When We Fight

Show me your trash and I’ll tell you who you are, any good hospital janitor will tell you. Tallent Neal is damn good. Your dark poop stuck under the toilet rim speaks to me so loud that I can’t hear a word you say. That’s what flushed through my mind when sunlight glinted off a disposable lighter cap and the metallic stripe on a grape flavored Swisher Sweets cigarillo wrapper in the curb gutter, along with clumps of tobacco, and a crumpled 7-Eleven receipt, no doubt left by some smoked-out zombie. My cheek muscles jumped and out of habit, I bent to pick up trash just as Xochi De León said, “Smile for the camera Mr. Neal.” She was the Hue and Cry newspaper reporter.

I stuffed the litter into my pocket, smoothed back coiled salt and pepper Bozo hair, sucked in my belly, popped the top buttons of my custodian’s shirt, and propped my back against the Davis Middle School’s security fence; cold steel bars that towered over me with an outward curve and terminated with triple-pointed spear tips as black as Snoop Dog’s lungs. The bars were not unlike those at Men’s Central Jail where I’d once did a bullet, a whole Goddam year.

A pandemonium of thick, leathery, dark green oleander leaves with scented yellow flower clusters peeked through the pickets at the corner of Matthisen and Spruce Streets. A stone’s toss north, Queen Egypt, Chattom, and other rebels waited on Rosecrans Avenue.

The media came to Compton only when there was a murder, political corruption, or when they were curious about some rapper’s poetic couplet. But this was different. Xochi was covering our protest against marijuana storefront dispensaries.

I forced the corner of my mouth up as far as I could. “I-I am s-smiling,” I said, my face frozen from Parkinson’s acquired from Paraquat tainted marijuana in the 70s. Click. Xochi caught my best anti-drug scowl. I’d been clean and sober for thirty years. Old habits and temptation never fully leave you though. It’s like a smoldering ember on a wood shingled roof waiting for that right gust of wind. That’s why total abstinence from drugs is the only way. My truth would spare others the down side to weeds laughter.

Xochi wore no makeup. Her face was the color and shape of a marmalade plum, hair short, dark, and roughed-dried, a yellow pencil rose from it like a hairpin. What did she know? She looked fresh out of college and had probably partied high on drugs like college kids do. She looked all around and behind her and said, “Compton has a dangerous reputation.”

“I know,” I said. “Rappers sold shit sandwiches and the world, they ate it.” My throat started to close up. “——before, we had in all ways loved us. Now, we have targets on our backs. Do I look like a monster to you? Do I?

Xochi’s head hitched slightly then she swallowed. “Let’s get this done,” she said. “I don’t have all day.”

My shoulder squeaked like a rusted door hinge when I raised a sign stick that read, THINK CLEAR!

“Why’d you organize the protest Mr. Neal?” Xochi said.

“We’re being lied to about weed. Dope p-problems grow like bad bacteria when left unattended,” I said. I spell-checked my sign. “I want it to stop——one unemptied trash can mean the job is incomplete,” I said. Truth is weed once retarded my reaction. I hallucinated and failed a four-way stop sign. My road dog crashed through the windshield. I’d go back and change that if I could.

Atop a streetlight pole, from some remote location, the sheriff monitored us, and all activity along Rosecrans. I didn’t bother with a permit and deputies could break up our party at any time if we left the sidewalk like when Alvarado Park May Day protesters overflowed onto city streets. LAPD drove motorcycles through the crowd, and then used their batons and rubber bullets on them. My heart pounded against my rib cage. It would be my fault if that happened.

Their camera lens whirred and moved when we made our way toward protesters that called themselves Weed Rebels. Some strayed into the street and caused light morning traffic to slow while waiting on the grassy median that divided four east-west traffic lanes on Rosecrans.

“When we fight, we win.” Councilwoman Ethel Last Word Vickers’ voice rose above the murmurs of about two dozen rebels mingling below the surveillance camera. Why was she there?  Politicians only come to skin and grin before the camera.

Rebels put the finishing touches on protest signs, sneered down the block at drunks sitting on discarded furniture and crates in front of a new 7-Eleven that was built beyond an empty lot and a tiny shotgun house, or they pointed to the line that snaked around the cannabis storefront in an abandoned church. Several doors down from the old church cars crept like pill bugs in and out of a 24/7 drive-through smoke shop, an apartment building, a house, and auto parts store was in between. An occasional car passed and honked support for the protesters. Others slowed, rose down their windows and shouted, FUCK Y’ALL. Somewhere within the avenue’s discombobulated zoning scheme a dog barked and a rooster crowed.

A thick woman, Vickers’ skin was deep brown, hair gold. She wore a white summer dress and clutched a white purse that, when she talked, she crazily waved around as if she were going to throw it at you. Her stiletto heels clacked against the sidewalk when she approached us from the median. She thrust a sign at passing vehicles that said, No Mas Drogas. My blood pressure rose and I coughed a couple of times. She butted between us, faced Xochi and said, “Dealers suck,” her voice choked with tears. She held up her purse as if to block someone from dumping on more worry.

***

Antsy protesters met us on the corner at Rosecrans next to one of the clandestine storefronts, a faded sand colored building. On it was a mural of forest pine trees set against an amber backdrop. One sliding door and three rectangular windows were covered with thick steel plates. On one end was a pale-white side entry door behind a rickety wrought iron driveway gate. Across the street was Greater Love, the former church, a one-story building with three large white wooden crosses embedded in its dull gray stucco facing.

The Weed Rebels eyeballed Xochi. She pressed her elbows into her side which made her look smaller, studied something on her cell phone and said, “The majority of California’s voters favored recreational marijuana use. Why do you think Compton residents voted against it?”

“It’s dr-drug dealing,” I said, “made legal, like p-prescription opiates. Superfly. First Youngblood Priest showed us how to snort cocaine. It got worse when Ronnie Reagan dropped the crack bomb on us.” My skin crawled. “Now Trump has his finger on the button.”

Trump. The rebels hoisted their signs and erupted, “Not my president——Not my president——Not my president!”

Vickers waved her white purse like a symphony conductor and snarled, “ten years ago we passed an ordinance to outlaw medical weed dispensaries.” Her back was to me. “We didn’t want it then, don’t want it now,” she said.

I shifted from foot to foot as the number of rebels grew and began to block eastbound traffic. What if riot gear clad deputies descended on them? My gut quivered. Some among them over her shoulder gave Vickers a silent look and narrowed their eyes.

She didn’t mention how her tax crazed money-grubbing fellow Democrat’s supported the recreational-use ballot measure. Since then, cash-only fly-by-night operations spawned like a cockroach infestation and for the past few months, were out of control.

“First weed, next gentrifuckation,” I said. “We’re pushing back. Resisting.”

Xochi jumped when rebels behind her shouted, “No gentrifuckation——No gentrifuckation——No gentrifuckation!”

She white-knuckled her phone recorder and pushed it toward my mouth. “Some would say that yours is a lost cause Mr. Neal.”

“I don’t need to prove nothing to you,” I said, elbowed around Vickers, threw up a fist like John Carlos and Tommie Smith did in 68 and said, “When we fight, we win.”

Xochi frowned. The protesters raised knuckles and chanted, “When we fight, we win——When we fight, we win——When we fight, we win!”

“I followed the crowd as a kid,” I said to Xochi, “——I used to chug cheap wine, smoked cigarettes and marijuana by thirteen, and celebrated my fifteenth birthday high on LSD, downers, and weed, on a rocket to nowhere,” I told her. “For some reason, it all felt right, normal,” I said.

