Hollywood-Style Heroism Latest Trend in Police Videos

Thomas J. Wydra, the police chief of Hamden, Conn., has seen plenty of disturbing body-camera recordings depicting officers committing misconduct. Last month, he decided to throw a more uplifting video into the mix. It showed one of his officers in a heart-pounding act of rescue. Called to a nursing home because of a troubled resident, the officer chased the man up several flights of stairs and onto a sixth-floor balcony. Just as the man hoisted a leg over the edge, the officer pulled him back … [Read more...]

Don’t Jail Crime Victims for Not Testifying

My friend Deborah Cotton, a courageous activist and journalist in New Orleans, died on Tuesday from wounds that resulted from a shooting at a parade in 2013. After that incident, I had the privilege of working with her at Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, an organization that gives crime victims a voice in public policy. Deb wanted solutions to crime that prioritized safety and economic investment in the community, rather than ineffective “tough on crime” approaches. Like many others in … [Read more...]

Where’s the Justice in Our Criminal Justice System?

I've been listening to a podcast I wish I could have heard while in high school—I probably would have gone to law school earlier than I did. Listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 10 podcasts everyone should follow, "Actual Innocence" was started by Brook Gittings, a social worker who—after watching the Netflix series "The Making of a Murderer"—realized how little she knew about our judicial system.  Her desire to learn more led her into the world of wrongful convictions, which has now … [Read more...]

Burn, Baby Burn: What I Saw as a Black Journalist Covering the L.A. Riots 25 Years ago

I could see the fires as soon as I left the First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles on that spring evening 25 years ago. I was a correspondent for Time magazine, covering the reaction to the stunning, April 29, 1992, acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers charged with the brutal, videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King. There was no “Black Lives Matter” movement then. But when I arrived at First A.M.E. — the designated meeting place for community leaders and others concerned … [Read more...]

Did the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Defraud the Feds?

Has the department’s “culture of corruption,” as the U.S. Attorney put it, been adequately swept away? An investigation into possible incidents of high-level fraud relating to a fleet of Sea King helicopters loaned under a controversial Defense Department program suggests a troubling answer. In August 28, 2013,  Dave Rathbun sent an email to Chief Edmund Sexton of the Homeland Security Division of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD). “Chief Sexton,” wrote Rathbun, who had been a … [Read more...]

5 Reasons LAPD Should Release Body Camera Video Footage to Public

The Los Angeles Police Commission is considering new guidelines for LAPD body camera video footage, and you have until May 7th to weigh-in. This is your chance to influence critical issues surrounding police transparency: When do body camera videos get released? Who gets to see it? Should relatives of victims play a role in these decisions? Fill out the LAPD's questionnaire now. All too often, law enforcement agencies have flat-out refused to release videos to the public, or have held … [Read more...]

25 Years After LA Riots

Community march will mark the past and look to the future he Rev. K.W. Tulloss was a 9th grader at Locke High School in South Los Angeles in April 1992 when a jury, with no black members, acquitted four white police officers of beating Rodney King. That verdict touched off days of rioting, looting and violence that left more than 55 people dead. The riots were concentrated in South L.A. but spread to other communities including downtown L.A., Koreatown, Hollywood, Pasadena and the San … [Read more...]

Will Jeff Sessions Police the Police?

The dismay that the neophytes in the Trump Administration elicit tends to follow three stages: alarm at what they say, shock at what they do, and outrage at what they propose to do next. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is no political neophyte—he represented Alabama in the Senate for twenty years—but the pattern still applies. His confirmation hearing included a reminder of an indulgent jest he once made about the Ku Klux Klan. On the Senate floor, Elizabeth Warren was silenced when she tried to … [Read more...]

True Crime: Novelist Richard Price on the Crucial Role of Crime Journalism

I’ve always assumed that the best crime reporting—sports reporting, too—was to be found in the tabloids, but after inhaling the contents of this anthology, which cover more than a century and a half of criminal mayhem as filed withThe New York Times, the shingles have fallen from my eyes. Lurid writing can overwhelm lurid deeds. Excitable adjectives, judgmental prose and the egging on of public outrage can often obscure rather than illuminate the facts at the core. In most of the articles … [Read more...]

Uneasy Riders: Before United, a Legacy of Excessive Force in Transportation

The passenger was ordered to move and refused. The rule was grossly unfair, yet the carrier within its rights to enforce it. The traveler’s belligerence may have added fuel to the fire, though by no means could he have anticipated its horrifying outcome. There were racial overtones. And fellow travelers who witnessed it expressed outrage and shock. A description of United Airlines Flight 3411 on April 9, 2017? Yes — but also of the Savannah Special over the rails of North Carolina, 70 years … [Read more...]