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.