They sell drugs to kids and say its us
And when the cops are crooks who can you trust?
Several years ago, rapper Ice-T
achieved widespread notoriety for recording a hard core rock song called
“Cop Killer.” Over speeding guitars, Ice-T shouted out lyrics promising
to get back at the Los Angeles Police Department’s harassment, brutality
and other assorted wrong doings. Conservative activists William Bennett
and Charleton Heston blasted Time Warner, which distributed Ice-T’s music,
and soon afterward “Cop Killer” was pulled off the shelves and Time Warner
and Ice-T ended their business relationship. Now at the beginning of the
21st century, what should have been long apparent is now splashed all
over the news — it turns out that indeed significant numbers of LAPD
officers were no better than the gangs they were supposedly protecting
the public from. In fact in many ways the LAPD officers were worse since
they acted under cover of the state.
The latest LAPD scandal started
when corrupt officer Rafael Perez was charged with stealing cocaine from
a police evidence locker. Not wanting to spend years in jail, Perez cut
a deal with prosecutors to tell all he knew about police corruption. What
Perez has told so far will probably eliminate whatever remaining trust
people may have had in the LAPD.
Perez’s crimes alone would
be shocking. He recounted how he and a fellow officer shot an unarmed
man, planted a gun on the man, and then testified that the man had attacked
them. On the basis of the planted gun and the officer’s testimony,
the man was sentenced to 23 years in jail.
But that’s just the type of
the iceberg. Up to 3,000 convictions involving LAPD officers are now considered
suspect and that number keeps rising as more revelations come out. So
far LA District Attorney Gil Garcetti has gone to court to have 22 convictions
overturned and says he’ll be back in a few weeks to seek to have another
30-4 convictions overturned. LAPD officers engaged in everything from
unprovoked shootings, beatings, drug dealing evidence planting, false
arrests, witness intimidation and perjury. A total of 20 officers have
already been suspended, fired or resigned because of the corruption revelation
sand that number is certain to rise.
To his credit Garcetti hasn’t
attempted to minimize the disastrous situation unfolding in Los Angeles.
“If you cannot have faith and trust in your police officer — either as
a citizen or as a juror or as a judge, as defense lawyers, as a district
attorney — then we do not have an acceptable, a viable criminal justice
system,” Garcetti said.
On the other hand, it’s not
like Garcetti or anyone should be shocked to find broad corruption in
the LAPD. Over the years Los Angeles has had to pay out millions of dollars
to the victims of police brutality while rarely firing the officers involved
in such cases (although to be fair, police unions do a lot to protect
corrupt officers in their midst). More importantly, though, the LAPD is
on a front line of a war on drugs that actively encourages and provides
incentives for police to bend the rules and see civilians as the “enemy”.
Asset forfeiture, where tens
of thousands of dollars in property can be seized without a criminal conviction,
the widespread use of no-knock searches, the reliance on convicted criminals
as “informants,” and the paramilitary gear and training which is now widespread
at even smaller police departments encourages police to literally wage
war against a civilian population and see niceties such as Constitutional
protections as needless impediments to getting the job done. The United
States has simply done in a roundabout way what nations such as Colombia
have already done explicitly — militarized police actions against drug
The damage done by this process
is incalculable. Along with the actual crimes committed by the LAPD and
officers in other corrupt police departments such as Philadelphia or the
shooting of an unarmed man in New York recently, the drug war and its
attendant corruption divert valuable law enforcement resources away from
genuine criminal acts of violence and fraud. In a free society it is simply
impossible to tolerate the sort of broad corruption that the drug war
has introduced in America’s police forces. Prosecute the cops, yes, but
also get them out of the futile job of trying to control the drug trade.
As the recent scandal confirms, the only losers in the war on drugs are
the innocent bystanders. Haven’t we had enough collateral damage? (Discuss