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Understanding the Role of Police Towards Abolitionism: On Black Death as an American Necessity, Abolition, Non-Violence, and Whiteness

{Photo credit: Ashley Landis/AP}

By Joshua Briond

In Blood In My Eye, the late great George Jackson writes: “the purpose of the chief repressive institutions within the totalitarian capitalist state is clearly to discourage and prohibit certain activity, and the prohibitions are aimed at very distinctly defined sectors of the class—and race— sensitized society. The ultimate expression of law is not order—it’s prison. There are hundreds upon thousands of laws, yet there is no social order, no social peace. Anglo-Saxon bourgeois law is tied firmly into economics[…]Bourgeois law protects property relations and not social relationships.”  And while thousands across the country take to the streets to protest state violence, in the aftermath of the public lynching of George Floyd, we have been seeing the structural reality the likes of George Jackson (amongst other Black political prisoners and revolutionaries) brilliantly and elegantly theorized on and experienced, once again holds true.

In this moment, it is crucial to understand the role of the police at their core, as merely a hyper-militarized bottom of the barrel armed force of the ruling class. Our ruling class owned media tries to portray both state and federal level police as neutral actors enforcing public safety—when in fact their role has always served to disrupt (radical) political activity by any means necessary. The past few days have sprung speculation regarding the police and media conspiring and exporting counterinsurgency—which is clearly happening. But what if, instead, we saw policing under white supremacist capitalism as inherently and in a constant state of counterinsurgency—because such an act is how empire sustains itself—especially if we know that, historically, police have surveilled, repressed and infiltrated individuals, organizations, and political parties that they have deemed ideological enemies because their interests represent a legitimate threat to the capitalist white supremacist status quo.

“Power responds to all threats. The response is repression. If the threat is a small one, the fascist tactic is to laugh it off, ignore it, isolate it with greater the corresponding violence from power. The only effective challenge to power is one that is broad enough to make isolation impossible, and intensive enough to cause repression to affect the normal lifestyle of as many members of the society as possible[…] Nothing can bend consciousness more effectively than a false arrest, a no-knock invasion, careless, panic-stricken gunfire.”

—George Jackson (Blood In My Eye)

The issue is not simply “police brutality.” But, the mere existence and functionality of the inherently anti-black, subservient to capital institution of polic[e/ing]. “Police brutality” like many liberalized frameworks, individualizes structural oppression and power. Such framing leaves space for reformism, as if there’s only certain aspects of policing that needs to be readdressed. It’s an undeniable fact that technically “not all cops kill” but instead of moral posturing, we can focus on the political and ideological functioning of policing in service of whiteness, capital(ism), and settler-colonialism, as being in direct contradiction of the lives and well-being of racialized, colonized, and working-class people. Focusing the problem on the mere existence of polic[e/ing], as an institutionalized direct descendant of chattel slavery previously branded ‘slave patrolling,’ we’re able to discuss the inherent (racialized & class-based) violences within the institution at-large. And it allows us to reckon with the entire institution instead of individual actors, their political or moral standing, as well as individualized notions of “justice” in the face of terror, violence, and death at the hands of the police. “Justice” under this racial capitalism, is an impossibility—an ideological liberal mystification. The scarcity in the realm of political imagination that [neo]liberalism champions leads to a reality in which many people’s analysis and understanding of “justice” is merely individualized imprisonment and tepid-at-best liberal reforms. Advancing our collective understanding beyond the individual “bad” or killer cop toward an understanding of structural violence, is crucial to building an abolitionist politic grounded in empathy and community.

We have been bombarded with dozens of videos and photos of cops kneeling, crying, giving impassioned speeches, and public displays of some of the most shallowest forms of performative solidarity—an age-old tactic wielded to “humanize” officers and neutralize the perceived threat in the protesters, while also attempting to control the media narrative —only for these same cops to turn around and within minutes unleash terror on the self-proclaimed “peaceful” protesters as they chant and march in-advocacy for the ending of Black terror and death at the hands of the police. If the mere pleading for the ruling class and its on-the-ground agents to stop massacring Black people with impunity is enough of a crime to be met with chemical warfare, “rubber” bullets, harassment, beatings, and mass imprisonment—what does that say about the functionality of these institutions?

When we see agents of the ruling class in militarized “riot” gear, oftentimes comment sections filled with disapproval, American liberals claiming “they look like they’re in war,” and viral tweets from imperialist veterans not-so-subtly declaring that type of militancy should be preserved for Black and brown people and countries abroad—and not home. We must counter these liberal narratives by highlighting that there is no significant political, ideological, or moral difference between domestic police and the military. Both serve the same class and ideological apparatus and represent an occupying force wherever they’re stationed. The military predominantly operates as the global police of the world, or as George Jackson would call it the “international wing of repressive institutions.” But, when the domestic police are overwhelmed, they call in their big brother (US military) to help fight their battle—hand-and-hand as enemies of the people—in a mission to terrorize and politically repress racialized, colonized, and working class people. So when Trump says “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” and grants the military immunity to terrorize and shoot protesters that is nothing more than the head of empire simply carrying on the legacy of terrorists-in-chief before him, reaffirming the purpose of the mere existence of the military, as fascist enforcers of capitalist, colonial, and imperialist violence and their right to do what they already do to colonized and oppressed people in third world and global south countries.

We must realize that we mustn’t give cops, in all forms, the benefit of the doubt or go out of our way to plead to their conscience—in which most, if not all of them lack—because their articulation of the situation at hand, as evidenced by their preparedness and tactics, is that of war. And in all of its possibly well-meaning glory, going into battle with the mindset of pleading to their (lack of) conscience or going out of your way to prove you’re one of the “good” and “peaceful” protesters—through chants and other means—won’t stop the terror of chemical warfare that will transpire when the political performance ends. The police are uncompromising in their belief in the current oppressive social order, they have legally, morally, and politically pledged their lives to it, and we must be uncompromising in our fight towards tearing it down and building anew. There’s a reason cops show up to even the most “peaceful” of protests with militarized riot gear prepared at any moment to immobilize activists, organizers, and journalists while conspiring with the media apparatus to demonize protests and all of its participants.

 “The political act is defined as criminal in order to discredit radical and revolutionary movements. A political event is reduced to a criminal event in order to affirm the absolute invulnerability of the existing order.”

