LOS ANGELES — What made a recent meeting here on police brutality different from other meetings was the absence of any attempt to fix blame. From the beginning, this meeting was about changing the situation in Los Angeles County communities. The people were there to find a solution, starting with a demand for the immediate dismissal of Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton.
Calls for Bratton’s ouster have continued to escalate since the death of 18-month-old Suzi Peña. The child was killed in a shootout between her father and the LAPD SWAT team. Most agree it was a death that didn’t have to happen.
“Chief Bratton brags that the crime rate has gone down, but the loss of life has gone up,” said a young man in the audience.
Keishia Brunston, whose nephew Deandre Brunston was killed by L.A. County Sheriffs’ Deputies in the city of Compton, said, “Bratton must not continue as chief.”
The Coalition for Community Control of the Police has been going door-to-door in Watts and Compton, surveying residents about the quality of police service. Based on their survey results, they are calling for an all-civilian police control board with the power to hire and fire police officers and to investigate incidents of police misconduct. So far, efforts by the federal government or the various municipalities have failed to stem the tide of rampant police abuse.
Vera Palmer attended the meeting because she received a visit from the coalition. Recently she and her family had returned home from the funeral for her granddaughter in Inglewood for what she described as a “re-pass,” a kind of wake. Family and friends were gathered playing dominoes and talking while the children played outside.
Suddenly several police cars arrived with cops in riot gear, she said. They attacked Palmer and her family in their own yard. They beat her and sprayed the children with pepper spray in the eyes and mouth. The police said that they had received “an anonymous tip” of some unspecified wrongdoing.
Later, she said, when she and others went to the police station to make a report, she was again attacked by police. Because of a physical disability she was not able to move as quickly as the LAPD demanded. About 30 officers attacked her and others in the lobby of the police station. One man who was having trouble breathing told officers he had asthma and could not breathe. The officer on top of him responded, “Die, [racist expletive]! We don’t care.”
Norma Martinez, an immigrant from Argentina, spoke about her son. He was shot down by the Downey police with an MP5 assault rifle, she said. Police shot her son 34 times, and still he didn’t die. Medical attention did not arrive for another 25 minutes. When paramedics finally arrived, they took her son to the St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, even though there is a closer medical center in Downey.
“They wanted my son to die because he was a witness” to the brutality, she said.