Monday, November 25, 2013

A Fracking Moratorium is the New Litmus Test for Elected Officials

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

After years of spirited battles by environmental activists, stacks of lawsuits, countless reports and studies by health officials, and the expression of concern by President Obama, California state officials finally agreed to impose some regulations on the practice of fracking. Governor Jerry Brown put the official state imprimatur on this concern when he released proposed draft regulations that would regulate fracking. Fracking entails pumping chemically treated high pressure water into the ground to fracture rock and soil to release more oil. The furious debate is over just how much of a health and environmental danger this poses. There’s much evidence that fracking contaminates the soil, water, air quality, increases the danger of earthquakes, and  has damaged homes and structures in residential neighborhoods that front oil drilling sites. The best example is the Inglewood oil field. Homeowner groups and environmentalists in the area abutting the fields have fought a protracted fight to get the state to impose either a total ban or moratorium on fracking until it’s fully determined what the health and safety risks are.

This is where local elected officials that represent the area come in. When fracking first became a major issue and concern of homeowners and residents in the Inglewood, Baldwin Hills, and Culver City area, local officials were largely silent about it. As the evidence mounted that fracking posed real dangers to health and property values, some officials called for studies of the practice, and later a temporary moratorium on fracking to determine how severe the dangers were. But there were other officials who still maintained a wall of silence on the issue, or, as some enraged neighborhood groups charged, were openly or quietly taking funding from the oil drilling site operators. They, of course, have countless piles of money to dump into the fight against any anti-fracking controls, and that means money to plop into the coffers of compliant politicians. They in essence had a vested interested in stonewalling efforts to get a moratorium on fracking. But the issue could not be ignored no matter how great the effort to suppress action against the practice.

The state legislature during this period was also deeply complicit in torpedoing any action on fracking. Bills that eventually were introduced after relentless pressure from environmentalists either were tabled in committee or voted down. This only intensified the determination of environmentalists, homeowner groups and some local officials to get the legislature to take action. It finally did when it finally passed a bill calling for regulations, and thus Governor Brown’s subsequent action on it.

However, there are two gaping problems with this. One is that the proposed regulations simply require the oil companies to tell what chemicals they use in the fracking process and some monitoring of them. It would not require the companies to implement any special controls to insure that the chemicals used pose no threat to the air, groundwater, not to mention damage to homes and streets in the area surrounding a field such as the Inglewood oil field. Even with this minimal disclosure requirement there is a loophole. There are exemptions against them disclosing the chemicals if they infringe on oil industry trade secrets. Who determines that? The oil companies do, of course. The state will do two more studies on the safety and environmental impact of fracking. But those reports won’t be finished until 2015. The other problem is that of the five cities chosen to hold public hearings on the proposed state fracking regulations. Los Angeles was not one of them. This is both a glaring and insulting omission. It was the battle over the drilling hazards at the Inglewood field that sparked state and local officials to take the action they did take on fracking.

This is now the new litmus test for current local elected officials and those who want to be elected in the future. Put simply, will they fully support a moratorium on fracking and if it’s confirmed that fracking does pose the severe health and environmental risks that activists claim and many studies bear out, will they support a full ban on the practice? In any election now and in the future, this is the point blank question that any elected official in Los Angeles must answer without any equivocation. They also must also fully disclose any monies they have received from the oil lobby. You can’t take gobs of oil lobby money without being hopelessly compromised in assessing the real hazard of fracking. Brown and the state legislature and some local elected officials took the first big step in protecting the health and safety of Los Angeles residents by establishing minimal rules on fracking. It’s clearly not enough. The Los Angeles City Council, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, and all state legislators that represent L.A. County cities must continue to put relentless pressure on the oil industry and regulatory agencies to control or end fracking. And this applies to all future elected officials as well. If they won’t commit to that they don’t deserve to hold office.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. Listen to his weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles every Friday, 9:00 to 9:30 AM and every Saturday at Noon on KPFK-Radio, 90.7 FM.

Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Two Sides of Daryl Gates That I Saw

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The on set camera crew and sound technicians had long since departed from the sound stage at KCBS and the lights had dimmed but we set there for what seemed like endless hours afterwards engaging in bare knuckles, heated debate. My at one moment fierce opponent and at another moment jovial associate was former LAPD chief Daryl Gates. We were co-commentators for the station during the O.J. Simpson trial. On and off the set, we went at it on everything from the Rodney King beating, the L.A. riots, the LAPD’s war on gang and drug violence, police misconduct and shootings, and of course, the Simpson trial. These were the issues that tore Los Angeles for a decade before and did more to poison relations between the LAPD and minority communities, especially African-Americans, than any other. Our debates were so intense that we continued the battle of words as we walked to our cars in the parking lot. After a while this became a routine, we’d spar on the set, and continue sparring as we walked to our cars.

There were moments when Gates would sigh in exasperation that I and other critics just didn’t understand what he had to face running a department that was under resourced, got little political and public support, and yet was expected to be a kinder, gentler department while battling a spiraling gang, drug and violence problem. I listened to his heart felt pleas that he sincerely tried to make change, even reform. He repeatedly cited the number of officers that he disciplined and terminated for misconduct and other offenses, but said that his hands were tied by city officials, police union, and the public who wanted more and tougher policing, and were loathe to see officers removed. He cited the community policing programs that he tried to put in place. Yet he pleaded nothing he did seemed to matter. He and the LAPD were still relentlessly maligned.

This was no play act or parking lot revisionism of his LAPD role to convince me that underneath the tough cop’s cop exterior he was a marshmallow soft reformer. Gates passionately believed that he had done the best that he could against the odds to move the LAPD into the modern era. As we parted, I always wondered which Daryl Gates I was talking too, the maligned, misunderstood reformer, or the chief whose name was synonymous with a department that in the decade immediately preceding the King beating and the riots, had become the nation’s poster police agent for a dysfunctional, brutal, racist, shoot first, police department.

During its big, bad years, the perception, and more often than not reality, was that the LAPD was in every sense an occupying army in South L.A. Officers went where they pleased, did what they pleased and cracked heads when they pleased, all with the blind-eye acquiescence of city officials. Two massive riots, the King beating, the Rampart scandal, the Christopher and Webster commissions and a federal consent decree all made it obvious that the LAPD had to change.

Gates stood at the center of the tumultuous events that engulfed the LAPD. He was depending on whom one talked to the top cop who expanded and popularized the kick butt, SWAT teams, or the top cop who devised and expanded innovative, programs such as DARE, which served as a national police model for drug prevention and education.
Gates was well aware that the years when the LAPD carried his indelible stamp were now well past. Los Angeles city officials talked incessantly about reform and change. There was a new African-American chief. The department was now under intense federal scrutiny, and soon a consent decree mandating a total top to bottom overhaul of its policies and practices on the use of deadly force, minority hiring and promotions, and the handling of misconduct complaints. He seemed resigned to the fact that time and the department had passed him by; a time when the LAPD reigned over a city that was predominantly white, with an insular city government, and where the police were roundly hailed by homeowners as heroes. That Los Angeles had rapidly faded into the past, and had morphed into one of the nation’s most diverse, that demanded accountability and transparency. This meant a police force that had to change with it.

Gates, then, was truly a man of another time. His pleas and sighs of exasperation over the problems that still haunted him as we talked and walked to our cars told me much about a man who still deeply believed that he had tried to do what was best for the city, despite everything. This was the two sides of Daryl Gates that I saw as we smiled, shook hands, exchanged a laugh and walked away from each other those nights in the studio parking lot.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and the host of the Hutchinson Report on KTYM AM and KPFK Pacifica Radio Los Angeles.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Slaying of Steven Eugene Washington is yet another Teaching Moment for the LAPD

