passing of Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police, Kenny Garner, last
week has left a stunned community pondering the question, “Who do
we call now, when we want answers from LAPD?” Kenny Garner was a
friend to me, the community and most he met, and he had the hardest
job of anyone in the community-convincing the community to trust
“the new LAPD,” which in many an instance looked like the old LAPD—with
a new twist. It was, and still is, a tough sell. One sell few could
pull off, but Kenny did it.
was a difficult job that produced a great benefit, and a great amount
of stress. Stress we surmise would lead to a fit, trim, purportedly
healthy individual unexpectedly dropping dead at the age of 53.
It was a shock in the sense that such a fate is undeserving such
a good person-but God in his infinite wisdom…
the police in Los Angeles (and surrounding cities, including INGLEWOOD-certain
people know what I’m talking about on that one) to give equal protection
under the law is not something that is in historical evidence. In
fact, it’s a real contradiction. In community meetings, just having
a police officer in the room is a point of deep consternation. Largely
because LAPD has never acknowledged the disparate policing modalities
that have become a common culture of abuse in black (and now Latino)
black community just “can’t trust it” when it came to expecting
the department to arrest abuse and misconduct in the same way it
stopped and arrested black people. Even now, this department doesn’t
believe racial profiling is a problem to the extent it (the department)
needs to dramatically modify its training practices. A “kinder,
gentler,” more racially sensitive LAPD is just a tough sell all
the way around. The site of their uniforms makes our community nervous.
Kenny Garner made you look past the police uniform. He made you
(momentarily) look past LAPD’s history. He made you look at the
progress and not the occasional regress, to note that change could
happen if the trust was given a chance.
even when you disagreed with him or rationalizations of LAPD behavior
and whether trust was a remote possibility, you knew we revisit
the conversation until we reached a mutual conclusion. Kenny had
stars on his collar and stripes on his sleeves but he never made
you feel like he had to pound his chest. His humility, and sincerity
in wanting to move police-community relations forward, made you
want to at least open up to him.
other police intermediaries usually found the community shutting
down on them. Even if we didn’t trust LAPD, we trusted Kenny to
step in the gap between what we were hearing on the street and what
LAPD was trying to sell us. Deputy Chief Garner was from this community.
He never seemed to choose between “black” and “blue.” He’d let you
know he was both and he an investment in both the community and
the Los Angeles Police Department respecting each other. Respect
can only come about when trust is in evidence.
is in evidence when the people feel they are being respected by
law enforcement. Change nor trust ever came fast in LAPD. It was
a slow crawl. A lot of protests and hand-holding, not to mention
a few lawsuits, a federal intervention and an Inspector General.
Oversight is how trust was gained with LAPD. Kenny Garner was how
trust was maintained with LAPD. No matter the inquiry, the question,
or the call, Kenny got back to us on it. Trust us on that.
trust has taken a hit. Who will the community be asked to trust
now that Deputy Chief Garner is gone? Both LAPD and the black community
have to put their heads together on this one. A Kenny Garner is
not easily replaced. That goes without saying. The next sell will
be harder than the last. We will miss Kenny Garner, as a man, a
brother and an ambassador for department. But we will miss him most
as a trustee for our issues. Now who will return our calls?
Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, is a national columnist, managing director
of the Urban Issues Forum
and author of Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com.
to contact Dr. Samad.