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Official Negligence : How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD Paperback – October 1, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Washington Post journalist Cannon believes that the four Los Angeles Police Department officers prosecuted in 1992 for beating black motorist Rodney King "were scapegoats for the Los Angeles riots" that followed the not-guilty verdicts in their first trial. Readers may recall the videotape of the King arrest, but Cannon reveals that a crucial portion?favorable to the officers?was deleted from the version shown on national television. The LAPD's reputation has been badly tarnished by the King case, the riots in which 54 died, and the Simpson trial (mentioned only briefly here), and Cannon faults the city's political, judicial, and police leadership. Although any analysis of the racial and ethnic conflicts confronting Los Angeles is bound to be controversial, this exhaustively detailed book, while repetitive at times, is an essential part of the debate. Recommended.?Gregor A. Preston, formerly with the Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

This reporter's ambitious reconstruction of the Rodney King case presents a sobering image, not just of Los Angeles, but of judicial mayhem and political exploitation. Cannon (President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, 1991, etc.) was L.A. bureau chief of the Washington Post from 1990 to 1993. He repeatedly says that the beating of Rodney King was a Rashomon-like event in which every observer came away with a different perception of even the bare facts. Cannon's chronicle of the legal and political saga--from the night of the beating through the trial of the rioters who attacked Reginald Denny--is almost entirely drawn from the point of view of police officers. Within this particular framework, it is certainly authoritative, though the reader will almost always be nagged by a feeling of not having the whole story. He does show that the King incident was not representative of what it's like to be a suspect in the hands of the LAPD, and that only because it was videotaped did the world take it to be so. Cannon's masterful narrative, with tight control over its vast scope and incredible detail, overflows his own restriced frame, allowing readers copious material with which to weigh his implicit conviction regarding the innocence of the officers of the charges brought against them, and the LAPD's (and the judicial system's) broader guilt- -the ``negligence'' of the title (such as lack of training of police officers in the proper use of the baton to subdue a suspect). He creates an often complicated but always crystal-clear chronicle, seeming to recount years of turmoil almost minute-by-minute. Along with the major players, every juror and witness is introduced with extensive biographical background. Seemingly small legal issues and lawyerly subtexts of the trials are zealously pursued; by the time Cannon gets to the Denny trial, readers may be exhausted, but they will have achieved some clarity. As indispensable as it is incomplete. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813337259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813337258
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An outstanding piece of reporting that takes the long view of the effects of the Rodney King trial and subsequent events, "Official Negligence" makes some fresh points about a sequence of episodes most people are tired of talking about. Of the fascinating cast of characters profiled in this book, the only one who emerges as anything approaching a hero is perhaps the least likely candidate: Stacy Koon, the sergeant who oversaw the original arrest of King and was later convicted of violating King's civil rights. Cannon's argument, at root, is that it is highly debateable whether a crime was committed in Pasadena in March, 1991, when King was pulled over and eventually beaten, and that racial animosity played virtually no role in the event. What is NOT debateable, according to Cannon, is the "official negligence" of the L.A. city council, Mayor Tom Bradley, the L.A. court system, and the LAPD leadership that produced the poorly trained officers who originally confronted King and the subsequent chaos that engulfed Los Angeles. Cannon is a terrific reporter who refuses to engage in policy prescriptions, but he does an outstanding job of detailing the sequence of communication breakdowns, judicial fiat, local political arrogance and LAPD miscalculations that produced an environment where riots were a natural consequence. The only (minor) flaw is a sense of repetition that suggests another editorial pass at the manuscript would have been useful, but overall, "Official Negligence" is an absolutely compelling read that will, despite whatever preconceptions you have of Rodney King, the LAPD, or the causes of the 1992 riots, challenge your preconceptions and force a rethinking of basic assumptions surrounding law enforcement, urban America, and Los Angeles.
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Format: Paperback
Echoing sentiments expressed by other reviewers, I wholly concur after reading "Official Negligence" that negligent, inflammatory US media reporting, abetted by the jump-to-conclusion negligence of the Los Angeles Police Department, significantly and overwhelmingly warped public perception of the Rodney King affair and propagated the worst riots in recent history.
Taken in the context of the entire story, as reported in "Official Negligence," the police officers were racially railroaded and politically double-jeopardized by a media/legal system that -- once it had seen the film excerpt -- truly never wanted to make any further effort to learn the facts of the case.
This is an important book to read, if for no other reason than to keep you alert from now forward when watching television news. They're going to show you what SELLS, and not necessarily what TELLS.
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Format: Hardcover
Lou Cannon has put together an account of the culture and climate within the city of Los Angeles preceding the Rodney King incident and the ensuing riots that really hits the mark. As a person who was directly involved in law enforcemnt during the period the book focuses on, I thought I had the entire King incident and riots figured out. on the contrary, I was completely blindsided by the information in this book. Cannon has done his homework and has put together a shocking and revealing account of the King incident, trial and years leading up to it. I would strongly recommend this book to anybody interested in the history of L.A., it's police department and political climate. It should be required reading for all Police recruits, lawyers, politicians and managers.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the most engrossing book that I have read in a while.. It is gripping and unbiased. Lou Cannon states the history behind the Los Angeles Police Department, with straight forward, objective proof. Cannon describes the transformation from the beginnings of the LAPD and how it was molded into the elite law enforcement agency in the world. It then goes into great deal behind the whole Rodney King incident and the riots, giving indepth thought to what happened and why. An unbelievable book!!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very important book. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Rodney King police beating of 1991. It provides a deep understanding of police use of force, race relations, jury selection and politics. A great gift for your local chief of police. The best and worst ways to deal with protests and rioting. A must read for police chiefs, mayors and journalists. It's a long book and some of the content is very disturbing, but if you want to understand how a jury found the four police officers not guilty, this is the book for you.

While the book is a complete coverage of the two Rodney King trials and the Denny trial, there are a few unanswered questions:

Why didn't the Taser shots take down Rodney King?

Was it because he was high on PCP?

What's the best way to take down a large suspect who might be high on PCP?

Would pepper spray work?

Is there a better way to perform the "Swarm Technique"?
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Format: Hardcover
As a Los Angeles Police officer who has worked in L.A. since 1988, I found that Joe Cannon took a refreshing look behind the scenes of what it's like to live and work in Los Angeles. Mr. Cannon's writing style cut through the fog which often clouds how city politics is seen from the outside. Part of that for is created by the media, and part of the fog is created by self-serving political "leaders" so that the true responsibility for lack of training and resources of Los Angeles' police department personnel is never truly identified. Mr. Cannon pointed out that the city's leaders rather pay later when it's much more costly, than pay upfront--by adequately funding training programs--when it's cheaper. After all, it's the taxpayers' money.Bravo, Mr. Cannon. Andre' Belotto
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