 —Angela Davis (If They Come in the Morning)

The nearly non-materially existing dichotomy between “good protester” and “bad protester” or “non-violent” and “violent” are not only useless identifiers, but an unfortunate fundamental misunderstanding of the structural powers that be, at-large. The ideology of Black liberation is inherently violent to the forces of capital and white supremacy. We must move beyond the media fueled tropes rooted in colonial moral posturing, that serves no one but our ruling elites. History has shown us, it does not matter whether or not you’re a “good protester” or “bad protester,” “non-violent” or “violent,” and/or “innocent” or “guilty.” If you are for liberation for Black people, you are a threat to the interests of capitalism and white supremacy, and must be systemically repressed, by any means. To fight for the liberation of Black people, especially but not limited to the skin that has historically marked criminality, makes you an enemy of said nation who’s global economy is predicated on the terror and death of the colonial, namely Black, subject. Liberation, and the pursuit of it becomes a racialized affair under a system of colonial and imperialist domination in-which whiteness—a system of racial othering—is exclusively depicted as proximity to power and capital, which Black and other subjects of said domination have neither. It is crucial for the sustainment of this moment that we, first of all, not allow media political discourse to divide and conquer the wide variety of effective tactics that have been wielded by activists and organizers since the beginning of time; while also collectively understand the functionality of police and prisons as they are: inherently anti-Black politicized tools of the ruling elite to maintain their hegemony.

“The legal apparatus designates the Black liberation fighter a criminal, prompting Nixon, Agnew, Reagan et al. to proceed to mystify with their demagogy millions of Americans whose senses have been dulled and whose critical powers have been eroded by the continual onslaught of racist ideology. As the Black Liberation Movement and other progressive struggles increase in magnitude and intensity, the judicial system and its extension, the penal system, consequently become key weapons in the state’s fight to preserve the existing conditions of class domination, therefore racism, poverty and war.”

—Angela Davis (If They Come in the Morning)

Our understanding of non-violence should be that of an organized and meticulous tactical approach exercised by the oppressed, as opposed to a moral philosophy, endorsed and preferred by the ruling class and its agents. We never hear the ruling class, advocate for non-violence with their singular approach when they are hegemonizing and tyrannizing oppressed peoples across the globe, while being cheered on and thanked by many of its citizens. Non-violence, as a moral philosophy, in a society where violence against the marginalized is the norm—where millions are incarcerated, houseless, subjected to state sanctioned violence, and live in poverty—is, in and of itself just another form of colonial physical and ideological subjugation and therefore, violence. But, so much of non-violence is predicated on the premise of legality—despite its social and political limitations. Laws are only laws because we, whether knowingly or not, coercively consent to them. At any given time our government can utilize and maneuver the boundaries of legality and illegality as applicable to the material interests of the ruling class. What we’re seeing on live display is the state and all of its willing agents and participants are very much willing to terrorize and self-detonate than grant Black people even the slightest bit of freedom; and history has shown us it is not only appropriate but necessary to meet them with the only language that they understand.

As Kwame Ture has noted, public pleas and non-violence only works when your opponent has a conscience, and the United States of America has none. Therefore, we must move beyond public outcries for vague calls for “love,” “unity,” and “peace,” waxing poetic, and pleading for our oppressors to somehow manage to adopt a conscience and do what goes against the very ideological and economic foundation of all their colonial institutions: stop terrorizing and killing us. We must move beyond the cycle of inaction and emotional appeals, through stagnantly and continuously debating the semantics of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and other moral and political posturing, when the reality of our situation is clear: Black lives can never truly matter under captivity of white supremacist capitalism and colonial patriarchy that directly and consequently begets Black oppression. How can it, when Black death is a necessity of racial capitalism and the institutions (such as policing and prisons) that exist to uphold it? So instead of public appeals to the ruling class and its agents to recognize the “humanity” in those relegated to slave; we recognized the reality in which racialized terror and violence is quite literally the point—as the mere existence of Black lives are in direct and inherent contradiction with the forces of capital—and a necessity for the continued maintenance of the current white supremacist capitalist, imperialist, (settler-)colonial order. It is crucial for us to remember that these institutions, namely policing and prisons, that continue to so violently persist, are merely an extension of European colonialism and slavery.

“…with each reform, revolution became more remote[…]But if one were forced for the sake of clarity to define [fascism] in a word simple enough for all to understand, that word would be ‘reform.’”

—George Jackson (Blood In My Eye)

The only realistic solution to a reality in which anti-Black terror, violence, and death is an inevitability to the functionality of a system, is abolition. Yet, ironically enough, the lack of political imagination, beyond the electoral strategy and reformism, and the inability to envision a world, or even country, devoid of police and prisons is rooted in (anti-Black), racialized colonial logics of the biologically determined criminal, slave, and savage. The notion that an (uncivilized) people must to be, at all times, patrolled and policed, or else chaos and violence would reign, has been used as a justification for countless structural violences on the part of European peoples since the origins of colonialism. If we know criminality is inherently racialized, one must ask themselves: when you envision the criminal and/or “evildoer,” what do you see? What do they look like? More than likely it is someone who is non-white and/or poor. This is something we have to seriously grapple with, even amongst abolitionist circles. The vast majority of people who, for whatever reason, are incapable of envisioning a world without police and prisons, are simply unwilling to interrogate the dominant ideological apparatus that we have all, in one way or another, internalized.

Emphasizing the largely classed and gendered based nature of crime, is of the utmost importance. Crime is not an “inevitable” aspect of society, but an inevitable reaction to socio-economic and political structural forces at-large; specifically poverty being an inevitability of capitalism while sexual, gendered, and domestic violences are an inevitability of colonial patriarchy. If we combat the systems, we combat the social reactions.

Another thing we’re witnessing is white people moralizing the looting, destruction of, and “violence” towards inanimate objects (despite the fact that white history is that of constant looting, destruction, and violence) as result of their moral, spiritual, and political ties to land, property, monuments, and capital built on genocide and slavery. Whiteness being so inextricable to the foundations of capital(ism) and ultimately property, inhibits white people’s ability to extend such an empathy to the lives of Black people. Property and capital, being so inextricable to the foundations of whiteness and the construction of race, as a whole, ushers in the reality in which they become God-like figures. White people’s existence on this planet and their understanding of the world makes so much more sense once you realize that, white people, globally, are the police. Whiteness allows and entails them the “monopoly on morality” to be such a thing. Whether it’s with foreign affairs, and their paternalistic analysis of non-white countries, which ultimately leads to the justifying the actions of their imperialist government—even from “socially conscious” white folks. Or, in the case of how they overwhelmingly believe they maintain the prerogative to dictate the ways subjects of white oppression retaliate against said oppression (though, to be fair, they technically do). But, the point is: the entire logic of whiteness, as a deliberately political and social invention, makes it such a construct that’s—under white supremacy—inseparable from the role of the state. therefore, white people assume these roles as agents of the state globally—whether subconsciously or not.

