Respond by Day 5 to two colleagues by explaining the benefits of criminal justice organizations understanding the concept of predictable surprise.
Respond to Darrel as if you’re having a conversation with him. A few sentences and a question.
The convergence of race, police brutality, poverty, and an inadequate criminal justice system exploded in the intersection of Florence and Normandie. This explosion was the aftermath of a community that historically experienced systematic racism and repressive policing polices. South Central Los Angeles was a breeding ground of gangs, aggression, and repressed rage. The city was tense after the officers involved in the Rodney King case were acquitted. This combustible environment was ignited on April 29, 1992 and wasn’t subdued until May 4, 1992. The aftermath was six days of rioting,53 dead, 6,345 arrested, and over a billion dollars in damage. This predictable surprise was poorly planned, managed, and executed.
Crime rates in Los Angeles and in the US increased in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1991, crime rates reached an apex, and some African-American leaders in Los Angeles were praising the mayor and chief of police for engineering gang sweeps. (Katz, 2016). The gang sweeps were called Operation Hammer and manifested under the guise of a zero-tolerance approach to gang association. Operation Hammer was not done in conjunction with community policing strategies. Most of the police officers involved didn’t work the area, were not familiar with communal norms, didn’t know the youth, and casted a wide net that entangled any suspecting African-American youth. (Katz, 2016).
As a result of Operation Hammer thousands of adolescent African-American youth were arrested, jailed for a day, and released. This intensified the distrust between many in African-American communities and the police. The Rodney King trial commenced during a period of heightened tension in the ghettos of Los Angles, CA. Many in the community warned that if the four officers accused of severely beating Rodney King were acquitted there could be rioting. African-American leaders and police officers addressed the warnings and public concern in a dismissive tone. Politically framing the pre-acquittal tension as street people expressing anti-establishment opposition was a substantial miscalculation. Threats of anti-establishment expression and riots are addressed two ways: diplomatic strategies and force. (Useem, 1997)
Force strategies are often used to stop the mobilization and expansion of rioting and/or violence. It’s usually administered after diplomacy has failed. However, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the alleged African-American leaders miscalculated the gravity of the situation. The LAPD was at a disadvantage because most of the officers arresting and harassing the African-American youth during Operation Hammer had no relationship or connection to the community. They were viewed as an external force administering abusive and repressive tactics. The alleged African-American leaders were not considered community leaders by residents within the community. LA’s environment prior to the Rodney King verdict was prime for disorder, violence, and rioting. The so-called power players advising the mayor and LAPD about the nature of the situation were out of touch with the pulse of the collective rage.
The LAPD could’ve severely reduced the magnitude of the rioting, violence, deaths, and property damage, by employing proper planning and preparation techniques. Instead of relying on alleged African-American leaders, the LAPD could’ve talked with influential people in various South Central, Watts, West LA, and Compton neighborhoods to get a more accurate gauge of the tension and potential violence. By employing more community-based policing strategies, the LAPD would’ve been better prepared to respond to heightened situations. Proper planning and preparation are essential to successfully establishing control, maintaining order, and confining disorder in a specified location. (Useem, 1997).
There were opportunities to address and contain the growing tension head on, but two LAPD chiefs listened to a councilman that warned against a show of force. (Useem, 1997). The destruction and loss of life resulting from the LA riots was a prime example of how a skilled criminal justice organization could’ve identified the probability of disorder, spoke with people influential in various communities, and had specialized units ready to diffuse expanding disorder. Instead what was left was urban decay and politicians and police officers associating blame. South Central Los Angeles experienced an investment and rebuilding void after the riots. Although, the crime rates steadily decreased after the riots, the residents didn’t experience an increase in the quality of life. The 1992 LA riots serves as a warning to criminal justice organizations about the importance of community policing, being proactive, planning, and being prepared.
Katz, J. (2016). Culture within and culture about crime: the case of the “rodney king riots”. Crime, Media, Culture. 12(2), 233-251.
Useem, B. (1997). The state and collective disorders: the los angeles riot/protest of april 1992. Social Forces (University of North Carolina Press). 76, 357-377. doi: 10.2307/2580717