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To Protect and to Serve: The LAPD's Century of War in the City of Dreams Paperback – September 25, 2003
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The opening scene is a doozy: Tom Bradley, the black mayor of Los Angeles, faces an angry crowd just after the acquittals in the Rodney King beating trial. "Say what you gonna do," a fat woman bellows. "It's your police department. Say what you gonna do!" Little does the crowd realize the power of the LAPD. Joe Domanick goes back to the 1930s to find the roots of that power, and takes readers through the history of what he calls "a quasi-military organization ... outside of the democratic system of checks and balances." Domanick has a brisk, energetic prose style. In his hands these stories of antilabor squads and Red baiting, dragnets and "robocops," generate so much suspense, reading To Protect and to Serve is almost like watching a movie. And, as the Los Angeles Times writes, "While Domanick unearths much dirt about the LAPD leaders, To Protect and to Serve excels at drawing fair, empathic, multidimensional portraits of their lives." This book was the winner of the 1995 Edgar Award for best fact crime. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In a tradition dating back to the 19th century, the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department had life tenure and was therefore arguably accountable to no one, not even to the police commission. How that situation, reformed only in 1992 in the wake of Daryl Gates's handling of the Rodney King affair, protected the careers of police chiefs of the likes of William Parker (Watts riot of 1965) and Gates is the thrust of this dramatic study by freelance writer Domanick. He delineates the hold of the white, conservative, largely Protestant establishment on the City of Angels, who allowed the police department to run the city like an army of occupation, brutalizing minorities. The mayor, city council and police commission alike, shows Domanick, ignored or at best minimally curbed abuses by the police force. But with the riots of 1992, LAPD reforms were finally established under Charter Amendment F. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
A number of other reviewers complain about Domanick's bias and snark. Don't listen to them. This is an opinionated work, sure, but every statement of fact is substantiated in the endnotes. There's no way to write about this episode in history without being opinionated. Domanick tells his story from every point of view; he's snarky but the book is not biased. Other reviews complain that this isn't a general history of the LAPD. Well, it's just not. There are plenty of those available for those who want them, but this book only traces the antecedents of the riots. That's all it does, and it does it definitively. It's an essential work for anyone who wants to understand the modern history of Los Angeles.
The book is engaging and enlightening, and the long-standing issues/problems within LAPD management are obvious from the facts presented by the author. However, the author's obvious bias, sarcasm and anti-police slant discredit the facts and attempts at establishing objectivity. The author should have respected the words of Dragnet's iconic LAPD character, Officer Joe Friday ... "only the facts, nothing but the facts."
I often felt that his historical accounting of the LAPD was so tainted by his personal bias, I became dubious reading accounts of legitimate LAPD abuses. The diatribes directed at conservatives, an oppressive US government, Reagan, etc. felt forced and misplaced. He should have let the facts speak for themselves ... they would have spoken louder.
Part Two gives the history of Los Angeles and explains the development of the Police Department. August Vollmer began the professionalization to deal with corruption (p.49). What if this led to a powerful and independent entity? Police Chief James Davis invented the "dragnet" to stop and search for any "suspicious characters" (p.64). Mainstream reformers critical of the LAPD and City Hall were entrapped and arrested, the funds coming from organized crime (pp.54-56)! How could vice, gambling, and bootlegging flourish under a law-and-order police chief (p.56)? Davis also invented the "bum blockade" in 1936 to keep out people from other states (pp.60-62). The "Red Squad" broke strikes and attacked unions (pp.63-64). The shooting of a gambler united the forces of reform (p.75). Did the Intelligence Squad set a bomb in the car of an investigator for the reform movement (p.77)? Bill Parker rewrote Section 202 of the city charter to create new powers for all LAPD officers (p.94). There would be no checks and balances on the LAPD (p.95). There were no corruption scandals as in other big cities. "The Grip" described the "pro-active policing" of Bill Parker (p.111). These policies began to be overturned by the decisions of the Warren Supreme Court (p.113). That should tell you how "pro-active policing" violated the Constitution.
Part 3, Chapter 6 describes the ruling class of Los Angeles, such as the Committee of Twenty-five (p.151). Shows like "Dragnet" helped to promote the city. Hollywood controls almost all TV and movies, they were under the influence of Bill Parker and the LAPD. The LAPD did not tolerate immigrant gangsters (p.156). Bill Parker's Intelligence division allowed him to manipulate politicians (p.157), helped real estate interests (p.159), and to control a mayor (p.171). "Senseless violence" seems to be the result of unrelenting oppression (p.229). Domanick is wrong to claim Proposition 13 was a "revolt of the affluent", it was a correct response to Nixon's devalued dollars and the war on the middle class. Part 6 Chapter 1 tells what happened after the working class L.A. was devastated by corporate policies (p.311). That quote from "48 hours" might be planted propaganda (p.327).
When juries awarded LAPD's victims tens of millions of dollars in settlement awards, the city council authorized more money for a special police litigation unit (p.342). Again, Domanick doesnt' understand that "white people" (p.345) were getting hit with stagnant wages and rising costs. "Mass transit funds" (p.346) didn't help most people, only big corporations. Chapter 3 tells "The Raid on Dalton Avenue" was based on a false affidavit! LA now has the highest rates of violent crimes (p.355). Part 7 deals with the Rodney King encounter. The problem was the public didn't know "how to be arrested" (p.392)! Daryl Gates was suspended for 60 days. Gates knew how to do PR (p.395). The Christopher Commission decided Gates must go to improve the management of the LAPD (p.403). The verdict on the four LAPD officers was followed by an outbreak of fires and looting (Chapter 5). The LAPD did little (p.426). SNAFU (p.428)? The cause was Daryl Gates (p.429). The `Epilogue' sums it up. Proposition F passed, the LAPD would follow the rules, maybe (p.436).
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Too many unsubstantiated comments turned this book into just another "axe to...Read more