Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Police and communities of color: From 1963 Los Angeles to present-day Anaheim

Friends of Manuel Diaz, one of the two men killed, hug at the site of where he was shot in Anaheim, Calif.
Friends of Manuel Diaz, one of the two men killed, hug at the site of where he was shot in Anaheim, Calif.
Bear Guerra/KPCC

The officer-involved fatal shootings of two Latino men, one of them unarmed, in Anaheim, Calif. last weekend have worsened what was already a strained relationship between the city's police force and its Latino residents, who make up more than half the city's population.

And much of the community reaction since has been strikingly similar to what's contained in a 1963 report on the relationship between police and people of color in California.

Titled "Report on California: Police-Minority Group Relations," the report was put together then by the California Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, following the officer-involved shooting of a black Muslim in Los Angeles in 1962 during a clash with police.

While some of its language is outdated, what the report and its interview subjects in Los Angeles and San Francisco concluded then echoes what's being said today about a relationship that remains tense, in Anaheim and elsewhere.

First, here's part of what a community activist told NBC Latino following the two Anaheim shootings this weekend:

“Young Latino youth are scared of the police and run away from them because they’re scared of what the cops will do and then they get shot.”

And here's what John Buggs, at the time executive director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, told the civil rights advisory committee in the 1963 report:

The report is a fascinating read, and among other things points out the resistance the committee received from Los Angeles officials then. It also makes several recommendations for law enforcement, many since carried out in cities including L.A., although it took the 1992 riots to make some of the more significant changes in terms of police-community relations.

There's also an interesting section near the end titled "The Police and the Spanish-Speaking American," which contains these by now familiar themes:

This was long before the dawn of local-federal immigration enforcement partnerships like Secure Communities, with immigration now a much bigger part of the discussion. These partnerships have since shifted to the debate to how much or how little local police should cooperate with immigration officials, especially in light of Arizona's SB 1070 law, and what effect these partnerships have on immigrant communities' cooperation with cops.

The 1963 report is archived online by the University of Maryland School of Law and can be viewed here in its entirety. In the meantime, residents in Anaheim have been telling media they want greater citizen oversight of local police; in the 1963 report, an "externalized system" for dealing with citizen complaints is recommendation #3.