And, of course, this is why we have been subjected to countless imagery on social media of white people (and those aspiring to be white by-way-of proximity to capital, power, and “respectability”) putting their bodies and lives on the line to protect capital (and physical embodiments of it) and private property—in a way that they would never sacrifice their bodies or even time for Black lives and liberation. Such an imagery should serve as a spit in the face to not just Black people, but all persons concerned with our liberation from the chains of capital. If persons of the white race are willing to put their lives on the line for their god: property and capital, but wouldn’t bother doing such a thing for Black people: what does that say about how they see us? We’re beneath inanimate objects on the hierarchy of things worthy of protection. But, it also just goes to show that as much as the white American is willing to die for property relations and capital—by any means necessary—we must be willing to live and die for our collective liberation. Let this be a moment in which we’re reminded that if there’s ever scenario in which our ruling elites are ever in-need of more armed protectors of the white supremacist status quo there will be countless ordinary white people, at the front of the line, fully prepared to live out their white vigilante idealizations and sacrifice their lives and bodies to save settler capitalism.


The disturbing account of a black baby thrown into boiling water and flogged to death by slave-ship captain

Voyages in transatlantic slave trade Pic Credit:

Today, many Africans are still living with memories of the pains and brutalities meted out to their ancestors by European and American slave traders.The slave masters didn’t just brutalize adults; black children were also treated with cruelty.

Bahamianology writes that “African children bound for slavery in the colonies of the West Indies, Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and South America as well as the colonial states of America, were treated with a cruelty which almost defies the human imagination.”

Accounts state that to make the young ones obedient slaves, slave masters employed different inhuman tactics, including flogging to instil fear in them.

The thought of babies and young ones experiencing outright barbarity, being beaten to a pulp, snatched from the arms of their mothers and sold to strangers is nothing any mother would wish for her enemy, let alone herself.

What was more disheartening was the fact that many of these little black boys and girls were kept in cages in breeding farms as though they were animals, and this sometimes led to their deaths.

Documented pieces of evidence of the brutality faced by enslaved children abound but the story of a 10-month-old baby who was thrown into boiling water and flogged to death by a slave-ship captain portrays wickedness at its peak.

While black slaves were being transported from Africa, the 10-month-old baby was sulking and refusing to eat. This troubled the captain of the ship as the baby was definitely part of the money he would make from the trade.

An account by The Liberator, cited by writes that the captain subsequently took the baby from the mother and tried to force the baby to eat.

He hit the baby who would still not eat and reportedly said: ‘I’ll make you eat or I’ll kill you.”

The baby developed a swollen leg resulting from the manhandling from the captain.

The account of the 10-month-old baby dropped into boiling water by a slave-ship captain in 1832. (The Liberator, Saturday 28 January 1832) | Source – Bahamianology

To douse the swollen legs of the child, the captain asked his men to boil water and then the unimaginable happened; the captain ordered that the baby’s feet and nails be dipped in the hot water. Right after, the nails and skin of the baby’s feet came off.

Having no sympathy for the child, the captain used an oiled cloth to wrap the feet of the child and then tied the child to a heavy log of wood for three days.

The captain wasn’t done with the little child yet; he caught the child up and said: “I’ll make you eat, or I’ll be the death of you.” He went on to flog the child until the child died.

After the infant was lifeless, disregarding the talks from his countrymen who were spectators of this devastating event, the captain called the mother of the baby and beat her while ordering her to pick up the child and throw it into the ocean.

The Liberator writes that the mother “then dropped it [the baby] into the sea, turning her head away the other way that she might not see it.”


amerikan crime: Case #18: The LAPD—150 Years of Murder, Brutality, Racism and Repression


The LAPD, with its slogan of “To Protect and Serve,” is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.  But what is its actual history—from beginning to today?  And what does it say about the actual history of this country and the role of the police?

1950-1966: Chief Parker and the Watts Rebellion—A More “Professional” and More Brutal LAPD

William Parker, who became police chief in 1950, was hailed as a modernizer.  But there was nothing “modern” about his stone-cold racism.  When he was sworn in, he declared, during a period when tens of thousands of Black people were migrating to LA, that “Los Angeles is the white spot of the great cities of America today.  It is to the advantage of the community that we keep it that way.”

A decade later, Parker told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that Blacks and Latinos were more likely to commit crimes than white people, and that the barrios had a high crime rate because people there were a step removed from “the wild tribes of Mexico.”

In between, Parker, who called the police the “Thin Blue Line” protecting civilization (i.e., white supremacy), unleashed a reign of terror against Black and Brown people.  “The policing of the ghetto was becoming simultaneously less corrupt but more militarized and brutal,” writes Mike Davis. Previously, LAPD officers often “shook down” the interracial, Black-owned nightclub scene on Central Avenue for bribes. Now Parker’s police shut it down—even blockading Black-owned stores and warning white customers away.

This police terror escalated in the 1960s.  In April 1962, some 75 LAPD cops shot up a Nation of Islam Mosque, killing one and wounding six others.  Why?  Some cops had gotten in a beef with two members of the Mosque after they accused them of having a “suspicious amount of clothes in their car.” It turned out the two owned a dry cleaning business. After the assault Malcolm X came to LA and condemned Parker for “filling his men with hatred for the Black Community.”

1965: The Watts Rebellion

Between 1963 and 1965, thousands of young Black men were harassed or brutalized, and 60 Black people were shot by the LAPD—27 in the back.  Then an incident of this kind of everyday harassment turned into something else.

1965 Watts Rebellion: Black people stood up in anger and defiance at the LAPD—an estimated 75,000 people took part—rocking LA and sending shockwaves around the world. (Photo: AP)

More than 5,000 youth were injured or arrested. Photo: AP

More than 30 Black and Latino people. Photo: Creative Commons

According to various accounts, on the evening of August 11, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) cop stopped Marquette and Ronald Frye on suspicion of drunk driving.  Ronald, who was a passenger, went to get their mother, as a crowd began to gather.  When Ronald and his mother came and the crowd had grown to several hundred, Marquette exploded in rage, “cursing and shouting at the officers [saying] they would have to kill him to take him to jail.” An altercation ensued and all three Frye’s were arrested and taken to jail.

But the growing crowd wasn’t having it.  They cursed the CHP.  The pigs decided to assert their authority and waded into the crowd to arrest one agitator and a woman who supposedly spit on them.  A rock hit the CHP cruiser as it was leaving, and when word circulated that a bad bust had gone down and a pregnant woman had been abused, the community rose up.

Black people stood up in anger and defiance—an estimated 75,000 people took part—rocking LA and sending shockwaves around the world.  A feeling of freedom and liberation surged through the Black community as the hated pigs had been driven out—and it took them nearly a week to regain control.  The LAPD was forced to put 46.5 square miles of the city under military-enforced curfew, mobilize 21,000 cops and National Guard troops, and lock down and retake one neighborhood after another. More than 30 Black and Latino people were unjustly shot to death by pigs who were totally rampaging, and 5,000 were injured or arrested—but it still took the authorities six days to bring the Watts Rebellion to an end.

