Sunday, November 19, 2017
Same Song, Different Lyrics
By Yussuf Simmonds (Managing Editor)
Published June 4, 2008

Throughout the years, there have been many commissions, reports, reviews and blue ribbon panels. Their results and findings have usually been the same and they usually have been shelved; yet, there seems to be a big surprise when the conduct of law enforcement continues to be reckless and ceases to undergo any meaningful changes.

The Blue Ribbon Rampart Review Panel report that was made public by noted civil rights attorney and chair, Constance L. Rice, is another one in a long list of comprehensive reviews, reports, findings and the like that have been issued about law enforcement departments from coast to coast, and their dealings mostly with people of color and how little, if anything at all, has changed.

The report last Sunday evening on “60 Minutes” is a perfect example of how the same behavior is acted out in different police departments. It could have been titled Chicago’s Rampart.

There was the Kerner Report, commissioned in the sixties that concluded and ‘warned that the United States was “moving towards two societies, one Black, one White—separate and unequal.’ Then the Governor reportedly ordered a study after the 1965 Watts Revolt (the Mc Cone Report). Then there was the Mollen Commission hearings (New York), where an officer’s sentiments was chillingly echoed, “We’d just beat people in general … to show who was in charge;” followed by, ‘There is often a racial or ethnic component to police abuse cases, with many incidents also fueled by language barriers and miscommunication in (a) culturally diverse city. The (police) department has also been unwilling to acknowledge shortcomings and instead dismisses any criticisms as unfounded or as merely anecdotal.’

As soon as the 1992 civil unrest was contained, the Christopher Commission (Los Angeles) jumped into action; then there was the Federal Consent Degree, then the Webster Commission. However, none of the aforementioned (or other) reports/reviews was able to predict or prevent LAPD’s SIS, racial profiling, the Rampart Scandal, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo and/or the myriads of police misconduct incidents that take place from coast to coast.

The reasons are: the reports are generally ignored and/or superficial changes are attempted; the reviews, reports and findings mostly concentrate on the effects and the consequences of polices’ actions, but never the cause(s); and the root of the problem remains unchanged. Remember former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates comment after the Rodney King incident, “This is an aberration.” Was it? History has revealed that had that incident not been caught on videotape—and played for the world to see—it may not even have been noticed.

Rice’s Review is a commendable effort on behalf of the people of Los Angeles but what, if anything is going to be done with the report. What changes are going to be made or are any meaningful changes going to be made? Consider some of the statistics. According to reports, because of the Rampart scandal, 156 felony convictions were overturned, over $70 million in legal settlements have been paid; yet, there is not one reported conviction of an officer that stuck. Some that may have been convicted, their convictions were overturned.

Categories: Op-Ed

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