A voice boomed over the rebels, “Give thanks and praises to the most Hi, Emperor Haile Selassie the first.” The crowd parted, my chest tightened. It was Winfrey’s Caribbean accent. Bad news. Why’d he show up now? A Compton native who’d visited Jamaica and returned Rastafarian, Winfrey said, Lamb’s bread is a sacrament for the use of man——a cool meditation, mon.” He was a 1960s Black Panther. Short in stature, he wore a red, gold, and green tam with long Dreadlocks sewn onto the sweatband. His flat nose and pitted-black skin made him look fierce, and to anyone listening, he’d tell the story of how he and fellow Panthers fought SWAT back in the day. “I was in the 1969 shootout against LAPD’s first SWAT team. We kicked their asses all over 41st and Central——fuck the pigs,” he’d say. He was once uncompromising, hated police and they hated him back. But when it came to weed, all skin-folk ain’t kinfolk.

“You helped us get porta-potties in public parks from the City dude but this fight ain’t for you,” I said. “That is, unless you’re gonna put the weed away.”

He’d been drinking and slurred, “Nah mon. Me never do dat,” Winfrey said. “Herb never hurt nobody mon. Whoa. You usta puff collie herb, now you ǵainst it. What ya know mon?”

Motherfucka tried to pull my cover. “That was years ago,” I shouted at Winfrey, heartbeat pounding loud in my ears. I did a little breath-of-fire yoga to calm myself.

“Get the fuck on you fake assed Rasta!” A protester yelled. “Go fuck with LAPD. Go back to Jamaica,” they said.

Winfrey dragged his palms down his legs and tried to facedown the crowd.

“You can’t even get a job,” a rebel said. “Your old piss’ll test dirty.”

When the crowd closed in, he rocked slightly and raised his hand to ward them off.

“Bumba clot!” Winfrey said. He gazed red eyes up to the churring spy camera and to draw ire, gave it the finger. He held the gesture for us as he squeezed through and away from the protesters. He stopped, fired a spliff. “Ras clot! Make we leave ya,” he said and stumbled toward the new 7-Eleven.

Xochi scribbled onto a notepad and asked, “Is there any upside to marijuana cultivation and sale in Compton Mr. Neal?”

“Hell no. It’s a scheme by entrepreneurs and their political puppets to make money off poor people. They want to market it,Straight outta Compton.’” I squeezed the sign stick.

“Fuck that,” a protester said.

I said, “If cannabis benefited Compton, we’d already be rich. A lot of people went to prison behind it. It’s a trick-bag.”

Queen Egypt stepped out from the rebels. Her royal blue gele was knotted at her temple and covered her hair and ears which left her periwinkle earrings and pinched face exposed. “Trick-bag is right,” she said. “Husband’s been in prison ten years for weed.” She took several quick breaths. “My son wants to open a dispensary one day.” A scrawny kid about fourteen with big eyes in a black wave cap snatched his wrist away from her and, with his Vans, kicked at a breeze blown cigarillo wrapper and traced sidewalk cracks. “Something’s wrong with this picture,” She said.

I crouched to the boy’s eye level and said, “Respect your mama.” The boy yawned. His name was Cory.

Xochi ignored the boy and said, “But Mr.Neal, you seem to have turned out okay——kinda.”

I said, “With help I was able to t-turn away from dependence and from the thefts, robberies, c-crimes to support it——in and out of jail.” My arm twitched. “——always leashed to probation, parole.”

The boy muttered under his breath. “Whatever,” he said. Cory’s daddy was in prison for what’s no longer a crime.

“So, how’d you clean up, Mr. Neal?” Xochi said.

I threw the big-eyed boy a sidelong glance. He shrugged and placed his hands in his pockets. “What do you know about running a business?” I said to him.

His voice hardened, “Nothing. I don’t know nothing about it.”

“Have you ever s-sold anything before? Lemonade?”

“Chocolate turtles in the fourth grade,” he said.

“H-how’d it go?”

“Kinda hard. Mom sold it for me.”

“T-then you might have a clue. Weed is different because people that need it will come to you like a magnet. You could make a lot of money off the weakness of others——if it’s only about money.”

“What else is it about? I want bling like everybody else.”

“Even if others are harmed? D-do you really want to profit off the pain of people that look like you?” I glanced at his mother. “Your mama raised you better than that. I can tell.”

Cory squished his big eyes together. “What else can I do?” He said.

I lightly touched Cory’s shoulder and said, “Learn business if that’s your interest. There’s a world for you. You might have to look, work hard to find it and do it. L-love yourself first.”

The rebels didn’t miss the beat and said, “Love yourself——Love yourself——Love yourself first!”

“You can do better,” I said. “We have always loved each other, Cory. You don’t need drugs for that. Let the white boys have it.

Queen went dewy-eyed, she cupped her face and wept, several rebels sniffled. Of course Vickers chimed in, “Don’t worry about anything——instead pray about everything,” she said to Cory and handed his mama her business card.

I turned Cory to face me and said, “Make the library and a dictionary app your new BFF. Tell God your needs and remember to thank him for his answers,” I told him. I returned to Xochi. The rebels held their signs and leaned in.

“How’d I clean up? Paraquat poison still burns my blood. Th-That’s another thing——now cattle are out the barn, they’re out, dope is legal if you’re over t-twenty-one,” I said. Three felony strikes would get Cory’s daddy twenty-five years. I said to Xochi, “Decriminalization is good but instead of jail time, my brothers camp around smoke shops.” I was on a roll. “Th-There’re way more drug storefronts in Compton th-than are places for people to kick drugs, if they choose——” My fingers pill-rolled. “I-I was l-lucky. There were recovery homes——a village to love and support me. One day at a time.” I clasped both hands together around the sign stick. “Recovery is hard,” I said. “But everything will be alright if I do one day at a time——one day at a time,” I said.

The protesters repeated, “One day at a time——One day at a time——One day at a time!”

“Holla!” Vickers said.

Several passing drivers honked, another cussed us.

***

A woman in a floppy orange hat, copper skin bunched around her eyes, pushed a stroller with a toddler with cornrows into the group of protesters who milled around the weed storefront with their signs. The toddler wore a black t-shirt with a green marijuana leaf inside a circle with a red line through it. The woman bared her teeth and yelled, “We didn’t vote for this shit. Shut it down. Shut it down.”

The protesters sprung alive and bellowed, “Shut it down——Shut it down——Shut it down!”

We marched past the mural and approached the side entry door. Behind the driveway gate a security guard stood on trash strewn barren dirt, arms folded across his pudgy chest. In wraparound sunglasses, blue polo shirt with black collar and epaulettes, his pot-belly hid his belt. Guzman was sewn on a fabric plate above where a pocket might have been on a real uniform shirt. On his upper arm was a patch like California’s state bear, only his looked more like Yogi. He hitched his head, smirked, and sat in shade under a tree that grew just above the slanted roof; its spindly branches weighted like Christmas ornaments with red Chinese globes the size of soccer balls.

When the rebels reached the gate Guzman jumped from his high chair and shuffled back. He checked that the side door was locked, clutched a Taser attached to his belt, and then fastened the gate latch to keep protesters out.

Next to me was Chattom, a retired prison guard who was third runner-up in the Mr. Olympia contest. He wore a gold rope chain with a crucifix of a body builder on it. Chattom’s muscled thighs and calves tested his cargo pants. He spoke to Xochi through his teeth, “Read this.” He passed around a petition, and handed out leaflets about Compton’s unsolved murders. “The list includes the unexplained ones killed by deputies too. Murder is murder,” he said.

A wispy androgynous soul stepped from behind the driveway gate in a dark gray baseball cap. Across the crown was a green caduceus, a short rod entwined by two snakes, and topped by a pair of wings. “I’m Tosh,” the person said.

