Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, May 14, 2021

A declarative accusation that the Los Angeles Police Department has an ingrained warrior culture isn’t new, given the repeated violent encounters the LAPD has had with the public over several decades.

The roots of this organizational modus operandi are worth checking out, though:

“The LAPD is a big ocean liner and it will take a long time to turn around,” said Joe Domanick, a senior fellow of criminal justice at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism. “[Current police chief William Bratton] has not focused on the paramilitary culture and us-against-them mentality that seems to still persist in the LAPD.”

He said the culture originated during the reign of William Parker, hired as chief in 1950, who imagined the city’s police force as an urban army.

Domanick said Parker’s view was: “We’re the only thing standing between chaos and anarchy. We are the professionals. We know better. No one tells us better.”

So we’re talking about more than a half-century of antagonistic posturing that’s remained in place through countless departmental and municipal regime changes. It’s a prime example of how difficult it is to effect fundamental reform when the organization — be it a police department, company, country — has an established way of functioning. It’s human nature combined with inertia and tenacity.

The idea that LA poses a greater policing challenge than other American big cities is hard to swallow. New York, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and another two dozen metros have endemic crime issues as bad or worse than Southern California’s, and the cops in those other cities don’t approach a comparable level of corruption.

It’s a disturbing state of affairs. A half-century of little to no responsiveness to serious institutional problems isn’t going to be fixed overnight. Until then, it’d be prudent to tread carefully when encountering the LAPD.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/14/2007 11:33:23 PM
Category: Politics, Society, History
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