It appears the Los Angeles Police Department may find itself on the other side of the law. Civil rights groups are demanding federal investigators look into cases of excessive police force and brutality.
Questionable arrests, caught on video, are putting into question the old police motto of “to serve and protect,” and communities are fighting back.
The brutality of the Los Angeles Police Department can be seen in several videos posted online. One of the most recent, a cell phone video, shows 20-year-old college student Ronald Weekley, Jr. being pushed in the face and wrestled to the ground by four LAPD officers. Weekley’s father says his son’s only crime was skateboarding on the wrong side of the road.
“My son suffered a concussion to his head. He has a broken jaw bone right here. He’s having breathing problems,” said Ronald Weekley, Sr.
Weekley’s violent arrest is not an isolated incident. Surveillance video from earlier this year shows police slamming Michelle Jordan – a 34 year old nurse – to the ground. Jordan was pulled over for allegedly talking on her phone while driving.
In another recent incident, a 35-year-old, mother of two – Alesia Thomas – died in the back of a squad car while detained.
“One time, it’s an incident. Two times, you really do scratch your head and say that’s a coincidence. And then three times, this seems like a pattern,” said civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is asking the US Department of Justice to investigate the Los Angeles Police Department for its use of force.
“We have to get to the bottom of this or someone else is going to get hurt or killed,” Crump said.
Los Angeles police have historically come under fire for excessive force. From the May Day protests in 2007,and going back to the LA riots 20 years ago. Notorious corruption in the department goes back to the 1920s.
“Police have still not learned from the days of Rodney King, who was also beat on video tape,” said community organizer Najee Ali.
“Police brutality still continues so it’s up to us to fight against it wherever it rears its ugly head,” said Ali.
Other US police departments are not immune to allegations of excessive police force. From Seattle, to New Orleans, to Newark, New Jersey, police violence is drawing public scrutiny.
A series of impassioned protests engulfed the city of Anaheim, Ca. following several police shootings this year. Anaheim also happens to be home to Disneyland, the so-called, “Happiest Place on Earth.”
“Every man of every color and every woman, we are human beings, and it is a shame when dogs have more rights than human beings, what has this world come to,” said Pastor Horace Allen from the Venice Baptist Church.
In an attempt to improve its public relations, police officers are personally reaching out to neighborhoods. But many community leaders say the outreach amounts to lip service.
The 2009 Oscar Grant shooting is one of the few times an officer has actually been tried for killing an unarmed suspect, but even when incidents are caught on tape, officers rarely face the criminal justice system.
“We want to live in a community called Venice, where people do not live, some free, and some in a police state,” said Weekley Sr.
As more citizen journalists capture police abuse on video, the Ronald Weekley Jr. hopes justice will be served.
“Don’t be angry for what happened. Just fight for what’s right and just help because we need it,” said Weekley Jr.