The beating death of Tyre Nichols has renewed calls for reforming the police. But can anything really change?
It was just over a year ago that a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot Michael Brown. His death and those of other African Americans at the hands of law enforcement put policing practices back in the national spotlight. Investigative journalist Joe Domanick says American policing is in a state of crisis. In a new book, he focuses on the Los Angeles Police Department, beginning with the beating of Rodney King and the lack of police accountability that helped spark the L.A. riots. Domanick tells us how police departments across the country can learn from transformative changes made in L.A.
- Joe Domanick Investigative journalist and associate director of John Jay College's Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the City University of New York; author of "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing," among other books.
Read A Featured Excerpt
Excerpted from Blue: The LAPD and the Battles to Redeem American Policing by Joe Domanick. Copyright © 2015 by Joe Domanick. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Journalist Joe Domanick has been covering the police for decades. In his new book, he writes about the L.A. police department and its history of corruption, brutality, racism and lack of accountability. The issues are relevant today as police practices in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York and elsewhere bring urgent calls for reform. The author argues police departments across the country can learn from the transformative changes made in L.A.
MS. DIANE REHMHis book is titled, "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle To Redeem American Policing." Author Joe Domanick joins me in the studio. He is associate director of John Jay College's Center on Media, Crime and Justice as the City University of New York. I'm sure many of you will want to join us. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Joe Domanick, it's good to meet you.
MR. JOE DOMANICKMy pleasure. Great to meet you, too.
REHMThank you. Joe, take us back to the '80s and '90s in Los Angeles. How bad was crime then?
DOMANICKWell, crime was very, very high, just like it was high everywhere in the country. It was extraordinarily high in New York City and extraordinarily high in Los Angeles due to the crack wars and the battle among gangs to -- for who was going to distribute the crack cocaine. And it was very, very difficult a time in Los Angeles, particularly if you were a poor person living in an African-American ghetto or in a poor Latino barrio.
DOMANICKAnd the LAPD reacted in an extraordinarily harsh way. The LAPD has always been a paramilitary organization and the way that they decided to police was to -- we have -- Los Angeles is a city of 450 square miles and ever since 1950, they policed it like a paramilitary organization, a faceless organization that didn't have any attachment to the community and had the mission, like most police departments ever since the fugitive slave laws of the 1850s, of putting the fear of god into black people.
DOMANICKAnd that's how they responded to these crack wars. And in one two-day period, they arrested 25,000 African-American males indiscriminately, just to show...
DOMANICK25,000. It was quite extraordinary.
REHMAnd you talked about the dogs.
DOMANICKUm-hum, yeah. The LAPD used dogs way more than any other city and kept -- and trained them and the reward for them catching somebody or cornering somebody else, a suspect, was that they got to bite the suspect. You know, other police departments trained their dog units to -- they would surround it. They would surround the suspect, but they wouldn't bit him unless it was really necessary so that was just the nature of the LAPD at that time.
DOMANICKAnd in one period, they bit over 900 people and the Philadelphia police department, with kind of a similar population, bit -- I forget how many, but maybe 55 or something like that.
REHMTake us back and remind us what happened to Rodney King back in 1965.
DOMANICKOkay. Oh, so 1990, with -- when Rodney King was somebody who actually had a kind of a -- he wasn't a hard guy or a vicious guy. He actually had kind of a Baby Hughie image on the street and he was a -- he had just gotten out of prison for a $200 robbery that he tried to commit. And the Korean grocer just started beating him up with a stick and drove him out of the store without giving him any money -- without the money.
DOMANICKAnd so he just -- he had just gotten out and he was -- he had downed a can of Old English 800 malt liquor, you know, which is pretty powerful beer, and he hopped into his car with a friend of his and they were driving down a freeway and it was kind of lost in the night, listening to some music and he was speeding. So highway patrol officers tried to pull him over and he took them on a little bit of a chase. And when he finally pulled off the freeway, LAPD officers arrived, four of them, and they took the collar.
DOMANICKBut before that, they beat him unbelievably badly, broke 11 bones in his face. He said at that time, every time he got hit with one of the LAPD's heavy, heavy night sticks, it felt like when you wake up at night and accidently stub your toe on a piece of metal, that's what it felt like.
DOMANICKAnd it was just an outrageous beating and it was caught on tape. It was really the first of all of these incidents now that are being caught on cell phone videos, et cetera.
REHMAnd what did that video tape do as far as the LAPD was concerned and what did it do as far as the public was concerned?
