Revolutionary Worker #1182, January 12, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org
Imagine a city where cops shoot at people so often that most of the time the shootings don't even make the news any more. A city where the head cop praises such shootings as positive illustrations of pro- active police reacting to suspicious behavior.
A city where the police join up with half-dozen other federal, state and local agencies to carry out search-and-destroy missions in homeless encampments--brutalizing hundreds and busting so many that they have to hold the arrested in buses because they've run out of jail space.
A city where the youth are publicly branded a "disease." Where spray-painting on a building gets you felony charges and hard time in prison. Where jaywalking or selling trinkets on the street without a license makes you an enemy of the state. And where the authorities have amped the whole thing up with a declared war on so-called "gang members" in the name of fighting "domestic terrorists."
It's Robocop, Minority Report, and Training Day wrapped up into a single horror movie. Welcome to the "new world order" of LAPD Chief William Bratton and his army in blue.
* * * * *
On October 28, 2002, William Bratton was sworn in as new LAPD chief. His selection reveals the thinking among important sections of the authorities about the kind of police-state program they need and want in Los Angeles. It's another big component in the police-state apparatus being established throughout the country: law enforcement on both the local and national levels is being given broad new powers, and laws that drastically restrict civil liberties are being put into place.
In Bratton's first month in office, LAPD cops opened fire on people eight separate times, murdering five and wounding three others. They've killed at least two more since then, including a man that died after a patrol car slammed into him at high speed early one morning and crushed him to death. Meanwhile, Bratton has cold-bloodedly declared that he "isn't concerned about aggressive cops." He has barely even bothered to lie about doing any investigations about the series of police killings because, he says, he sees no problem here.
In one recent police shooting, two youths were killed after cops fired into the car the youths were riding in on their way home from a party. When friends and family protested the killings by holding up a sign saying "Bratton, control your cops" in front of the police headquarters, Bratton answered, "Control your kids"!
When the District Attorney's office announced it was dropping all of the 82 remaining criminal cases against cops stemming from the notorious Rampart scandal, Bratton didn't even pretend to be concerned about this. Bratton has been silent on the LAPD murders, beatings, and frame-ups that were brought to light through that scandal. In fact, he's openly hinting about bringing back the CRASH "anti-gang" units that were at the heart of the scandal!
Bratton and the"War on Terrorism"
Bratton has racheted things up to new levels with a call for a "war on gangs" and ominous references to so-called gang members as "homeland terrorists" who are a "threat to national security." Bratton's words echo the justifications for police-state measures that have spewed out of Washington since the September 11 events. And his "war on gangs" promises even more intense repression against the basic people.
Bratton's call for "war" was accompanied by the promotion of LAPD captain Michael Hillmann to the position of deputy chief and the Department's new "gang czar." Hillmann is a 35-year LAPD veteran with a long career of brutal assignments, including as head of SWAT and commander of the LAPD's Anti-Terrorist Division. Hillmann has promised an increased number of "field contacts"--cops stopping people on the street to question and frisk them.
Bratton has called for adding at least 3,000 more cops to the force, a 33% increase over currently authorized levels, and says "it isn't possible to know at this time" how many more cops will be needed.
LAPD has also begun redeploying hundreds of officers to carry out military-style sweeps in oppressed communities and is updating information on tens of thousands of youth listed in the state-wide "CAL-Gang" data base.
Targeting Political Activists
In addition to the assault on the youth in the name of "war on gangs," Bratton's talk of "domestic terrorism" opens the door for a massive increase in police operations against political activists and organizations.
Bratton plans to set up a "homeland security bureau" that will oversee and coordinate the LAPD's various intelligence and "counter-terrorism" activities. Bratton announced this plan while he was in Israel meeting with Israeli police and political leaders to learn about their "counter- terrorism" measures. LAPD's new "homeland security bureau" will apparently be headed by John Miller, co-host of the 20/20 TV show. Miller, who is touted as an "anti-terrorism expert," served as Bratton's chief press aide while Bratton headed the New York Police Department in the 1990s.
While the details of what the new bureau will do are not yet clear, the L.A. Times linked the plan for the bureau to a report on L.A.'s "anti-terrorism preparedness" put out two months earlier by L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss. This report calls for increased integration of LAPD spying operations with FBI, INS, and other federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The Weiss report recommends the doubling the size of LAPD's Anti-Terrorist Division--which is responsible for spying on, infiltrating, and going after political activists and organizations--including the addition of 30 officers "dedicated to full-time surveillance activities."