The 1960-1980: Spying, Suppressing, and Murdering Radicals and Revolutionaries

LAPD attack a 1967 protest against the Vietnam War at Century City Mall. Hundreds of police attacked them. Photo: courtesy LA Times Photographic Archive, Young Research Library UCLA

The Watts uprising was a turning point in the 1960s, helping to usher in a period of massive upheaval and rebellion in cities across the country.  The LAPD under Parker protégés Edward M. Davis (1969-1978) and Daryl Gates (1978-1992) responded with paramilitary assault units, including SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, and stepped up spying aimed especially at radical and revolutionary forces.

The LAPD’s Murderous Assaults on the Black Panther Party

On December 8, 1969, four days after the Chicago Police Department and the FBI assassinated Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, the LAPD launched a predawn assault on the LA Panther headquarters at 41st and Central.  Inside their sandbag-fortified office, 11 Panther members, including Vietnam vet Geronimo Pratt, engaged in a five-hour shootout with 350 cops, SWAT teams, and LAPD helicopters, that rained bullets and tear gas into the Panther house in Watts.  Five thousand rounds of ammunition were exchanged.  Masses of people from the area turned out in support, along with student radicals, and this helped to prevent the police from unleashing an even worse barrage.

December 8, 1969, SWAT teams and LAPD helicopters rained bullets and tear gas into the Black Panther Party house in Watts.

Roland Freeman got buckshot in his legs from a police shotgun, and a single shot shattered the bone in his arm. A police sniper’s bullet tore through the legs of Tommy Lewis, one of the two women there. Not being able to stop the bleeding of some of their comrades, the Panthers called an end to the exchange.   When it ended, four Panthers and four SWAT cops were wounded but no fatalities.

In the 2006 documentary by Gregory Everett, 41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers, Wayne Pharr recalls what he felt during that intense standoff facing overwhelming murderous police firepower: “That was the only time as a Black man in America that I ever felt free, was the five hours that I was in the shootout…. For those five hours, I was in control of my destiny…” Millions of people also saw the LA-BPP self-defense action as heroic and took inspiration from it.1

The 1970 Chicano Moratorium and the Murder of Ruben Salazar

On August 29, 1970 over 25,000 Chicanos marched in East LA in the Chicano Moratorium, demanding an end to the Vietnam war and to the oppression they faced as a people. (Photo: Los Angeles Public Library)

An LA County Sheriff’s deputy shot a tear gas canister through the door of Silver Dollar Bar hitting prominent Chicano journalist Ruben Salazar in the head killing him. (Photo: Raul Ruiz)

The LA County Sheriffs and the LAPD came out in force against the Chicano Moratorium. They reacted to a shoplifting situation by declaring it an illegal assembly and Sheriffs and LAPD stormed into the crowd, shooting tear gas and swinging their batons. (Photo: CreativeCommons)

The LAPD and other law enforcement agencies had the burgeoning Chicano liberation movement in their crosshairs since March 1968, when some ten thousand Chicano students in East LA walked out of their predominantly Mex­ican-American high schools in protest of the inferior education available to them.

So on August 29, when over 25,000 Chicanos marched in East LA in the Chicano Moratorium, demanding an end to the Vietnam war and to the oppression they faced as a people, the LA County Sheriffs and the LAPD came out in force.  Toward the end of this largely peaceful march, some youth allegedly shoplifted drinks from a nearby store and ran into the crowd.  The LA County Sheriffs seized on this to declare an illegal assembly and Sheriffs and LAPD stormed into the crowd, shooting tear gas and swinging their batons. People did not disperse, but courageously stood their ground and fought back.  At one point, a Sheriff’s deputy shot a tear gas canister through a shop door that hit prominent Chicano journalist Ruben Salazar in the head killing him.  Two others were also killed before the day was over.  Salazar had given voice to Chicano demands, and many demanded an investigation feeling the Sheriff’s Department may have targeted Salazar for assassination, an investigation that an inquest jury found was warranted. Yet DA Evelle J. Younger refused to proceed.

Militant Chicanos held three other major protests over the next five months which were attacked by the LA Sheriffs and LAPD, including on January 31, 1971 when one demonstrator was killed and thirty-five were wounded.

May 17, 1974: The SLA Massacre

The LAPD fired some 1,200 rounds of ammunition into the tiny home as six SLA members shot back. Teargas containers thrown into the house ignited a fire, but the SLA refused to surrender and all six were killed by burns and smoke inhalation. (Photo: AP)

On May 17, some 500 LAPD cops surrounded and laid siege to a small house in Compton where they suspected members of the small radical group the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) were hiding out.  Then they opened fire.  The SLA had carried out a series of actions—including the highly publicized kidnapping of ruling class heiress Patty Hearst, demanding her family distribute food to poor people in California, which the family did.2  (Other SLA members, not present, were later arrested and sent to prison for murder, bank robbery, and kidnapping.)

The LAPD fired some 1,200 rounds of ammunition into the tiny home as six SLA members shot back. Teargas containers thrown into the house ignited a fire, but the SLA refused to surrender and all six were killed by burns and smoke inhalation.

April 22, 1980: The Murder of Revolutionary Communist Damian Garcia

Damian Garcia raising the red flag on top of the Alamo.

On April 22, 1980, Damian Garcia, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, was building for May First in the Pico-Aliso Housing Project in East Los Angeles.  A month earlier Damian and two other members of the “May Day Brigade” had scaled the infamous Alamo, lowered the flag of Texas and raised the red flag of revolution. This powerful internationalist statement made the front page of newspapers in many countries of Central and South America—and made Damian a “dangerous individual” in the eyes of this system and its political police, and the LAPD.

As Damian and his comrades moved through the housing project, he was confronted by a man who said, “You hate the government. I am the government. Your flag is red. Mine is red, white and blue.” He and others jumped the Brigade in what at first appeared to be a fistfight. But suddenly Damian fell to the ground and died—slashed in the neck, abdomen and back.

The LAPD quickly claimed it had been a gang killing, and that the gang member responsible for Damian’s murder had himself been killed six weeks later—case closed. But two years later, an ongoing investigation revealed that a police agent—“Ernie Sanchez”—had been assigned by the LAPD’s Public Disorder Investigation Division (PDID) to target Damian.

The PDID had been formed in 1970 and it had infiltrated, spied on, and disrupted over 200 groupings and kept files on 50,000 people—including the LA Times, the National Organization of Women, Students for Democratic Society at UCLA, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Black Panther Party (BPP). They also spied on members of the City Council, the Police Commission, and at least one judge.

One week after Damian and his comrades scaled the Alamo, “Sanchez” had infiltrated the May Day Brigade.  He was with Damian daily and fed the PDID information about Damian’s schedule, including the day he was murdered.  And Sanchez was standing five feet away when Damian was assassinated.

