasional “fast ticket” he gets as one of the hazards of driving. At most, the ticket is a minor nuisance, and the money he must pay is likely to put only a temporary dent in his purse. But under precisely the same circumstances, a poor person, particularly a poor Negro, suffers considerably more. Indeed, if he cannot easily pay the fine, he may ignore the ticket and eventually end up with a warrant out for his arrest. In addition, if the poor person is a Negro already resentful of the police, he may attribute getting the ticket to police prejudice against Negroes. And if his resentment about getting a ticket instead of a warning for a marginal offense like a flickering taillight spills out in his response to a “badge-heavy” officer, he may get arrested for failing to pass the “attitude test,” the police euphemism for showing disrespect for them.
At an even more potentially dangerous level, the new police officer assigned to patrol duty discovers that similar pressures for arrests are exerted upon him. In addition, although patrol work, according to the LAPD. “is the traditional and basic police task,” the officer soon discovers that being on patrol duty does not have high status inside the department. Even while he’s on the job, the patrolman has second-class status. If a patrol officer is called to the scene of a crime, he makes the preliminary investigation, interviews the victims and witnesses, and if it is possible to do so, arrests the Criminals. But if any of these actions presents difficulties, detectives in plainclothes are dispatched to the scene to take over from the uniformed officers. And if patrolmen need any further reminder of their inferior status, they get it when they see that the punishment meted out to a detective who has performed badly is relegation back to uniformed patrol duty.
One way of raising his status in the department is for the patrolman to demonstrate to his superiors how zealous he is as an officer. “How many shakes did you get tonight?” is a question the patrol officer very quickly learns to anticipate hearing on his return to his divisional headquarters, and to ward off having to give an unsatisfactory answer, he makes certain that he always makes the recognized informal quota for the area, based on the anticipated amount of crime in that area.
The pressure that the patrol officer is under to make field interrogations or misdemeanor arrests acts as another one of the elements to build up the self-fulfilling prophecy that the Negro community produces more crime than other areas of the city. Tragically, too, neither the police nor the Los Angeles community at large seems to understand the real consequences of misdemeanor arrests for members of minority groups. For Negroes and Mexicans in Los Angeles, a single misdemeanor arrest, even though no conviction follows it, may be a bar to civil service employment, a terrible handicap to private employment, and a franchise for future arrests: the single most important determinant for the Los Angeles police officer who is uncertain about making a misdemeanor arrest is whether or not the person involved has been arrested before. And the fact that the prior arrest may have been made, as it often is, only because the person failed to be respectful enough to satisfy the arresting police officer is of little consequence.
Too often also, the doubtful misdemeanor arrest is made on the incorrect assumption that the adversary system will give the prisoner an adequate opportunity to defend his innocence in court. But in fact, the poor Negro or the poor Mexican has very little real opportunity to defend himself; he cannot afford proper representation, and the public defender system does not provide it either. If he cannot afford to make bail, he loses time from his job and must explain to his employer that the reason he didn’t show up for work was that he was arrested. If he loses his job because he was arrested, the only alternative open to him may be to become a criminal.
BECAUSE of the high crime rate in the Negro ghettos, field interrogations there create the feeling that the police are brutal to the minority groups. Only a thin line separates an interrogation from an arrest, and the sight of a man being searched while he is stretched across the hood of a car or standing face to the wall with his arms overhead is enough to convince any passerby that the police are mistreating a prisoner. In fact, the man may be released later by the police without having suffered any physical harm, but the damage has been done in the community: the people believe they have witnessed police brutality.
The extraordinarily high number of drunk arrests, not to be confused with drunken driving offenses, made by the Los Angeles police — more than 72,000 in 1964 and nearly 69,000 in 1965 — also acts to reinforce the impression that the police are brutal: in the past, 60 percent of the arrests outside skid row have been made in the ghetto areas, and since it is often difficult to get the intoxicated persons into custody without using a certain amount of physical force, these arrests always represent potential triggers for racial outbreaks and reinforce the community’s view of police brutality.
The tensions generated in the ghettos by overzealous police work are aggravated by occasional instances of brutality, especially since the police have been exempted from either moral sanctions or legal punishment when they do use unnecessary violence, including killing in situations where it is not required. Although it is true that there is much less physical brutality today than in the preParker period, when, according to one inspector, the walls of the interrogation room were often splattered with blood, in its place, patterns of psychological brutality have emerged which the police don’t understand very well themselves.