In a sign of other steps that may be taken in the period ahead, the Weiss report calls for city funding for a "full-time terrorism tip-line" where citizens can report "suspicious activity" that will go into centralized data bases. The report praises the Amber Alerts--the flashing of alerts about missing children on overhead freeway signs--as something that "could be valuable in the event that authorities are looking for specific individuals, information, or vehicles."
Bratton will also oversee further integration of the LAPD into the whole national policing structure. He and L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn held a press conference with U.S. Attorney Debra Yang to announce plans for the assignment of at least 40 additional DEA and ATF agents to the L.A. area. Bratton and Hahn are going to Washington, DC, in January to meet with Bush administration officials to seek further federal assistance in their "war on gangs." Bratton justified the trip by saying that the feds "need to get preoccupied with the internal war on terrorism as well." Bratton wants big increases in the involvement of the FBI, ATF, and other federal agencies with the LAPD: more federal wiretaps and other surveillance technology, informants, and undercover officers; the filing of RICO conspiracy cases and other criminal charges by the U.S. Attorney's office; massive federal funding to further beef up LAPD.
Everything about Bratton--from the arrogant swagger to the smug self-righteousness and the vicious calls for going after the "scum" that are "terrorizing" society--reminds you of George Bush or John Ashcroft. And no wonder, since Bratton's plans for the LAPD are a part of the whole program of wars abroad and Big-Brother clampdowns at home in post-9/11 Amerika.
A Long and Vicious Rap Sheet
Bratton began his police career with the Boston Police Department in 1970. But it was as head of the New York Transit Police and then the NYPD in the 1990s that he really made his mark. He declared that the New York police would "take back the city, street by street." He is widely credited by the bourgeoisie with slashing crime rates in New York during that period. But crime was already falling nationwide at that time. And the essence of his program was a wholesale assault on the basic people in the name of "restoring public order."
He formed a friendship with George Kelling, a reactionary policing expert who co-wrote an article in the early 1980s entitled Fixing Broken Windows that has come to be considered a foundation of "community-based policing" in the U.S. The essence of the "broken windows" theory is that if small-scale crime and disorder is tolerated--if "broken windows" are left unrepaired and those who broke them aren't tracked down and punished--then big-time crime and the wholesale breakdown of public order will inevitable follow. Based on this theory, Bratton and the New York police launched a vicious war on the basic people, targeting so-called quality-of-life crimes. (See sidebar.)
Bratton left the NYPD in 1996 after a dispute with Mayor Giuliani but has continued to play a crucial role for the ruling class. He is a graduate of the FBI National Executive Institute. He formed his own security agency and has been a prominent figure in police think tanks.
In February of 2000 Bratton joined Kroll Associates, one of the leading security firms in the world and an important and growing force in the U.S. governments post-9/11 "war on terrorism." Kroll is headquartered in New York with offices in nearly 70 cities on six continents, including in downtown L.A. It does everything from investigations and intelligence--like investigating Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's overseas financial network after the 1991 Gulf War for the Kuwaiti royal family--to providing security for U.S. officials in Haiti and training police officers in Kosovo and Indonesia.
Kroll CEO Michael Cherkasky spoke to corporate leaders at the "CEO2CEO" conference six weeks after 9/11, echoing the Bush adminstration with statements like "The war will be long-term" and "It will be worldwide."
And Kroll is now intimately involved in helping to forge the LAPD into a major weapon in all this.
Kroll and the LAPD
LAPD's Rampart scandal erupted in 1999 when the L.A. Times began publishing a series of articles exposing the operations of Rafael Pérez, an anti-gang officer in the Rampart CRASH unit. Pérez had been caught stealing cocaine from an LAPD evidence locker to help supply his personal drug network, and in an effort to save his ass, he began to blab. Details began to emerge about CRASH--how Pérez and his CRASH buddies had carried out cold-blooded executions and attempted executions of people in the Pico-Union neighborhood (where Rampart is based), routinely planted evidence and lied in court to frame innocent people and send them to prison, systematically harassed and brutalized the youth, and committed a host of other crimes. And implicit in the exposures was that all this was going on beyond CRASH and throughout the LAPD.
Let's be clear: The ruling class has no problem with the systematic use of terror and intimidation by the police against the basic people. The clearest evidence of this is the fact that virtually nothing has been done about ANY of the criminality exposed in the Rampart scandal .
