Gangs of ‘La La Land’

Disagreement on remedies to chronic criminality

Gregg Reese OW Contributor | 10/25/2018, midnight
Once upon a time in these United States, California was seen by the rest of the country as the..

These and other concerns by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Youth Justice Coalition, and others led to a class action lawsuit which determined that the injunctions were illegal and unconstitutional. In a March 15 judgment, District Judge Virginia A. Phillips wrote that these injunctions “…impose significant restrictions on plaintiffs’ liberty.” (Coming in its wake will be case action suits and other counter arguments.)

Capt. Peter Whittingham is the commanding officer of the South Bureau Homicide Division (formerly the Criminal Gang-Homicide Division, a name change he suggested so as to avoid the provocative implications of the “g” word). Drawing on his decades of experience, he has a balanced outlook of the injunctions. What started out as a sound concept conceived with good intentions has been compromised, in his view, by inconsistencies in the execution of these edicts, and possible overzealousness on the part of the officers implementing them.

To substantiate the idea that the injunctions “…had value at one time,” he cites the judicial order directed at the Harpies street gang in the West Adams District, circa 2003-2005, an operation he personally was involved in.

Regardless of the methodology utilized, Whittingham maintains the larger issue is the rampant denial within the familial environment surrounding gang members and youngsters affiliated with these antisocial groups. To hammer home this point, he cites the July acquittal of Cameron Terrell, an 18-year-old Palos Verdes resident who allegedly drove the getaway car in a 2017 gang-related shooting in South Los Angeles. He believes that the fact that Terrell is White highlights the double standard that plagues the justice system (Whittingham and others maintain that this defendant’s race and status as a scion of affluence precluded him from the harsh indictments regularly handed out to minority youth).

Aqeela Sherrills made headlines when he and the late Tony Bogart brokered a 1992 truce between the traditionally antagonistic Crips and Bloods. Twenty-five  years later, he still believes these peace overtures are having a lasting effect in his native city, as he works as a consultant in conflict areas throughout the country and locales like Ireland and South Africa.

Sherrills applauds the recent settlement overturning gang injunctions throughout the county, noting these restraining orders had been deemed unconstitutional as far back as 2007. Instead of the positive impact intended, the injections had a reverse affect via disrupting the lives of those targeted, while implicating innocent bystanders.

Another down side of these injunctions is the likely removal of middle aged “O G’s” who are overly represented on the CalGang® roster. The arrest of these “shot callers” deprives the ‘hood of stabilizing influences on the younger “homies” responsible for much of the mayhem occurring on the streets, as covered in Our Weekly (see “Street Cleaners,” Sept. 23, 2015).

Curiously, nearby Pasadena has not utilized the injunction process, according to Lt. Javier Aguilar of the Pasadena Police Department’s Special Enforcement Section. Echoing the sentiments of Los Angeles activists, he reasons that such efforts cause more problems then they solve. In any event, gang violence is down for the past several years, abetted by the dwindling Black population within the city, says police spokesman Lt. Jason Clawson. This drop is further prompted by the accelerated cost of living, which pushes potential gangsters towards places like Palmdale and Lancaster. Those that remain maybe redirected from negative influences by non-profit programs like the Flintridge Center.