LAPD Chickens Come Home to Roost

Why I'm More Scared of the Cops Than I Am of Christopher Dorner: My first experience of the LAPD was as a child back in Wales, staring at the TV screen in horror and fascination, watching a grainy image of police officers beat a black man to a pulp. I’d never seen anything like it. None of us had. Six thousand miles away, in a tiny village in Wales with only five hundred inhabitants, we talked about Rodney King and racism in Los Angeles . T-shirts sprang up on local market stalls bearing the slogan LAPD – treat you like a King! Los Angeles seemed like a place of horrors, a place so utterly backward and corrupt that none of us would ever want to even visit, let alone live there. I never thought of Los Angeles as the home of the movie industry. I thought of Los Angeles as the home of racism, police brutality, and Skid Row.

And then I moved to Los Angeles in my twenties, and I became exposed to a different kind of policing. I became exposed to the LAPD. While reporting on Occupy LA‘s raid night, I watched cops beat peaceful activists with batons in a quiet side street. I wrote about it, and Mayor Villaraigosa called me a liar on CNN. While protesting outside a downtown jail, a friend of mine was physically assaulted by a Police Officer. Despite video evidence to the contrary, he was accused of felony resisting and encouraged to take a plea deal. He is now on probation for being assaulted by a Police Officer. I regularly saw homeless people on Skid Row harassed by police, arrested for sitting on the sidewalk, their belongings confiscated and never returned. As a white, British woman, I did not ever experience the same levels of abuse, oppression and harassment that I saw exacted upon people of color, the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable, marginalized groups. But working as a community organizer and activist in Downtown LA and Skid Row made me realize that the Rodney King incident and the days of Rampart weren’t a part of history. They were part of the present. It is how the Los Angeles Police Department still operates today.
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