DOMANICKOkay. So it was a cause celeb because the African-American community said, well, this has always been happening, but now, here it is, the proof for all you white people out there that think we're just making it up. And so it was a sure fire conviction because who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the officers who said they didn't do it or are, you know, or your lying eyes, really, you know?
DOMANICKAnd so it was anticipated that they would be found guilty and sentenced. But because the venue had been moved from downtown Los Angeles to a place called Simi Valley, which was also known among cops in Los Angeles as cop heaven, there were, you know, a large majority of the people in this town, which had almost no crime, were police officers. So they found -- they not just found these officers innocent, but they have effectively endorsed their behavior.
DOMANICKAnd there was just -- when that happened, as soon as the verdicts came down, people in South Los Angeles came out and started yelling, "Rodney King, Rodney King." And a crowd quickly developed. The police came. They tried to arrest somebody. The crowd would not allow them to be arrested and the commander at the scene ordered all police to leave the scene and then the looting and the burning started in earnest and it went on for, as you know, two to three days.
REHMWho was in charge of the LAPD at the time?
DOMANICKDaryl Francis Gates, who had been the chief of police since 1979 and Gates, in my opinion, the roots of the '92 riots came directly out of his office. He was autocratic. He thought that the LAPD was his LAPD. He would not do anything the politicians said and the politicians were so afraid to take him on because it was a law and order era that they just let him do what he wanted to do. And what he wanted to do was put the fear of god into everybody -- every African-American, every poor person in the city, really, the LAPD was really, really tough.
REHMAnd so the LAPD were not really accountable to anybody.
DOMANICKThat's right. It was really a quirk in the civil service law that made it very, very difficult to fire a chief of police and at that time, there was -- the chief of police had effectively lifetime tenure.
REHMTell us a little bit about the so-called Rampart scandal.
DOMANICKThe Rampart scandal occurred from about 1997 through 2000. In Los Angeles, we have anti-gang cops and the acronym for the units is CRASH at which tells you how they thought that they should police. And in the Rampart scandal, the Rampart division is located in Pico-Union, just west of downtown, and it's a really impoverished port of entry area for Central American immigrants. Many of them illegal, many coming out of the war in El Salvador and in Nicaragua and in Guatemala.
DOMANICKAnd these powerless people and, you know, there were gangs there and the gangs were violent gangs and what happened was a group -- this unit just became so corrupt at planting evidence, stealing cocaine and selling cocaine, shooting people unaccountably, just everything you could think about a cop being a terrible cop, they were.
REHMJoe Domanick, he's an investigative journalist and the author of the new book titled, "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle To Redeem American Policing."
REHMHere in the studio with me, Joe Domanick. He's an investigative journalist, associate director of John Jay College's Center on Media, Crime and Justice at City University of New York. He is the author of a brand new book. It comes at quite an important time, it seems to me, with everything that's going on in this country now. The title is, "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle To Redeem American Policing." And Joe, before the break, you were talking about how the LAPD was being run, the kind of graph, the kind theft, the kind of illegal activity the police in LA were engaged in, especially preying on the vulnerable, the poor, those involved in gangs taking in their own share of cocaine and other drugs.
DOMANICKI would just like add that I believe that that was an anomaly with the LAPD. The LAPD was not, and has not been for many years, a corrupt police department in that traditional sense of taking money and doing things illegally. They have been absolutely corrupt in holding -- in not holding their offices accountable for beatings, for really bad shootings, for disrespecting the public and for abusing the public.
REHMSo how did the former chief of police finally lose his job?
DOMANICKHe finally lost his job because, number one, people were really starting to be fed up with him. Los Angeles is an interesting city because up until the 1970s, it was really a city of white middle class Protestants and Dust Bowl Okies with small numbers of Mexican-Americans. With the mass migration of people from the United States into Los Angeles and from Central America and Mexico into Los Angeles, it really became a different city.
DOMANICKAnd then, of course, the '60s generation came along. So there were a lot of people saying, we don’t want this kind of police department anymore. There were a lot of immigrants, Jewish American immigrants, too, who were very liberal at the time, who were protesting. So there was this confluence of forces saying, we do not want this kind of police department anymore. And Daryl Gates didn't listen to them at all, you know.
DOMANICKHe was determined that it was going to be 1955 forever.
REHMHis way or the highway.
DOMANICKRight. And so the -- there were so many, so many, Diane, incidents that you would say, I can't believe they did that. I can't believe that they got away with that, that people -- that finally things started to come to a head and they came to a head with Rodney King. Then, came the '92 riots and Daryl Gates failed to respond to the riots. At the peak point when the riots could've been tampered down, Daryl Gates decided he was going to go to a fundraiser in one of the really wealthy parts of Los Angeles.
