This Is Horrifying

Black Lives Matter is often countered by people chanting “Blue Lives Matter,” and for every incident of clearly improper police behavior, there is a more complicated one where the propriety or impropriety of law enforcement behavior is far less clear-cut. As apologists for the people in blue are constantly–and accurately– reminding us, policing is dangerous and frequently requires split-second decision-making.

Americans who have been watching the newly-ubiquitous videos of apparently abusive police behavior often have an obligation to be measured in our judgments–to offer the blue team at least some benefit of the doubt.

That offer is clearly inappropriate here.This behavior is inexcusable–and horrifying.

Los Angeles sheriff deputies frequently harass the families of people they have killed, including taunting them at vigils, parking outside their homes and following them and pulling them over for no reason, according to a new report from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The LA sheriff’s department (LASD), which has faced national scrutiny for its corruption scandals and killings of young Black and Latino men, has routinely retaliated against victims’ relatives who speak out, the groups said in the report released on Tuesday.

The report details accounts of harassment from families who lost loved ones to police shootings, and alleges specific harassing behaviors.

LASD deputies regularly drive by or park in front of the Rea and Vargas families’ homes and workplaces and at times have taken photos or recorded them for no reason.

Deputies have repeatedly pulled over relatives, searched their cars and detained and arrested them without probable cause, allegedly in retaliation for their protests.

Officers have shown up to vigils and family gatherings, at times mocking and laughing at them or threatening to arrest them, and have also damaged items at memorial sites.

A spokesman for the Sheriff’s department (LASD) declined to address the report, but in response to family members’ formal complaints of harassment, LASD has frequently concluded that “employee conduct appears reasonable.”

Paul Rea’s family was one of those reporting harassment. Rea was an 18-year old killed during a traffic stop. According to the Guardian,

In August 2019, deputies drove by a memorial site for Rea and filmed his 14-year-old sister who was visiting, prompting the family to file a complaint, the report says.

In another incident that year, seven of Rea’s family members, including his grandmother, brought a cross to the memorial site. LASD allegedly showed up with a helicopter above them and numerous patrol cars. A deputy told the family that they were responding to calls that 60 people were gathered, but when Rea’s mother went to an East LA station to inquire about the alleged calls, the station told her that no calls or complaints had been made, the report says.

At a memorial gathering on 30 October 2019, deputies showed up and moved to arrest two of Rea’s friends, directing one of them to put out a blunt he had been smoking, the report recounts. The friend handed the blunt to Jaylene Rea, Paul’s older sister, so he could be handcuffed, and deputies then detained Jaylene Rea, put her in their patrol car and later took her to jail, where she spent the night, later citing her for “obstruction of justice”. She had given a speech that day at a rally, and the family said the arrest was retaliatory.

The linked report has several other examples, including complaints from the parents of Ryan Twyman, who was shot 34 times in 2019. They report that deputies continue to show up to their home and family events for no discernable reason.

If law enforcement wants public respect, this is hardly the way to earn it. This is behavior that erodes public trust, undermines police credibility and voluntary compliance, and contributes to cynicism about authority.

It needs to stop, and the officers who have participated need to be fired.


  1. I wonder how many of those police officers had previously served in the armed forces in combat situations in one or more tours in Afghanistan and/or Iraq, where it was often impossible to distinguish friend from foe and right from wrong. Demilitarization of local police departments will be a long, difficult and expensive process.

  2. Yes, policing is dangerous. But what the LASD is doing is very reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany.

    Now THAT is a dangerous prospect for everyone. Of course, with Republicans throwing democracy under the bus, I guess it’s inevitable that there will be these injustices and events of blue violence against innocent people.

    Republicans must be so proud.

  3. Like capitalism itself, while it may be a potent economic system, it attracts in and exposes those aspects of humans which require strong accountability. My friend once compared it to fire. Fire is a good thing if contained, but left unchecked, it will create problems.

    The uniform, the power, the money, the drugs, etc. all drives a certain type of person to this career. Some really love the idea to serve and protect. However, there are alpha males who will abuse their positions within the system.

    Therefore, like capitalism, police departments require strict oversight. Regulations and independent review boards. Liability insurance must be a burden on the department — not the taxpayers. Like fire, it has to be contained and watched closely.

    However, when the whole justice system, from cops to the Supreme Court is corrupt and lacks any oversight, well, you are going to have problems. If the government isn’t doing its job holding the private sector accountable, and the press isn’t holding the government accountable, there are no checks and balances. No accountability. No consequences.

    After years of this, how do you get the corrupt system to fix itself? Where are you going to start?

    When Julian Assange held this corrupt machine accountable, he found himself on the run and then tortured for a decade. Now whistleblowers and journalists are treated as spies for holding the corrupt government accountable. Some are murdered and dismembered. Others are poisoned and their cars blow up.

    Now, we have states where fed-up citizens can’t even protest these fascists. So, where you going to start. You going to vote out one party and elect another to a system that is entirely corrupt from top to bottom?

  4. Perhaps the newly revived US Justice Department can look into and deal with some of these behaviors. Nobody else can.

  5. I wonder along with Patrick….how many of these officers and their leaders are former military. This behavior noted here CANNOT take place, SHOULD be punished by removal from their law enforcement department, PROHIBITED from future employment in law enforcement. The good officers who work with these bad officers should be appalled. If they are not, they need to be removed from their job as well. And some wonder why police are not respected. Seems like these examples make it pretty self explanatory.

  6. Clearly, the citizens/voters are choosing not to hold the Sheriff or anyone in the department responsible for this despicable behavior and racism appears to be involved.