Every member of the LAPD may be instructed to say “Sir” to a man being stopped for a trafficviolation, but the way in which the “Sir” is pronounced can be either an insult or a courteous greeting. And a police officer’s real attitudes are formed not only by what he brings with him, as a white man, but by what happens to him in the department. It was possible, until recently, for an officer to stand inspection in a room where the bulletin board had a picture of Eleanor Roosevelt with the phrase “nigger lover” scrawled on it. A Los Angeles policeman can, today, still hear his superiors refer to the white inspector who heads the community relations division as “our nigger inspector”; his wife still can attend a meeting of an all-white police wives’ social club — a holdover from the pre-1961 segregation of the force. So, even though it is unlikely any longer that an officer will call a little boy over to his car by shouting, “Hey nigger baby, come over here,” he still thinks of the kid as a “nigger baby,” speaks of him that way to his fellow officers, and treats the kid that way.
When the occasional instance of actual physical brutality is added to such verbal brutality, a body of support begins to grow for the charge of “police brutality” leveled against the men of the force, and the frustration over such incidents is aggravated by the absence of any avenue of complaint, other than the LAPD itself, through which citizens can air their grievances. The LAPD has long resisted the notion of a civilian review board, insisting that it alone has the right to set the standards by which its members will be judged. It is the lawyers who judge other lawyers, the doctors who set the standards for excellence in the practice of medicine; therefore, according to the LAPD, only the police should have the right to judge the behavior of the police. But what this argument fails to take into account is that the discretionary authority of the police extends far beyond that of any other group; and the ability of the police to manipulate situations to justify their correctness extends into levels not open to any other group in society.
Quite apart from the attitude often expressed by the minority groups that complaining about an officer does no good and invites harassment, the record of the LAPD in the disposition of complaints is revealing. Of 121 complaints over the excessive use of force in 1964 only 21 were sustained. And equally significant is the fact that of the officers who were removed from the force or resigned to escape disciplinary action, not one was charged with the excessive use of force. Any officer found guilty of that charge received a lesser penalty.
The resignation in lieu of disciplinary action is a characteristic device by which an institution seeks to protect itself from internal corrosion of its standards while still preserving an outward appearance of purity. The department’s rationale for allowing officers to resign, without prosecution, even though they may have broken the law, is that the department doesn’t necessarily have enough evidence on the man to warrant criminal prosecution, or that the evidence it does have is gathered by hearsay, a polygraph test, or wiretaps, which cannot be used in court. But the effect of the department’s attempt to keep quiet its own internal problems is that it provides a sanctuary for those of its officers who are guilty of serious enough offenses to warrant the most severe penalty the department can mete out — removal from the force. Such officers, who would be subject to harsh sentences in a civilian court, go relatively unpunished.
In August, 1964, for example, a white police officer, Richard Price, who was chasing a suspect prostitute, shot a Negro man, Earl Adams, in the back. Price and his partner, Officer Daniel M. Samaniego, then arrested the injured man on a charge of assault with intent to murder, a charge based on their claim that they found a knife on Adams. But, as it was discovered later, the knife was Samaniego’s and had been planted beneath Adams after he was shot.
What happened to the two police officers? They were convicted only of falsifying an official report, for which they received suspended sentences. Price, who had shot Adams, was pressured into resigning from the department, but Samaniego, whose knife was used to justify the false arrest, refused to give in to the pressure put on him to resign. So, instead, he was given a 180-day suspension from the force and is still on active duty with the LAPD.
SINCE the brunt of the police misconduct has fallen on the minority groups, they have been quickest to call for measures such as civilian review boards which would give them at least a small amount of leverage in curbing the injustices that occur under the present system. These efforts have brought down the wrath of the department on civil rights groups. In 1964 the department’s annual report stated that the detractors of law enforcement stepped up their pervading accusations of police misconduct and pleas for an independent review of police practices in an attempt to create an atmosphere of apprehension, predicting that the streets of this city would also become an arena in which the issues of the civil rights movement would be settled.
This statement accurately reflected the views of Chief Parker, whose contempt for lawbreaking of any kind led him to a very negative view of the civil rights movement. The tactics of civil disobedience to Parker were “a revolutionary tool to overthrow existing governments,” and the demands for civilian review boards were devices “to break the will of the police and get them out of the way of the social revolution they, ‘the civil rights leaders,’ choose to call civil disobedience.”
The development of the civil rights movement put the handful of Negro police officers who were in the department before the early 1960s in a very ambiguous position. They were clearly and overtly discriminated against, in both their assignments and their promotions; most of them were aware of the antiminority sentiments of the old-time department leadership, and at the same time, they knew a great many Negroes held them in contempt. Some of them responded to this situation with even more brutality than white officers exhibited toward Negro offenders, some withdrew into bitterness, and others resigned to make public attacks upon the department as soon as they completed their twenty years of service and could draw their pensions. (In the Los Angeles Police Department, an officer who quits before completing his minimum of twenty years of service loses not only the money the city has contributed to his pension fund but his own contribution as well.)
