LAPD Writers and Writing

BLUE: Joe Domanick Writes About Saving the LAPD & the Crossroads of American Policing


Award-winning journalist and author Joe Domanick has been a long time critic of bad policing,
particularly when it has been displayed by the Los Angeles Police Department. His fascination with—and in many ways, affection for—LA’s complicated, powerful, historically brutal and arrogant, yet often innovative and iconic police department brought us To Protect and to Serve: The LAPD’s Century of War in the City of Dreams—a deeply researched, and immensely engaging history of the agency’s first 100 years, which won its author a 1995 Edgar award for best fact-based crime.

Now Domanick has written a new book about LA’s cop shop called Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing. Stupendously timely and written with a finely calibrated understanding of the city’s history, and its unique cultural interweave, BLUE’s page-turning narrative is borne aloft by a string of vivid nonfiction characters, including, of course, the agency’s most recent chiefs, Bill Bratton and Charlie Beck. But, while the heart of the book is a grand tale of the multi-layered struggle to reform the LAPD, Domanick also uses LA’s police department as a lens through which to examine the state of U.S. policing in general, and the crossroads at which it has presently arrived.

We will talk more about Domanick and Blue in the near future. But, in the meantime, here are a couple of clips from the rave review of Domanick’s book by Mark Horowitz, the staff editor for The New York Times Op-Ed section, which appeared in Sunday’s NYT Book Review.

…Crime in Los Angeles had been increasing at twice the national average. Between 1980 and 2000, there were 11,500 gang-related homicides in Los Angeles County. “L.A.’s gangs were not simply growing but metastasizing.”

The city’s incompetent and brutal police functioned like “an army of occupation that waged war on the residents of black South L.A., Mexican East L.A. and Central American Pico-Union in the name of crime suppression.” During one operation, in South Los Angeles, 25,000 were arrested, though relatively few were charged with any crime. “It seems astounding,” Domanick writes, “that such a plan of concentrated, indiscriminate mass arrests would be executed in a major, liberal American city a quarter of a century into the post-civil-rights era.” Even the police dogs were out of control, surely a metaphor of some kind. Between 1989 and 1992, they bit 900 people, resulting in countless lawsuits.

Domanick is steeped in his city’s rich history, its fraught racial and ethnic conflicts and the complex demographics that befuddle so many outsiders. I lived there in the ’80s and ’90s, during recessions, earthquakes, the Rodney King beating and the ’92 riots: Domanick gets everything right. His brief portrait of the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, for example, is a valuable corrective. O.J.’s lawyer Johnnie Cochran was no racial show boater, though the national media treated him like some sort of West Coast Al Sharpton. Cochran was a brilliant and highly respected local attorney who made his reputation trying police-abuse cases. “He knew what black jurors knew deep in their bones,” Domanick writes, “that racism, planting evidence, shading the truth and lying in court had been part of the Los Angeles Police Department’s modus operandi throughout its history.” The trial was always about the dysfunctional L.A.P.D., never O.J.

Validating Cochran, the decade climaxed with the infamous Rampart Division scandal. Officers were discovered to be routinely framing people, robbing and shooting them, planting evidence and stealing drugs. How long it had been going on or how many other units were involved, nobody ever knew. There was no in-depth probe. The department proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was incapable of policing itself.

Enter Bratton.

More soon.


I DON’T WANT TO DIE TOO YOUNGGGGG!

And in other news, the FBI will participate in the investigation into the death of an unarmed black Texas college football player, Christian Taylor, who was fatally shot by a rookie Arlington, Texas, police officer during a burglary call at an Arlington car dealership. The officer had yet to complete his field training.

A video shows Taylor behaving erratically at the dealership before the shooting.

Meanwhile the well-liked college student’s twitter feed, which showed a repeated concern about social justice in general and police violence specifically, went viral, particularly his now famous tweet that reads: I don’t wanna die too younggggg

24 Comments

  • The O.J. trial……Don’t make me laugh.

    Detective Vannatter taking evidence (bloody shoe) home and Mark Fuhrman’s denial of ever saying the N word. And clueless people wonder why the trial ended in an acquittal. Give me a break.

  • Re: The LAPD’s Rampart Scandal: “How long it had been going on or how many other units were involved, nobody ever knew. There was no in-depth probe.”

    O.K.

    Question: How come we have to find THAT out by reading the New York Times, a publication headquartered on the opposite side of the United States?

  • The attendance (the lack thereof) of Daryl Gates lying in state has to be the lowest turnout of any former police chief ever. It truly spoke for itself.

  • Cochran not a racial show boater? Guess that depends on your point of view. One thing for certain, he was definitely a “one trick pony”. Same offense ,same defense, everything is,was,and will always be about racism .He was famously unbeatable in front of a black jury. The OJ trial just exposed his act to clueless whites.

  • The O.J. criminal nor civil jury consisted of all black jurors. Both trials had predominantly black jurors. Both cases are in the history books. Before you start the race rhetoric, be advised that both jury’s were of his peers as predicated by law.
    You can’t fault or judge the jurists because of their decisions. They only played the cards that they were dealt.

    Do I think that Orenthal James Simpson was guilty……Yes I do. I also felt that the “rush to judgment” impaired the thinking of the lead detectives.
    Johnny Cochran just beat LAPD at their own “slick ass” games.

  • I have no problem with the jury system. No problem with the OJ verdict, that trial was pure entertainment. Just remembering good old Johnny. Making out like he was some great legal mind is a bit rich though. Best commentary ever on Johnny was a South Park episode , the one where he used the famous “chewbacca defense ” awesome.

  • Not so fast: You are right, they just played the cards they were dealt (the race card) by Johhny C. The trial was never about guilt or innocence, it was about race. The decision was a political statement, nothing more.

  • Bandwagon: You’re correct also. A political statement and the racial statement that shocked the conscious of White America……..A Black man found “Not Guilty” for the murder of a white woman.

  • Why so muss fuss over O.J. when Robert Blake and William Shatner walked away from the same charges with less fanfare. Not much thought to that.

  • Not so fast: We all remember the looks of disbelief on the faces of White America when the verdict was read and the joy exhibited by African Americans. We all saw the same trial, why the disparity. Was the African Amercan community celebrating the vindication of an innocent man, or the jury giving the finger to White America. You tell me…

  • Bandwagon: I can’t speak for any group or person. I’m sure there are a plethora of reasons for speculation and reactions of the verdict, based loosely on interpretation.

  • That is because of brave men and woman who had the strength of character and conviction to stand up and voice their opinions……not stand in the background and let others do the heavy lifting! Enough said…………

  • @19. You are correct. That is what the constitution is about…..freedom of speech and rights. That’s what the civil rights movement is all about.

    It’s also about choice… which #18 is expressing & exercising. That’s what America is made of. Just because he didn’t give you the he response that you wanted, doesn’t make him a bad guy.

  • Not saying he is a bad guy. He was more than willing to give an opinion in his original post #7. He gets called out on it and refuses to respond. Instead gives a “typical” politically correct response (non response). Don’t have time in my life for people who are not willing to make a commitment. CYA at the next rally!

  • You’re taking it too personal. An opinion is why we live in America. No money out of your pocket or skin off your back or burning an American Flag.

    Browbeating someone for an opinion not to your liking sounds like some terrorist group or communist regime. Chalk it up.

    Relax and thank God for America. Other issues are worth more for debate

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