We often confuse the police with their overseers: the courts. The truth is the judges and prosecutors are often in the dark about the tactics and practices of the uniformed forces, most of which are generated from the attitudes and beliefs of senior officers in the departments. Some departments are notable for their ethical and incident review of police conduct. Others become famous for their extra-legal use of force, detention and incarceration against suspects in minor crimes. Over the years Oakland, Calif. and Detroit became infamous for their tough street justice, while Cheyenne, Wyo., gained notoriety for the “bums parade” in which indigents are gathered for weeks in advance, to be marched out of town under police escort in some symbolic celebration of American liberty.
The top of the list of independent police fiefdoms, however, are Chicago and Los Angeles. In Chicago, the police operated on the basis of shared petty bribery that allowed motorists to pay their fines directly to the ticketing officer without any troublesome paperwork. With the public and the criminals paying the police, the city was able to fund various public works to the benefit of local politically connected contractors.
In Los Angeles, on the other hand, the police became an industry of their own, creating a huge training academy and integrated central management systems giving the officers on the beat every tool necessary to suppress urban crime and disorder. Over the decades, LAPD became its own power base, and numerous efforts by city and state government to reign in their more aggressive tactics failed in the face of heavy political support by the police unions. In addition, the LAPD became the “College of Law Enforcement” to the rest of America’s police industrial complex (something over half of the nation’s police chiefs and top officers are graduates of the academy and veterans of service on the department). This allows the spread of policy and tactical attitudes taught by the LAPD instructors, under the direction of Ed Davis and Daryl Gates, both of whom barely dodged federal charges for their actions in the chief’s office.
The result, today, is a close fraternal body of law enforcement professionals, many of whom practice a new doctrine of arrest as punishment, without regard of the courts. This practice focuses on the harassment of suspected perpetrators by making repeated minor arrests complete with handcuffs, bail, time in county jail and costly lawyering. The result in court makes little difference, since the process of the detention and court costs are in themselves penalties for being targeted by the police, for whatever reason.
Police states exist for and within themselves, and a dictatorship is not necessary for abuse.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.