ACLU Bill Bratton Civil Liberties LAPD Police

The Metro Factor

Cop watching author, Heather McDonald, has an Op Ed in Sunday’s LA Times about the warrior mentality that exists in the LAPD’s Metro division and it’s effect on the events of May Day. McDonald has a lot of smart things to say—and she’s also got a lot wrong. But it’s certainly the thing that folks inside the department—and outside LAPD watchers—were talking about yesterday.

Here are a few excerpts:

If the Parker-era centurion mentality has an afterlife, it would be in the elite Metropolitan Division, whose officers pride themselves on their history and exacting admissions standards. Created in 1933, Metro serves as a specialized force for such crisis situations as the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery. While it also backs up street-crime fighters, it has little continuing contact with the public. A top LAPD commander explained the park incident to me this way: The problem began when a “handful of one-dimensional Metro cops put on their Darth Vader masks and helmets and became a system serving a system, not people serving people. They could not transition between being soldier-warriors and being public servants.” Once one or two officers violated policy, their managers should have intervened immediately so that their conduct didn’t become contagious. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Okay, right. So far so good….

But whatever the challenges of integrating the Metro Division’s paramilitary ethic into the department’s community orientation, the May Day breakdown represents neither the LAPD as a whole nor the typical performance of the division.

Another good point. There’s been a lot of improvement in the department and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as my mother used to say.

….since August 2000, the department has overseen hundreds of demonstrations — some of which turned violent — without incident…..

True. Of course, most of them weren’t overseen by metro but, heck, why quibble?!

The Rampart corruption scandal is another favorite way station for critics who contend that the department is endemically corrupt and brutal, especially toward immigrants……The Rampart abuse was perpetrated by a couple of bad cops in one division who had been left wholly without oversight. No one has ever found evidence that similar crimes were happening elsewhere in the department.

Actually, Heather, honey……it happened all over the damn place.
But don’t take my word for it. You might, for example, want to pick up that Blue Ribbon committee report thingy that Bratton commissioned a year or two ago. It’s called Rampart Reconsidered and I think you’ll find it interesting.

However deplorable the May Day episode, it has been blown way out of proportion, in part by people with a financial interest in fanning passions over the incident….


Anyway, it goes on from there.
But, agree with it or not, it’s a piece of the dialogue worth reading.


  • Law enforcement clearly didn’t do its job on May Day. To my knowledge, the park was filled with illegal aliens and not one was detained and sent packing. Let’s get outraged about that.

  • “The salient feature of the MacArthur Park breakdown was not its routine nature but rather its rarity.”

    Er, I’d argue the salient feature of the MacArtur Park breakdown was the gratuitous use of force (no matter how uncommon).

    Nice try, Ms. McDonald. I’m curious as to why a Manhattan Institute fellow feels the need to defend the Metro Division of LAPD?

    “These specific facts about the Bell shooting are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of data points that reveal a hard truth: any given violent crime in New York is 13 times more likely to have a black than a white perpetrator (Heather McDonald).” She was addressing the Sean Bell case. Big difference between this incident and an LA march. But I guess she’s the go-to person for defending departments’ use of force.

  • Interesting article. But I too wonder why a “Manhattan Institute” think tankee would write about this.

  • Yeah, despite McDonald’s claim that those critical of the cops are “professional cop critics”, she’s always submitting an article defending LAPD misdeeds. She’s the LA Times’ go-to gal for LAPD defense these days.

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