Watts: Under the Shadow of the Enforcers

Neighborhood Reporter

By Michael Slate

Revolutionary Worker #1031, November 21, 1999

Cops always look a little edgy and nervous when they drive through the projects. Even when they're mad-dogging people or getting ready to pounce, they still got that fear up in them. When they come into neighborhoods like Watts, and especially up in the projects, they know they are in enemy territory--and the people they can count on as friends are a scarce few. But for the people who live here, this is home. And the people have eyes and ears everywhere. One older sister who has lived in the projects for many years watches the police and what they do. We sat in her house, escaping the sun, while she told her stories.

Bicycle Stories

"I seen what they did to that little boy right out here on the street. He was riding his bike and he crossed the street and started to jump the curb to go up on the sidewalk and go to his house. I saw it all.

"The police told him to stop but he jumped up on the curb. The police jumped out the car on him. They searched him down and he didn't have nothing on him. So they was gonna let him go but this other cop came up and said `let me search him.'

"Now this cop took the same coat--the one the other cops turned inside out and didn't find nothing--and this cop comes back and holds up some dope and says `look what I found.' The boy looked and the other cops say `how did we miss that.' Then the boy got scared and started to run, and so they all come down on him and start to hit him.

"A woman on the other side of the street started to yell `don't hit him.' The cops looked at her and wanted to know where she came from. She told them she seen everything, including that the first cops turned that coat inside out and didn't find nothing but the other cop comes and finds dope. They took that boy to jail but they let him out cuz they didn't have nothing on him and they knew somebody seen what they did.

"I seen another man coming from his kid's house and riding his daughter's bike. The cops was chasing some other people but they couldn't catch them so they went after this man. They went after him and they hit him with the car and he fell on the police car and shattered their windows. The other cops told the lady cop who hit him to leave the area and when people asked her why they did that they said it was because she was being harassed.

"They took this man to the hospital but then they arrested him and took him to jail. They hit him and they took him to jail and they said that they did this cuz they was after somebody and they all look alike. Now the boy they was after was riding a black bike, and this man was riding a red bike. Then they said that they arrested this man because he told them that he robbed somebody. There's no way that man is gonna say that to the police. Then they told that man that he was on a parole hold and the man said that can't be true because he visits his parole officer all the time."

Wrong Head...Wrong House

"Then I saw them just the other day come up on this Black woman who was parking her car. She just must have felt them standing out there and when she turned her head around they had their guns up on her head. She started to scream and they told her not to get so upset. She started yelling--what was she supposed to do when they got their guns on her and she's got all her kids sitting in the back seat. They said they came up on her cuz she looked like the person they were looking for--a Latino man who was driving a white car. This woman was lucky she just turned her head and saw them cuz if she moved her hands at all they would've shot her. Somebody was out there and said that to the cops too. And they told the cops that they probably already had a gun in their car that they could've planted on her so they could say she reached for her gun or she tried to shoot them.

"I see them raiding houses all the time. They just raided one over here a little while ago, but by the time I got out there they already put the people in jail. My friend saw them one time when they raided a house, and they took some dope but they didn't put it in the police car. And they didn't take no pictures when they did the raid. So my friend said she was gonna go to housing and make sure that they reported that they raided this house like they supposed to do.

"My friend told them she knew that when they was doing the raid like this it could only mean that this dope spot belonged to the police. They busted some young guy who walked up to see what was going on with my friend, and they were gonna plant something on him to make it seem like they picked him up during this raid. My friend told them she knew what was going on and they had to let that man go that afternoon. Anytime you see them do this you know that the dope spot is one of theirs. Sometimes they raid houses that are next door to a dope spot that everybody in the neighborhood knows about. And they stand around saying they got the wrong house. So when they come back to raid the right house these guys already had time to clean everything up so nobody gets arrested and they don't lose no drugs. Anytime this happens you know this is a dope spot that belongs to the cops."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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