There may be hope for a healthier relationship between LAPD and the Los Angeles Community.
Monday morning, LAPD announced the department was on Blue Alert due to the death of an African American male in Baltimore who died from a police beating.
According to KJLH radio station, both ‘Blood’ and ‘Crip’ gang members in Los Angeles area are currently working together to prevent riots from happening and to rebuild the city. Residents of Los Angles, have decided on a strategies similar to LAPD’s new tactic to control crime in the community.
On Tuesday, April 15, Mayor Eric Garcetti gave his State of the City Address, discussing the various ways the Los Angeles Police Department is going to control crime in their community and strengthen their relationship with Angelenos.
The LAPD is increasing the number of officers allotted in their Metropolitan Division to 200. The increase allows for the department to send officers to areas in a timely manner.
According to the LAPD press release, The mayor announced the budget for the Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) has been increased by $5.5 million. GYRD works in heavily affected areas were gang violence is prevalent. The increase will allow for the program to police new areas to help with, “year-round Friday night programming in select parks.”
Aside from the increase in officers, Garcetti also revealed the new LAPD division designed to integrate community outreach, community policing and social media engagement.
But, residents of Los Angeles are wondering how the new policing tactics will work when there has been an increase of police beatings among African American men in the U.S. Residents are concerned with the lack of accountability police officers are failing to receive, who they believe, should be held responsible for their actions. Some Los Angeles residents are in fear.
“I truly fear for everyone not just the younger generation but the older generation. I am in fear for Blacks as well as Whites and Hispanics. I am not sure if there will be a repeat of the LA riots,” said Los Angeles resident Dell Reneau.
The Los Angeles community has had a strained relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department dated back to 1992, the year of the historical LA Riots.
Both the department and some members of the public believe there is disconnect between LAPD officers and the community. Some citizens and retired officers are in disbelief of the relationship being salvaged and do not believe tactics have changed.
“It all sounds good. He [Garcetti] is saying the right stuff. But the proof is in the pudding. Having an entirely new police division is supposed to do what, make everyone happy?” said Retired LAPD Sergeant & Author of “The Creation of a Manifesto- Black & Blue” Cheryl Dorsey. “It would be nice if the Chief would admit wrong doing when it’s painfully obvious and stop the two tied system of discipline as it relates to penalties meted out to officers who are not in “Beck’s camp.”
The police department has replaced its former paramilitary tactics after the LA Riots with community outreach, community policing and social media engagement tactics. The city of Los Angeles continues to see the same paramilitary tactics used during the LA Riots.
The LA Riots happened as a response to one beating and one murder. The most well known is the LAPD police beating of African American male Rodney King. 13 days after the King beating was the murder of Latasha Harlins, a 15 year old teenager who was shot in the back of the head by a liquor store owner.
The verdict for the King case found the LAPD officers not guilty. During this time the verdict for the liquor store owner in the Harlins case had been made public. The owner was given a minimal sentence of a $500 fine and probation.
According to southcentralhistory.com, “Nobody could believe it. The officers were on tape and they were still not convicted. The feelings of anger and disappointment had built up long enough, and within minutes of the verdict, rioting started in South Central on Florence and Normandie.”
Rioters began to set liquor stores and community businesses on fire, steal from stores and attack people who were not of Black dissent. Business owner Juan Carlos describes his store as one of the lucky businesses that remained standing.
“The riots started so fast and were out of control in a matter of hours. In fact, an entire strip center was burnt to the ground right across the street from my business,” said Dba JCS car stereo and alarm business owner Juan Carlos Garcia.
Garcia’s business was looted and partially destroyed during the LA Riots. He saw rioters beginning to move closer to his business. While attempting to move items from the store to his vehicle to prevent damage, he returned to witness a dangerous situation happening at his store.
“I lost several thousand dollars as most of the stores displays and several merchandise was destroyed and or stolen,” said Garcia. “Upon my return to the business, I found the place being destroyed. Some of the looters were my own customers. Myself, family and friends engaged into fights and threw whoever we could out of my store. The situation became rather dangerous so we all decided to leave and hope for the best.”
Garcia closed the store for several weeks after the riots to repurchase items, restock the store and install security systems to prevent future break-ins.
Residents who chose not to participate in the riots, were told to stay in their homes.
“I remember riding Northbound on Normandie. As we approached Manchester, I could see fires on both sides of the street. My friend and I got down on the floor of her Cadillac Seville, afraid the glass was going to break because due to the heat from the fire,” said Los Angeles resident Cheryl Dennis.” I was so scared, I remember watching the news and they said there were over 1,000 buildings that had burned down. I remember crying because I thought they would burn down the whole city and I lived alone.”
The riot lasted for five days and ended with 53 people killed and over $1 billion in damages.
The LA riots is one of many incidents regarding paramilitary policing that residents have experienced over the past couple of years.
“Tactics in my opinion have not changed; policies have not changed and attitudes have not changed. Lip service is given and a more covert method of policing is what we are seeing,” Dorsey said.
On August 14, 2014, mentally ill African American male Ezell Ford was killed by LAPD officers. Ford was walking down Florence in South Los Angeles when he was stopped by officers.
According to washingtonpost.com, officers attempted to stop Ford from walking away and a struggle occurred between him and the officers. Police say, during the struggle they fell on the ground and Ford attempted to grab one of the officer’s guns. The article states, the other officer, “fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.” The struggle resulted in Ford being sent to a hospital where he later died.
Residents in the Los Angeles area responded to the incident by protesting and shutting down the 110 freeway.
Past and recent events of police beatings and killings of African American men, have led to the changes in the policing system along with the increase in crime.
According to the LAPD website, the Community Relations Division mission is to work on, suggest and toughen policy and programs that, “enhance police/community relations, increase understanding and cooperation and reduce the fear of crime.”
Photographer during the LA riots and Los Angeles resident Mark Hamilton believes the department tactics are a step in the right direction.
“A lot of black young kids are afraid of the police. I don’t care if your children are black or brown, parents need to put police officers in a good light. Parents also need to be comfortable with that police officers so that their kids will be,” Hamilton said. “We need community police, police should be from the community or living in the area. If you aren’t living in the community, then you don’t understand certain cultural things compared to people who do live in the community. A certain percentage of LAPD officers should live within LA area.”
The new division will highlight community relationship-building alongside the LAPD and the African American and Hispanic communities in the city while using the top of the line digital media technologies.
Mayor Garcetti had this to say in a Los Angeles Times interview, “I want to be very clear: Having more police officers there is not about having a greater presence in terms of an occupying force,” Garcetti said. “This is about making sure that we have cops that we know, and that can immediately make a crime spike not become a crime wave.”