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The Federalist Diaries


Walks outside the Box, Part 4

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary critic, playwright and essayist,
1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950

“Walks outside the Box” is about finding solutions when others shrug their shoulders, despair or offer palliatives.  In part 2, we looked at possible tools for self-defense against a mass killer.  In part 3, we looked at how we might begin to reduce graffiti in Montebello.  Here we look at the incident involving the May 1, 2007, demonstrators and the Los Angeles Police Department. 

          Combining a May 3 report in the Montebello Comet and a May 5 report in the Los Angeles Times, we learn that agitators in McArthur Park hurled rocks and bottles at officers from the Los Angeles Police Department.  The officers responded by giving a warning which, apparently, many people in the park did not hear.  The warning was followed by officers advancing on people, hitting people with clubs and firing bean bags.  It appears as if the officers violated rules of engagement set up after the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.   

I expect that several, if not many, lawsuits would be filed, costing Los Angeles City taxpayers millions of dollars. 

I find certain troubling questions coming to the fore, these questions suggesting—but not proving—that the Los Angeles Police Department, the city, and our society as a whole have again failed to take a walk outside the box in order to come up with a sustainable solution.  (Why did I say, “Suggesting—but not proving”?  Two newspaper accounts are far from enough to prove police misconduct.  Besides, as stated in a past essay, we have to be cognizant of the lack of sufficient, accurate information.) 

·        Why was the officers’ priority to disburse people in the park instead of surrounding and detaining the agitators?  (Please do not say that the preferred tactic would be to let the agitators go.)

·        Why did the police commission not contract with videographers to independently document the agitators, with whom the police could have dealt later?  (Imagine how useful a few hundred dollars spent on documentation could have been.)

·        Why does city ordinance and state statute not state that agitators would receive a larger penalty because they endangered others?  (Including paying half of whatever the City of Los Angeles would have to pay out in settlements in coming months.)

·        Where were the march organizers?  (When and where did their responsibility end?  Did they brief demonstrators on behavior and on what to do in case of an incident?  Should they not have the obligation to do so?)

·        Why does a victim of police misconduct deserve punitive damages, when that money would be more effectively spent by an independent group of residents to monitor and educate police and the public?  (Had money paid out by the City of Los Angeles in the Rampart scandal several years ago gone into monitoring and education, we might not have had the May 1 incident.)

·        Why could not police departments have “reserve mediators”, who would be paid to be the “first contact” in certain situations?  (Would not a group of clergy have been more effective in dispersing the people in McArthur Park?  Does anyone think it odd that anyone other than an officer could and should defuse tension?)

·        According to “LOCO”, discussed in a previous essay, there is a limit to the effectiveness of training professionals.  (Does not video footage show “peaceful” demonstrators resisting officers and, thereby, aggravating the incident?  Should we not admit that any large demonstration is inherently dangerous because we do not know the motives of all demonstrators?  If we do admit as much, is it right to expect officers to be superhuman in thought and action while the rest of us have the right to engage in subhuman thought and action?) 

 In commenting on the May 1 incident, Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa reportedly said, "As mayor, I'm doing everything I can to make it right."  Everything?  And why cannot the rest of us participate in making it right?

May 10, 2007































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