At least 70 cops were implicated in the scandal and nearly 10,000 criminal cases were reexamined for planted evidence, fabricated police reports, and "testi-lying" by cops. In the end, a couple dozen cops were fired or resigned, but only Pérez and his former partner served any jail time. And only a little over 100 cases based on arrests by the cops implicated in the scandal were dropped--a measly 1% of the Rampart cases that had come under suspicion.
As far as the authorities are concerned, the main issue in the Rampart scandal has been the police corruption that it exposed. At a time when the ruling class is instituting increased control over the masses and needs disciplined and loyal police forces to carry out this suppression, they are concerned about "crews" of cops who are into narrow self-aggrandizement and who want to profit from the criminal activity they are supposed to control. Not only is there worry about the loyalty of cops who are more interested in their own self-interest than in carrying out the larger agenda of the system, but there is also concern that cop corruption may create increased contempt and disregard for "the law" in neighborhoods of the basic people as the masses, especially the youth, conclude that all cops are corrupt and that the entire "justice system" is out to railroad them to prison.
So at the end of 2000, after it became apparent that the LAPD itself was more interested in covering up the corruption than in rooting it out, powerful sections of the ruling class forced the LAPD to agree to a Consent Decree that compels it to implement a number of "reforms" of its operations, monitored under the direction of a federal judge.
Six months later Kroll Associates was selected as the monitor group, with CEO Cherkasky as the head monitor and Bill Bratton playing a key role on the monitor team. Kroll's contract means it will play this federal oversight role for at least five years. And now, Kroll will be working hand-in-glove with Bratton in his capacity as chief of the department.
Back in Uniform Again
At some point in 2002, sections of the ruling class decided that then LAPD Chief Bernard Parks was unable to lead the department where they feel it needs to go. There were questions about his willingness to carry out the Consent Decree. At the same time, officer morale was at an all-time low. It reached the point where some sections of the rank-and-file were openly defying Parks--like the cops who circulated statements saying that if they died, they didn't want Parks to even show up at their funerals. Large numbers of officers were taking early retirement or leaving for other police agencies. The LAPD had such difficulty hiring new cops that some recruitment classes at the police academy had to be canceled, and the LAPD was nearly 1,000 officers below its authorized strength of 9,000.
The search for a new chief began, and Bratton quickly resigned from the Kroll monitoring team and announced his candidacy. A few months later he was tapped for the job. The various backroom dealing and discussion that no doubt went into the decision to choose Bratton are not known--but clearly there are reasons why the authorities would turn to someone like him.
Bratton comes with important ruling class credentials--first and foremost, his command over the brutal assault on the people of New York while he headed the NYPD in the '90s. His insider role as one of the Kroll Associates "monitors" before becoming LAPD chief also makes him someone that the authorities feel they can count on to enforce the federal Consent Decree. And they welcome his "media savvy"--which has been on display in his campaign to rally the support of backward sections of the population while at the same time working to win over sections of more progressive middle class forces with promises that the "bad old days" of LAPD are gone and that policing will be done "respectfully, lawfully and constitutionally."
L.A. is the second largest city in the country, and a major financial, political and cultural "citadel" in the U.S. empire. The L.A. regions economy is larger than the economies of most countries in the world. Major elements of the U.S. imperialist "new world order" are concentrated in L.A., and the imperialists depend on L.A. to serve as an important cornerstone of U.S. global domination. At the same time, however, the greater L.A. region is home to millions of people who have come to hate what that empire means--and who shook not only L.A., but the whole U.S. empire, to its core when they rose up in rebellion after the 1992 acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King.
The police brutality, racist national oppression, and poverty that led to the L.A. Rebellion are even worse 10 years later, and the period ahead promises even harsher conditions. Thousands of people on welfare assistance will reach the end of their allowable benefits early in 2003 and be cut off completely. The L.A. County health care system is in shambles, with many clinics and even whole hospital operations slated to be shut down. And the authorities are acutely aware of the potential for further unrest and resistance among the people.
As RCP Chairman Bob Avakian has pointed out in relation to the "war on terrorism" and the accompanying domestic repressive agenda since 9/11, the imperialists "have seized on September 11 to push this full throttle, to clamp down on any forces or sections of society they think might already be in opposition and to prepare the basis to clamp down much more forcefully and broadly on society as a whole and to create a whole repressive and intimidating atmosphere where even to raise questions or dissent has been called traitorous or giving aid and comfort to the terrorists."
The U.S. power structure is counting on LAPD to play an important role in this repressive agenda, and William Bratton has been chosen to help oversee and direct the clampdown in L.A. The challenge for everyone who hates what Bratton and his whole class have in store for the people of the world is to prevent him and his class from succeeding.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)