The pungent odor of hydroponics shadowed Tosh even though this person had no red cast to the white of their eyes as deadheads under the influence usually did, pupils weren’t dilated. The scent was powerful but not unfamiliar and reminded me of the far weaker bunk weed that I once copped. Who was this Tosh? I declined Tosh’s fist bump.

Weed Rebels whispered, some shook their heads disapprovingly and ogled as if Tosh, much too little to take on a hostile crowd, had just beamed down from space.

The moment was long and uncomfortable before Xochi asked, “What pronoun do you prefer?”

“They or them,” Tosh said all bubbly. They wore a lavender T-shirt; a sad lap dog surrounded by roses stared out from it. They reached for and read the petition and said, “It’s my dispensary and don’t understand your protest.” Tosh folded the petition and stuffed it in their jeans pocket and seemed to carefully consider what to say next. “We care about customers and don’t sell to children. We require ID——must be twenty-one,” Tosh said.

The protesters shouted, “Get the fuck outta of Compton. Get the fuck out now!” they said.

Xochi clicked on her cell phone recorder.

“We’ve seen kids make b-lines from school to your d-doors,” I said to Tosh.

“We turn them away and they cross the street,” Tosh said.

Ever the interloper, with each word Vickers cast and reeled back her purse as if she was fishing. “We have enough problems and don’t need more drugs in Compton. I’ll have the health department investigate.” She lowered her sign. “Do you assess the quality of the dope?”

“Is high quality, healthy.” Tosh bounced on their toes. “We don’t sell to people without a doctor’s recommendation. Across the street, maybe they do.”

I cut off Vickers and said, “You use p-pesticides on your products? Herbicides? Right?”

“No. Our growers don’t use anything——maybe ladybugs,” Tosh said. “It’s organic.”

“Sheesh,” a rebel scoffed. His face was puffy, nose crooked as if he’d lost a few rounds in the ring. He lisped, “Maybe we thould eat the thit,” he said, “Tal vez deberíamos comer la mierda.” He put his hands to his throat and mimicked a gag reflex.

The rebels derided Tosh, “It’s organic——It’s organic——It’s organic——Let’s eat the shit!”

Xochi said, “Organic? Get this straight——your product contains no mycobutinal or other pesticides?”  She wrote something in her pad. “If you don’t grow it yourself, how do you know?”

“That’s what they tell us,” Tosh said.

“Psssh——whaaat?” I tasted bullshit, my body temperature rose. “Th-that mycobutinal is like malathion p-pesticide and Paraquat——systemic——stays in tissues for years.” I went for the gut. “That stuff’s a slow death——like antibiotics fed to cows and pigs that’s in hamburgers and b-barbeque.”

Xochi stopped writing and said, “Surely your suppliers certify that the product doesn’t contain fungicides?”

“Well,” Tosh crossed then uncrossed their arms. “——it’s shipped from Seattle. I think its sun grown.”

“Really?” Vickers said. Her purse jutted back and forth in Tosh’s face like a toilet plunger. “You think? I think you’re full of it. You think we’re stupid. I think you’re wrong and need to get your ratchet ass up out of here. Think on that.”

Good shit for a politician. The protesters didn’t let it pass and said, “Ratchet ass——Ratchet ass——Ratchet ass!”

I dropped the cardboard sign when its weight became too much. I’d not let Vickers have the last word, bogart my protest. “Weed smoke causes cancer. Do you warn them?”

Tosh fidgeted and didn’t answer, their head rolled like Linda Blair’s did in the Exorcist.

The Weed Rebels huddled tight and taunted Guzman, “Burn ‘em down——” they shook the weakened gate and repeated, “Burn ‘em down.”

“We need a molotov,” a woman laughed with an edge. “Turn this bitch into one big blunt.”

Guzman gripped the doorknob but the side door was locked from inside. Tosh squeezed their tiny frame between the gate and the protesters. The red globes on the spindly tree danced on a slight breeze like slanting rain. A hint of chemicals drifted in. Drivers in passing cars continued to honk, some cursed. The sheriff’s camera focused steady. A news helicopter rumbled overhead. I spit out excess saliva.

“We don’t cause problems and our customers mostly have medical issues,” Tosh said, the crowd was bigger thanks to social media.

Pressed against the fence next to Tosh was a sweaty, wooden guy with facial scars and eyelids that quivered, ratty auburn hair, and rumpled clothes. He separated hairs on his head and pointed to a stitched scalp gash. He said to the rebels, “I need pot for epilepsy.” His tongue was coated silver. “I took shrapnel when our convoy hit a roadside IED in Afghanistan,” he said rubbing at the injury.

Vickers’ purse stilled at her side. “Thank you for your service,” she said. Next her purse sprung into action, “But, you’ll have to find your medicine somewhere else——not in Compton,” she said.

The rebels weighed in, “Thank you——Thank you——Thank you——But not in Compton!”

Gash Head clinched his jaw, he tried but backed against the fence, he couldn’t retreat and the rebels didn’t budge. His eyes darted from place to place. “It’s there in the box soldier,” he said. He muttered under his breath, “They got it on film. Get out, get out——Holy shit. It’s in the road. FUCK. Did you see that?” He snatched at his clothing as if it itched and then, from his pocket pulled a cigarillo from a red package with a watermelon on it. His hands trembled. He used his pocket knife to slice along the glue seam on the smoke, dumped its content and filled it with weed. He snapped open his Zippo, sparked the blunt, and inhaled deep. I coughed when he blew a cloud of butane infected smoke into my and Chattom’s face.

Chattom leaned back and said, “You don’t live in Compton, dude.” Whack! He slapped the back of Gash’s head, plucked the smoke from his lips, and with his heel squished it into the sidewalk. “Shit stinks,” he said. “Secondhand smoke kills.”

Gash Head’s face flushed, “Awww mannn,” he said. He elbowed out from the protesters, bent down hands on knees, and breathed hard. Tosh gawked and Guzman’s lips formed a straight line.

What the f—? I took a deep breath and turned to Tosh. “I don’t care what your argument is.” I lifted the THINK sign stick to my shoulder. “I gatewayed from Mary J and cheap wine to harder stuff.”

The crowd stopped pushing, quieted, and listened.

“That’s your experience. Everyone doesn’t go there.”

“How do you know? You ever ask your customers what they lace weed with? What they Snort, shoot, or drink?”

“Medicinal marijuana, especially the old ones,” Tosh said.

Vickers chiseled in and pointed her purse down the street to where OG’s tethered to hooch congregated on crates outside of 7-Eleven. “They’re lost in the wilderness,” she said. “They waved the white flag, gave up the fight in order to get their drunk on.”

Tosh’s pitch rose, “People have rights. A choice to do what they want to.” Tosh glanced quickly at Vickers, Guzman, and then looked away.

I said, “And we have a right to feel safe, where children can p-play, women can walk at night. People high on drugs do stupid shit and sabotage th-that right in our city. Freedom’s not free.”

Chattom cupped his hands over his mouth and waved leaflets over his head. “Kill dealers,” he said. “Smite them all in the name of the Lord.”

“Smite them——Smite them——Smite them!”——the protesters said.

Guzman looked amused. He leaned one hand on his chair.

“Are you blaming all of those problems on marijuana?” Tosh asked.

“Yep. Th-that and all that comes with it.”

“That’s just old fashioned prohibitionist reefer madness,” Tosh said. “Fake news.”

“Fake?” My mouth soured. “We must c-control what goes on within our city——just l-like any other c-community.” My fingers pill rolled again. “D-Drug problems affect us different than in Beverly Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, or wh-wherever you come from——Trump wants to take our Obamacare. Then what?——we ain’t got no Betty Ford down here. Just Say ‘No’ is bullshit.” Edginess replaced my shoulder pain. “You suck the money out of Compton and leave us cranberry-eyed in a fog, unable to think on how we can do better.” I slammed the sign to the pavement. “I’m keepiń it real,” I said.

