Question for LAPD: To Reform or Not to Reform?

Question for LAPD: To Reform or Not to Reform?

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 Just the other night, I was changing the channel around when I saw an episode of the Spanish-language show "Alarma TV." For those unfamiliar, it is a half hour show hosted by a guy and girl and featuring all types of videos taken by amateurs.

The videos can be anything from dead bodies at a crime scene to animals falling victim to abuse to hot-looking women posing in lingerie. The episode I saw showed footage of a man wielding a knife at a group of three or four police officers. Looking at the neighborhood, those at the scene, and the uniforms the officers were wearing (which included baseball caps), it was likely it was filmed somewhere in a Latin American country.

The officers pepper-sprayed the man before whacking him on the arm with their billy clubs. The man was quickly apprehended without any injuries — let alone deaths.

Something like this reminds all of us living in Los Angeles of a recent incident that took place in our very own backyards, in the densely packed Westlake distirct just west of Downtown, an enclave of immigrations from Mexico, Central America and Asia. The local incident also revolved around a man wielding a knife, this time at LAPD officers.

The result in Los Angeles was deadly. To me, it was also both avoidable and unsurprising. Rather than using pepper spray or billy clubs, like the officers in the amateur video did, LAPD officers put not one but two bullets into this man's head, killing him instantly. Sure, someone (perhaps even me) will ask "What was he doing with a knife in the first place" or "Was this man not asking for trouble?" But is it not the LAPD's job to see that an incident like this ends on a positive note?

Were these officers out of pepper spray? Were their billy clubs not on hand?

I also suppose that someone is going to tell me that these officers were not given the excellent training like those officers in the video? The "l did what I was trained to do" and the "I was not trained properly" excuses are very popular defenses among busted police officers nationwide.

Since this killing, we have seen protests, fires, vandalized police cars, and of course, silly press conferences where the public is suckered into believing that the LAPD, its chief, the mayor, and other political leaders really care and that a thorough investigation is promised to all.

Within 24 hours of this press conference, a town hall meeting took place where LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was already defending the actions of the officers involved in the shooting but was still promising a thorough investigation (SOUNDS LIKE HE ALREADY KNOWS THE RESULTS). The chief would immediately be hit with boos and jeers, which likely went through one ear and out the other.

As for the always-cowardly Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.....he was not in attendance (must have been attending some expensive event that night for free).

Meanwhile, this is the third on-duty shooting for the main officer involved in the shooting, LAPD Officer Frank Hernandez. It also appears that this officer is currently being sued by an individual named Joseph Wolf, who sustained an injury in an earlier shooting involving Hernandez.

According to Mr Wolf's story, he was awakened by the sound of a helicopter flying over his neighborhood one night, went outside to check on the situation, and was shot by Hernandez, The cop apparently claimed that Mr. Wolf was armed.

This latest LAPD killing is nothing shocking to the people of Los Angeles. And the results of its investigation will be no different, as well.

Remember the little girl held hostage by her father who ended up being killed by an LAPD cop?

The result? The officer got to keep his job.

What about the killing of young Devin Brown, shot while on a joyride?

The result?

The officer got to keep his job.

What about the killing of a mentally-ill black lady who wielded a screwdriver at officers?

The result? The officers got to keep their jobs.

And what about way back when a tow truck driver was killed by an LAPD motorcycle officer?

The result?

The officer got to keep his job.

In case all are not aware, Villaraigosa has already hailed the officers involved in the Westlake shooting as "heroes" (a comment he stood by when recently asked by KCAL 9 reporter Dave Lopez). The mayor then refused to respond when asked by Mr. Lopez if he would appear at another town hall meeting. Following his brief moment with the reporter, the mayor was seen walking as fast as possible from hecklers and protestors who were angered by his words. So why even waste tax dollars on this investigation when the mayor already knows the results? You might as well throw these officers back on the streets. Oh wait.....let them at least enjoy their vacations.

This is the same Villaraigosa who ran away from reporters who wanted to question him about the affair he was having with Spanish-language reporter Mirthala Salinas. He refused an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who wanted to discuss the murder of Jamiel Shaw by an undocumented immigrant. Villaraigosa was also seen on camera avoiding channel 11 reporter Bill Schwada, who wanted to do a follow up on him accepting free concert and Lakers tickets.

The thing that gets me is how it is mostly politicians — and not the LAPD — who are always trying to convince us that unity between the department and the community will return once the smoke clears on these incidents.

When things calmed down following the Rodney King beatings and the LA riots, we were suckered into believing that unity between the LAPD and the community was upon us only to be proven false, thanks in part to the Rampart scandal.

Once things calmed down following the Rampart scandal, we were suckered into believing that this same unity was upon us — only to be proven false thanks in part to the killing of Devin Brown.

Once things calmed down following Devin Brown's killing, we were once again suckered into believing that this same unity was upon us only to once again be proven false thanks in part to the MacArthur Park Melee.

Once things calmed down following the melee, we were once again suckered into believing that this same unity was upon us only to once again be proven false, thanks in part to this latest killing.

And yes, once things calm down following this killing, we will be once again be suckered into believing that this same unity will be upon us — only to once again be proven false due to another LAPD incident.

It is times like these where I see politicians as nothing more than a bunch of phonies who are doing nothing more than "trying" to look good to the community they serve only for the sole purpose of luring in key endorsements and votes next election time

Someone tell me I'm wrong!

By now, someone reading this is looking at me as someone who hates the LAPD with a passion.

This is totally false.

What you will not hear from your average thug or gangbanger is something you will hear from me......I do believe that there are great officers within the department. But, unfortunately, finding one is like finding a needle in a haystack. It is sad to say how we have all encountered an arrogant LAPD officer or two who thought that as long as they have a gun, a badge, and a union that no politician wants to upset, they could say or do whatever they want to us.

Let's remember that you don't have to be some shaved-head, tattooed, uneducated, and/or unemployed individual with a criminal record in order to fall victim to this (trust me, I am the total opposite of this image and have fallen victim to LAPD harassment in the past). I also think I speak for many when I say that we all grew up with someone during our teen years who once said they wanted to be an LAPD officer simply because they wanted to "kick someone's ass" or because the badge, gun, and uniform would "lure more women".

So, yes, I do believe that there are officers out there who joined the police force for the love of helping the people and the communities of Los Angeles. But once again, finding these officers is like finding a needle in a haystack.

I do understand that LAPD officers have a risky job, and it does break my heart every time I hear of a fallen LAPD officer who leaves behind a family. But I suppose that if four white officers are seen beating an unarmed black man, or if a group of Rampart division officers are terrorizing the community they should be serving, we are to accept their actions simply because they put their lives on the line everyday? My above comments are not against LAPD in general but against those officers who choose to tarnish the image of the LAPD.

Unfortunately, the police shooting in Westlake is nothing more than a day in the life of a tarnished police department, a phony group of city leaders, and the Angelenos who once again must wonder who are the ones they fear most in their neighborhoods.....the thugs and gangbangers or the LAPD.

William Gallegos is a writer for LatinoLA.