Investigations into LAPD’s May Day melee continue (FCN, 06-16-2007)
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Several Black community leaders and prominent pastors threw their support behind Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief William Bratton for a five-year reappointment, despite widespread demands for his termination. The announcement was made at a press conference May 26 at the Lucy Florence Coffee House following a closed door meeting with Chief Bratton.
The statement came as he and the LAPD continue to undergo criticism over the Metropolitan Division’s brutal shut down of a May 1 immigration rally in Mac Arthur Park.
As the news spread among many Black residents, activists and police abuse coalitions who serve the grassroots community and neighborhoods haunted by LAPD brutality and racial profiling, they questioned how could anyone, who calls themselves a leader of Black and oppressed people, support the head of a historically racist, brutal police force? Were the people they “lead” consulted? Was this move for personal monetary or professional gain or true community justice? Why are they shielding Bratton when the people are crying out against him?
Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, founder of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable (LAUPR), a weekly, non-partisan, public policy forum, hosted the session and told The Final Call that the coalition’s right to support Chief Bratton is part of the democratic process. They are backing Chief Bratton because he accepted responsibility for the MacArthur Park incident; the LAPD consistently addressed the LAUPR’s concerns regarding LAPD operations; and he has been transparent, he said.
“We didn’t support him unconditionally or give him a free pass. In the meeting, we told him that we would be monitoring and watching every step of the way on use of force in our community, discipline, complaints, how the LAPD works with the community and activists,” Dr. Hutchinson explained.
Dr. Hutchinson said that he has received no check or any monies from Chief Bratton in exchange for his support and said he would refuse even if offered, because his beliefs are not for sale. He informed that certain community leaders, like Min. Tony Muhammad, Nation of Islam Western Region Representative, was not invited to the closed door meeting because the invitation specifically targeted those who wanted to support Chief Bratton.
A Loyola Marymount University 2007 Los Angeles Riots 15th Year Follow-Up Survey of Los Angeles residents indicates that only 53 percent of Angelinos support Chief Bratton’s reappointment, as opposed to the overwhelming support by city leaders. Only 47 percent of Koreans, 44 percent of Blacks and 45 percent of Latinos support the reappointment, with 36 percent of Blacks and 28 percent of Latinos in opposition. General support of Chief Bratton is driven by 68 percent of Anglos, it noted.
Min. Muhammad paralleled the dilemma to scriptures and labeled Chief Bratton a political appointee backed by Pharaoh-types. He said that Pharaoh trained fake leaders and gave them status to fool the majority of the slaves as if they are their leaders, because Pharaoh knew that the slaves wanted to be free.
“[Chief Bratton] also knew that the Negro leaders wanted to share in his wealth and be near to him. The true question becomes are these Black leaders in Los Angeles Pharaoh’s enchanters, or are they the true legitimate servants of the people?” Min. Muhammad stated.
Requests for interviews to other community leaders who attended the meeting, which included Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray (former pastor of First A.M.E. Church); Pastor John Hunter (First A.M.E. Church); Rev. Frederick Murph (Brookins A.M.E. Church); and Blair Taylor (President, the Los Angeles Urban League), were unanswered at Final Call press time.
Skipp Townsend, co-founder of 2nd Call, a gang intervention and prevention outreach group, told The Final Call that he does not support Chief Bratton, but attended the meeting because it was presented as an opportunity to question Chief Bratton about the LAPD’s treatment of the Black and Brown communities. Also, to press for reform–but that was not the case.
“When the opportunity came up, everyone talked more about themselves and stated why they supported him. When I was able to ask what he is going to do to change the mentality of the officers that work in the streets everyday, I was told that he would answer that later at the press conference, but that question never got answered,” Mr. Townsend said.
A press aid to Councilman Bernard Parks, former LAPD chief, distributed this snapshot of LAPD activities during Chief Bratton’s first tenure:
– 2004 LAPD audit reflected a 40 percent reduction in taking complaints due to LAPD personnel’s refusal to do so; 2006 LAPD informs that during 2005, it took over 6,400 complaints, but only disciplined 400 employees; Excessive force incidents:
– LAPD changed flashlight policy after media videotaped officers beating Stanley Miller with heavy-duty flashlights;
– Chief Bratton stated that Officer Stephen Garcia’s shooting of 13-year-old Devin Brown was within policy; the Police Commission over-ruled that Garcia acted out of policy and used excessive force;
– S.W.A.T. officers shot and killed 19-month-old Susie Pena during a stand-off with her father, also killed; after a year-long investigation, Chief Bratton declared that he could not determine who was responsible and ruled the shootings within policy.
– Min. Muhammad was assaulted and arrested by police at a prayer vigil; the city attorney refused to file any charges against him.
Tom Hayden, former senator and founder of No More Sweatshops!, said that beyond Chief Bratton, a tougher question is how do you ever reform the LAPD?
“It’s been 40 bad years. We’ve had some of the most imminent power brokers of our time, Warren Christopher [former secretary of state], John J. McCullen [became head of the CIA], and with each crisis, a small reform is achieved. That seems to be the pattern and that‘s how we got the inspector general and police commission,” he noted.
All parties agree that the LAPD needs an independent, community-based civilian review board and a sovereign gang intervention and prevention program.