The Mayor’s Love Fest with All Things Weiss and L.A.P.D. and Other Things That Make Me Go Hmmm…

Earlier today at the Rampart Station of the Los Angeles Police Department, our Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A.P.D. Chief William Bratton, and friends (ATF, ICE, DEA, FBI, etc.) held a press conference to discuss L.A.’s 2009 gang initiatives. This is an issue near and dear to my heart since I live under the daily exchange of gunfire from opposing gangs and have a hard time buying Chief Bratton’s opening statement that gangs are always going to be here. And an even harder time believing the Mayor’s claim that there is a 26 percent decrease in gang homicides, to which I answer, where?

I walk into these rooms with an open mind and a critical eye and ear for details. My first observation and probably the most important, was the lack of Black people in the room other than officers. My second observation was the amount of time wasted by the Mayor and his friends, who spent a considerable amount of time patting each other on the back and thanking the media each time they stepped to the microphone. This is extremely annoying to me, especial considering the fact this is a press conference and not dinner theatre. The reality of the situation is that the media in the room is there because their bosses assigned them to the story, so there’s no need to repeatedly thank the media for coming as if somehow by doing so will change the slant of a reporter’s piece on the press conference from negative to positive. Just ask KFI’s Eric Leonard. Then there’s the reality of the fact that their 45 minute press conference is going to be condensed down to 1 to 2 minutes on the evening news, and all of the thank yous and pats on the back, yeah, well that ain’t going to make the cut. Basically, it’s a lot of political pomp and circumstance that makes a 15 minutes conference into a 45 minute press conference and quite frankly it’s a waste of everyone’s time involved, especially those of us on the receiving end.

A couple of weeks ago Chief Bratton called a press conference to discuss a donation by Target to the L.A.P.D. for their public-private partnership. A partnership wherein funds are provided to the L.A.P.D. for equipment, grants, training and forensic support. The backdrop of the press conference was that embarrassment of an empty lot otherwise known as Santa Barbara Plaza. I attended that press conference too, and let me tell you, there was nowhere near the same amount of media in attendance as there is when you include the words “gangs” and “L.A.P.D.” in the headline of a media advisory.

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And even with all of the media in attendance at today’s press conference, I can’t help but think that I was the only one who noticed the visible absence of L.A.’s Black media in the room.

Now the last time I checked, gangs were a major issue in Black Los Angeles. If you take a survey of Blacks in Los Angeles and ask what the top local issue is, chances are that gang violence will come in at number one. Anyone living in Los Angeles knows exactly where the highest concentration of gang activity takes place. The Mayor and the L.A.P.D. know it too as evident in their news release that listed the top 13 targeted gangs by name and the areas that they terrorize according to police divisions.

  • 18th Street West Side – Hollywood, Wilmington, Southwest, and Rampart
  • Mara Salvatruch – Hollywood, Wilmington, Rampart
  • Avenues – Northeast
  • Rolling 60s – 77th Street
  • Black P-Stones – Southwest, Wilmington
  • Rollin 30s – Southwest
  • Rollin 40s – Southwest, 77th Street
  • Toonerville – Northeast
  • Grape Street – Southeast
  • Florencia 13 – 77th Street, Newton
  • Canoga Park Alabama – Devonshire, West L.A.
  • Barrios Van Nuys – Van Nuys
  • 204th Street – Harbor

More than half of these gangs are in areas that still have a high concentration of Blacks, they are also areas where on any given Thursday, you can pick up the latest copy of our local Black newspapers. Was the Black press even invited to the press conference?

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But the plot thickens.

It dawned on me somewhere between the Mayor patting Councilman Jack Weiss on the back and Weiss patting the Mayor on his back that someone else, or shall I say three someone else’s were missing from the love fest. The councilmember’s who represent the districts these gangs reside in, otherwise known as the three Black members of the Los Angeles City Council, Bernard Parks (8th District), Jan Perry (9th District), and Herb Wesson (10th District).

At the beginning of the press conference, the Chief patted the Mayor on his back for fighting the political battles with his colleagues on the Council for control of the intervention and preventions services.  He then  followed that by saying that L.A.’s 2009 gang initiative was the most comprehensive effort on the history of the L.A.P.D. and there was a partnership between the Mayor, the City Council, and the L.A.P.D. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said he felt like L.A. was winning the war on gangs.

Somehow all of that was lost in translation on me because for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how Councilman Jack Weiss managed to make it to the press conference, but his colleagues whose districts were clearly in play, didn’t. It bothered me so much, I asked the Mayor who then looked at the clock, asked what day it was, remembered that there was no council meeting, and then tried to unsuccessfully explain that all of the city council members were on board with his plan and that they were probably in their districts attending to important work. I guess he assumed I wasn’t sitting in the same seat 30 minutes earlier when he said that part about hoping to get his colleagues on board with his plan and that I wasn’t smart enough to put two and two together, or shall I say I two minus three together. It’s cool, I get that lot in these rooms considering I am usually one of few Black women in them.