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The agonizing killing of Steven Eugene Washington presents yet another teaching moment for the LAPD. Washington was gunned down in Koreatown by two LAPD gang unit officers. The details of the encounter are still blurry enough to raise lots of questions about why the killing happened. The twist is that Washington reportedly suffered from an autistic disability. Autism is virtually a no-man’s land for most police departments. There is virtually no formal training given to police on what to look for, how to approach, and engage individuals that may suffer from autism in street stops.
The grim record of encounters between police and autistic disabled suspects amply bears this out. According to FBI reports, individuals with developmental disabilities, and that includes autism, are seven times more likely to have contact with and confrontations with law enforcement than others. Mental health experts agree that the number that is likely to have contact with police is a serious and growing problem. The estimate is that upwards of a dozen persons with autism are harmed, hit with a stun gun, or killed by police each year. Washington may be the latest casualty to the list.
Autistic disabled individuals are more fearful, may exhibit strange or quirky movements, and suffer sudden panic attacks, when encountering strange sights, sounds and smells. In night time situations, and especially in high crime areas, these are the very things that attract police attention, and in far too many tragic cases, result in injury or death. In Washington’s case, the LAPD said that Washington apparently did all of the above, the panic, flight, and quick movement. It cost him his life.
The LAPD is no different than other police agencies when it comes to dealing with suspects such as Washington who may suffer from an autistic disability. They are simply clueless in how to deal with them.
And the evidence is that the numbers of those with autism in big cities such as L.A. is growing. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007 found that one in 150 children in New Jersey was diagnosed as autistic, a rate that was fifteen times greater than previous estimates. The number of those with autism in California is just as great. A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute found a seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990. Other studies have found that children in Los Angeles were twice as likely to have autism as children in surrounding areas, and that testing, and treatment facilities and care services to identify and deal with autism are even more likely to be lacking, especially in South L.A.
Despite the staggering numbers of autistic disabled in New Jersey and California, and the much greater incidence of those with autism in Los Angeles, virtually none of the police departments in New Jersey had a comprehensive training program for officers on autism. The same can be said for police agencies in California.
LAPD officials recognize that a terrible mistake was made in the killing of Washington, a death that should not have happened. However, in the aftermath of the shooting, the inevitable deep soul search for answers is on with a vengeance. Those questions will center on the officer’s training, whether or not gunplay was necessary, and even why Washington was stopped, or even if he was stopped, in the first place.
These are questions that Washington’s family, friends, and LAPD officials want and need answered. When the dust finally settles, though, the tormenting question is what if anything the LAPD can and will do to see that a tragedy like the Washington killing doesn’t happen again.
In the absence of a firm training program to make LAPD officers recognize that there are a lot of individuals who walk L.A. streets who are autistic and what to do when they encounter them, the equally tormenting answer is that there could well be another tragedy such as Washington.
Washington’s slaying can, no must, be another teaching moment for the LAPD and the city. Let’s not waste that moment.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the Presisent of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundable. His Hutchinson Report can be heard on KPFK-Radio 90.7 FM, Saturdays, Noon to 1:00PM

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Devaluing Black Lives: The Killing of Danica Denton and Child

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Devaluing Black Lives: The Killing of Danica Denton and Child by author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson will appear as his syndicated column in 100 newspapers and websites nationally September 10, 2009.

A young expectant mother observes all the pedestrian safety rules while crossing the street. She’s in a designated crosswalk. There appears to be no oncoming traffic. And if there is the cars are required to stop. For thousands of pedestrians crossing streets this is a routine, uneventful occurrence every hour, every day in every city. It should have been the same for 18 year old Danica Denton. But on February 11, 2009, Gina Garcia changed that.

The 34 year old driver barreled through the crosswalk and bowled over Denton in the desert city of Cathedral City near Palm Springs, California. Denton and her baby died later at a local hospital. Denton is an African-American. Garcia is white. The all too familiar tangle of legal, judicial and law enforcement dodges, delays, and blame shifting instantly began. The tangle ultimately called into question how seriously the local District Attorney, law enforcement, and even state officials take the deaths of African-Americans; especially when the alleged killer is white, female, and well-connected.

The tangle of legal and race tinged foot dragging in the case began immediately after Denton was struck. Garcia fled the scene and this made the killing a serious hit and run felony. Also Garcia earlier had been charged with a DUI offense. Though Cathedral City police were informed that she had checked into a local hospital, it took a full day before they arrested her. Despite the seriousness of the charges, Garcia was immediately released on $25,000 bail. The bail for felony hit and run offenses that result in death is generally ten times greater than Garcia’s bail.

Garcia’s husband is a special investigator with the Riverside DA’s Office, and this drew an outcry that Garcia was getting kid glove treatment. A month after Denton’s killing, Cathedral City police claimed that they were still investigating the deaths. This drew another outcry that Garcia was continuing to get special treatment. The DA claimed possible conflict of interest and turned prosecution over to the California Attorney General. In June, Garcia agreed to a plea bargain and a 15 year sentence. But this didn’t end the Denton family nightmare.

