City of Los Angeles is about to unveil its brand new “state of the
art” world-class headquarters for what it considers its world-class
law enforcement agency. Just know there’s one too many “world-class”
attributes in that last sentence, and given the latest controversy—the
public should decide where the “world-class” attribute should actually
go. A month ago, our city’s resident narcissist, former LAPD Police
Chief and current Eighth District City Councilman. Bernard Parks,
motioned that the new LAPD headquarters carry the same name as the
old LAPD headquarters, that of former police chief, the late William
H. Parker. Yes, go ahead and blink twice on that one. It’s as ridiculous
and outrageous as you read it.
rationalization, if you want to call it that, was that Parker was
responsible for transforming LAPD into a “world class” law enforcement
agency. Uh-huh. Despite efforts to romanticize the Parker era, which
ran from 1950 to 1966, almost anybody who lived in Los Angeles during
that period remember what it was like to have an encounter with
LAPD. The first time I ever saw my father disrespected by another
man in was a white LAPD officer on a so-called routine traffic stop
because we were on the “wrong side of town.” Over forty years later,
I still have an aversion to police officers-based on that experience.
Revisionist history aside, how William H. Parker was is not what
Los Angeles, or LAPD, wants to be known as today.
was William H. Parker? Yes, he did “transform” LAPD. From an urban
western, up-south “Mayberry” police force, to a para-military organization
based on his own military. William H. Parker was an urban segregationist,
no different from Bull Connor or Jim Clark down in Alabama. Parker
enforced racial protocols and Los Angeles’ race caste system that
held until the early seventies (some say the mid-80s as far as the
valley areas go). Los Angeles didn’t have the outright de jure segregation
(separation by law) that the South had, but it did have racial restrictive
covenants that prohibited blacks and others from renting and buying
in certain areas long after the courts ruled them illegal in 1948.
Where do you think “getting caught on the wrong side of town” came
from in Los Angeles? It came from Parker’s willingness to enforce
unwritten racial boundaries that kept blacks from going too far
west of Western Ave., or above the 10 Freeway after dark, and the
worst encounter a black or Latino could experience was not from
white ruffians but from the police enforcing racial boundaries.
recruited marines and army personnel after tours of duty and he
recruited Southern white males who had a certain racial view of
the world, then he put on the streets of Los Angeles. The mentality
was pervasive and abusive, and corrupt to its very core. Police
beat black and Latino residents, assaulted their women, and governed
by fear and intimidation in the same way they did in the South.
South Central and East L.A. became known for where blacks and Latinos
lived, not because they wanted to-but because of de facto segregation
(separation by social norms and residential patterns) that was desired
by the “city fathers” and enforced by the Chief of Police, kept
minorities “in their place” (geographical boundaries). Parker was
“their man” and his racially distorted views of blacks didn’t allow
for promotions in the department and a culture that was as discriminating
within as it was without. “To protect and serve” only applied to
white people and he didn’t have a problem saying that as long as
blacks and Latinos stayed “in their place,” they would be served
too. Most of the time, they were served up.
was a politic corrupt at it’s very core, and Los Angeles burned
twice in 27 years because of its lasting mentality. Even FBI Director,
J. Edgar Hoover, stated he had “no use” for the man (and few had
any use Hoover at that point) because Parker refused federal intervention
when his policing policies were called into question. Parker was
the symbol for western “Jim Crow” and both his successor, Daryl
Gates, and obviously Gates’ mentee, Bernard Parks, wanted to be
like Chief Parker when
they grew up. It’s a badge they both wore proudly, to have been
mentored by Parker. History having proven the abusiveness and corruptness
of LAPD’s policing politic and codes of silence, there’s something
to be said for that. Now they want to put that badge on the new
headquarters. It might be a badge of pride for them, but it’s not
for the rest of us. We remember a totally different William H. Parker.
One who couldn’t even call black people, Negroes. He called them
“Nigras” in public-so you know what he called them in private--what
his officers called them in the streets of Los Angeles. Revisionist
views can’t over-ride the racial legacy of LAPD.
transformation of LAPD into a racially abusive para-military organization
is the legacy of William H. Parker. If LAPD is really trying to
establish a “new” image, the “new” police headquarters will not
have William H. Parker’s name on it. It’s an insult to any minority
who lived in Los Angeles during the Parker years. It’s insane the
proposal is even being considered.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, 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.