In 1983, an ACLU lawsuit accused the PDID of illegally spying on 131 social movement activists and organizations.  This revelation of the extent of LAPD spying and its targeting of political activists—including Damian—caused a major social uproar and forced the Police Commission to disband the PDID.  (It was replaced by the  anti-terrorism division ).  Adding to the outrage, it also came out that one PDID cop, Jay Paul, had defied a 1976 order by the Police Commission to destroy the unit’s confidential intelligence files on revolutionaries, radicals, members of the City Council, the Police Commission, and at least one judge and instead stored them in his garage and shared the files with a private, fascist intelligence dissemination operation called Western Goals.

The Gates Years, 1978-1992:
The LAPD sets the standard for state-sponsored racist terror and suppression

The Murder of Eula Love.  Daryl Gates took over the LAPD in 1978 and quickly became infamous for his sneering, open racism, and his war-like approach to policing Black and Brown people.  Gates ushered in his tenure with, among other horrors, the murder of 39-year-old mother of three Eula Love on January 3, 1979.  Love was recently widowed and struggling to raise three kids on a limited income in her small home in South Central.  That day she was upset because a utility man had come and tried to turn off her power.  They got into an altercation and he called the police.  When the police arrived Eula came out of her home while her children stayed inside.  The cops talked to her for two to three minutes before opening fire, hitting her with twelve 38-caliber slugs from eight to twelve feet away.  They claimed she’d advanced on them with a knife in her hand, but it turned out she was moving away.

After they murdered Eula, the cops rolled her lifeless body over and handcuffed her on the grass in her own front yard.  There was a major outpouring of protest after her murder, but Gates responded by mocking and assaulting her—and all Black people again—declaring the white pig who shot her was “just as much a victim of this tragedy as (she was).”

With LA’s Black Mayor Tom Bradley and other Black “leaders” remaining silent as the so-called “war on drugs,” launched by Ronald Reagan in 1982 escalated, Gates was emboldened to openly insult and taunt Black and Brown people as part of the terror the LAPD was raining down on them.  In 1982, after a string of young Black men were killed by LAPD ”chokeholds,“ Gates claimed their deaths were caused by being Black: “We may be finding that in some Blacks when [the carotid chokehold] is applied the veins or arteries do not open up as fast as they do on normal [sic] people.”

The “War on Drugs” and Operation Hammer 1988-1990.  The “war on drugs” was not about bringing down crime; it was a war on oppressed people aimed at ramping up suppression and social control—a counterinsurgency before the insurgency.  And the LAPD under Gates was in the vanguard of waging, expanding, militarizing, and brutally carrying it out.

The “war on drugs” was not about bringing down crime; it was a war on oppressed people. A thousand extra-duty patrolmen, backed by elite tactical squads and a special anti-gang taskforce formed the HAMMER. They arrested more Black youth than at any time since the Watts Rebellion of 1965. (Photo: AP)

By 1987, with crack spreading and violence surging among the youth of different gangs and sets —and hysteria about the situation fanned by the media, Democrats, and Republicans—the LAPD launched the so-called Gang Related Active Trafficker Suppression program (GRATS) which targeted “drug neighborhoods” with 200-300 police ordered to stop anyone “suspected” of being a gang member based on “criteria” like clothing and hand gestures. Gates announced that full manpower reserves of LAPD would be thrown into super-sweeps called Operation HAMMER.

Author Mike Davis describes Operation HAMMER’s first action on April 9, 1988:

A thousand extra-duty patrolmen, backed by elite tactical squads and a special anti-gang taskforce, bring down the first act of “Operation HAMMER” upon ten square miles of Southcentral Los Angeles between Exposition Park and North Long Beach, arresting more Black youth than at any time since the Watts Rebellion of 1965… Kids are humiliatingly forced to “kiss the sidewalk” or spread eagle against police cruisers while officers check their names against computerized files of gang members. There are 1,453 arrests; the kids are processed in mobile booking centers, mostly for trivial offences like delinquent parking tickets or curfew violations. Hundreds more, uncharged, have their names and addresses entered into the electronic gang roster for future surveillance.

Daryl Gates called it “war.”  The Chief of LAPD Hardcore Drug Unit said, “This is Vietnam here.”

The Dalton Street Raid.  One of the infamous operations during Operation HAMMER was the Dalton Street raid on August 1, 1988. Eighty-eight cops from the infamous Southwest Division swooped down on a group of apartments on Dalton Avenue near Exposition Park. They wielded shotguns and sledgehammers and shouted racist slurs and insults. The LA Timesreported:

An infamous operation during HAMMER was the Dalton Street raid on August 1, 1988. Eighty-eight cops from Southwest Division swooped down on a group of apartments on Dalton Avenue. They wielded shotguns and sledgehammers and shouted racist slurs and insults. (Video screen capture)

Residents… said they were punched and kicked by officers during what those arrested called “an orgy of violence….”

They also accused the officers of throwing washing machines into bathtubs, pouring bleach over clothes, smashing walls and furniture with sledgehammers and axes, and ripping an outside stairwell away from one building.

[They] destroyed family photos, ripped down cabinet doors, slashed sofas, shattered mirrors, hammered toilets to porcelain shards, doused clothing with bleach and emptied refrigerators. Some officers left their own graffiti: “LAPD Rules.” “Rollin’ 30s Die.”

Damage to the apartments was so extensive that the Red Cross offered disaster assistance and temporary shelter to displaced residents—a service normally provided in the wake of major fires, floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters.

At Southwest Division, 32 people arrested were forced to whistle the theme from the Andy Griffith TV show as they had to go through a gauntlet of pigs beating them with fists and flashlights. After all the lives and homes devastated, the result was two minor drug arrests.

Gates institutionalized the HAMMER sweeps as semi-permanent occupations of neighborhoods of the oppressed, including the largely immigrant neighborhood of Pico Union, later the site of the infamous Rampart scandal, which Gates claimed was “a veritable flea market for drug dealers.”

By 1990, the LAPD and the LA County sheriffs together had detained or arrested some 50,000 suspects—roughly half the entire population of 100,000 Black youth in Los Angeles at the time!  In many of these highly publicized sweeps, more than 90 percent were released without charges —but their innocence didn’t necessarily keep them out of the LAPD’s growing gang database.

All of this was facilitated by support from the media, which fanned horror stories about the masses. Leading Democrats, including Black politicians like Senator Diane Watson, whose press secretary said, “when you have a state of war, civil rights are suspended for the duration of the conflict,” also joined in.  Reformist Black “leaders” like the Urban League and SCLC started arguing that the problem was “too little policing” —not police brutality. “Progressives” like Ishmael Reed and Harry Edwards joined in denouncing Black youth as beyond hope, and demanded they be locked up to protect the rest of the Black community (i.e., better-off working, middle, and upper class Black people).