Today, the department still has only a very small percentage of officers from minority groups. Although the Negro population of Los Angeles is more than 8 percent and growing rapidly, fewer than 4 percent of the department are Negroes, while the Mexican population, which represents 9 percent, is even less represented within the department. Obviously, considering its past history of discrimination against minorities, both inside and outside the department, it is not going to be easy to recruit Negroes and Mexicans. Those members of the minority groups who can meet the physical and educational standards demanded by the LAPD can find, fairly easily, other jobs with less opprobrium attached to them than police work has at present within the ethnic groups. But there is a growing consciousness inside the department, among a few high-ranking officers, at least, that the department’s previous antiminority image must be changed and that an active recruitment policy must be undertaken.
In May, 1964, more than a year before the riots broke out in Los Angeles, the anti-Negro tone of the LAPD was so clear that Howard Jewell, an assistant attorney general, made a report to the then attorney general of the state, Stanley Mosk, predicting that the outbreak would occur in August, 1965. He listed some of the incidents which had taken place between the police and the minority groups, and in the course of his reports, made an observation directly relevant to Parker and the LAPD’s true feelings.
“Chief Parker does not dislike Negroes because they are Negroes,”wrote Jewell, “but because they dislike the police department. This, in Parker’s book is the only unforgivable sin.”
Along with civil rights demonstrators, the LAPD has seen as its enemies those forces in the city who stress crime prevention as a solution to the crime problem rather than the arrest and conviction of criminals. Specifically, in 1963 the LAPD was successful in bringing to an end the operations of the Group Guidance Section of the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
The Group Guidance project, which had been in operation for eighteen years, worked with gangs of Negro and Mexican youths by attempting to establish contact with the gang members and direct their activities into more constructive channels. But the LAPD believed the program encouraged juvenile delinquency by “coddling” the youthful offenders, and ultimately, the department put enough pressure on the probation department, as well as on other agencies, first to kill it and then begin it again in a form more acceptable to the department.
The supporters of Group Guidance, especially those from the minority groups, charged the LAPD with continual harassment and arrest of the gang members even when they had done no wrong; with exerting pressures on schools to expel known gang members; with visiting employers to fire youths from jobs because of gang membership; with unnecessary surveillance of gang youths’ houses; with forcing the Park and Recreation Department to deny facilities to the youths; with pressuring the Probation Department to transfer the probation officers working with the gangs; and with both verbal and physical abuse of gang youth members.
NOW, however, put bluntly, the death of Chief Parker may mean the possibility of a new life for the LAPD. A new chief may be selected with a different view of society and the policemen’s role in it than the one which Parker imposed on the department by the force of his strong personality. And there is no doubt that a chief more acceptable to the minority groups than was Parker will be sought by the Police Commission, the mayor’s office, and especially by the Los Angeles Times.
Some signs of improvement can be seen already under its interim chief, Thad Brown, who is due to retire and does not want to be the permanent chief. Despite some resistance from inside the department, especially among those officials who are still advocates of the Parker style, the community relations staff has been expanded; the Police Commission has approved a training program designed to increase the officers’ sensitivity to minority problems; youth programs of the kind Parker abolished have been reinstituted and new ones started; and Citizens’ Advisory Councils have been set up in the minority areas. Among newspapermen it is rumored that Parker’s “janissaries,” the police officers who reported directly to him, have been dispersed throughout the department. At the August Watts Festival, too, there were signs of change, for with the exception of one motorcycle officer, demonstrating his machine to the kids, the police were conspicuous by their absence from the streets; instead the festival sponsors arranged with the police for the community to police itself.
Community self-policing, at least on such holiday occasions as a festival, is only one of a score of devices and techniques that could be used to ease the tensions between the police and minority groups. In some other large cities, the police are engaged in actively pursuing programs which serve to educate the police force about the special problems of foreign language and minority groups and simultaneously seek to break down the barriers that now make these groups view the police as their enemies.
In New York, for example, a large-scale operation among the Puerto Ricans seems to have provided some easing of the difficulties that have plagued relations between the police and this Spanish-speaking community with its own mores, mores that seem so strange to a New York policeman. The New York police are being taught that what appears to them to be a noisy crowd of Puerto Ricans loitering on a street may, in reality, be a religious celebration; the Puerto Ricans are learning to support the police in their legitimate efforts to capture the criminals, who so often prey on the Puerto Rican community itself.