“WORD,” a protester said. “I’m one hundred with that.”

Vickers’ purse got busy when she said to me, “You need your own church.”

Xochi smiled, her face softened, but her tone didn’t. “Do you remind your customers that it’s illegal to smoke marijuana in public?” she asked. “It’s allowed only on private property——not parks, not sidewalks.”

“Not everyone gives a damn about other people,” Tosh said, nodding their head to where Gash rocked back and forth on the periphery.

I——”, before I could finish Vickers horned in.

“See,” Vickers said, purse fully engaged, sign moving up then down. “How does Compton benefit from your dispensary? You bring in a lot of outsiders who cop and hop. Smoke shops, 7-Eleven’s, weed dispensaries, and empty churches are what we’re left with.”

“We do our part,” Tosh said. “Just look across the street.”

People twice the number of the protesters streamed through metal doors into the converted church. “They sell Green Hornet to little kids.”

“What’s that?” Xochi asked.

“Pure THC made like Gummy Bears,” Tosh said, voice shaking. “Their Fifty-One-Fifty Bar is nothing but THC and sugar.”

The councilwoman’s nostrils flared, “Oh, HELL NAWL——its genocide. Let’s block the doors,” she said.

She turned and headed across the street but the rebels did not follow her. “What should we do Neal” one said. I hesitated, my breath caught in my chest. Another rebel said, “Who’s calling the shots?” Vickers did what politicians always did in Compton. She tried to hijack the revolt. I rolled my neck and said, “CHARGE.”

“Let’s riot,” a rebel said over rowdy voices.

Chattom stopped car traffic and we rebels waved signs, shouted profanities, and crossed against the traffic light. From behind someone tossed a McCafé® Latte that splashed against a cross on the re-purposed church. A coughed racked my chest.

In front of the church Tosh explained how their grasses contain high levels of Cannabidiol, which to them has medical benefits. “CBD doesn’t get you high but is good for pain, acne, and PTSD,” they said.

“Humph. Do you mean Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder?” I asked. Misfits had given Compton a bad reputation. Many people there had been pained, discriminated against, disenfranchised. But even in my time, admittedly, marijuana reduced anxiety. Couldn’t study, do homework, or job interviews, but could chill-out, scarf junk food, and trip on meaningless shit. Pain shot through my shoulder when I pressed my fist to my lips. Could a medical case be made for cancer patients and those with severe pain? What about epileptics like Gash Head? Maybe Tosh had a point but why then sell anything other than CBD? Winfrey’s so-called religious beliefs? But just to get sprung, or twisted? FUCK NO. We can do better than stay high all the time. I said, “PTSD?——a lot of Comptonians have that aw-awright.”

The customer line that had snaked around Greater Love vanished when set upon by Weed Rebels. The workers packed a SUV with boxes and hurried away.

One storefront down.

***

We were back across the street. Rebel’s had grown larger and louder.

Xochi faced Tosh and said, “Assuming that your business is legally organized as a non-profit collective——” She pushed her recorder close to Tosh’s lips. “Does your business have a state seller’s permit?”

Tosh buried their face in their Smartphone. The lap dog’s eyes on their T-shirt seemed to droop.

Rebels shook and rattled the gate that Guzman snorted and paced behind.

“Do you have a b-business license?” I knew full well that Compton did not issue marijuana business licenses. Chattom stood silent.

Crash!, the gate slammed the sidewalk. Guzman held up both palms and backed away. Protesters reached for him, a shrill voice said, “Yeah muthafucka——what you gonna do now?”

Guzman put down his head and straightened his arm like OJ did on the USC gridiron, “No mas!” He barreled over the orange hatted woman and her toddler. Eeeow! The kid screamed like a child would who just scraped face-first across concrete. Guzman rushed onto Rosecrans with Chattom in pursuit. He ran east on the median toward Paramount which was the next city. Winfrey and Gash Head looked confused and took refuge in the empty lot between the shuttered storefront and 7-Eleven.

Tires screeched followed by the smell of burnt rubber. A van packed with dispensary supplies, equipment, and the scent of hydroponics careened out of the driveway where Guzman had posted, Tosh was behind the wheel.

“HIP, HIP, HOORAY,” the Weed Rebels cheered, high-fived and posed for Xochi’s group photo, and for the surveillance camera above.

“Here’s my byline,” Xochi said when she turned her note pad to me, ‘When they fight, they win: Compton smokes out weed storefronts.’

I pointed my pill-rolling fingers at the sheet of paper and asked, “Why Xochi?”

She said, “I’ve never used and turned against drugs when by brother Juan Carlos killed himself in Guatemala.” Her voice cracked. “A river of drugs flowed through there to the U.S. We lived in a place called Dump City when he started smoking marijuana, moved on to sniffing glue, and later crack cocaine.”

My stomach knotted.

Vickers squeezed her body between us and said, “Two down, sixty more to go. Where to tomorrow?”

     A cluster of yellow marigolds poked through a crack in the concrete at the base of the streetlight. A sheriff’s cruiser slowed, its tires stirred a Dutch Masters chocolate flavor cigarillo wrapper from the asphalt that I instinctively reached for.

 

***

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. © 2017 Deniggerlator Publishing.

 

Fried Popsicles for Sale

Hi my name is Ron. I’m a 35 year recovering alcoholic and other drug user, and I’m one of thirty-seven thousand Compton voters that didn’t sign the reeferendum to legalize weed dealing. You didn’t ask me for it but I’m adding my voice to the hemp discussion.

Once upon a time stinky weed attacked my lungs, malt liquor burned my throat, and cheap sugary wine fogged my head and were gateways to drug hell for me. Mine was a life of self-deceit; lies; thievery, and petty crime.

I flunked out of Compton College after two semesters of Bid whist but tried again two years later. That’s when I discovered that education works best when not high. With help, encouragement, and support from a community of people, I graduated.

MY OPINION: Weed is for white guys that are surrounded with more social cover to shield them or help them deal with the consequences of alcohol and other drug use. There are always consequences.

Maybe they work for their daddy’s business or for employers that don’t drug test and have health insurance. Maybe they have houses, clubs, or other places to smoke and aren’t leashed to smoke shops, liquor stores, or public parks to become police target practice.

MY POINT: Compton needs people who think clear; who can help figure out real solutions to our real problems when it should be obvious that neither Democrats nor Republicans have any answers for us except for those few who shout, Black Lives Matter!

YOU SMOKER: try to completely stop for 21 days if you don’t think weed is a noose around your head.

It might not be so easy and you might need a rock to hold onto when you’re praying to God, or the devil, in the middle of Hurricane Drug.

Where will you go if you try to stop and find it hard? When the voices in your head say, “Ron don’t know what he’s talking about. That stuff happened to him. It won’t happen to me. HE. WAS. STUPID.”

You get a cannabidiol (CBD) pass if you have cancer-related pain, drug-resistant epilepsy, or multiple sclerosis. Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder? NOT.

So, you were one of seventy-nine hundred Comptonian’s (Oh snap!——I see a science fiction story——They Came Outta Comptonia) that signed the petition to regulate and tax weed in Compton, because you thought it would promote health, safety and welfare of people in Compton; create quality jobs in Compton that offer living wages, healthcare and create employment opportunities; and on and on, in Compton. I’ve got to ask; WHAT WERE YOU SMOKING?

In 2013 sheriff deputy unions took away your choice with Measure I when they convinced you to modify the municipal code with:  All police powers as prescribed by Federal and State law that can be carried out by a Municipal Police Department shall be provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the City of Compton. The city shall annually budget funds to cover the cost for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department services.

You got played.

