Joe Domanick has been covering the LAPD for over three decades. Now, he takes an in-depth look at the force in his new book, ‘Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing.’
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue
Domanick uses a classic wedding analogy to describe each chapter in the history of the LAPD. He says, prior to the 1950s, the department struggled with corruption and scandal.
“Pre-1950, it was a corrupt department in the old sense of the word, the way most big city police departments were at that time. That is, cops were on the take, they had bag men going around collecting money from gambling establishments, from houses of prostitution, curbside payments for tickets, etcetera.”
The department hit a turning point when Bill Parker became chief of police.
“He said, ‘we are not going to do this anymore,’ and he did indeed stop that.”
Unfortunately, Parker’s reforms only went so far. Domanick says one form of corruption was soon replaced by another: one that often involved ‘street justice.’
Changes for the LAPD
Joe Domanick says a major turning point for the LAPD came after the Rodney King riots. He says the unrest led the department to hire its first black chief of police.
“After the ‘92 riots, the police commission and mayor Bradley were absolutely determined that they would have an African American chief for the first time. If you ever met Willie Williams, you would immediately like him … but he was way Peter Principle -- out of being able to govern the Los Angeles Police Department.”
Domanick describes Williams as a ‘curiously incurious person,’ who didn’t take the time to learn the nature of the city.
The more things seem to change ...
In his conversation with Take Two, Domanick shared his thoughts on the two most recent scandals to rock the LAPD under the watch of chief Charlie Beck.
“If you recall, the Los Angeles Times did an extraordinary piece of investigative journalism and discovered that the LAPD was lying about their serious crime numbers -- that in fact, the kind of crimes that we fear the most, personal assaults, beatings, really really violent felonies, were being deliberately misclassified as misdemeanors, so that they wouldn’t show up in the serious crime report … That was a terrible breach of trust with the people of Los Angeles ... “
Domanick is also concerned about the recent rise in officer involved shootings.
“I also think that now, he’s doing a really terrible job of dealing with all of these shootings that have been happening in Los Angeles. Twenty-five people shot, 13 of them dead, many of them in situations where you would say, ‘Oh my god, how did this unarmed person get shot?’”
Domanick says, though much has improved in the LAPD, there is still more work to be done.
“The shootings that are happening are as bad as the shootings in the 70s and the 80s that really got me interested in the LAPD in the first place.”
To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above.