Meanwhile, California state laws were being passed—with Democratic backing as well as Republicans—targeting Black and Latino youth in the name of a “war on gangs” and “war on drugs.” One was the 1988 “Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act” (STEP), which made alleged membership in a “criminal gang” a felony. Such laws, along with the much harsher punishment for crack as opposed to powder cocaine, led to ensuring people of color and the poor were locked up much more frequently and for longer than white people—and all this was a big part of the explosion of mass incarceration, disproportionately targeting Black and Latino youth. To this day, with an average population of 17,000 to 20,000, the LA County Jail is the largest jail system in America.

1991-92:  The Rodney King Beating and the LA Rebellion3

The night of March 3, 1991, Rodney King, a young Black man, was pulled over for speeding. LAPD and Highway Patrol officers flooded to the scene and over the next few minutes, at least seven mercilessly beat and tased King, crushing the bones in his face, breaking his teeth and ankle, and causing numerous lacerations and internal injuries. Over a dozen other cops stood around laughing and encouraging the beating.

Within minutes after the four cops who beat Rodney King were acquitted, people began gathering all over LA, hundreds at LAPD headquarters. Protests erupted in many neighborhoods. Here Parker Center is in flames. (Photo: AP)

Authorities mobilized the largest domestic military operation since the 1960s: nearly 20,000 police, National Guard troops, federal military troops, FBI, Border Patrol, and others. (Photo: AP)

By the time it ended, the 1992 LA Rebellion was the largest urban rebellion in U.S. history. Some 63 people had been killed, 10 by law enforcement—nearly 80 percent Black and Latino. Some 12,000 people were arrested. (Photo: AP)

A resident across the street videotaped the whole assault, and the tape was repeatedly shown on TV.  Despite police claims that the video didn’t tell the real story, public anger was so intense that prosecutors were forced to charge four of the white officers with excessive force to try to contain things.

A year later the four officers went on trial. The trial had been moved to the virtually all-white Simi Valley. There was a widespread feeling that this time the brutality and the treatment Black people continually faced was caught on tape for all to see, and that the officers had to be found guilty. But on April 29, 1992, the Simi Valley jury verdict acquitting them of all charges was broadcast on live TV.

Within minutes, people began gathering all over LA, hundreds at LAPD headquarters.  Protests erupted in many neighborhoods, but the gathering at Florence and Normandie became a flashpoint that propelled the whole uprising.  By that evening, fires were burning throughout LA and protests were jumping off across the country. Over the next three days, the authorities mobilized the largest domestic military operation since the 1960s, with nearly 20,000 police, National Guard troops, federal military troops, FBI, Border Patrol, and others on the streets. By the time it ended, the 1992 LA Rebellion had become the largest urban rebellion in U.S. history. Some 63 people had been killed, 10 by law enforcement—nearly 80 percent Black and Latino. Some 12,000 people were arrested.

From 1992 to Today: Cosmetic Changes, Same Racist, Murdering LAPD

Over the 27 years since the LA rebellion, various commissions, different police chiefs, and many calls for and declarations of change, the LAPD has continued to be the same savage machine of murder, brutality and repression.  A few examples:

  • Stolen Lives: Killed by Law Enforcement, published in 1999, was able to document 197 police killings in the LA area in the 1990s (some by LA Sheriffs and other smaller police departments, but most by the LAPD.)
  • 1999 Rampart scandal.  In 1999, it came to light that the Rampart Division of the LAPD and its elite “anti-gang” CRASH unit (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) had been terrorizing the residents of Pico Union, a largely Spanish-speaking area.  This included murder, attempted murder, brutality, robbery, extortion, drug dealing, and routinely framing and convicting thousands of people based on lies, planted “evidence,” and trumped-up charges—including Javier Francisco Ovando, a 19-year-old Honduran immigrant who was wantonly shot four times, paralyzed for life, then convicted of attempted murder!  Over 70 CRASH cops were involved, but only four were put on trial. The trial exposed some of their gruesome crimes and the jury found them guilty.  Instead of carrying out the verdict, LA Superior Court Judge Josephine Connor threw out the verdict and exonerated the pigs!
  • 2002: When former NYPD head William Bratton became chief he brought “Stop and Frisk” from NYC to LA with a vengeance.  The number of stops went from 587,000 in 2002 to 875,000 in 2008.
  • 2009-2018: Charlie Beck and more police murder.   Beck was featured as a “reformist” chief by Obama at a White House meeting. In reality, on his watch from 2015 to 2017, the LAPD had the highest number of people killed by police in any city in the whole country.The LAPD killed 19 in 2015, 20 in 2016, and 17 in 2017.
  • Political persecution of revolutionary and anti-fascist activists: 11 members of Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club were criminally charged for engaging in or supporting nonviolent civil disobedience and political protests from September 2017 through March 2018. This included holding banners across the 101 Freeway saying “Trump/Pence Must Go!” and disrupting Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at UCLA. Some of the dangerous elements of the prosecution include two Refuse Fascism activists being singled out for “criminal conspiracy; involvement of LAPD’s “Major Crimes/Anti-Terrorism Division,” which has history of targeting progressive and radical movements; use of  a “confidential informant” to spy on and illegally record members of Refuse Fascism and Revolution Club.

THE CRIMINALS: The entire LAPD, from 1869 until today, all the cops listed above, and all the politicians—Democrats and Republicans—and media who backed them.

THE ALIBI: See “In Their Own Words” sidebar


All in all, the LAPD is a textbook illustration of Bob Avakian’s point in BAsics:

The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.


Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Verso 1990), in particular chapter five, “The Hammer and the Rock”

“A History of the LAPD, 1900-1965: Historic Racial and Class Repression throughout the 20th Century Leading to the Creation of SWAT by the LAPD following the Watts Unrest of 1965,” Clinton Clad-Johnson, Senior Thesis for Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones

The Raid That Still Haunts L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2001

Edward J. Escobar, “The Unintended Consequences of the Carceral State: Chicana/o Political Mobilization in Post–World War II America,” Journal of American History, June 2015

American Crime Case #66: The “War on Drugs,” 1970 to, March 6, 2017

John Johnson, Jr., “How Los Angeles Covered up the Massacre of 17 Chinese,” LA Weekly, March 10, 2011

American Crime Case #67: 1848-1900: Brutal Exploitation and Ruthless Oppression of Chinese Immigrants,, February 13, 2017


1. During the subsequent trial of the Panthers arrested, it was revealed that two undercover LAPD informants (Melvin “Cotton” Smith and Louis Tackwood) had been in the BPP headquarters and had given the LAPD the layout of the office and fabricated “intelligence” than military weapons were being stored there, which was used to justify the assault.