As far as I am concerned, aside from getting our homeless people off the street and our kids a decent education in our public school system, there is no more important issue than the issue of gang violence. So come again Mayor. Where’d you say Parks, Perry, and Wesson were? Or better yet, were they even invited to attend? Knowing Parks, Perry, and Wesson, I can’t see how either of them would just opt not to attend a press conference on something as important as L.A.’s 2009 gang initiatives.  There’s more to the story or shall I say their absence than meets the eye.  Because I have to say that holding a press conference on the future of the L.A. Unified School District, oh say, without the Superintendent, might be just a bit suspect. Especially if said press conference was held with Superintendent of a neighboring school district. Kind of like making Councilman Weiss being front and center when his district, council district 5, includes Encino, Sherman Oaks, Valley Village, and Palms, Westwood, Century City, Beverlywood, the Fairfax District, Cheviot Hills, and Carthay Circle, not South or Mid Los Angeles. I’m just saying.

Then there’s the little issue of the community and involvement in this whole process. Now for the record, I like Chief Bratton but that doesn’t mean that he gets a pass either. The Chief made a remark about how he was pleased that member’s of the community were present for the press conference and I guess he meant members of the community as in members of the press because I gotta tell you, the community wasn’t in that room. I know who the activists are when it comes to gang violence and the L.A.P.D. and just like Parks, Perry, Wesson, and the Black media, they were nowhere to be found.

The sad thing is, none of this is going to come across in the following news reports of today’s press conference. What will be shown is the Mayor looking good for the cameras surrounded by his friends with a good sound bite that gives the impression that something’s really happening about Los Angeles’ gang problem. When in reality, you only have to go back to paragraph one and Chief Bratton’s declaration that gangs are here to stay to know that’s not really the case. And those of us, who even know who our councilmember is, probably won’t bother to question where Councilmember’s Parks, Perry, and Wesson were and this story won’t be missed in our Black newspapers.

Like I said earlier, I walk into these rooms with an open mind and a critical eye and ear for details, the ones being acted out on the stage in front of me and the ones that are less overt.

Check back in a few for the video of today’s press conference…

The Court of Public Opinion

  • it’s amazing how the mainstream media over looks these critical issues going on in City government

  • Sadly this doesn’t surprise me in the least bit.

  • monica

    I presume Weiss was there because he’s a stalwart supporter of the Chief and his growing the police department, as head of the Public Safety Committee which oversees the council’s dealings with LAPD and other law enforcement, while Bernard Parks was chief among those who tried to cut police funding and growth during the last round of Budget talks on the Council. As head of the Budget committee, Parks says it’s just a matter of fiscal concern, but this flies in the face of members of every community in the city (except the gangs listed), want the opposite — more cops. Jan Perry has also battled the Chief on his 3/12 time policy, which allows them to work 3 12-day weeks instead of 5 8-hr. weeks, in order to retain them especially those who commute very long distances. So I’d wager it’s just a matter of supporting those who support you and vice versa. As for Wesson, far as I’ve read he’s cool with the Chief and Mayor (not saying the other two aren’t, just maybe not as much so) so maybe he was just busy.

    Weiss has actually come under attack recently for supporting the Chief in his “strategic deployment” of cops to place them where they’re needed most, including all the gang territories listed here, predominantly South and East L A and Eastern Hollywood. So he’s taken a lot of political risk and heat for doing this. I think he’s pretty tight with Wesson, whose district borders his. Why don’t you ask Wesson what he says about all this, I’d be interested to hear.

  • monica

    Above in the last paragraph, I should clarify Weiss has gotten criticism from his own district on the westside, as has Bill Rosendahl — my Councilman in Venice — for supporting the Chief’s strategy of placing more cops where they’re needed, rather than in rough proportion to areas which pay the most in taxes and feel entitled to more cops. And have a valid point, because burglaries and property crimes are up on the westside even as homicides and gang crimes are down in other areas.

    The idea is that cracking down on the most violent criminals anywhere in the city will most effectively cut them in the heart and eventually keep them from spreading, like getting at the root of a cancer. But it’s unpopular among many westsiders and time will tell — it seems to be working so far. However I got an E-policing notice that in response to these concerns, some of our westside communities could see more direct response too with a new hotline number in case we see a problem to give them more immediate attention — right now, some people complain that it can take upto 40 mins. to get a cop car out to the Palisades because they’re deployed in gang areas. So if you think your community is being neglected somehow, get in line. We just plain need the 12,000 cops Bratton wants as a minimum to really serve the whole city well.

  • Thank you for taking to task this sham fest on the part of the Mayor and the man he is attempting to place in the office of City Attorney. With the election only one month away this is the most clear example of the abuse of power on the part of the mayor. It clearly shows the position of Police Chief must be elected or Civil Service. Having the Mayor over the chief and police commission guarentees the stats will be spun in order to make him look good. The raw truth is this, the gang problem has never been worse. They are lying and that must stop. Only 12 crimes are counted in the stats and the rest are left out. These folks should have been with me at the Urban Policy Roudtable and listen to the mothers and aunts of black children killed on the street infront of their homes and they would see this is no time to slap each other on the back.

  • Claire Voyance

    Great report on this oversight on the Mayor’s part. The LA Times would not cover this aspect for any reason any more than they hold the Mayor or the Council responsible for their continued incompetance. Another interesting factoid at the recent Alliance of Neighborhood Councils at LACC Eric Garcetti was booed out of the room and would not take any questions on the DWP solar Prop B issue. But then he was deep in his own coverup on this issue.
    The only public official who should be running for Mayor is Laura Chick, integrity and the balls to stand up for what is right.

  • Fige Bornu

    I see President Obama send Mayor V home to stay far, far away from him.