But a really effective program to ease tensions in the cities requires more than a willingness on the part of some white police officers to learn Spanish or become familiar with the culture of a Negro slum.
It requires more than the hiring of a prominent Negro athlete in a public relations capacity, as has been done by the Los Angeles Police Department, or even the recruitment of more officers from the minority groups. More is needed, too, than visits by the police to the schools, where they present themselves as “Patrolman Bill,” who loves to help little children across the street. And as useful as seminars on race relations may be for high-ranking police officers or even training programs for the men in the department, more fundamental changes are required if the police are to function properly.
First, the concept that impersonal bureaucratization, efficiency, and productivity are standards that can be applied to all police functions must be rejected. The police, caught up in the mania for systems analysis, have even confused computerization with professionalism. Determining the ownership of a license plate is a legitimate computer operation, but a computer cannot sit in a house, winning the confidence of a juvenile arrestee. For that, a dedicated police officer with enough time available is required.
To have the time necessary for such work, a police officer cannot be judged by computerized productivity standards, and the pressures of meeting informal quotas of arrests, shakedowns, routs, and interrogations must be resisted. Indeed, even fixing quotas for traffic violations on the basis of computerized anticipation of offenses may be the strongest factor leading to the fulfillment of the mathematical prophecy.
But building a police force which emphasizes the importance of the officers’ learning about the people in the community demands a basic change in the orientation of the department, and a shift from the present primary emphasis on the apprehension of criminals after a crime has been committed. It would mean increasing the status of a patrol officer over that of a detective; it would mean getting the patrol officers out of their cars onto the streets. The overwhelming majority of the people living in the ghettos of Los Angeles are not seeking to rid their communities of the police, but rather are asking that bad police practices be eliminated. They want the police in their communities, but they want them to act as the lady from Watts remembered they once did, to “come to the house and talk to the kids if they did something bad.”
To create a police force which would be willing to experiment with new and even daring forms of social control requires a pronounced shift in the public opinion about police work, too. Perhaps, for example, most of the traffic work should be taken away from the police, thus freeing officers from intersection control and from writing tickets for overtime parking, functions which take up a great deal of the traffic bureau’s manpower.
Physical standards for police work could be lowered, too, once the notion is modified that all police work requires combat abilities, based on size. It might even be advantageous to create a corps of community officers in uniform, men and women who could work in the neighborhoods they know best and who would not be automatically barred from such police work by the fact of a previous arrest, especially on misdemeanor charges.
But such experiments and a variety of other techniques will only be gimmicks unless the police and society realize that the techniques now used for the control of criminal behavior are both useless and dangerous in racial situations. One of the reasons racial violence convulsed Los Angeles in August, 1965, was that a high police official refused to meet with a group of Negro gang leaders who were willing to use their influence to cool down the tense situation. That official sees a gang leader only as a criminal; the only relationship he accepts with a criminal is that of an informer or a suspect, but never as a person capable of using his influence to end racial violence.
Thus, what is required is the very difficult task of making the police and society more conscious of individual rights in general, while simultaneously educating both groups that new or older, less efficient means must be used to help lessen the possibilities of racial tension erupting into racial violence. Rousting the teen-agers who now throng the Sunset Strip may take the political heat off the department, but it aggravates the problems; an inability to understand that a hostile teen-age Negro gang leader may develop into a militant community spokesman, and that such a transformation is good for the whole society, is a roadblock to minority progress.
Sir Robert Peel, after whom the British bobby was named, brought about one revolution in police work during the early part of the nineteenth century; another such revolution in police work is needed now. And if that revolution does not take place, Los Angeles and all the many other cities like it will never be free from the apprehension of racial violence.
The LAPD has been only one of many factors in the wide constellation causing racial tension in the city, but it has been an extremely important one. And one mark of the department’s past failure to understand its own role in creating racial tension was that in January, 1965, only months before the city’s agony began, the department was still expending its energy in denunciations of the “false prophets” and “detractors of law enforcement” who were predicting the violence which the police kept insisting would not and could not occur.
Unfortunately, too, the analysis of the August, 1965, events published during the summer of 1966 in the department’s annual report continues to display the same ignorance of the real causes for racial violence. But perhaps someday the Los Angeles Police Department will learn that most of those who believe the LAPD in the past has been a primary source of racial discontent are not “detractors of law enforcement” but instead are positive critics of bad law enforcement. Hopefully, someday will be soon, for otherwise it mav be too late.