After that you voted for Measure P, an ordinance to; add a one percent sales tax to fund repairing local streets, sidewalks and enhancing pedestrian street lighting…the measure would provide funding for more public safety personnel including sheriffs, firefighters and paramedics, expand youth job training, gang and drug prevention programs, economic development, improve local parks and stabilize basic services throughout the City.

You got lalalalala.

Granted, many that you elected to the dais have not delivered on any of these promises either and they seem comfortable under control of outside puppeteers. Do you really believe that legal weed dealing will do anything more for Compton than what liquor stores and 7-Eleven’s already do? Other than get-high, if bud had any benefits for Compton, wouldn’t the city already have them?

If you believe what’s in the petition will come true, I have fried popsicles to sell you.

Since you want dispensaries on one corner, smoke shops on the other, liquor stores and a few churches in the middle, I propose that Compton also set up alcohol and other drug recovery drop-in facilities in between for when you finally accept that your best solution to your problems starts with a clear functional brain.

Compton schools must do more with drug education. Build Boys and Girls Club’s (even YAL’s will do) in each council district that will give young people exposure to different life options outside of the city to help mitigate the adverse effect of de facto segregation. Let Gerald Pickens run baseball in Compton.

Do you really believe open cultivation and sales of weed is the solution to Compton’s problems? If so, my fried popsicle truck is parked outside.

Step right up and take a lick.

 

Quality unisex T for $18 + shipping. Sizes small to 3X.

What Would We Do If We Were Not Afraid?

Featured

 

“Someone has justly remarked, that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’ Let the sentinels on the watch-tower sleep not, and slumber not.”

Dear Current and Prospective Compton Elected Officials:

This is for all to weigh-in on if you choose. Anyone who speaks to this issue deserves support and votes.

I partnered with other local nonprofits to analyze overall murder and sheriff use of force (UOF) in Compton and am very concerned with what we found. The analysis left me to wonder if there is a code of silence and acquiescence among the elected and non-elected officials in Compton that preclude their scrutiny and involvement with crime and policing in the city. It certainly appears that way. There has never been a written, objective report made public on sheriff performance under the Municipal Law Enforcement Services Agreement between the county and city of Compton.

On top of 675 homicides in Compton since 2000, there is the problem of deputy use of force (UOF) killings, 30 over the same period, which I believe encourages a climate of distrust for and fear of police which in turn makes it difficult if not impossible to address crime problems all over Compton. Moreover, there were 188 murders in neighboring Willowbrook over the same period that included five Deputy involved killings such as Jose De la Trinidad in November 2012.

Eighty-four percent (564) of murder victims were between 18 and 49 years old, 325 Black, 205 Latino. Blacks are 35% of Compton’s population but 60% of homicide victims, moreover, the rate of Blacks murdered decline much slower than that for Latinos as both groups age (see chart below).

Most deaths occur between 18 and 24 (265) for both Blacks and Latinos, drop somewhat between 25 and 34 (167), and somewhat again between 35 and 49 (132). Sixty percent of murder victims are male between 18 and 34, ordinarily years when young adults are expected to be productive citizens for self and community, to start work careers and families, to aid civilly and become community assets and not liabilities.

Comparably fewer children under 18 are murdered (80) and their numbers have declined since 2009. Mentor programs are good but its benefit must carry over into later age stages. More attention needs to focus on the 18 to 24 age group possibly in the form of vocational opportunities, remedial education, habilitation and life-skills and home training. Active, even formal, partnering with CUSD, Compton El Camino College, and especially the private business sector could improve this situation.

 

675 homicides in Compton since from 2000 to 2014
Age group Latino Black Other Total Tot % Latino % Black %
0 to 5 1 5 6 0.01 0.17 0.83
6 to 11 0 3 3 0.00 0.00 1.00
12 to 17 29 40 2 71 0.11 0.41 0.56
18 to 24 120 129 16 265 0.39 0.45 0.49
25 to 34 53 101 13 167 0.25 0.32 0.60
35 to 49 32 95 5 132 0.20 0.24 0.72
50 to 64 7 22 29 0.04 0.24 0.76
65+ 1 7 8 0.01 0.13 0.88
243 402 36 675 1 0.36 0.60
Compton population
Latino   62,669 0.65
Black   33,786 0.35
Total   96,455

 

For sure sheriff deputy shooting and arresting those in the 18 to 34 age groups has not helped solve the problem but have contributed to wariness and unease between law enforcement and the Compton community. Perhaps the sheriff can add to its service toolbox by using means other than arrest and UOF within Compton.

Homicide and overall crime have decreased in recent years but as a percentage of killings, officer involved slayings have increased proportionally. From 2000 to 2006 homicides in L. A. County ranged between 1074 and 1231, officer-involved killings were from 2.5% to 4.5% of those totals. Since 2007, officer involved homicides have averaged 6% of total deaths.

A review of public and news media records show several disturbing trends that include law enforcement’s inability to adequately address the concerns and actions of people exhibiting mental illness and/or intoxication. That includes when police are called to the scene to prevent suicide; the inability to fairly, safely, and humanely treat and protect people with disabilities; the fear, hatred and/or distrust that exists on both sides between law enforcement and youth of color; the repeated use of “reached for waistband” and “feared for my life” as evidence for the need to shoot; the high number of people who were shot while running away from police; the criminalization and violent response to homeless people or those perceived as such; the failure of law enforcement to listen to and use family and community support to prevent violence; the high number of incidents where police shot at automobiles; the high number of “replica” gun assertions; the high numbers of people shot while possessing a “weapon” other than a gun including rocks, tree branches and poles; and, the high number of incidents that began with domestic disputes or violence which indicated a need for alternative responses in dealing with familial relationships.

Compton was not immune to UOF incidents. I do not believe that the current approach to policing Compton by its self will satisfy the goals of reducing crime, reducing resident fear of crime and sheriff deputies, and satisfy victims that justice is done. Surveillance cameras in high use throughout Compton adhere to the old ineffective incident driven and response-after-the-fact mode of policing. That approach aligns with the familiar motorized patrols in which deputies respond to calls for service and try to deter, or prevent crime with high visibility, random patrol, and generally applied intensive enforcement and arrest policies, suppression policing.

While that method might work in Rolling Hills Estates, Diamond Bar, Lakewood or other areas serviced by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) it has not worked in Compton and the time is now to expect more. More can and should be required of deputies to deal with problems before harm is done. Good preventative police work is meeting citizen or resident needs and expectations and the desired outcome is to make people feel safe in their own community. Displays of coercive force, shootings for example, compromise feelings of trust and undermine police legitimacy in the perception of many in Compton particularly Blacks.

On a positive note, since 2009 we see that homicides for victims under 17 continue to decline. That year Avery Cody (16) was killed by deputies and Danny Faber (18) by alleged gang members. Faber’s death motivated a local nonprofit to develop the Wall of Shame and drew attention to the problem of murder in Compton. Since then the average is one death per year for children under 18. Killings of children under 18 averaged six per year in the five years from 2005 to 2009. Zero homicides in Compton is the target goal.

It may be a good idea to continue to focus on youth programming in the area of mentors and otherwise as we see that homicides for victims under 18 continue to decline, contrary to the expectation and belief that the city is overrun by adolescent gangs. After school programs might have contributed to the decline also. Art and sport programs are good for keeping youth healthy and active. For example, a local baseball nonprofit has a long history involving Compton youth in baseball and nurturing them into adulthood around that sport, and that’s definitely not the Urban Baseball Academy whose focus never was nor will be on Compton’s youth. To establish a Boys and Girls Club that is centrally located and public transportation accessed, at Willowbrook Avenue and Compton Blvd. for example, is worth a try.

