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Point of reference. The net in the middle of the rectangle outlined in White on concrete, is not a soccer field. It’s called a tennis court. The City of Los Angeles has spent a lot of taxpayer money messaging to those same taxpayers to take advantage of the free facilities located at the many parks throughout the city. Maybe it had more to do with the economy and the need to save a dollar, but this time, it wasn’t a case of taxpayer money being wasted because the message was heard loud and clear.
After researching local parks with tennis courts that were well-lit and stayed open past 5 p.m. and in a relatively safe environment, I settled on the courts located at the Van Ness Recreational Center located at the intersection of Van Ness and Slauson Avenues.
Several weeks of meeting my friends after work for a few matches and a good (free) workout came to a dramatic end Tuesday evening when just as I was about to win my third set, a soccer ball interrupted my game. Before I knew it, about 20 young men were on the tennis courts playing soccer. Mind you, both tennis courts were being used at the time.
At some point, it became clear and apparent that we were in their way. And because we were outnumbered, we all eventually gave up and begrudgingly gave up the tennis courts to the group of men who had basically booted us off the courts to play soccer.
To say I was pissed would be an understatement. But it got worse. I had no desire to confront the men about their interruption of our tennis game, because clearly, if they had any respect for us or the tennis courts they wouldn’t be destroying a tennis net trying to use it as a goal. But I had every intention of filing a complaint about it with the local police station.
It’s the principle of the matter. With anywhere from one to five soccer games in session on the grassy area surrounding the tennis courts, with room for more, there was no reason for them to take over the tennis courts. We don’t get in the middle of their soccer games, in fact, when their balls end up being kicked into the tennis court area, court etiquette dictates that we throw it back to them saving them the trip of coming all the way over to the courts.
Also, what does that say if when the City encourages families and adults to utilize the parks for outdoor recreation and then we do, we are basically bullied off the courts?
A mother of one of the young girl’s playing tennis said that she was going to make a report at the park’s office, and I thought to myself, don’t waste your time. I headed straight to my car and drove to the nearest police station, which happened to be a sub-station in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, to file a complaint.
Point of reference. If the Los Angeles Police Department wants more people to feel comfortable reporting incidents to them, it probably isn’t a good idea to brush them off when they do.
Case in point, Officer Lockhart of the Southwest substation at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, who was too busy looking online to pay lil’ ole’ me any attention when I approached the counter with my non-emergency issue. After declaring that I wanted to file a complaint about being bullied off the local tennis courts by a group of soccer players, he eventually took the time to acknowledge me. While when he finally looked up at me his mouth said “why did you come over here to file a complaint?,” his eyes were saying, “what the f$%! do you want?”
I’m sorry, but it was my understanding that a substation is an off-site facility where you can report non-emergency crimes.
In the end, Officer Lockhart made it very clear that he was not interested in moving his rear end from the swivel chair that was under attack from his ass and the Black girl standing in front of him was a clear annoyance and unwanted interruption in his day.
Here’s a recap of our conversation.
Officer Lockhart: Why did you come over here to file a complaint?
JC: Because the park is in this station’s district.
Officer Lockhart: Why didn’t you just stay at the park and call the police?
JC: Uh, I don’t know, maybe because I am not ready to die yet.
Officer Lockhart: Well, what do you want us to do? We don’t dispatch cars from this location. We just deal with issues related to the mall. At this point, I am extremely irritated.
JC: Well I thought being that this was a L.A.P.D. substation, that I could file a complaint. So, if I can’t do that here, then I’ll just call the local councilman for the area Bernard Parks and file a complaint.
Officer Lockhart: Yeah, why don’t you call Bernard.
JC: Fine, I will.
Then I walk towards the door to the parking lot-stop, turnaround, and go back to get the officer’s name.
Way to go Officer Lockhart for reminding me why it is that people have such disdain for the police in Los Angeles. It’s a good thing that I know that he is not a representation of the entire force but rather the representation of an officer who needs a recap on what exactly working at the front desk of a police substation entails.
I am quite aware that I could have decided to play tennis somewhere on the Westside of Los Angeles, where the only issue I’d have is waiting in line to get on the court to play. But why should I have to drive out of my way to play tennis when there are courts in my own neighborhood that are under utilized? I’m all for getting along, really I am. I don’t interrupt the soccer games taking place on the grass, so don’t interrupt my game of tennis. If occasionally our balls roll into each other’s area, common courtesy dictates that we send it back.
But it doesn’t do much to foster positive race-relations when you’re kicked off the court so that a group of people who see a net and think goal, can play soccer. When those nets are no longer usable, how long do you think it will be before they’re replaced?
It also doesn’t help when you go to the local police station, sub or otherwise to make a complaint, and you are pretty much brushed off. The way I see it, our tax dollars pay for the parks we’re being encouraged to utilize. They also help to pay for the Los Angeles Police Department. And while I know that being kicked off the tennis courts isn’t an emergency, to me it was worth reporting. It’s precisely these types of incidents that discourage other adults and families from taking advantage of the free recreational space in their own neighborhoods and sends them and their pocketbooks to gyms or worse yet, to sit in front of the “boob tube.” It’s also about the principle of the of the issue, we were there first and we were using the courts for what they were meant to be used for, tennis, not soccer. That should count for something and warrant more than what I got from my brotha, Officer Lockhart.
Instead, what I am left with is contemplating taking my game to the Westside courts and where even though I’ll most likely have to wait in line to play, I’ll avoid having to deal with confused soccer players and lazy police officers.
Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR’s ‘News and Notes,’ she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.