DOMANICKHe just left his post and South Los Angeles was burning down, just literally burning down. He left his post. There were so many different things, I don't have time to go into them now, that the LAPD failed to do, but the end result was they failed totally to respond to it until the National Guard came -- was called in and finally quelled the riot. So by that time, the feeling was overwhelming that he had to go. He had lost any support he had and, yeah, he was pushed out of office.
REHMSo in 2002, the former New York police department Chief Bill Bratton went to Los Angeles. What kinds of changes was he able to make?
DOMANICKWell, let me talk about Bratton a little bit because, to me, he's the premier reformer, really the only really impactful reformer of the last 25 years in American policing. And what he did was he -- in New York and the New York subway system first in the early '90s and then as NYPD commissioner, he changed the way Americans -- American police forces now police in that they stopped simply responding to calls that a crime had been committed, but philosophically changed to preventing crime.
DOMANICKBill Bratton said, we can -- we need to prevent crime before it happens. So from '94 to '96 when he was commissioner of the NYPD, he really put this into effect and crime dropped dramatically. It was a big turning point for New York City. But he also, at the same time, he introduced really great techniques like CompStat where you map on a computer where crime is occurring and you do it daily. And then, you respond by putting officers where those crimes are happening and stopping those crimes.
DOMANICKAnd you hold the field captains and commanders accountable for whether crime is going up or down. And it's a very -- not how many arrests they make, but whether the crime is going up or down. So this was a great contribution Bratton made to policing. Unfortunately, he also introduced two techniques that really turned out to be disastrous that one can argue were necessary at the time because New York was really out of control, as everybody can hear who's listening to me, I'm a former New Yorker, and that was Stop and Frisk policing and Broken Windows policing.
DOMANICKSure. Stop and Frisk policing is -- can be a useful tool in the police toolbox if it's done selectively. And if you're a police officer really looking and can see that this guy's about -- there's probably cause for me to stop this person because it really looks like he's, you know, he's about to stop a crime -- he's about to commit a crime or, you know, he's somebody that you know has been committing a lot of crimes. You just -- so at that time, it was useful.
DOMANICKBut what happened with Stop and Frisk under Commissioner Ray Kelly was that it got -- it became mass Stop and Frisk, mass Stop and Frisk. And an example, in 2011, 685,000 New Yorkers were stopped and frisked. The vast, vast, vast majority of them, young African-American and poor Latinos or people of color. In that year, when 685,000 people were stopped, more African-Americans between the ages of 14 and 24 were stopped than all of the African-Americans of that age that lived in the city.
DOMANICKAnd 110 percent of age cohort were stopped so that was a disaster for New York. And Bratton had left before he could establish community policing and this broke any ties that the -- any good ties the NYPD might have had with the black and Latino community.
REHMAnd what about the Broken Window theory?
DOMANICKBroken Windows is also a technique that can be very useful. For example, you don’t want to live in a neighborhood where you walk out of your apartment building and somebody's urinating on the side of the building, you know. A homeless is aggressively panhandling and down the street, there are guys on the corner who are harassing people, just if you walk in the corner, you're afraid to even walk in the street. So it can be a useful tool.
DOMANICKBut when it's rigidly enforced, it's just another control mechanism to stop people. It's another control mechanism that leads to so many of the shootings that we're now familiar with, where if somebody is stopped for no good reason, for no reason, and then it escalates from there into somebody being killed or somebody being beaten. So it's -- this is another technique that has to be used discreetly.
REHMSo Bill Bratton got very controversial and then went out to Los Angeles. Once he got there, what kinds of changes did he institute?
DOMANICKHe changed the mission of the LAPD from not just being, you know, not just being the police force that's going to put the fear of god into black people. That's still the mission of most police departments and of the LAPD in some ways, but he instituted a change -- he instituted community policing as another method. And he did it really well, by choosing really smart innovative commanders and telling them, I'm not going to tell you how to do community policing. You decide.
REHMFigure it out.
DOMANICKYou know your community better than me. You decide how you're going to do community policing and it was very, very effective and the current chief of the LAPD, Charlie Beck, made his bones and made his career by going into South Los Angeles and really -- which was then a heavily African-American area -- and really instituting real community policing.
REHMBut now how does the militarized aspect of policing get into this?
