Friday, December 15, 2006

A Cop in Pursuit of Trust

LAPD Officer Will Beall penned a poignant recruitment pitch this week as a cop in pursuit of trust. His moving words were harmless enough for the LA Dog Trainer to post the op-ed.

As an eight-year veteran of LAPD's 77th Street Division, Officer Beall writes with the same passion that I recall as an eight-year cop:

If you believe justice belongs to the pauper as well as the prince, if the life of the untouchable is as sacred to you as the life of the Brahmin, if you believe safety is a civil right owed both the gated community and the blighted one, then take the LAPD written exam. Hey, come work the south end. We're still fighting an uphill battle, and we could sure use the help.
From his narrative, it’s clear that Beall loves the job but hasn’t yet discovered what makes serving his community an uphill battle. What Beall will eventually learn, as hundreds of departing and disillusioned veterans have learned, is that it’s not drugs, crime, or “social injustice” that makes the job less rewarding, but the “politics of policing” in Los Angeles.

Anyone who has read of my experience, LAPD history, or the LAPD's skewed statistics and latest scheme will only begin to understand. The game is rigged by politicians who know that close ties between LA cops and the community they serve threatens LA’s politically powerful.

Many consider James Q. Wilson the “father of Community Policing.” While referring to Lou Cannon’s book, Official Negligence, Wilson writes:

You may wonder why an African American mayor would kill an idea designed to make the police more responsive to neighborhoods. So do I. Cannon's best guess is that the mayor, backed up by liberal activists such as Stephen Reinhardt (now a federal judge in the Ninth Circuit), feared that having police officials exercise some kind of local leadership would be a political threat to the mayor and a source of opposition to court decisions restricting police powers…
Cannon didn’t guess - Reinhardt explained to him during their 1994 interview:
… Los Angeles liberals feared LAPD political activity (close ties to the community) too much to appreciate the long-term advantages of community policing. The issues-oriented Reinhardt thought it a “very dangerous system” because (community relations officers) might influence people to oppose court decisions restricting the power of the police. (Pg 90)
This explains why the LAPD’s community policing efforts are in name only. The last thing Democrats want is for cops to get cozy with LA residents; for once they start comparing notes there’s no telling who might get elected. Better to drive a wedge between stressed communities, and the cops who want to serve them.

Machiavelli wrote:
In order to achieve success in public life, the ruler must know precisely when and how to do what no good person would ever do. Although private morality may rest on other factors – divine approval, personal character, or abstract duties, for example – in public life only the praise and blame of fellow human beings really counts.

Thus… the ruler needs to acquire a good reputation while actually doing whatever wrong seems necessary in the circumstances.
(Prince 18) Thus, rulers must seem to be generous while spending their money wisely, appear to be compassionate while ruling their armies cruelly, and act with great cunning while cultivating a reputation for integrity. Although it is desirable to be both loved and feared by one's subjects, it is difficult to achieve both, and of the two… it is far safer for the ruler to be feared. (Prince 17)
John Quincy Adams also described the “great art of legislation: To do a thing by assuming the appearance of preventing it… (and) …to prevent a thing by assuming that of doing it.” Unless those who serve can engage freely with those they serve, it’s unlikely that LA’s voters will know the game or vote for change anytime soon.

I was born in LA and still live in LAPD’s Hollywood Division. I care about Los Angeles as much as I ever did. If I did not, I wouldn’t waste my time reading, writing, or researching LAPD issues. And although LA residents need new officers, I’m reluctant to encourage my kids or their friends to pursue a law enforcement career where local politicians impede and exploit cops to enhance their own political power. There's more to supporting police officers than appearing at their funerals or rebuilding homes for those who survive. It’s not bullets that the community or police officers should fear, but the politicians who promote a bullet-riddled community.
  • South Central LA’s murder rate would plummet if law-abiding residents were allowed to carry firearms as residents of neighboring communities do. But under the pretext of safer streets, liberals make sure that armed gangsters can prey on an unarmed community.

  • LA’s school children would enjoy the best education on the planet if parents were offered $18,400/year vouchers. But under the pretext of fairness, its bloated bureaucracy ensures that only a fraction of LAUSD’s $13.4 billion dollar annual budget actually reaches their decaying classrooms.

  • LA residents could enjoy clean air, but under the pretext of environmental concerns, we can’t build nuclear power plants to generate alternative sources of clean energy.

  • Deporting criminal aliens would be good for LA’s crowded immigrant neighborhoods, but Special Order 40 returns many of these predators back to crime-ridden communities under the pretext of cultural sensitivity.

  • LA’s deadly vehicle pursuits would end tomorrow if the legislature passed a mandatory ten-year sentence for felony evading. But blaming cops for chasing felons and the next excessive force scandal makes good politics, while Chief Bratton’s sideshow of red lights and sirens gives voters the impression of brave cops risking their lives protecting our community.

  • If LA residents were allowed to grow a few marijuana plants for themselves, organized drug traffickers (that Mayor Villaraigosa has ordered the LAPD to leave alone) would not control LA’s multi-million dollar drug market and taxpayers wouldn’t have to spend millions on failed interdiction practices.
If some balance of power still existed in Los Angeles: An objective media, an independent police force, or a judiciary that wasn’t invested in Europe’s failed brand of socialism, Los Angeles would be a safer, cleaner, and easier city to police. But there is no independence, and these Machiavellian institutions control a community sedated by structure fires, traffic accidents, sports highlights, and wild weather. And when the community grows restless, LA’s power brokers crucify a bad cop, a disgraced teacher, a fallen celebrity, or a criminal illegal alien to promote the false impression that they are serving the needs of the community.

If it was up to me, I’d require a four-hour “Politics of Policing” course to police recruits. I’d also require recruits to study Broken Windows so that when they answer the phones with, Good afternoon, Los Angeles Community Police Station, Officer Beall, may I help you, that the officer would actually have a sense of what he was talking about. I’d also require recruits (and voters) to study and be tested on Lou Cannon’s book so that they don’t blindly trust our toothy mayor or his well-intended police LAPDog. But that’s just me. Maybe cops perform better when they don’t know what’s going on. But by the time they finally figure it out, those officers are locked into their retirement plan and it’s too late to get out. So many of those cops learn to keep their heads down and let the young LAPD puppies take the political hits. Legal assassins like Warren Christopher and Stephen Yagman are always looking for the next batch of "problem officers."

I respect Officer Beall for his inspirational words and passion, but until there’s a change in LA’s political winds, the LAPD’s not a boat that I want my friends to be on.