Sheriff Deputies have killed at least 30 people in Compton since the first one, Hardis Lorenzo Howard in November 2001 and last Mayra Cornejo, December 2014. In only six (20%) have the shooting deputy or deputies been identified. Contrary to general disclosure throughout L.A.County, there is a pattern of not disclosing deputy names in Compton. Shooters are however identified for the following decedents:

Ricardo Badillo                                   01/24/09

Darren Dwaine Burley                        08/13/12

Joshua Maravilla                                 10/27/08

Jose Toloza                                          11/14/12

Gene Valdez                                       04/26/09

Felipe Valdovinos                               09/20/09

Deputy Mark Coberg was involved in three UOF killings in Compton. Deputy Jamie Juarez was involved in one and also in a non fatal shooting in Compton on 09/09/11. Deputy Eric Moreno was involved in one Compton killing and in a non fatal shooting in Industry on 12/16/11. Deputies Steve Fernandez and John Werner were involved in Compton UOF killings and one non fatal shooting on 10/24/12. Deputy Salvador Esquivel was involved in two non fatal UOF shootings in Compton on 05/13/12 and 07/01/12.

Twenty-four people were killed in which the deputies have not been identified. The dead are:

James Anthony Barnett                      01/28/03

Stacey Garcia                                      12/14/13          (died in crash from suspect pursuit)

Larry Gilmore                                     12/14/13          (died in crash from deputy pursuit)

Robert Delgadillo                               12/14/13          (died in crash from deputy pursuit)

Sara Paynter                                        12/14/13          (died in crash from deputy pursuit)

Mayra Cornejo                                    12/13/14

Dewayne Davenport                           01/28/03

Manuel Ernest Garcia                         07/09/03

Cephas Hendricks                               04/23/04

Craig Jacobi Hill                                 09/07/06

Howard Lorenzo Hardis                     11/10/01

Antoine Hunter                                   06/24/14

Luis Alonzo Juarez                             07/25/13

Deangelo Lopez                                  06/27/13

Rayshawn Marquis                             05/23/13

Brice Everette Ross                            04/04/03

Efren Pineda                                       02/06/05

Auturo Saldana                                   01/06/04

Avalard Saldana                                 01/05/04

Juan Serna                                           06/24/12

Lawrence Ronnell Taylor                    08/01/06

Freddie Davis                                     02/17/06

Bryan Davis                                        06/26/08

Maximino Reyes                                 09/13/03

Since 2007 sheriff deputies have killed 143 throughout L.A. County, including those above and, generally, the UOF shooter is identified except for Compton.

It’s important to know who is working for LASD in Compton at all times. The city can start with publicly identifying those assigned to work at Compton station.

Since 2007, sheriff deputies killed eleven people in the city. Regardless of whether deputy shootings are justified in both the state attorney general and county district attorney’s view, the community has a right to know who the shooters are and to examine to see what, if any, patterns exist. Some of us are seeking this information from Sheriff McDonald.

It is officer involved shootings and the manner in which deputies go about their day to day activities that affect the level of trust by community members. The culture of insularity that typically surrounds many police and sheriff agencies, especially during controversial episodes, makes it difficult to know exactly how widespread is the problem of trigger-happy deputies.

Citywide surveillance cameras, acoustic gunshot detectors (ASAP), body cameras, toys that look like guns, community academies, and Crime Stopper programs fall far short of the fundamental need to invest trust in those whose job it is to protect us. That requires an entirely different kind of police work.

Trust leads people to cooperate voluntarily with deputies. The key to gaining public trust lies in the manner in which deputies interact with residents. That manner of interaction is affected by the agency’s philosophy and service approach starting with its leadership. For example Chief Sanchez of Pasadena PD (www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/Police) has installed many of the practices discussed in this letter. Chief Shelly Zimmerman has signaled improved policing in San Diego.

LASD should work to reduce fear of crime, fear of deputies, and deputies fear of working in Compton. Fear of crime forces people off the streets and narrows the sense of control and responsibility, the antithesis of a vibrant city with a sense of community. Fear of crime is strongest among young people and made worse when street gangs thrive and prey. Fear reduction should be an objective of LASD through more sustained contacts with residents and by transparent consultation and joint planning with the larger county service apparatus (E.g. healthcare and other human services) as well as City Hall.

Compton has limited resources, evidenced by the condition of its roads and dearth of youth and young adult oriented designs, and has various problems, but it must be willing to try different things. One way is to leave setting priorities and means for achieving them largely with residents and deputies that serve them. This calls for a special deputy, one that’s willing and able to share responsibility for control with community members. The coercive potential of police remains but power is guided and its use evaluated by resident directive. Proverbs 1:5 tells us that a wise man will hear, and will increase learning… By listening to residents, new policing priorities are produced.

LASD performance must be measured by efforts to develop partnership with community members and civic organizations that represent them collectively, not by the amount of time spent before an assemblage of video surveillance monitors or waiting for signals from gunshot detection technology at headquarters.

LASD has to take seriously Compton’s definition of its own problems defined as recurring sets of related harmful events in a community that members of the public expect deputies to address. Those might include problems that escape deputy attention such as street doughnuts and running through stop signs and red lights, graffiti, loud cussing and music, litter and dumping, public marijuana use, loitering and hanging out in public spaces, sex trafficking, gang intimidation, pissing on toilet seats, or parking problems in overcrowded neighborhoods, nuisances that aggravate and keep community members on edge and tempers short.

To take Compton problems seriously may mean finding out what is known about the problem. Was it researched and if so with what results? Is all there is to know known about the problem and is it a proper concern of government? What resources and authority are requisite to dealing with the problem? How is the response, whether old or new, to be evaluated? What changes might result organizationally from implementing a more effective response?

Compton4COPS is not optimistic that LASD is up for the challenge or effort needed to engage and involve Compton residents to co-produce community safety. Its track record is not good and LASD seems more comfortable “chasing the box” in radio cars, whining about how Compton residents refuse to give them crime leads, how the community bashes them, or won’t support and use Crime Stoppers, won’t attend or accept community academies designed to show what police do, as if the community is blind to what they see and experience every day. There are too few, but some within the ranks take it upon themselves and develop new channels for learning about neighborhood problems. Since their effort is extraordinary, goes unrewarded (and is even castigated), and unacknowledged in the agency, the problem response systems are ineffective.

City officials sometime voice support for LASD with no objective data or community feedback to support their assertions. Was it due to arrest numbers? Suppression policing? What? It is not enough to voice satisfaction with sheriff services and not describe the reasons for that support.

Let’s face it, the daily routine of LASD in Compton does not involve heavy engagement with the public except with known felons or suspected gang members, especially in neighborhoods where deputies are assigned. For LASD to legitimize itself beyond the contract agreement it has with city officials, deputies must show concern for resident well being through inquiry, none of which can occur without face time. In other words, LASD, with leadership from city hall, must go the extra mile to mitigate among Blacks and Latinos in Compton the perception that they are brutal and corrupt.

Would a broader policing scope increase LASD workload? Yes. Are there benefits to the community for them to do so? Likely, but won’t become known until it’s tried on a sustained basis. Will the way be difficult? Absolutely since many in Compton are suspicious of their own neighbors and fear retaliation by street cliques, pimps, drug dealers, and others, many in the 18 to 39 age groups, the very definition of at-risk, that are hell-bent on self and community destruction. Will it cost more? Probably. The trick is to carefully define and measure the results of added inputs.

Some, particularly Blacks, see deputies as one of their problems and not as a solution to them.

Police work is hard, especially in “fast” cities like Compton and this proposal would make it much harder than patrolling neighborhoods on the lookout for criminal activity or admonishing community members for not attending community police academies to find out more about so-called real police work.