Garcia was given two more months to surrender and begin serving her sentence. This didn’t and hasn’t happened. On August 14, Garcia armed with backing from doctors and a hospital was a no show in court. Her excuse was that she underwent major surgery at an undisclosed hospital, for an undisclosed ailment, and that she was too sick to be moved. The judge and prosecutors bought it, and gave her more weeks in which to surrender. The judge added further insult with a hand wringing sympathy plea that he didn’t want to turn her alleged surgery into a death sentence. He added even more insult by tossing Denton’s father out of court for denouncing the judicial farce.

The charge by Denton’s family and local civil rights leaders that the police, DA, state Attorney General, and the judge are insensitive to the murder of African-Americans such as Denton and her child is not new. Countless groups have marched, picketed and screamed loudly that law enforcement and judges impose a hard racial double standard when the victim is a young African-American and the killer is white. The implicit message is that black lives are expendable. Many studies still confirm that the punishment whites receive when the victim is black is far less severe than when the victim is white and far more severe when the table is turned and the killer is black and the victim is white. Police officials and judges vehemently deny that they are any less diligent in prosecuting white on black killings than the reverse.

Yet the studies and reports on racial disparity in sentencing and the history of prosecuting crimes involving interracial violence show otherwise. In Denton’s case, the low bail, endless delays, DA conflict of interest, a questionable plea bargain, the killer’s alleged mysterious prison dodging illness, and the court’s willingness to go along with it paint a terrible picture of legal indifference and conciliation toward the killing of two blacks.

Seven months after Denton and child were flattened on a Cathedral City street, the record stands that her killer and her baby’s killer did not serve one full day of jail time. This is a record of shame, disgrace and an indictment of a criminal justice system that badly failed a young black mother and her child.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Other Culprits in Dae’von Bailey’s Death

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Marcas Fisher is the prime culprit in the beating death of 6 year old Dae’von Bailey. But Fisher is hardly the only culprit in Bailey’s death. The other culprits are the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Department of Child and Family Services, medical practitioners, and an at times indifferent public.
The towering problems in the DCFS that include failure to follow up on abuse complaints, poor to non-existent record keeping, management and case worker inertia and even indifference and bungled investigations were well-documented in a dozen or more reports from investigators and in audits, as well as a slew of media exposes of agency failures. The Board of Supervisors knew of the problems in DCFS since the mid 1990s. The failure of the supervisors to immediately revamp the agency put hundreds of children directly in harms way. In 2006, 14 children in L.A. County died as a result of neglect, abuse and maltreatment. In 2007, 12 children died from the same causes. In 2008, the number of children who reportedly died from abuse or neglect soared to 32.

The reports of agency mismanagement and the deaths each time forced the supervisors to scramble. They repeatedly promised an immediate agency shake-up and overhaul. Yet the problems remained and the body count of child abuse victims continued to mount. With Bailey’s murder, the supervisors again have promised a big agency overhaul. The proposals for change look much like those that have been put on the table in the past. They include better reporting, and timely case follow-up, management accountability, more thorough and professional child abuse victim medical examinations. The proposals went nowhere in the past and Bailey and the other child victims of abuse paid a terrible price for the county supervisor’s inaction.
DCFS officials have also scrambled to deflect blame for agency ineptitude. They assure that more fail safe checks and balances will be put in place to insure that there are no more horrific deaths such as Bailey. Yet just as with the county supervisors the promises of immediate change have been made before and have gone nowhere. There’s not a lot of reason for optimism that big changes will happen this time either given the past failures and the management’s lackadaisical response to sweeping proposals put forth by the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable for immediate agency change. Roundtable officials asked for a meeting with Trish Ploehm, DCFS director, and senior staff to present and review the recommendations. Management agreed, and then didn’t show at the meeting. In the wake of Bailey’s murder, if Ploehm and other top DCFS heads fail to drastically overhaul how they handle child abuse cases child they should resign or be removed.

The private doctors and medical practitioners who examined Bailey and ultimately found no harm no foul in his injuries are also culprits in his death. That must change. Private doctors must not solely determine whether a child’s injuries are the result of abuse. Only trained, county certified, child abuse forensic examiners should make that call.
Bailey is the most horrific and shocking case of child abuse turned to child murder. However, there are thousands more children nationally who suffer abuse or mistreatment. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System estimate that in the past decade nearly 1 million children have been victims of severe abuse. More than 1000 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. More than 80 percent of the child victims are age six and under. Bailey fit the profile of the at risk child to the letter. The abuse numbers reported almost certainly are a gross underestimate. Many cases simply aren’t reported or as in Bailey’s case the tangled web of inept reporting, bureaucratic bungling, and sloppy recordkeeping cause abused kids to fall through the cracks.