DOMANICKWell, the militarized kind of policing is antithetical to community policing. Community policing is I'm not going to go in and arrest everybody I can and in effect take every young male and stick them in jail. I'm going to go in there, I'm going to find out what the community wants, what they see as their problems, and I'm going to work with them. I'm going to develop grassroots relationships. I'm going to develop professional friendships and I'm going to be -- I'm going to try to build -- help build this community, not tear it down.
REHMThe -- what's been happening in Ferguson, Missouri, came about after Michael Brown's shooting. How would you analyze what happened there?
DOMANICKI would analyze what happened there by saying, this was a case of the -- you couldn't think of a worse way to respond to the protests that developed there than the way that the Ferguson police and the St. Louis County police, I think that's the organization, the way they responded. Talk about a military response, to show up as they did in army humvees, dressed like combat marines going into Fallujah and aiming their rifles at the bodies of the protesters, just taking a bead on them, it was just outrageous.
DOMANICKAnd that's the way America -- Americans reacted to it. They couldn't believe it. They said, this can't be happening in America, but indeed it was and what was so shocking about it was that they had no idea that this wasn't what they should be doing. So that's -- I think that was a very important start of the black lives matter and getting people thinking about, well, there's still a lot wrong with policing. What can we do to change this situation?
REHMAnd what you're arguing is that some of the techniques adopted by the LAPD could be used to change this situation in communities.
DOMANICKOh, absolutely. It's not keep -- it's not targeting this -- your black citizens as enemies. Community policing is saying no, no, we recognize you as being the community.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." It would seem to me that the kind of militarization you talk about has created an even worse situation for police departments around the country who have utilized it.
DOMANICKWell, absolutely. And, you know, where did that military equipment come from? Where did -- and it came from surplus army equipment that the federal government was giving to these police departments. And, you know, once you give somebody a humvee, once you give somebody all of this military equipment...
REHMThey're going to use it.
DOMANICK…they're going to use it.
DOMANICKAnd then, they're going to adopt and then they get all dressed up like they're soldiers and they start acting like they're soldiers. But they're not soldiers. They're police officers. It's a very different thing.
REHMYou have a new element now brought in, which, as in the case of Rodney King, only now more frequently, you've got cell phone video, you've got video totally easily accessible anywhere. Do you believe that that's going to, in and of itself, change the behavior of police officers?
DOMANICKIt's not, in and of itself, going to change it, but I think it's an important tool for changing the behavior of police officers. You know, I'm -- all of the -- we've just gone through, Diane, 30 years of wars on drugs and the wars on crime overwhelmingly aimed at poor people, overwhelmingly aimed at poor people of color and so you have this feeling among police officers and police departments that essentially they can do whatever they want to do. But now, with all of this equipment, we're seeing that what has been going on for all of these years, and preceding the war on drugs and war on crimes, we're seeing it now, again, do you believe your lying eyes or do you believe the police officer who says something totally different than reality on his police report?
REHMA lot of people are calling it the new Jim Crow.
DOMANICKYeah. Michelle Alexander wrote a book called "The New Jim Crow." And in it, she essentially traces the roots of the control of African-American people from the fugitive slave laws through Jim Crow and comes to the conclusion that the war on crime and the war on drugs were just an extension, a modern day extension, of trying to control black people.
REHMWell, there's a lot to be learned and an awful lot to be changed, but at the same time, and I know many of our callers are going to speak about this, the behavior of people around police has changed a lot as well. When we come back, we'll open the phones, take your calls, your email for Joe Domanick. His new book is titled, "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing." Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to a conversation with Joe Domanick. His new book is titled, "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing." In other words, he's not just talking about police and their activities in L.A. But how lessons learned in L.A. might be applied to police forcing across the country. Let's start right here in Washington, D.C. Mohammad, you're on the air. Go right ahead, please.
MOHAMMADYeah, hi. I don't mean to be disrespectful to any race or any, you know, any race or anything like that. But from what I see, we are concentrating on how bad the police is, but we're not looking at the community. I happen to be in a lot of poor communities, where the kids have not been raised well. And the disrespect of the police, that they give out, prompts the behavior of the police back. We didn't even mention anything about that. That a lot of situations where we had, in my neighborhood, where the police comes to do their job and a lot of young men will come out and start saying why, because I'm black?
MOHAMMADBecause I'm Arab, because I'm a Jew? Because of whatever, it's not. It's, they're doing their job.