The LA chapter of the Black Panther Party was subjected to more police assaults than any other chapter nationwide.  They included:

  • The January 1, 1969, murder of Captain Franco (Frank Diggs) in Long Beach.
  • On January 9, 1969, John Huggins and Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, BPP leaders in Los Angeles, were gunned down by members of the US Organization (United Slaves), a reactionary nationalist group led by Ron Karenga, during a meeting at UCLA to discuss forming a Black Studies Department. Their assassinations were a result of COINTELPRO actions against the BPP. It is not known if the LAPD played a role. See, American Crime Case #42: COINTELPRO—The FBI Targets the Black Freedom Struggle, 1956-1971,, April 30, 2018
  • In May 1969, the LAPD carried out 56 arrests of 42 Panthers.
  • On September 8, 1969, an armed LAPD unit raided the Panthers’ free-breakfast-for-children program in Watts.
  • Panther Bruce Richards was wounded and Panther Walter Toure Poke was killed in a shoot-out with the LAPD on October 10, 1969.
  • Geronimo Pratt was arrested in 1970 and then convicted for the murder of a Santa Monica schoolteacher on trumped up charges, based on a testimony of an LAPD informant, and held in prison for over two decades.
  • In November 1970, the LAPD raided the LA BPP’s childcare center, holding guns on the children and beating up the Panther in charge. [back]

2. Then-California governor Ronald Reagan said he hoped there would be an outbreak of botulism among the poor who received the food. [back]

3. The LA4.  In the aftermath of the rebellion, one of the main ways the authorities tried to go after it was the prosecution of the LA4—four young Black men charged with the attack on white truck driver Reginald Denny at Florence and Normandie. While the judge, prosecutor and mainstream media tried to railroad them to prison, the jury would not go along and delivered not guilty verdicts on nearly all of the charges. In a heroic development, when Denny himself took the stand he called for no jail time and expressed some real understanding of what led to the rebellion. The Los Angeles Times quoted Denny: “Everyone needs respect…. And as soon as you take a group of people, and put them on a shelf and say they don’t count. Let me tell you, they count in a big way…. It’s hard saying what those guys have gone through.” The RCP joined with a wide range of people to mount a campaign to defend the LA4. “Free the LA4+! Defend the Los Angeles Rebellion!” and “No More Racist Pig Brutality!” were two of the slogans.  “20th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Rebellion—It’s Right to Rebel Against Injustice!“, April 22, 2012 [back]




amerikan crime: Case #19: The LAPD Rampart’s Scandal 1996-2000 Police Murder, Terror and Frame-ups—and the Conspiracy to Get the Cops Off


In 1999, it was revealed that the Rampart Division of the LAPD and its elite “anti-gang” CRASH unit (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) had been carrying out widespread, vicious brutality in the oppressed, largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood of Pico Union that they patrolled.

Dozens of these CRASH cops roamed this small area in street clothes and unmarked cars, sporting tattoos of a skull with a cowboy hat and a pair of aces and eights (“dead-man’s hand”).1 They gave each other plaques for their “heroic” service, which was exposed as a mountain of crimes against the people including murder, attempted murder, brutality, robbery, extortion, drug dealing, and routinely framing and convicting thousands of people based on lies, planted “evidence,” and trumped-up charges—including against those they had just shot or murdered.

Ramparts Scandal 4 in court

The trial of the four CRASH cops was a damning example of this system at work. The whole charade, including the lack of a vigorous prosecution, was orchestrated to let the cops off. But then the jury went off script and returned a guilty verdict against three of the four cops. LA Superior Court Judge Josephine Connor responded by throwing out the jury verdict! Then in 2008, the reputedly liberal 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals even awarded $15 million to those very three cops who had been convicted.  (Credit: Wikicommons)

In 1998, one of these CRASH cops—Rafael Pérez—was caught repeatedly stealing and dealing pounds of cocaine evidence from the LAPD property division. As part of his plea deal, Pérez admitted some of his other crimes and testified against other Rampart CRASH cops, implicating more than “70 officers, including police supervisors who committed corrupt acts or allowed them to occur.”2

Because of the huge outrage from the exposé, the powers-that-be were forced to put four of the Rampart cops—out of many more involved—on trial. Some of the cases that surfaced during the Rampart scandal included:

  • The murder of Juan Saldana. José Perez was standing in front of his apartment house in the 600 block of Shatto Place. When he saw several carloads of cops roll up, he walked inside his building. The CRASH police charged in, shooting at residents. José Perez was shot in the back with no warning. Juan Manuel Saldana was killed with multiple gunshots in another part of the building. A third man, Salvador Ochoa, was seriously wounded as he walked down the stairs with his children.

“Instead of calling an ambulance, the officers planted a gun alongside Saldana and calmly concocted a story…. By the time an ambulance arrived, it was too late for Saldana, who died soon after being taken to the hospital. Afterwards, the officers celebrated at Short Stop, a sports bar near Dodger Stadium.”3

Later, as he was recovering from his wounds José Perez found out that his friend Juan Saldana was dead. He also learned that the police claimed he was armed and that they were charging him with his friend’s murder. He recalled, “I got shot in the back and my homeboy got killed. They have to make a story out of it. I didn’t have a gun. I was on the floor, bleeding and they handcuffed me. I wasn’t even running. I was walking. They said I was pointing a gun at them. But I didn’t even have a gun. Neither me or my homeboy ever shot a gun.”

The chief of police declared the killing of Juan Manuel Saldana and the wounding of José Perez and Salvador Ochoa “justified.”4

  • The crippling of Javier Francisco Ovando. On October 12, 1996 Javier Francisco Ovando, a 19-year-old Honduran immigrant, was walking down the hallway of an apartment building in the Pico-Union when two cops, Rafael Perez and Nino Durden, stopped him, forced him to his knees, handcuffed him and shot him. They then planted a Tec-22 semiautomatic beside him that they had “filed off the serial number so it could be used as a ‘throwaway’ gun in emergencies.” The cops shot Ovando a total of four times in the neck and chest, then in the head, paralyzing him for life.

The cops claimed that they were in a vacant apartment when Ovando burst in and pointed two guns at them. The police said they fired in self-defense. Based on the cops’ shameless lies, Javier Ovando, who was wheeled into court on a gurney, was convicted of attempted murder of a police officer. A judge declared that Ovando showed no remorse for his “premeditated crime”—and sentenced the young man to be locked away for 23 years. His public defender said the judge prevented her from putting on a defense.5

  • Setting up the murder of Eric Vega. On November 5, 1996 Rampart CRASH cops Mario Rios and Michael Montoya, picked up 16-year-old Eric Vega, nicknamed on the streets as “Baby Happy.” For a second time, these cops dropped him off at the border of a rival gang’s turf. Moments later, Vega was shot to death. No arrest was ever made even though the shooter had been identified by witnesses and the two cops were never indicted, much less prosecuted.6
  • The beating of Ishmael Jimenez. On February 25, 1998 inside the Rampart police station, CRASH cops Brian Hewitt and Daniel Lujan beat a handcuffed Ishmael Jimenez in the chest and stomach until Jimenez vomited blood.7
  • Forced rape. At least one woman came forward to name two CRASH Division cops who had “forc[ed] her to rent a motel room, where one of the cops had sex with her while the other waited” (i.e. raped her).8

The System Standing Behind the Cops

When some of the atrocities committed by the LAPD’s Rampart Division burst into public view, the system kicked into high gear to cover up the full extent of police criminality and protect the cops.