In 2005, only 20 states required that citizens who suspect abuse or neglect are required to report it. “Reasonable suspicion” based on objective evidence, which could be firsthand observation or statements made by a parent or child, is all that is needed to report abuse. This formula for reporting abuse is too vague and nebulous. It’s a prescription to insure that countless numbers of children continue to slip under the radar of child abuse danger. This also insures that when the furor about a shocking death such as Bailey’s dies down and drops from the headlines, public apathy and ignorance toward the danger again kicks in.
Bailey is a near textbook example of the child who was in mortal danger. Yet if prompt, timely action had been taken by all involved could have been saved. Marcas Fisher may have been the culprit who beat Bailey to death. But the inertia, indifference, and bungling of so many others make them culprits in his death too. They must also answer for that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Devaluing a Black Life: The Murder of Marquis LeBlanc

Devaluing a Black Life: The Murder of Marquis LeBlanc will appear in Earl Ofari Hutchinson's nationally syndicated column on Friday, June 5.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Pomona is a quiet bedroom city near Los Angeles. Blacks make up less than 10 percent of the city’s population. Latinos make up more than 60 percent of the population. There are no blacks on the city council and all the top police officials are white. Still, city officials generally pride themselves that the city is a relative haven of racial peace. Yet on the night of April 18th the city’s quiet and illusion of racial harmony was rudely jolted. Neighbors watched in horror as at least a dozen young men and women chased down on foot and then beat, kicked, stabbed and shot Marquis LeBlanc, an 18 year old African-American to death. Another dozen or so persons watched the attack and did not help LeBlanc or call police. Eyewitnesses identified the assailants as Latinos, some with suspected gang affiliations.
Though the police station was nearby, police did not arrive at the murder scene for nearly a half hour after the call went out.

Police did not immediately contact LeBlanc’s parents, or ID him. They misidentified LeBlanc’s mother, Jessica Corde, on the coroner’s report. Corde claims police did not make a single call to the family to update them on the investigation, and rebuffed her many inquiries about it.
Days after the killing police claimed they found a gun that was LeBlanc’s. There were also hints that he was a gang member. Police officials have been tight lipped about the case and say that release of information will compromise the investigation. The Le Blanc murder remains unsolved.

LeBlanc’s family minces no words. To them it is a case of a police department that cares little about the murder of a young black. The family’s charge that the Pomona police are insensitive to the murder of LeBlanc is hardly new. Countless groups have marched, picketed and screamed loudly that police do little to catch killers in serial murder cases, the murders of homeless persons and of young black males. The common thread is that the victims are poor, poorly educated, young, black, often female with criminal records, and with few known family members. In times past crimes committed by blacks against other blacks were often ignored or lightly punished. The implicit message was that black lives were expendable. Many studies still confirm that the punishment blacks receive when the victim is white is far more severe than if the victim is black. The clearance rate for murders in some poor, black neighborhoods is far less than for murders in middle-class neighborhoods.
Police officials vehemently deny that they are any less diligent when it comes to nabbing the killers of blacks than the killers of whites. They blame the higher rate of unsolved murders of blacks on higher case loads, tight budgets, limited personnel, and the refusal of witnesses to provide information. But it’s the unsolved murders of blacks that fuel the perception that police take the loss of black lives less seriously than that of whites.

The blanket indictment of police for laxity in black homicides is unfair and a slap at the officers who put in long grueling, hours trying to crack murder cases in poor minority neighborhoods. There’s also the reality that more killings do occur in big city poor neighborhoods than in the suburbs. In 2007, the Violence Policy Center reported that black murders had hit epidemic proportions in some big cities.
The Bureau of Justice in a 2008 report on homicides found that the black murder rate is much higher than that of whites, or even Latinos. It's the leading cause of death among black males age 16 to 34. Black on black murders has fueled the nation's murder stats for a number of years. And only in the rarest of instances has it attracted more than passing mention in the national press. In Chicago, community activists, frustrated over the inability of authorities to stem the rash of murders of primary school age children, have appealed to President Obama to step in with an emergency program to help curtail the violence.