JOE DOMANICKWell, yes, thank you for that question, Mohammad. I agree with you entirely. Being a police officer in America in poor, African-American, other poor communities, is a very, very difficult job. The African Americans, you know, hate the police, disrespect the police because of, you know, a history of the way they've been treated. But also, we have to understand that African American communities are, poor communities, African Americans have many -- the vast majority of them are -- have moved into the working class and they're having difficult lives because jobs are hard right now to get.
JOE DOMANICKBut there is a number of African Americans in every one of these communities that really, they have not recovered from the bestiality and the way that they have been treated for all of these years, ever since slavery and through Jim Crow, et cetera. And they, you know, they're very violent communities. It's a very difficult place to police. But we don't want to talk about why that is. White Americans, and all Americans, have to ask themselves, why does this exist? Do African Americans have an extra gene or something? Or what is it in the culture of America that has caused so many of black people in these poor neighborhoods to act the way they do towards African Americans.
JOE DOMANICKAnd that's a conversation that has not been had, and must be had for Americans to really understand the astounding brutality of their -- of the black experience here in America. And if you understand it, and if you go back and read your American history, your southern history, the history of just, I keep on saying, I'm sorry, the way African Americans have been treated and the result of that and the culture that has come about, then we can start to talk about that. And it's generational. It's a generational long thing to have to happen.
REHMJoe, go back to Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground laws and the fact that George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Trayvon Martin and then was acquitted of doing so.
DOMANICKWell, what it showed was, black lives don't matter. That's what -- and I think, that was really a wakeup call for African Americans that they coalesced around and started to say, we really have to do something about this. And I think what has -- what has developed out of that is really the civil rights -- the civil rights movement of the 21st century.
REHMYou believe that what's going on right now in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of a young black man, you feel that what's happening now is the beginning of a new wave of protests that's going to continue across the country.
REHMAnd how should the police be responding?
DOMANICKWell, they should not be responding -- they, see, it's not just, it's not how should the police be responding. It's how politicians should be responding. How we as a nation where white people control the levers of power. How should they be responding? They need to respond by getting educated. By finding out, by really studying, why do we have this situation? It's not just caused by the police. We have 300 million guns in this country. We have a war like foreign policy that Obama has been trying to moderate, but right now, we see how difficult it is just to get, you know, a peace treaty with Iran going.
DOMANICKWe are a violent nation and until we understand how that violence has affected the people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder, we're not going to do any -- nothing's going to change.
REHMHere is an email from Bob in St. Louis, who says, there are lots of very violent and criminal people hiding behind their race and blaming police for everything wrong in their culture. This debate needs to be adjusted to reflect reality. Police, in general, are being scapegoated.
DOMANICKWell, I think that police are not being -- on one hand, I think they're not being scapegoated because they really do have to change the way that they police and stop treating poor people as sub-human. Secondly, I think that, I'm sorry, tell me the question one more time. I lost my train of thought.
REHMWell, he was saying that some people are hiding behind their race.
DOMANICKUndoubtedly, that's, undoubtedly, that's true. You know, of course, you know, black people, like white people, aren't angels. They're just human beings, and so people will do that. And I'm sure there's people out doing it. Do that, but it doesn't mean there's not legitimacy in terms of the entire picture.
REHMAll right, so, what are the lessons that you believe need to be taken from what the LAPD did to improve police techniques around the country?
DOMANICKWell, I think the biggest lesson is that -- there's two of them. One of them is that, you know, Ta-Nehisi Coates said that reform doesn't start with the police officer on the beat. And I quote him in my book as saying that. And I end my book by saying, yes, but you have to start somewhere. And I think that while we're waiting for society to wake up and politicians to wake up and the culture to change, that there are things that need to be done. Community policing, I think, is really the overall hope for policing.
REHMAnd by that, you're saying put police on foot in communities where crime is high.
DOMANICKNo. That could be it. That could be a part of community policing. What I'm saying about community policing is it is an effort to go into those communities and to change, to change the physics between the police...
DOMANICKThe relationship between them. And when you start to do that, and you start to have legitimacy -- the police don't have legitimacy in these areas. So, how do you gain legitimacy?
DOMANICKAnd respect. Well, you're never going to get it -- you're never going to get it from some people in these communities. And to get it, and to get it from majority of people that aren't criminals in these communities, it's a long term process and it's a relationship building process and it's knowing that the police, in general, if you're not commit, you know, if you're not a criminal, are on your side. And that's very, very important. And I think that that's a big thing.
REHMYou know, one of the things that used to happen here in Washington where I grew up was that, periodically, almost once a month, the senior police officer, they had at that precinct, or even at times, the chief of police, would come into the schools to talk with the kids. That, too, has got to be part of it.
