Rampart Hearings:
The People Denouce the LAPD

Revolutionary Worker #1051 April 23, 2000

"When officers step over the line, they need to be held accountable. They need to be tried and sentenced. I want to see what happened to me investigated. What are we going to do about them? They're still working in their positions. There could be people on death row or anywhere else behind these law enforcements. Where do you go for a redress? Where do you go when you've been framed by law enforcement? That's my question to you right now."

Melvin Farmer speaking to a special meeting of the
L.A. Police Commission about how he was framed under
the "three strikes" law, and did four years
of a 35-year sentence before he
was able to prove his innocence

The LAPD continues to be hit hard by continuing revelations about vicious crimes against the people, especially involving cops from the Rampart division. There has been exposure about how cops were involved in systematic brutality and murder, robbery of money, drugs and jewelry, and the railroading of people on fabricated evidence. Almost 10,000 people were sent to jail by cops who are now under suspicion in the scandal. On April 13, a judge reversed the convictions of 10 people who were framed by the police. This means that since September, a total of 60 people have had their cases dismissed because of the scandal, including several who were in prison. Some two dozen cops have quit, been fired or been relieved of duty for their alleged involvement in the scandal.

In the midst of this ongoing exposure, the L.A. Police Commission has been forced to hold an ongoing series of public meetings. The purpose of hearings is supposedly to give "the public" a chance to speak--with a three-minute time limit. The hearings are being held in all areas of the city except Pico-Union, the area where most of the Rampart abuses occurred. There has been a heavy police presence at all of them.

At the first session, March 14, in downtown L.A., Joey Johnson, notorious flagburner and member of the October 22nd Coalition, told the Commission, "Los Angeles is notorious for brutality that is inflicted on poor people, on oppressed people, on the bottom in this city, for decades. And now every day with this Rampart scandal, we're seeing more and more. More and more light is coming out and shining on the terrible crimes that have been committed mostly against our immigrant brothers and sisters--poor people, people who don't have the resources to fight back."

As Joey Johnson spoke, cops physically dragged him away from the microphone, supposedly for going over the three-minute time limit. People booed the cops and shouted, "He has the right to speak." When a speaker talked about the Stolen Lives Project (which documents people murdered by the police around the country), she was repeatedly interrupted by the head of the Police Commission.

In spite of the Commission's attempts to limit what people could say, the hearings have shown that there is broad understanding and opposition to the national epidemic of police brutality and murder, drawing 100 to 150 people to each session. Speaker after speaker has exposed racial profiling, the criminalization of youth, the filling of prisons with "three-strikes" laws, the war on immigrants, the ugly reality of police murder--and the cooperation of courts, judges and prosecutors in carrying out and covering up this war on the people.

Joe Veale, Los Angeles spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, spoke at a lively hearing in Watts on March 28, which had one of the largest crowds. He exposed how cops from the now-disbanded anti-gang CRASH unit were responsible for some of the so-called "gang violence." He said, "Everybody knows that CRASH is setting it up so murder looks gang-related, when it's really police-related."

Relatives of Chubb Dotson, who was killed in Nickerson Gardens on December 7, 1999, also spoke about how the cops left Chubb's body lying in the street for hours after they had killed him, standing around drinking coffee. One of The Nickersons 7, arrested during a protest in the projects against police brutality on April 20, 1996, exposed the way the LAPD had tried to suppress that protest. He went on to talk about the rap sheets that they had uncovered on the police who had attacked the demonstration. Many had long records of murder and brutality against the people, including participation in the beating of Rodney King. A woman from the October 22nd Coalition talked about police harassment of people who try to stand up against police brutality. People in the mainly Black audience called out "Murderers!" and "We're dying."

Joey Johnson told the RW, "It's tremendous the people who have come out to speak out. At every one of these events there have been people who have lost loved ones, people whose houses have been raided." At the April 4 meeting, held in the relatively wealthy West L.A. area of Brentwood, a Black woman spent over two hours coming by bus from South Central to tell how her son was railroaded.

The meetings have drawn representatives from ACORN, the L.A. Coalition for Police Accountability, Mothers Reclaiming Our Children (Mothers ROC), the Watts Committee Against Police Brutality, the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade and the Crack the CIA Coalition. A spokesperson for the Committee for Humane Immigrant Rights In L.A. (CHIRLA) pointed out that the LAPD's Board of Inquiry report didn't even mention the targeting of immigrants. Civil rights attorneys have exposed the role of police "investigators" in covering up police murders.

At the first hearing downtown, a Black woman said, "I know you're not just going to be dealing with Rampart. When I was 19 years old, I was just a little girl who waved that white flag on the corner of 41st and Central [outside the Black Panther Party headquarters]. The Los Angeles Police Department was in cahoots with the federal government to destroy Black youth right here in Los Angeles. The Black Panther Party headquarters was attacked by the Los Angeles Police Department."

All of these Police Commission hearings have had a few people who defended the cops. But the hearings also show that the people living at the bottom of society, those who are being framed, killed, robbed and beaten by the police, have allies in other communities and other social strata. A woman from the Rampart area, who has worked with the police for years on Neighborhood Watch and other things, told her reaction when she found out that the cops routinely busted people and turned them over to the INS when they couldn't charge them with a crime, so they could be deported. She said, "I felt betrayed" and went on to say the problem of police corruption was "nation-wide."

D. J. McCulley, president of the African-American Business Association of South Central L.A., told the Commission, "I hope that you are paying close attention to the young men and young women who are speaking to you tonight. These people know you're the enemy."

Joey Johnson recounted what happened at the hearing in Brentwood: "There were a few people who came who looked like propertied folks. They praised the LAPD as far as like Brentwood. They said, `We have the best division of the LAPD that there is. But I know that people in the poor areas of town are not treated the way we're treated. They're not afforded the same respect, and I'm disturbed by this.' We're talking about a situation that's hidden from these people. So a lot of people are getting their eyes opened."

Joey was not only dragged off the mic at the first hearing, but at other hearings, cops have followed him around the room. At one meeting the head of the Commission tried to shut him up for turning around to look at the audience while he spoke. Joey talked about why he and the October 22nd Coalition are being singled out. "The October 22nd Coalition has been going up in their faces, denouncing what they're doing and exposing it. They want to control this, so it's minimized. The interests of the masses of people are diametrically opposed to this. We want to drag it all into the light."

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