Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the City of Los Angeles’ Council District 9, says she was quite shocked when she picked up the Los Angeles Sentinel last week and read an article entitled “Has War on Blacks Been Declared?” She wanted the opportunity to respond to allegations made by a young man who lives within Perry’s district.
In the article, Deshaun Patrick claimed that the surge of violence surrounding LA’s Newton Division is not caused by a drug war or even gang war, but by officers of said division who are helping Hispanic criminals in that area “get rid” of African American residents.
Perry, who said she knows quite a bit about the information contained in the article, responded to questions posed by the Sentinel during a Monday morning editorial board meeting.
Sentinel: There have been allegations made that Newton officers are responding to crimes by aggressively pursuing African Americans as opposed to Latinos who may be responsible for the crimes. Do you know of the Newton Division showing favoritism towards Latinos?
Perry: Do I know that firsthand? No, I don’t know that to be the truth. What I do know is that there is active strategy in place in Newton, 77th, Southeast and Southwest to do suppression for people they may perceive to be fitting a particular profile or characteristic of those who seem to be defined by the police as being someone who is at-risk or out there, posing some sort of red flag that’ll cause the police to want to stop them, arrest them, intervene.
Sentinel: Are you aware of the ethnic makeup of the law enforcement?
Perry: Yes. You would have to look at the entire body of people on all three shifts and take a look at the senior lead officers, who’s at the different classifications. I can’t tell you hard numbers. I would say that the perception is that the force of Newton is predominately Latino, probably secondarily White, third probably African American.
Sentinel: What is the make up of the community?
Perry: In the Newton division, if you go north of Adams and east of Central, it’s predominately Latino, although if you spend enough time in the area there’s still a surprising number of African Americans. If you go through the south, I would say that it’s still kind of a mix although it’s leaning more towards Hispanic. But again it’s still fairly a mix - 60-65 percent Latino, the balance being African American.
Sentinel: When the makeup of that community was predominately African American, the police force did not reflect that. Now, the community is predominately Latino and the force does reflect that. Why?
Perry: Some of what you referenced is probably historical and I don’t have the answer to that question. I wasn’t there; I was elected in 2001. But I would say that the way things are now, having difficulty recruiting people in general, there may have been a big push in the late ‘80s and ‘90s to recruit more ethnic minorities and women. There are more African Americans in the upper levels of LAPD now then there were before. ...There has been a trajectory through the department of African Americans. Many are in the command staff now because they’ve been there for 20-25 years. But at the senior lead level, which is where people see you the most, there are not a lot of African Americans.
In the recent years since I have been elected, recruitment in general has dropped off. If you talk to people who are in recruiting in LAPD now, they are having a heck of a hard time finding people just to sign on. ...If you see a flattening out of numbers of African Americans, it could be a lot of factors. It could also be that this is now a career that is not highly sought in the same way that other public sector careers might be.
Sentinel: What solutions can you offer as to addressing the Black and Latino tensions?
Perry: The greatest thing that I can do as an elected official is expose young people and their families to experiences and information beyond their own community, and even within their own community, about the contributions and the cultural, historical...the lives of other people, basically. What is horrible to watch is young people who have great minds and a lot of energy, and are obviously looking and searching for something yet because of their lives and limitations they may have in their lives they can’t pierce that veil and get to where they want to get to. If each one of us, as elected officials, took the resources that are at our fingertips and made sure we gave them out to all these kids, it would have an enormous impact not only on them but to then they take it back to their families.
African Americans who chose to come here before the war and even after WWII for a better life—nice home, nice yard, send their children to a good school—have never left this community. They are the reason this community has survived. We need to thank them, respect the community, not diminish it or not try to erase that from our own personal history. They’ve been our foundation because these folks never really left. They may have passed on but there are still a lot of them here. They are valuable.