DOMANICKYeah, yes. That's got to be part of it, but that's not, that's not the heart of what community policing really is. It's day to day work. It's recognized, it's recognizing that -- it's recognizing that it's a long term process. It's recognizing that it's not going to happen overnight. It's -- so, it's, trust is very hard to build between the police and any community. But particularly, in African American communities. So, it's a long term process, and society has to change and you can't take away economics from this question at all.
DOMANICKThe income disparity and the cost of living is just astounding if you're a poor person. We talk about, yeah, we're going to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars. Well, I don't think I can live on 15 dollars an hour.
REHMAll right, let's go to Brownstown, Michigan. Tim, you're on the air. Go right ahead.
TIMHi, good morning Diane and Joe.
TIMI have a comment and then a question for Joe. My comment is I believe that if you increase the pay of the police officers, I believe they should be paid more than teachers. I believe that would bring a better quality police officer. I also believe in those body cameras. You can learn so much information from those. And then, secondly, my question to Joe is, he mentioned Ferguson was like a military reaction. How would he compare that to Baltimore's reaction and really doing nothing? Where do you draw the line?
TIMDo you go somewhere in the middle? It's hard to understand. If I were a police officer, I would want to have all the tools that I possibly could have so I could go home to my family. And last comment, Joe knows why we have this problem. And it has to do with our families and all the children being born out of wedlock. The government has to incentivize, somehow, marriage and the family unit again. We have to get back to that, but that will take years. I don't think the police are going to solve this problem. I think it's much bigger.
TIMSchools are letting the people down.
REHMOkay. You're raising lots of issues. Let's start with body cameras.
DOMANICKOkay, let me, I'd love to start -- I'll talk about body cameras in one second.
DOMANICKIf I may, Diane. I'd like to talk about pay. Los Angeles Police Department officers are extremely well paid. I think in other places in the country, like Louisiana, Alabama, et cetera, they need far better pay. But I think what we need is people who have a different attitude who are going to go into policing. Right now, there is a premium on guys getting out of the Marine Corp, guys getting out of special units in the Army. Those are not necessarily the people that we need to be police officers. We need people who are educated, people who understand social science.
DOMANICKPeople who understand anthropology, and people that want to help build these communities. That don't look at themselves as, you know, as military -- an extension of the military.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. What's the starting salary for an LAPD officer?
DOMANICKI'm not exactly sure of what the starting salary is, but I know it's -- I know once you're a Sergeant and once you're up there, it's very high. 80,000, 100,000, at least.
REHMOkay, now, talk about body cameras.
DOMANICKBody cameras, I think, have some problems, in terms of the privacy of police officers when they're not actually engaged in any action with the public. But I think, overall, that they are extremely important. They have the potential to absolve police officers who are accused of things that they didn't do. And they have -- they present a record to everybody about what happened, why this person was stopped, why something, whether that person should have been stopped or not stopped, and then how the situation is handled well or escalated into something that we all don't want...
REHMSo, you believe that body cameras make sense.
DOMANICK...absolutely. 100 percent. But...
DOMANICK...as you can imagine, cities like Los Angeles and New York, which have very, very strong police unions, don't want them. Because police like to operate in an area of gray. They don't want it to be black and white, and they believe that nobody knows what they're going through. And that only another police officer can really understand that.
REHMAnd here's a final email from Andy, is it true that in L.A. today, there are neighborhoods where police won't or can't go because it's too unsafe. If so, how should the police deal with these neighborhoods, other than with military tactics?
DOMANICKWell, that's not true at all. Los Angeles is a city that is nowhere out of control, in terms of law enforcement and law and order. Now, crime has gone up in Los Angeles, really, for the first time in 10 years, but it's gone up in a lot of cities. Washington D.C., where we're sitting right now, has gone up. And the question is, why? And I believe that a lot of that has to do with the economic situation we referred to earlier.
REHMSo, you think, economically, we're in a very bad place.
DOMANICKWe're in a very bad place in a lot of major cities.
DOMANICKLike this city, like New York.
DOMANICKNo, what I was going to say, like New York, like Los Angeles, are gentrifying at a very rapid pace. And housing is really becoming unaffordable as these neighborhoods are gentrified. And so, it really affects poor people because they really, in Los Angeles, they really can't afford an apartment.
REHMAll right, we'll have to leave it there. Joe Domanick. His new book is titled, "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing." Thank you.
DOMANICKThank you so much for a great interview.
REHMGood to have you here. And thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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