The Frog Notices It Is Getting Boiled

Oops.

It’s been a week of conflicting curfew alerts. Each time my phone buzzes with these alerts my already simmering anger boils over, mainly because I think that this mess we’re in could have been easily avoided. Rather than simply stew in my own anger this morning, I thought I’d sit through the Los Angeles Police Commission’s emergency Zoom meeting held, ostensibly, to address the unrest that’s taken place over past few days.

The meeting reminded me of many in-person city meetings that I’ve attended in the past. As is typical of other commissions in Los Angeles the police commissioners are an assortment of the mayor’s cronies. The lone African-American is the chairman of a company that builds municipal infrastructure (no conflict of interest here!). There’s a developer and failed mayoral candidate. Another commissioner is a member of what a friend of mine calls the “non-profit industrial complex.” One commissioner didn’t bother to show up. The president of the commision is a former prosecutor and current law professor and a walking, blabbering, embodiment of the Professional Managerial Class. She kicked off the meeting with a canned statement of performative wokeness while underlings attempted to deal with technical problems that prevented anyone over the initial 500 people (including many members of the press) from joining the meeting. Over 6,700 people joined later via a hastily improvised YouTube live stream.

As is typical of Los Angeles City meetings they are held during the day when normal working people can’t attend them. We all had to sit through an hour of empty posturing before public comment was opened. Once public comment was opened speaker after speaker mentioned the years of requests for reform, for community oriented policing, for a police chief who will take community concerns seriously and for a diversity on the commission that would reflect the makeup of this city. One speaker called out the police chief for a behavior that’s all too common at city meetings: looking at your phone while the public is speaking.

We’ve had 26 years since the last unrest to reform the Los Angeles Police Department. We could have moved the LAPD towards a community oriented model and away from a failed para-military strategy. Instead, the awkwardly sculpted bust of Daryl Gates, one of the main architects of militarized policing in the U.S., still gazes towards the mediocre cafe at the police academy. Meanwhile politicians accept donations from the police union and seem unable or unwilling to ask for even modest reforms.

I had a brief job in the 1990s editing police training videos. It was at time when police, including most of the police I dealt with, were seriously thinking about things like improving community relations, understanding how to deal better with issues like domestic violence and non-violent ways to manage demonstrations. The majority of the officers I dealt with (who were in charge of training) supported these reforms. A minority, however, was intransigent and unwilling to acknowledge, even after the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1994, that there was a problem. This minority won and we’ve seen even more militarization of police departments over the years. As an aside there was one other thing I learned when on this job. The police I worked with told me that the LAPD was especially troubled, insular and had a toxic culture (it’s no coincidence that the evil cop in Terminator is an LAPD officer).

Unfortunately I believe nothing will change as long as we have what Cornell West calls “milquetoast neo-liberal” politicians in charge. The challenge is clear, we need to vote out most of our local, state and federal leadership. That’s not going to be easy to do. It will take years. But we have to do something soon. As Tana Hargest put it in Twitter, “This live action production of Parable of the Sower sucks.”

I stole the title of this post from an editorial by Adam Weinstein, “This is Fascism”.

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5 Comments

  1. You had me until you mentioned Cornell West, talk about milquetoast! What has he done to deserve being quoted besides being a professional writer (And I have read some of his books: good stuff. But that doesn’t mean his opinion matters more than George RR Martin.) and having a large afro?

    Seriously, why do you find Cornell West quotable aside from him having good sound bites?

  2. You’ve heard of the City wide Tac-alert, most Tac-alerts are bureau wide, means no one goes home as stop gap in case things get worst, but also means police only respond to emergency calls meaning life threatening or serious injuries may occur.

    Why doesn’t the police just answer emergency calls, as opposed to what happened to George Floyd (RIP, BLM) for something like counterfeit/forgery, so make city wide Tac-alert the norm, only answer emergency calls like the fire department.

    That should lessen unnecessary contacts. Once you realize that you don’t really need so many police officers when you don’t have to respond to unnecessary calls, then you can start to defund police.

    As for Cornell West he is right, Wall Street can loot and its legal, but when black/Hispanic kids do it , it’s illegal.

    I’m happy these protests, riots, and lootings are slowing or quieting down, but if we are going to do something right now as a result of all this civil disobedience, let’s ask the LAPD to keep their Tac-Alert permanent and only answer 911 calls which are emergency in nature, not counterfeit or forgery, or other non-emergency calls.

  3. The ‘city’ of L.A. is too large. Some of the smaller areas would be better off if they could incorporate into ‘cities’ of their own. I lived for 24 years on the outskirts of the city of L.A. We felt like one of its step children, and back then we had to wait 45 minutes for a police car to get out to our area to answer a call. Now this has (maybe?)changed. But it really seems that the ‘city’ area covered is too large to be all under the rules of downtown L.A. Of course maybe some things have changed. Hopefully. But I DO remember the last “unrest” and it doesn’t look like much has changed. But I don’t live there anymore.
    The best thing about the city and county of L.A. was its library system. Ah..now that is something I miss!

    • Have you read the Library Book by Susan Orlean, mg???

      The difference this week and last week, IMHO, is that the Watts riots and Rodney King riots occurred in South L.A. , this George Floyd/BLM protests/riots (not much looters now it seems) is that its mobile, it s moving around, because of social media.

      As for LAPD response times, i have to hand it to them, with their 4 bureaus, 20 something stations, they are very responsive, but that’s my point, less police is probably more, IMHO.

      Just let them handle real emergency calls and not societal or economic issues, or mental health, these aren’t ethnic studies majors nor psychology majors, most cops in LAPD do have college education, but a lot are only high school educated.

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