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EDITIONS
Correspondent Thursday, 1 August, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
LAPD blues
LAPD on patrol
The forward edge of the thinnest blue line
Tyrone Riley is another statistic of Los Angeles' gang wars. Leaving his house to pick up a pizza, he is gunned down in cold blood, by a rival gang member. Two months into 2002, Tyrone is homicide number 26 in the LAPD's 77th Division's war against the gangs. They are losing the battle against the gangs.

Ten years on from the worst ever riots on American soil, Joshua Dugdale travels to Los Angeles to see how the LAPD are dealing with a shocking upsurge in gang warfare. However in the background they are fighting two other battles, one to regain the trust of a reticent public, and the other to avoid a mutiny of the rank and file cops.

In LAPD Blues, Correspondent follows the LAPD elite gang unit for two months as they attempt to stop the continuous violence in Los Angeles' worst district, South Central Los Angeles.

Following several scandals in the 90s, the LAPD have embraced political correctness in order to regain the trust of the public. The only problem is that crime has rocketed to such an extent that people are now beginning to question the reforms and the man who has brought them in.

Staggering corruption

The Rodney King incident was the start of a very bad decade for the LAPD. When Mark Furhman used the "n" word during the trial of OJ Simpson in 1996, any illusions that the LAPD had progressed were dispelled.

The LAPD have embraced political correctness in order to regain the trust of the public
An LAPD officer questioning a suspect

Worse was to come in 1998 when Officer Rafael Perez admitted to staggering corruption in a gang unit in the Rampart Division of Los Angeles.

Perez was arrested over a bank job that went wrong. In the ensuing fall out it emerged that he had stolen large amounts of narcotics and resold them through his contacts on the street.

Amongst numerous other incidents, Perez's partner Nino Durden shot an unarmed gang member Javier Ovando, paralysing him in the process. After planting a gun, Perez managed to persuade a court that Ovando had fired on them first.

Ovando received 23 years in prison and a life in a wheelchair for his troubles. All of this was uncovered eighteen months later when another partner of Perez, David Mack, was arrested for robbing a bank.

It could only happen in LA. Two years later it became the inspiration for a Hollywood film, Training Day.

According to Police Chief, Bernard Parks, the Rampart incident was:

"...a significant blow. In many instances people grow up believing that this is what officers do."

The scene was set for total reform of the world's most famous police force.

The thinnest blue line

Everything was done to rid the LAPD of its old style paramilitary image.

Police power has been so reduced that crime is now off the scale
Crime is now off the scale

All gang units were disbanded and replaced by units one third of the size. The rotation of officers in the new gang units has been reduced to three years so that officers don't get too "close" to the gang members.

The ability to use informants has also been changed so that any normal uniformed cop is now not permitted to run an informant. It is only allowed at detective level and even then it is very closely supervised.

The result has been that police power has been so reduced that crime is now off the scale.

In the last two years crime has risen by several hundred percent. It has coincided with the thinnest blue line in America becoming even thinner as the rank and file cops have questioned the direction that the LAPD have gone down.

Reign of terror

Bernard Parks was elected Police Chief in 1997 for a five year term. He was up for re-election this year and was hoping to carry his reforms through to the next phase.

But he faced an uphill struggle with rising crime and an unhappy police force who have coined his tenure as a "reign of terror". He was, however, desperate for another term and has the full backing of the African American community.

The Mayor of Los Angeles, however, risked his political future by turning his back on the African American community that helped vote him in, and refused to back Parks in his bid for another term.

Community leaders warned of riots if Parks was not re-elected. Parks was unsuccessful.

Terror on the home front

Riding out with the LAPD, Correspondent watches the nightly battles between the cops and the robbers against the background of a political circus.

The real victims however are the innocents who are being caught in the crossfire of countless gang wars.

Whilst America's focus is on terror in Afghanistan, it is the terror on the home front which is causing untold misery in America's backyard.

LAPD blues: Sunday 21 July 2002 on BBC Two at 1915 BST

Reporter: Josh Dugdale
Director/Producer: Leo Telling
Deputy Editor: Farah Durrani
Editor: Karen O'Connor

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Josh Dugdale
LAPD Blues
Police Commissioner Caruso
"The Los Angeles Police Department is in crisis"
Josh Dugdale
"You can smell the vengeance in the air"
An LAPD officer
"We've definitely seen homicides go way up"
Lt Paul Von Lutznow
"A complete waste of time"
See also:

03 Jul 02 | Crossing Continents
09 Jul 02 | Americas
30 Apr 02 | Americas
30 Apr 02 | Americas
26 Apr 02 | Americas
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