Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lions and Tigers and the LAPD, Oh My

One of the great advantages of using mass transit, or at least transit, in this case Amtrak, to go back and forth between LA and Oceanside is that the process throws you in with a lot of other people, and sometimes you end up talking to them while you are waiting for your train.   But if you do that, you might learn something and that might be annoying or unfortunate depending on what it is that you learn.

So here I am minding my own business, waiting for the last train to Oceanside from Los Angeles. It is maybe 9:30 PM at night at Union Station and I am waiting on the platform with about four other people one of them a nice man under 30 or so with his son (who knows, maybe the boy is 8 years old, its really hard for me to tell).

And the nice young man is talking to his son and he says “See that building over there? Thats the big house.”

“Actually”, I say, for some reason adding my two cents worth, “If you mean the jail, I am pretty sure that it is on the other side of the tracks, around the corner. The building you are pointing to is far too nice to be the jail, and besides, it has windows”. So my new friend laughs and looks closer (this is night you understand), and says, “hmmm, you are right, it is too nice and it does have windows”.

“I am pretty sure that the jail”, I say, “ is about a block away on the right side of the train as we leave. I had been trying to figure out what building would be that big but not have any windows, just apparently slits for light, and I am guessing that is the city jail.”

So my new friend and I started talking while his son amused himself with a video game. He had his son for the weekend and was just coming back from San Luis Obispo where his son lived with his mother. And he started entertaining me with stories about life inside the jail, something he knew first hand as it turned out that he had a complicated legal history due to his tendency to drink and drive on occasion.

And in the next 30 minutes or so I learned a lot about what the difference was between jail and prison, and what life was like inside the Los Angeles City jail, run as it is by those stalwart defenders of peace and justice, the LAPD.   And what he told me was bad, really actually kind of bad.

You will notice that I am not going to be specific about what it is he told me.  I am not going to be specific here in print.   You can talk to me in person or over the phone if you want more details.

I asked my new friend whether he understood that what he had experienced was, as far as I know, completely against the law and violated his civil rights. That if his experiences were publicized in the press that there would be a brief expression of outrage, some pious promises by our politicians to “get to the bottom of the story” and maybe a scapegoat or two, but that of course nothing would change.

I also asked him, who knows about this? And he says that as far as he can tell, anyone who wants to know about it knows. All the prisoners know, all police officers know because they are required to work at the jail for their first two years on the LAPD, and he presumes that any politician who cares to know, knows. How about rights groups, I asked. He laughs, oh they are easy to fool. They come in and as they walk through the jail things are fixed up while they are there and as they move on, things revert to normal.

By the way, in case you did not know this, jail is different from prison. You can not be in jail for longer than one year or 18 months (I forget which) and therefore have to be transferred to prison. Prison is apparently nicer than jail because it is run by outside contractors and those contractors are afraid that the former prisoners will kill them if they do shit like the LAPD does in the LA jail. But the LAPD is not concerned with that because everyone knows that anyone who fucks with an LAPD officer in any way is killed.

So where is the ACLU when all this is going on?   Where are our Los Angeles political leaders?

Now here is something you might want to know that many people who are white and middle class do not know. It turns out that the LAPD has a well-known reputation for, well, bad behavior, and that reputation is long standing and non-subtle. What is odd about this reputation is that the only people who don't seem to realize this are my middle class, privileged white friends. Every black person who lives in LA has a story to tell, they are not all making these stories up. It is only my white friends, well off by the standards of most Americans, who seem to be in complete denial about the LAPD reputation.

Are the rumors true? The rumors are always true, at least as far as they go.

So whats my point? I am not in a position to do anything about what I learned.   What, are you crazy?  I have more than enough problems just trying to figure out whether or not I have a career.  I dont need to make an enemy of the LAPD.  That would be quite self-destructive.

You on the other hand, my well-off, successful friends, who laugh at the stupidity of the people who live in the south and point the finger at Kansas City or Charleston S. C., it seems to me that you are just the right person to go out there and organize and end this injustice. Why not clean up your own hometown first?

One day this will all come out in the press I think, at least I hope it will.  Hey for all I know it already has and I just didnt notice.   Trust me, when you hear the details of the bad behavior I am referring to, you will not be amused and you will not think it is subtle.

Why do we permit any of this to go on in American in 2015?  Surely we know better by now.

Of course it could be that my friend was just making all this up.

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