  • Charges were only brought against 4 out of over 70 Rampart cops who were implicated in crimes against the people. The DA office limited the charges to “conspiracy to obstruct or pervert justice, perjury, and filing false police reports” rather than any serious ones linked to brutality and murder.
  • The trial of the four CRASH cops was a damning example of this system at work. The whole charade, including the lack of a vigorous prosecution, was orchestrated to let the cops off. But then the jury went off script and returned a guilty verdict against three of the four cops. LA Superior Court Judge Josephine Connor responded by throwing out the jury verdict! Then in 2008, the reputedly liberal 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals even awarded $15 million to those very three cops who had been convicted.

Because of this, the full scope of the crimes carried out by the LAPD—just at the Rampart division—has never been revealed. As law professor Erwin Chemerinsky wrote in January 2001 in the LA Times:

The true extent of the Rampart scandal still is not known and it increasingly appears that it never will be known. Essential questions remain: How many officers in the Rampart CRASH unit were involved in the illegal activity? How many officers knew and were complicit by their silence? How high in the chain of command was there involvement or knowledge? To what extent were there similar problems in other CRASH units and other units and divisions? None of the reports on the Rampart scandal have investigated or answered these questions. As a result, it cannot be known how many innocent people remain in prison as a result of police fabrication of evidence and perjury or how many officers remain in the LAPD who should have been disciplined and prosecuted.9

By May 2001, only 58 cops had been brought before the police internal administrative board, with 12 of them suspended, seven resigned and five fired. At least 3,300 people had been convicted on the testimony of 20 cops that were fired or suspended through the scandal, yet only a little over 100 people had their charges dismissed. 10


The many named and unnamed Rampart CRASH cops who directly and routinely terrorized and carried out atrocities against the community.

The entire LAPD, which had rubber-stamped and covered up police crimes against the people, and routinely praised, promoted and gave rewards, honor and respect to those in blue who carried them out for its entire (then) 130-year history.

LAPD Chief Daryl Gates (1979-1992) who created CRASH in 1979. Under Gates, in 1986, the LAPD implemented a “shoot-for-the-head” policy.11

Chief Bernard Parks (1997-2002) who oversaw the Rampart scandal. Parks suppressed evidence, obstructed investigations, and protected the cops by refusing to grant immunity to whistleblowers—thus enforcing the police “code of silence” to cover up their crimes.

LA Mayor Richard Riordon (1993-2001), District Attorney Gil Garcettiand their offices. They presided over the prosecution and imprisonment of Rampart CRASH victims while refusing to prosecute and jail guilty cops.

The courts, judges, police commission, and political officials who went into high gear to minimize and cover up the police criminality exposed during the Rampart’s scandal in order to protect and preserve the role of the police.

Superior Court Judge Josephine Connor who threw out the jury verdict that found three of the four Rampart’s CRASH cops guilty, and the liberal 9thCircuit Federal Court of Appeals which awarded $15 million to the cops whose conviction Judge Connor threw out.

The bourgeois press/media which consistently demonized “gang members” as subhuman and lionized the LAPD (and the police generally) to justify violent repression, even as the Rampart scandal was unfolding. Typical of this, the LA Times wrote in August 1997:

Weary residents and merchants in the gang-plagued Pico-Union neighborhood were cautiously optimistic Monday that something finally will be done about the 18th Street Gang, especially after authorities held a high-profile news conference to say they are going after the gang….


The LAPD’s own Board of Inquiry produced a report titled the “Rampart Area Corruption Incident.” It blamed the crimes revealed during the scandal on poor management by middle and lower level police officials, mediocrity in the LAPD rank and file, and a few rogue cops.


Immigrants from Central America and Mexico were concentrated in the Pico Union area, which had “the highest population density of any urban area west of the Mississippi, officially 36,000 people per square mile.”12

With this influx of desperately poor, alienated and possibly rebellious migrants, those in power faced an added necessity for new means of social control. Immigrants lived (and continue to live) in circumstances where they find themselves desperately struggling to survive in the U.S. And where they are viciously oppressed, exploited and pushed into the shadows. The immigrant youth were thrown into schools where they barely spoke the language. Surrounded by LA’s spreading gang culture and feeling the need to protect themselves, many of these immigrant youths began to form their own gangs.

This contradiction of controlling this population became more acute for the system’s rulers in the 1990s, when the Pico Union swelled with immigrants, which included indigenous people from Mexico but also many fleeing the massacres and destruction of the U.S. proxy wars in Central American countries of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Some of these super-exploited immigrants had previously taken part in resistance against U.S. domination in their home countries and actively rebelled in the 1992 LA Rebellion. For the rulers, the savage crimes and repression of their police that were revealed during the Rampart scandal were necessary to suppress and maintain social control over this community.

The Rampart scandal is an illustration of the fact that the job of the police is to protect and serve the capitalist-imperialist system, and in particular to repress and terrorize those it oppresses and exploits—especially those it considers potential threats to its rule.

1. “One Bad Cop,” Lou Cannon, New York Times Magazine, October 1, 2000.  [back]

2. “Rampart scandal,” July 8, 2016.  [back]

3. “One Bad Cop,” op. cit.  [back]

4. “Planting of ‘Evidence’ by Police: The Notorious Case of LAPD Rampart Division,”, April 11, 2015.  [back]

5. “One Bad Cop,” op. cit.  [back]

6. “Officers Linked to Death of teen,” LA Times, December 8, 2002.  [back]

7. Rampart Scandal TimelineFrontline, PBS.  [back]

8.“Two Rampart Officers Were Disciplined in Sex Case”, LA Times, Nov. 5, 1999.  [back]

9. “For Answers on Rampart We Have to Ask Questions,” Erwin Chemerinsky, LA Times, January 23, 2001.  [back]

10. “LA Ramparts Scandal: Still No Justice for the People,”, September 16, 2001.  [back]

11. “’Shoot for the Head’ Policy Is Wrong : New LAPD Training Is a Particular Danger to Minorities,”LA Times op-ed, December 8, 2008.  [back]

12. Violence and Nonviolence: Pathways to Understanding, Gregg Barak, SAGE Publications, 2003.  [back]