Guest post: How things have changed after the Watts riot by author @NormanEdelen


Go Book Yourself | 25/08/15

after a while you wonder book

In 1997, five former black Los Angeles police officers gather for lunch and begin reminiscing about their lives at the 77th Street Division during the 1960s. They remember the riots, the racism, and the discrimination. Two months before the Watts Riot of 1965, one of the officers, Carl Quincy "Q" Sanes, corroborated the testimony of a white officer who claimed the LAPD was racist. A few days after the conviction of O.J. Simpson in the civil suit for the wrongful death of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, the men realize that the racial volatility of the City of Angels is still prevalent after three decades. After a While You Wonder if things will ever change

Guest post:

There are noticeable changes for the better in the LAPD since the Watts 1965, and L.A. 1992 rebellions. Unfortunately the improvements have come like the flow of molasses in the winter. But that is the pace of attrition within the LAPD, and attrition has finally produced a breed of contemporary thinkers about effective community based law enforcement. For L.A., and California, changes in policing tactics have been helped by parallel changes toward political inclusion. Now, if we can just get the jobs and the money to catch up.

When I was a cop, working out of the LAPD HQ at 150 North Los Angeles Street, the building was about three years old and state-of-the-art. The department was about three thousand police, maybe sixty were black. Whenever a black person would enter the elevator in that new building a long time ago, someone would automatically push 2, understanding that was where the black person had to be going as there were no blacks working above the second floor: administration, the bureaus, the detectives et al.

When I recently toured the new HQ, about three years old and state-of-the-art, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of visible minorities, obviously employed: blacks, Latino, Asian -- and women! Indeed, my tour guide was a delightful, courteous Latina uniformed officer. As I toured the floors -- above the 2nd floor, they were occupied by men and women of every race and color that call L.A. home. I was impressed.

The Chief of Police invited me to sit and chat at a table in his office. He told me of his father and family being in law enforcement which meant to me that he has lived the attrition. I sensed that he is the legitimate new breed -- not from the outside, but born, raised and bred LAPD, sprouting in a new, better direction for the good of all Angelenos.

Back in my days with the badge, gun and big stick; critical of the LAPD for its arrogant racism, my concern was to change it for the better. Until society really becomes civilized, police are needed to necessarily be the best products of the environment they serve -- fairly, equally, without prejudice.

In my book After a While You Wonder, I have a sub-heading: "Before Rodney King, there was Marquette Frye! Who's next?" Tragically, "Who's next" keeps happening and not just in L.A. Most police can serve twenty years and never fire their gun. Tom Bradley is a great example. But police killings are a very, very serious issue. As a cop starting in 1959, I was not trained to use deadly force as my primary source for gaining control. I never did, and I arrested lots of people that committed bad things. And that has to be the norm for the average cop.

Thank you to Norman for writing such a thought provoking post. 

You can enter to win a copy of "After a While you Wonder on Goodreads . You can also read the latest press release HERE.

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