Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Letter to Mayor Garcetti about the LAPD

I wrote this letter to the Mayor of Los Angeles and plan to deliver it to his office today.

Dear Mayor Garcetti:

I was appalled to read the editorial by LAPD officer Sunil Dutta in the Washington Post today (attached). As a six-year City of Los Angeles employee myself I found it shameful that an Internal Affairs officer whose duties involve investigating the misbehavior of other police officers would have such a distorted view of the proper relationship between the police and the citizenry they are supposed to serve.

Officer Dutta begins innocuously, describing ideal encounters with the police and showing how good law enforcement work can defuse charged situations. But then he asserts that when the police use force, it's the fault of the citizen for not properly respecting the officer. This has it completely backwards. Respect is earned, you can't demand it, and you sure as hell can't beat people up if they don't give it to you.

Dutta wants to have it both ways; he wants to say that he respects our rights, but he also seems to think that as a cop he rules the streets and that our rights under the Constitution somehow end if we dare to challenge his authority. That's not how rights work. What Dutta doesn't understand is that disrespecting a police officer is not a crime and that the Bill of Rights is there to protect unpopular speech and unpopular people from the abuses of authority figures like the LAPD.

Many police officers do exemplary, professional work. But there are also many who are merely bullies with a badge, a gun, and a baton. They have forgotten that their role is to enforce the law and serve the community, and instead have twisted themselves into thinking that the duty lies with the community to serve the cop's desire to feel powerful and that the law is whatever they say it is.

It is up to civilian elected officials—who are supposed to be in charge of the police—to make it absolutely clear that this behavior, and the attitude that leads to this behavior, must be changed to rebuild trust between the community and the police. As Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, I hope that you are also appalled by Officer Dutta's editorial, and that you work with Chief Beck on eradicating these abuses from the LAPD.


Adam Villani