Despite the higher number black murders than of whites, tight police resources, and the hard work that many officers put in to solve black homicides, it takes only one real or perceived case of police laxity when the victim is black to stir suspicion of police racial insensitivity. Pomona for now is tragically that case.
Corde continues to plead with authorities to intensify their investigation into her son’s murder. She has appealed to the press, civil rights and victims of violence groups to prod the department to do more to catch the killers of her son. While her pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears, she is undeterred, “I’m not going to stop until the murderers are brought to justice.” That’s a message that no police official should have to be told or hear from a grieving mother no matter what the color of her murdered son.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on

Monday, May 25, 2009

The LAPD Got a Handle on Deadly Force, now it’s Inglewood’s Turn

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There were cheers and a bold cautionary note for Inglewood police officials, indeed all police officials, in the Harvard Study on the LAPD. The cheers were that the LAPD has done a near 180 degree turn in going from the national poster department for police abuse, brutality and corruption to a fine tuned, well-oiled, crime fighting department and most importantly a department that has done it by respecting civil rights and not abusing minorities.
The abuse part is the key to the LAPD’s image swap. That’s abuse that translates out to the wildly excessive overuse of physical and especially deadly force. The Harvard study found that in the past five years the most serious uses of force by the LAPD- shootings, carotid artery control holds or head strikes with impact weapons – plunged 30 percent. It also found that the incidence of physical force against blacks and Latinos plummeted far more than the force used against whites. The painful explanation for this is that the LAPD officers used much more force against blacks and Latinos in the first place, so the room for improvement here was much greater.

Getting the handle on the use of force is the single biggest reason why more blacks and Latinos in the city said that the LAPD has marched closer than ever to being the kinder, gentler department that it has long boasted that it wants to be. It accomplished the fete through solid, proactive political and department leadership, governance and most importantly independent monitoring, oversight, accountability and transparency. The stated goal is absolute zero tolerance for corruption, abuse, and especially the misuse of physical and deadly force. When cops behaved badly they were investigated and punished.
Now here’s the cautionary note in the Harvard study; a note that the LAPD, Inglewood, and other police officials must take note of. Physical and deadly force far from being a distant memory is still used in far too many instances, and many of those instances are questionable, and blacks and Latinos are more likely than not to be on the receiving end of that physical force. Researchers flatly chided the department for using force in what it called routine enforcement situations. The unmistakable message is that far too many persons are getting roughed up when cops make stops and arrests than may be warranted. That’s been painfully true in the two year surge in Inglewood police shootings.
Questionable cop shootings and their often pro forma stamp investigations stir turmoil and unrest, and deepen the distrust and cynicism of blacks and minorities toward the police. They reinforce the deep seated belief that cops are only out to cover up their dirt and that the lives of minorities are cheap. The multiple officer involved killings in Inglewood have stirred the same rage, frustration, and mistrust. The shootings have done much to make a small city police department the new national poster department for police violence.

Though Inglewood police officials hotly deny that their investigation will be a whitewash, few believe that. The disbelief has nothing to do with the heat, passion and fury over the shootings. It has everything to do with the history of cops investigating other cops who are alleged to have committed or actually are guilty of misconduct, and especially misconduct that involves the overuse of deadly force. These investigations rely heavily on often tightly orchestrated statements, or carefully scripted reports from the officer or officers about the incident, cursory review of citizen complaints, forensic evidence and a crime scene reenactment that’s heavily weighted to support the under fire officer’s version of the incident. Meanwhile, the statements and testimony from witnesses that contradict the officer’s version of the incident are often treated with skepticism, disbelief or are outright dismissed.
Often police officials tip their hand and publicly declare even before the first scrap of evidence is gathered that the shooting or physical confrontation was probably justified. The result of police investigating themselves is virtually preordained. The accused officer is almost always exonerated. If the officer kills or maims the shooting is almost always ruled in policy.

But the stain of these investigations is not totally scrubbed away when an officer skips off scot free. There are the grieving families, the inevitable and costly lawsuits, and increase in public ill-will toward the police.
This was the LAPD’s crushing burden for years precisely because so many cops got away with wrongdoing. Inglewood police and city officials can avoid shouldering that same burden by doing exactly what the Harvard study showed the LAPD has tried, and to a halting degree succeeded in doing, and that’s to get a firm handle on the use of deadly force.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on