Urban violence in turn confirmed the reelection of conservative-leaning mayor Sam Yorty in 1965. Nearly three decades later, post-riot backlash resulting in the election of Republican Mayor Richard Reardon in 1993. Following this train of thought, fear of racial encroachment (and perhaps backlash from the tenure of a non-White chief executive) has arguably spawned the rise of White supremacy and the recent presidential election of Donald Trump, says Bay area professor Robert Smith. Dramatic events on one end of the political spectrum encourage an oppositional response, perhaps in a subconscious effort to “balance things out.”
The eye of the storm
“We were the finest. We were the best in the world. We were a department that people came from all over the world to study, to look at, to see how we accomplished so much with so little; and we did.”
—Daryl F. Gates, Feb. 27, 2001.
Many factors come into play in the process of conceiving social issues, which ultimately (and unfairly) are left for the police to deal with. Over the years, the performance of a police force that prides itself on its professionalism and the criteria by which it is judged have, in due course, dramatically changed.
“We have moved into an era where we expect police to keep law and order, but also act as social workers, mental health experts, marriage counselors and drug treatment experts,” says journalist and Los Angeles Police Department critic Jasmyne Cannick.
The LAPD specifically comes under scrutiny through its mandate of serving as the media capital of the nation (and possibly the world). It is noteworthy that the first and only African American mayor of Los Angeles started his professional career as member of the LAPD. Thomas J. Bradley used his academic and athletic talents to gain admission to UCLA, then channeled his ambition to move up the ranks of a notoriously racist paramilitary organization.
By all accounts, his was a successful career. He reached the rank of lieutenant before he “…died on the captain’s list,” a fate that befell many talented Black officers after him, who crashed against this racial barrier. Legends and mythology within the department holds that this animosity against his limitations stayed with him, when he was elected the city’s mayor, simultaneously becoming archenemy to police chief Daryl Gates.
Another noted critic who broke ranks with the department is career cop and founder of the African American Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, Ronnie Cato. He expressed his reaction to the events surrounding the 25-year anniversary:
“It’s a shame that we’re doing all this celebrating and so little has changed.”
He comes to this conclusion after bearing witness to the various tactics of broken windows, community policing, consent decrees, police commission over sight, town hall meetings, and so on. More tangible improvement might be achieved at the basic level of police work via the mass implementation of body cameras.
As a street cop, he had personal experience on the impact cameras have on police behavior in the field.
The mere statement “I’m hot,” meaning the camera was rolling, was enough to stem erratic police behavior.