Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Sunday, December 31, 2006

One year ends and another begins

The Los Angeles Police Department and one of its former deputy chiefs, Michael Berkow are back in the news again, according to an article published in the Los Angeles Times.

Four LAPD officers claim race-based discrimination

Two African-Americans and two Latinos filed a law suit against the department and Berkow for failing to take seriously complaints by them that they were denied positions in the department's Force Investigation Division because of their race and disabilities.

Lt. Otis Dobine, who is African-American said that no one ever told him why he would not be returned to the division, which underwent restructuring after the LAPD entered into a consent decree with the federal government and the federal monitor assigned to oversee the reform process felt that changes were needed.


"If you're white, you're right, if you're black, step back," Dobine said

Chief William Bratton called the allegations "outrageous". He's been saying that a lot in the media lately about a lot of things.


"I have based my whole career on ensuring equal opportunity to all people," Bratton said. "And I stand on my record at LAPD of appointing qualified minorities and women."

Bratton had more to say on the issue in his blog including a list of all the men of color and women he has promoted recently. Just one more indignity that these police officers have to face which is to be rattled off as a laundry list to prove that a police chief is not practicing racial and/or gender discrimination.

Berkow, who is now chief of police in Savannah, Georgia was also the subject of an internal investigation stemming from civil litigation filed against him by a female sergeant who alleged that he had given promotions to female officers who had sexual relationships with him. Here is an interesting history of the LAPD provided by author Joe Domanick, who wrote an excellent book on the LAPD.

Another history of the LAPD is found here in Wikipedia, the online resource which provides information on a lot of things.

One of the events listed in the chronology of the LAPD was the incident known as "Bloody Christmas" which took place inside the Lincoln Heights' station on Dec. 25, 1951. During this incident, at least 50 police officers assaulted seven Mexican-American men who had been arrested.

A research study of that incident and its impact on the LAPD is found here. A depiction of "Bloody Christmas" opened the acclaimed 1997 film, L.A. Confidential. In real life, eight police officers were eventually indicted on criminal charges and the rest were disciplined.

(excerpt, abstract by Edward J. Escobar)

On December 25, 1951, approximately fifty Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers brutally beat seven young men in their custody, including five Mexican Americans. The ensuing controversy became known as Bloody Christmas. Mexican American activists demanded investigations into allegations of police brutality and LAPD accountability to civilian control.

The LAPD's new chief, William Parker, however, had just launched a reform campaign based on the police professionalism model, which stressed police autonomy, particularly about internal discipline. Parker and his allies in city government stifled external investigations into department matters, vilified LAPD critics, and even ignored perjury by officers. They thus helped create an organizational culture that valued LAPD independence above the rule of law and led to the LAPD's estrangement from Mexican American and other minority communities.

In the film, the incident served to position the major characters including those played by Guy Pierce, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey into the plot which deals with surprise, corruption and racism in the LAPD. The police chief who appears modeled after Parker is barely visible in this film. He only plays a cameo role at the beginning of the film when he has to clean up the "Bloody Christmas" scandal, and at its end, when he has to clean up the scandal of corruption, greed and murder uncovered by who else, the characters played by Pierce, Crowe and Spacey. That's before the police department gains a new headquarters and enters into a new shiny era which of course led to further scandals and racism in the years to follow including the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the Rampart scandal 10 years after that.

It's hard to believe that Parker had much of a reform process going on during the 1950s, if his officers were beating people in the stations with impunity. In Riverside, three police officers thought they could get away with beating a Latino man and throwing him in a lake, but then perhaps there were other incidents which never were reported.

But then it's hard to believe the federal consent decree is having much of an impact on the LAPD given the number of incidents that have hit the newspaper just in the past several months. It remains to be seen if Riverside's own court-mandated reform process will have lasting effect here given that the rate of fatal shootings per 1000 police officers in Riverside is 40 times higher than that of the officers in the New York City Police Department.

There's no entry in Wikipedia for Riverside's police department. I guess someone is just going to have to write and submit one.

Across the country in New York City, an NYPD officer was suspended for 30 days for undisclosed reasons. In 2004, Richard Neri, jr. had shot and killed Timothy Stansbury, an unarmed teenager. That shooting became the subject of an award-winning documentary that was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

NYPD officer suspended

A grand jury refused to indict Neri on criminal charges.

Another NYPD officer, Sgt. Greg Abrahams is being charged for assaulting a man off-duty who was suspected of stealing his car. Other off-duty officers, Mark Zajac and Chris Kirch who were with Abrahams were charged with misdemeanor assault. Another sergeant in the department had made allegations that the three men had beaten Gaspar Alcalde after onduty officers had arrested him.

New York Daily News: Officers charged for off-duty beating

So the NYPD's year hasn't wound down quietly either.


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