The efforts that the Los Angeles Police Department has taken to appease the growing criticism they have faced in light of the shooting of a 13-year-old boy is a weak showing that only points to their growing disconnection with the community they serve.
In an effort to appease the public, as well as community leaders that have chimed in, the LAPD has amended their policy on how officers are to deal with moving vehicles.
This measure may have alleviated the pressure the department had been facing from several politicians who wished it would all just go away. However, this measure signals nothing, except proof that the department has no connection with the community they are meant to protect, rather than engage in constant war with.
The response simply points out that the police department has not learned anything at all.
In dealing with this issue, the LAPD honed in on a technical problem regarding their tactics. Their main concern was how to deal with a moving vehicle, when they should instead be worrying about how to gain the trust of African American and Latino communities that have seen them as transgressors, not protectors, in their community. The police instead questioned simply how to deal with a moving vehicle, and therefore completely missed the concerns that Angelinos, especially minorities, have been worried about for decades.
Police officers saw in the incident a pursuit of a car theft suspect who was shot and killed. What the community saw, and what police officials fail to notice, is a department that once again dealt with a young minority with too much force.
The incident means a lot more, for those concerned, than a tactical error committed by police. What many community members are seeing, day to day, is a police force that constantly treats those whom they are supposed to protect as enemies in an everlasting war.
Granted, the incident pertained to a car theft suspect that failed to yield to police. The safety of police officers engaged in the pursuit and that of innocent bystanders was in danger.
Yet in dealing with a mourning community, the police seem to have lost all sensitivity. Those who have defended the department’s actions fail to see the larger picture.
This particular incident might have been one where the safety of police was a major issue, but try explaining that to a community where most of their young men and women have been pulled over by police numerous times without having committed an offense. Try explaining that to those who have been pulled over, handcuffed and improperly frisked on a sidewalk, in front of their neighbors, friends and family.
This type of “appeasement” means nothing to those mothers who have had to listen to their children, as young as 13, explain how they were interrogated by police on their way home.
If there is a reason why this community appears to be “unconcerned” with the safety of police officers, as some critics have stated, it is because their own safety has been in question for so long.
While trying to address these concerns, the department then tries to sway public opinion with acts like policy changes in dealing with moving vehicles. This may fare well with politicians, but it means nothing to community members who will continue to deal with them day after day. The policy doesn’t translate to anything tangible they can see on their streets. It will not appease the public. Instead, the police department should look at improving their relationship with the community.
Meanwhile, the concerns of the community will continue to go unnoticed and the department will continue to ignore them until the city explodes and the streets flare up, and then the concerns cannot be ignored. It happened in 1965, and again in 1992. Among several reasons, it was partly due to similar circumstances — a police department that doesn’t know that when it comes to force, enough is enough, and who will continue to ignore the community until it shows up on their doorstep.
After years of being targeted, of being abused, and of being treated like enemies, is it any surprise citizens would react in such a way?
It is not that those concerned are not interested in the safety of their police officers. On the contrary, these officers are at times members of these same communities. The question therefore, is when will the police department make a significant effort to bridge the chasm they have created with their own community?