Below are ten community-oriented recommendations for policing in Compton that should fall comfortably within your May 2014, “agreement” for “general law enforcement services,” since, as we saw in the February 2, 2015 NAEJA meeting, a raucous one with newly elected sheriff Jim McDonnell, community members clearly state their distrust of law enforcement, especially sheriff deputies.

The content herein along with recommendations later can serve as a start to develop a contracts monitoring unit to assess and publicly report performance of all city contracts but particularly for the sheriff. You should consider a monitoring instrument that captures and measures the expectations of the city for law enforcement. For example, time LASD spends executing and documenting results of plans to solve problems identified by community organizations, residents, and groups, or measures of resident satisfaction with sheriff services in selected council or sheriff reporting districts.

The time is now for Compton to enact solutions.

Recommendation #1

Have all incoming sheriff personnel, civilian and sworn, appear before a Tuesday council meeting to introduce themselves; give some background; explain why he or she wants to work in Compton; and, speak to what added value Compton will receive from him or her.

Discussion: From April 2009 to November 2011, Deputy Michael Coberg killed three people in Compton in separate incidents. It is unclear if he was assigned to Compton Station or was part of other specialized units that migrate in and out of the city such as the Gang Enforcement Team, some of whom were associated with the rouge Jump Out Boys. Between October 2008 and October 2010, Deputy Julio Jove killed two people in neighboring Lynwood and one in Long Beach in separate incidents. It’s not clear what unit or station he was assigned to.

Deputies who killed sixteen people in Compton between January 2001 and December 2014 have not been identified. Again, this is not a question of whether shootings were justified but of our right to know who works in the city and what they do while there.

Recommendation #2

Have the station captain, not someone lower; describe, with all requisite forms, the LASD complaint and commendation process on the projection screen during a Tuesday council meeting. Sample form handouts should be available. The presentation must include all avenues for filing complaints or commendations, E.g. Internet. The presentation must include available recourse if the complainant is not satisfied or feels unsatisfactorily serviced.

Discussion: Residents once again complained that they were discouraged from filing a complaint at Compton Station during the February 2, 2015 NAEJA meeting. This is a chronic complaint that the sheriff’s department has failed to address over the years. At that same meeting one individual complained how deputies refused him a business card upon request that would have helped him file a complaint.

Recommendation #3

Have the station captain give no less than bi-weekly updates to council during regularly scheduled public meetings to include at minimum:

  1. a) Crime hotspots and what strategies are used to address them. Hot-spots include the quality of life issues residents are vociferous about.
  2. b) Describe and report on any crime prevention activities and/or new initiatives developed with residents and businesses to mitigate crime in Compton.
  3. c) Crime statistics, both current and year-to-date for Part I and Part II crimes and any other law enforcement issues deemed important and of interest of council members and residents (Eg. Quality of life concerns are what residents demand most). The report must include attainment or non attainment of service deployment measures described in section 3.3 of the “agreement”.
  4. d) Report the number and types of complaints/commendations received current and year-to-date.
  5. e) Report the number of force incidents, fatal and non-fatal separate, current and year-to-date.
  6. f) Identify special teams or units operating within the borders of Compton and their purpose along with the results of them having been there.
  7. g) Report outcomes from the use of surveillance cameras that are now spread throughout the city in terms of arrests made and crime prevented.

The captain’s report to council should include a written summary to be used by local newspapers to keep residents informed.

Recommendation #4

The Compton city council members must, through or preferably with the city manager, actively monitor and report on sheriff performance and act as a liaison or conduit to field resident complaints and see them through to resolution.

Recommendation #5

Address community and family member concerns immediately after deputy UOF that results in death.

Maintain fairness and withhold judgment. After the incident, don’t disparage the victim, their family, or community. Too often, law enforcement gives cookie cutter responses such as the person was armed; he pointed a gun at officers; she was on parole; or, was a gang member. Similar comments are usually made after an incident before the investigation. Often the information is incorrect and no correction or official apology is issued afterward but the damage to community trust and re-victimization of the family is lasting. It is preferable to give the same verbiage that accompanies deputy misconduct or excessive UOF, “…we cannot comment because the incident is under investigation.” Be clear that officers involved in force actions leading to death are removed from field duty pending the investigation.

Recommendation #6

Hold community meetings directly after the UOF incident called by family members, trusted intervention workers, clergy and/or community-based organizations to air community concerns and answer questions.

Discussion: City ordinance #1551, §2357 created a public safety commission that seems non functional but could be used to monitor and evaluate LASD performance within Compton. Part of its charge is to:

  • Receive and process information received from individuals and/or groups that depicts a concern or problem in the area of public safety and,
  • Make recommendations to the Council regarding public safety concerns that have been brought to the attention of the commission.

The commission has failed miserably since its members, whoever they are, have missed opportunities to gather concerns at monthly community meetings devoted to this topic where residents gather. Moreover, the city attorney as chief law enforcement officer and the city manager of Compton neither attends nor send representatives to meetings such as NAEJA to at minimum hear about issues voiced by residents. Their presence might help answer questions such as why someone running away, why someone who was not firing or even pointing a gun, or why individuals who possess something other than a gun such as a baseball bat, stick, or tree branch, knife, screw driver, rock, and so on are still responded to with gunfire from deputies.

Recommendation #7

Track and measure the number of individuals who die from complications due to deputy UOF, but that are not counted as homicides subsequent to initial incident. Follow up on those maimed rarely happens.

Recommendation #8

Track the number of incidents where undocumented people are victims of UOF and explore how immigration status plays a role if any.

Recommendation #9

Jail school

Jail school

Don’t accept or assume that jails and prisons will fill Compton’s obligation and need for more traditional vocational (E.g., welding, block masonry, dog grooming and walking) and career counseling (life skills), mental health, and alcohol and other drug programming, a recovering community, within its borders. Effective faith-based activities should be welcomed.

Again, city officials seem to have abdicated their responsibility for public safety in Compton. Officials must take seriously their role with public safety as they administer the sheriff contract and serve the residents of Compton. There is scant proof that officials see themselves as responsible for public safety in Compton aside from having a contract with the sheriff. Career politicians in Compton usually don’t run for office on a public safety platform. Therefore once in office, they have little obligation to fulfill a promise that was never made in the first place.

Need proof? Watch who responds to this call-out.

Discussion: Rarely does the Compton city council, city manager, or city attorney speak to crime and law enforcement issues during regular public meetings. In this respect it does not appear that they collectively or individually are knowledgeable of resident public safety needs and are willing to hold LASD accountable for its activities within city boundaries. The Compton city council has not actively monitored sheriff performance in the city nor have they consistently advocated for residents (E.g. see Recommendation # 2). Help in this area is possible if Compton would take the lead and work-in a contract clause to require LASD to obtain CALEA accreditation for its work in the city.

Recommendation #10

Place a survey form on the city’s official website that captures levels of satisfaction with sheriff services in Compton (do the same for municipal services). The survey would use a Likert scale to measure for example neighborhood visibility; fair treatment; courteous phone response; solicits community input; educates in use of 911; and, emergency response time. Yes or no responses could be answered for the questions: “As a citizen I feel; safe at home; safe walking alone in my neighborhood at night; safe being alone in City parks or playgrounds at night; and, crime has made me change my personal activities,” for example. Closed or open ended questions could capture residents thoughts on how the sheriff can improve E.g., be more visible; be more courteous; concentrate on serious crime; don’t discriminate; improve deputy training; hire more deputies; solicit more community input; more traffic enforcement; and/or, more drug enforcement. Most important, Compton could include it’s own complaint/complement form on its webpage to measure all municipal services including the sheriff.

Discussion: No one ever asks input from Compton residents which helps explain policy missteps over the years. It’s insufficient for officials to have a vision for the city that is not informed by the citizenry.