  7. Patrick and Roberta; however many of the public safety officers were former military, that is probably the primary reason they were accepted for policing the public. The killing of blacks is public news with the many witnesses with phone cameras and required police body cams but…the knowledge that they are being filmed and filming their own illegal actions, they carry on the age-old abuse of power.

    While the killing of unarmed blacks MUST be our top priority; a deeper look into the abuses of all public safety officers will find an uncountable number of police victimization of victims of domestic violence against women and children of all races. Searches of claims to report these abuses mysteriously disappear; further cover up of the officers by police administration. I personally know of a case of a grown man attempting to attack my 11 year old granddaughter, my daughter stepped in and stopped the attack then called 911. We were given a card with the case number which when my daughter called for the status; there was no report of the attack or case number in their records. Working with a counseling group of abused women in the mid-1970s, we found this to be the norm rather than the exception. Is this part of their training?

  8. We hear so often that “It’s just a few bad apples.” What about the others who stand back and do nothing while the bad apples harass those families or use excessive force during a traffic stop. Why is it that so often, body cameras show officers pulling their weapons while getting out of their cars for a traffic stop of a black man?

    What would happen if we tried something a little different? If tasers were the only side arms carried by those police, we might have far fewer killed. As it stands now, especially if you’re a black man in America, your punishment for a misdemeanor offence is likely to be a death sentence. Seems a little bit cruel and unusual to me, but that is just another constitutional right that doesn’t seem to apply equally to all.

  9. And right there in good old BLUE liberal LA CA, how astonishing. This isn’t about politics folks, it is about the well off living the ME life and not giving a hoot about the struggling. Wanna bet whether similar behavior might happen to any local “trailer trash”?

  10. Do some quick checking. Despite constant police and police union propaganda, law enforcement is by far NOT the most dangerous job in America–and in many cases, what danger there is is created by their own actions and attitudes.

    Fire fighting is more dangerous. Even logging is more dangerous.

  11. Perhaps instead of “defund the police” we should have heard “rebuild the police”. They are at least in pockets incapable of protecting all of the people. I personally won’t claim any expertise in why or how they got here, it’s much easier to spot a dysfunctional organization than it is to figure out how to fix it. Unfortunately, that’s not my profession. Someone in our government employ does however and they are not doing what we pay them to do.

  12. Pete,

    You clearly point out a HUGE opportunity for social entrepreneurs – there does exist considerable research regarding personality characteristics related to bullying and xenophobic tendencies. Combine this with today’s technology and you could get some good tools for both the military and police to use in recruiting/selection.

    Unfortunately, the entrepreneurs are busy making money with tools that allow you to close your garage door from 100 miles away or entertain your dog. And, perhaps, the military/police are concerned that trying to find less aggressive recruits might reduce the pool and/or the ability to use arbitrary force on other human beings.

  13. Maybe all those seeking to be police officers should be required to take an MMPI II. This test could help identify those who should not be on the police force due to sociopathy or PTSD.

    Speaking of PTSD, I wonder how many on the police force are suffering with this. I wonder how many fire fighters and EMT’s suffer with this. Like those serving in the military, it often goes unrecognized due to the requirement to be super heroes. I

    We definitely need to add emergency responders who can deal with people who are mentally ill, homeless etc. We need people who have the skills to deescalate situations.

    I recall when I worked at Central State that a man ran in with a knife threatening to hurt people if he did not get some mental health treatment. The doctor on call that evening skillfully deescalated him and then the police came down the stair well to arrest him. The man had surrendered his knife to the doctor. She met with him and he was then taken to what was then Wishard and is now Eskanazi. Yes, he was white.

    And I still think that in order for us to address abuse by police officers, we must address the gun violence in our country which undoubtedly puts police on edge.

  14. The cops in Southern California taught me to distrust them when I was in the Navy & stationed in San Diego and Alameda. They would harass service members as they knew they could get away with it. Sounds like the SoCal cops have gone from bad to worse.

  15. Statistically speaking, policing is not nearly as dangerous as a number of other jobs. It ranks 14th on OSHA’s list of dangerous jobs. First is logging, followed by fishing, piloting aircraft, roofing, and fifth, garbage collecting.

    In addition to those who really want to protect and serve their communities, policing attracts authoritarians and bullies with violent tendencies. They must be screened out, and if they slip through, fired when they inevitably cross the line. Derek Chauvin had a long history of excessive force beefs, but between the culture of silence and the enabling union, he was allowed to stay on the Minneapolis police force.

  16. So here I was, a white looking man, looking younger than 39 in my jeans and t-shirt in San Diego. I made an entirely safe, but clearly illegal u-turn to take the only parking space while all traffic was stopped at a light a quarter a mile away. It was dusk and I was taking a friend (Professor Miller from the University of Alberta) to meet up with colleagues at a dance club.

    Did they ask for my license and give me a ticket?
    No. The female officer was clearly proving herself to her male partner.
    Get out of the car; walk a line; touch your nose — and pointed her big flashlight directly in my eyes.
    “What’s wrong with your eyes?” she asked.
    I wanted to say you shined a powerful light directly into my eyes, you idiot, but I said, “myopia and astigmatism” — I think that lost her

    After 5 or 10 minutes of hassling me, she wrote a ticket.

    I thought it was so obvious, pathetic, and somewhat humorous. Afterwards, I wondered – how many Black and Latino young men would she go on to hassle and prove that she could abuse her power.

    I think there is something in the culture, where young police learn to “prove” that they are “bad asses” by being abusive – not everyone, but just enough.

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