“Lipstick on a Pig: The LAPD’s Much Improved PR Machine and the Legacy of Saint Bratton”
(ed. Originally published February 26, 2013 – here – and presented before the Los Angeles Police Commission orally.)
In January of 2010, a woman came forward and accused LAPD officer James Nichols of rape. According to the LA Times, who broke the story in January of this year, she immediately reported this crime to his supervisor in the narcotics division. Shortly after, another woman did likewise, alleging that the same officer and his partner had forced her to perform oral sex back in 2009.
In the 3 years after both these rapes were reported, these serious accusations went nowhere – except that this department eventually transferred the officers to different precincts, a practice eerily similar to the cover-ups of child molestation by the rightly-maligned Catholic Church. In fact, it wasn’t until one of the victims, so distraught by a lack of progress by this department, filed a civil lawsuit against the officers involved that the LAPD actually took any real interest in the case. To my knowledge, that interest seems to have been limited to spinning what the LA Times reported on the story rather than bringing criminal charges to the DA against two possible serial rapists who may still be on the force today.
But it gets worse. Due to this department – and particularly this Chief’s – continued obeisance to what former Chief Parker called the “thin blue line,” one of the officers involved in both of those crimes, who was never charged by this department or its main benefactor the District Attorney’s office, was later accused of severely beating a bank executive, Brian Mulligan, in May of 2012. This wouldn’t seem out of character for Officer Nichols, a man who apparently sees himself as above the very laws he enforces – and who is encouraged to believe that by this department’s brazen disinterest in public accountability.
Again, however, rather than seriously investigating those accusations, the LAPD made a concerted effort to slander the victim via its cronies at the LA Times, accusing Mulligan of moral turpitude and publicly undermining his credibility by speculating that he was on “bath salts.” As if – even if that were true – it would justify Officer Nichols, an already accused serial rapist, of savagely beating him and holding him hostage in a hotel room. And now, since the LAPD refuses to hold officers like Nichols accountable for their continued, belligerent and criminal behavior over a 5 year period against those they swear an oath to protect, the entire city – all of us – are the subject of a $50 million lawsuit. When the LAPD refuses to hold itself accountable, it’s the rest of us who pay – sometimes with our sense of safety and security, sometimes with our very bodies and lives, and other times, perhaps most often, with our hard earned tax dollars in the form of settlements and verdicts.
There are many more incidents like these that have occurred on Chief Beck’s watch, some made headlines, others did not. From an LAPD drive-by on an unarmed autistic man in Koreatown that Beck deemed an “appropriate” use of force to allegations against the department of selling specialty SWAT weapons, possibly contravening Federal law, for which the whistleblower has now faced significant retaliation – the culture of the LAPD is insular, racist, violent, and utterly UNCHANGED from its notoriously problematic past. There is an expression for Chief Bratton and Chief Beck’s legacy at the LAPD, and it isn’t “transparency and fairness.” It’s “putting lipstick on a pig.”
And while this Chief struts before cameras after Chris Dorner’s state-sanctioned murder with a carefully coiffed mustache straight off the set of CHiPS and with all his deliberate hollywood pomp and polish talks about “transparency and fairness,” the common theme among all of these stories I’ve mentioned here is a lack of accountability, if not an absolute and steadfast resistance to those ideas. That is the culture of the LAPD. It always has been.
This force, this commission and specifically this criminally complicit Chief Charlie Beck – have proven to this community that they are incapable of transparency, fairness, and accountability. It is laughable that you expect us to entrust you with once again investigating yourselves. It’s clear you are incapable of that, if you’re even truly interested at all.
We deserve better. We deserve better than this chief, this commission and these pigs – no matter how much lipstick your well-connected PR consultants slather on them.