The recommendations above probably will not completely solve the problem of distrust between Compton residents and local law enforcement including the school police but should help bridge the gap.

A former Compton mayor brought the sheriff to the city and his successor paid one million dollars to a consultant that didn’t give half as much as offered here for free. What will the current officials do in the area of public safety? The world is watching but, more importantly, Compton residents are.

It’s a good time for Compton to start somewhere. Why not here?

What would we do if we were not afraid?

Murder suspect

Murder suspect

 

Compton4COPS Editorial

Policing you can trust

Policing you can trust

 

Are we fooled again? We were fooled when we took sides in a false debate over whether or not to resurrect the defunct Compton Police Department. As usual, residents were pitted against one another and became emotional, and often irrational, to the point that the main and most important question was never asked: Who could police and serve the needs of Compton resident’s best? The question was never who could jail, maim, or kill the most people, which is what happened. A felony arrest pretty much defines a young person’s future and if for drugs, worse. They become locked out of society and where do they go? Home to Compton.

From the start community members were excluded from the conversation, in 2000 when the Omar Bradley regime brought in the sheriff and years later when Eric Perrodin’s group made millions and attempted to bring back CPD. In both instances games were played to give the appearance either that a)  leadership knew what was best for Compton or b) residents had some semblance of involvement in the decision process. In other words, lies.

Have we had enough of being lied too? Not. The gunshot detection experiment done by the sheriff in Compton apparently was a failure. If in doubt, try to find information on it now. And then there was Measure B, sponsored by sheriff deputy unions that pretty much legislates that the city contract with the sheriff’s department. Again, there was the emotional side-taking response that placed brother against brother, sister against sister, and everybody against someone else. It seems so easy to rile the residents up against their own interest in Compton and have us fight each other like Bloods and Crips gangs. This is acute during election season like the one we are in now. Misinformation and disinformation comes along with strangers and others looking to see how they can benefit personally from Compton’s troubles. But there is never a Moses, never anyone that walks the line of our common concern with poor municipal service, questionable police practices (the Cessna drone is only the latest incident), and schools that don’t teach civic engagement and entrepreneurship which might help to build a sense of community.

Here we go again with the sheriff election. All of a sudden people with not one meaningful contribution to improving Compton, ever, are telling us how to vote and, as usual, the strategy is to divide, give misinformation, disinformation, and steal the city while we argue among ourselves over some shit selfish people threw in for us to feed on. They know we will because they know us better than we know ourselves.

And what about the L.A. Times Editorial Board endorsement of Jim McDonnell, current Long Beach Police Chief and former LAPD officer and Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence member? “The Times strongly recommends a vote for McDonnell for sheriff.”

You can count on one hand where can you even find a copy of the L.A. Times in Compton and it does not now, never have, and no doubt never will speak to the needs and concerns of Compton residents. They’d have to spend time in the city when someone’s not bleeding to do that. If they did, the conversation might turn toward community-oriented in addition to constitutional policing and jails. The Times editorial board is too focused on crime rates to do that. McDonnell was where when Rodney King’s ass was whipped by LAPD? Or when Stanley Miller was chased and beat in Compton by LAPD?  We know where he was from 2008 to 2013 when 13,911 Black teenagers were arrested and cited in Long Beach.

That number included the number of arrests and misdemeanor citations issued to boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 17. Black youths accounted for 35 percent of the arrests and citations, and Whites represented 8 percent of the arrests and citations. Black students are 16 percent and Whites 15 percent of the LBUSD respectively. Inexplicably, some Latinos were lumped into the White group which actually makes things look worse since they too have police relationship issues. The stated reasons for the disparity are attributed to population density, more violent crime, and more frequent patrols dependent on who you ask. The L. B. Press-Telegram pointed to the sometimes “uneasy relationship with the black community,” that the LBPD has.

Compton had nothing to do with the Citizen’s Commission on Jails other than the jails being filled with many of its residents. Compton was not and has not been part of the law enforcement or policing conversation in Los Angeles County even though the city has an inordinate amount of contact the entire criminal justice system. Therefore policy, direction, and so-called reform are left to attorneys, not to residents on the receiving end of police discretion.

I had two questions after I listened to McDonnell and his supporters speak in his behalf for about two hours at a one-sided Concerned Citizens of Compton “business meeting” May 10th.  First to the 50-60 audience members, mostly law abiding voting seniors, and a few cops and opportunists: “Raise your hand if you trust police.” One hand went up, not even the cops raised their hands. The second question was to McDonnell: “What will you do to increase that number to 99 percent?” He spoke to what he will do if elected but could not speak to what he has done. Realistically, I’d settle if he’d get less than half of the room to raise their hands next time in Compton.

My point is that the L.A. Times endorsement is not intended or targeted to Compton but to a wider populous in which the needs of Compton get drowned out. Don’t assume that the concerns of Compton are the same as Rolling Hills, Lakewood, Calabasas, or West Hollywood. Those areas might not start the conversation with a question of trust of police. The L.A. Times rarely speaks to the needs of Compton because they don’t know it and probably don’t care. If no one in Compton ever bought a paper would it make a difference? Hell-to-the-No.

The L.A. Times acknowledges my candidate preference, Todd Rogers, “[he] deserves notice for his commitment to community policing, and the integrity and professionalism he brings are badly needed in the department. But like other candidates, he need not hold the top spot to be part of the solution.” In other words he could be undersheriff, maybe. The assumption is that a new face, even one from the LAPD whose members have sparked the last riots (1965 and 1991) and have had a checkered relationship with communities such as Compton, Watts, and Willowbrook, is the solution. What if Rogers as sheriff brought McDonnell in as undersheriff instead? Hmmm.

Compton is on an island pretty much alone. It’s time for us to recognize our commonality, stop arguing, fussing and fighting among ourselves and rally around each other since there is plenty of work for everyone and more. The one-upmanship and high school, child-like put downs need to cease. We needn’t look for another leader, mayor, council person, or city manager if we all take the lead. Besides, the work must continue when appointed leaders fall for the okie-doke and end up in county jail.

Everyone has a contribution to make to improve life in Compton. What is yours?

Let’s not be fooled again.

“NO” ON MEASURE I

There is a ballot initiative, Measure I, for Compton voter’s decision on  April 16, 2013  that I believe is unconscionable. Measure I takes away the city’s choice of policing by adding to the Compton Municipal Code a requirement of county sheriff (LASD) to provide policing or law enforcement services.

All police powers as prescribed by Federal and State law that can be carried out by a Municipal Police Department shall be provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the City of Compton. The city shall annually budget funds to cover the coast for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department services.”

Here we go again. First we had the ineffectual Compton PD, F Troop. Then, thanks to Omar Bradley, we were introduced to sheriff’s services in 2001. Eric Perrodin attempted and failed to bring back CPD. That was really an expensive fiasco. There is one common thread to all of this: The people of Compton had no input whatsoever, and hopefully, memory is long come April 16 when you see familiar names on the ballot. Its time to get off the dysfunctional merry-go-round.

Has anyone living in Compton ever been satisfied with either of the two? I’m not asking which of the two that you are more satisfied or dissatisfied with. No. I’m asking if you are satisfied with either the CPD or LASD service.

Most people I speak with are not only dissatisfied with policing (law enforcement) in Compton but don’t trust them either. Moreover, there is too little discussion on public safety period. If residentts feel safe, they might be more likely to shop and spend money locally. When residents feel safe, they are less likely to move away such as what happened in the 80s.

The question of trust is never asked by elected “leaders” (Bradley, Perrodin, Council) or LASD. Given that we can’t seem to live with or without police, why is the question of trust never asked? Why isn’t the question of whether Compton residents are satisfied with police services ever asked?

“NO” ON MEASURE I.