The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing
By Joe Domanick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 8/11/2015
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
An award-winning investigative reporter reveals the troubled history of the LAPD in a gripping story filled with hard-boiled, real-life characters that bring to life the ravages of the criminal justice system.
Vividly drawn and character-driven, Blue is simultaneously a drama of cops, crime and politics, and a primer on American police policy and reform. Using the LAPD as the book’s spine and through-line, Domanick illuminates urban policing at a crossroads during the tumultuous violence-plagued years of the early 1990s. Years when the beating of Rodney King and the LAPD’s brutality sparked the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, and police departments were caught between an often brutal, corrupt and racist past, and the demands of a rapidly changing urban population and environment.
From LA he then zooms to New York City, and details how the transformation of the NYPD that resulted in a dramatic decrease in crime—even while the LAPD remained in freefall for a decade more before it too begins its road to reformation. Blue ends in the summer of 2014 with crime at record lows, but events in LA, NYC and Ferguson, Mo., raising alarming warnings about aggressive racial profiling and the militarization of American policing.
Filled with political intrigue and cultural and racial conflict, Domanick’s fast-paced account distills this history through the vivid characters that shaped it, from America’s premiere police reformer, William J. Bratton; to Daryl Francis Gates, Chief of the LAPD during fourteen of the most tumultuous years in LA’s history; to Charlie Beck, a street-hardened LAPD cop who later becomes Bratton’s protégé; to Alfred Lomas and Andre Christian, former members of two of LA’s most fearsome gangs, who represent the other side of the LAPD’s war on crime.
A special thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. (Great Cover) Award-winning investigative reporter, Joe Domanick describes the transformation in BLUE, The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing --a riveting page-turning account of the LA police Department from the LA riots, the OJ Simpson trial, to the events of 2014, which began in Missouri and New York City; with effects reverberated throughout our country. Domanick tells of a much larger bigger picture of American policing over the past quarter-century, and the challenges we still face today.The story is told through the lives of people who actually LIVED it—police officers, police chiefs, mayors, city politicians, gang members, and ex-gang members, community leaders, and citizens. Thought-provoking questions: What constitutes good and bad policing? How best to prevent crime, control police abuse, ease tensions between the police and the powerless, and partner with communities of color to enhance public safety. Joe mentions how he wanted to understand the source of the department’s extraordinary power, when he wrote his first LAPD book, a character-based historic narrative of the department called to protect and to serve, as a way to find that understanding. Then there were changes in the 1950’s up to 1991 when the tension once again began mounting when four white LAPD officers were caught on videotape beating a black motorist- Rodney King. A year later the officers were acquitted, sparking the bloody LA riots. Thereafter little changed.
Why was the reform taking so long to implement? This is when he decided to revisit the LAPDs history starting with the 1992 riots and the writing of Blue. Told through lives of the people who lived through the crack-filled violence-laden nineties, and then through the reforms that finally began taking hold in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Joe highlights two cops: One a police reformer and stranger to LA, the other a chief-in-training with LAPD roots stretching back half a century. The others were LA gangsters who embodied the fraught relations between the LAPD and the communities. I enjoyed the way the Key Players are highlighted at the front of the book with a description of each, as well as sections devoted to the topics and time. • Charlie Beck • Tom Bradley • William Bratton • Andre Christian • Daryl Gates • Alfred Lomas • William H Parker • Bernard Parks • Rafael “Ray” Perez • Connie Rice • Willie Williams Well-written, meticulously researched with impressive historical notes, references, interviews, and news reporting, as well as-- laid out in a very organized format. Much of BLUE is about cops and the police leadership, officers past and present. From crime, politics, and cops—policies and reform. Filled with political intrigue, cultural and racial conflict, income and opportunity. The politics and the business of crime and guns, our reckless sentencing laws, and the disastrous state of our public schools. All of this disparate forces together send generations of young Americans into the world’s largest prison system with no end in sight. As the author notes, in 2014 both the American people and the American press began asking hard questions about the current state of American policing. We live in a violent, racist, gun-loving society. American society is in a deep crisis centered around our corrupt politics and institutions. We have to start somewhere, and have to work for change within and within and outside American policing. Depending on your age or your geographical location, some stories may ring all too familiar, if you lived through those eras.
Highly recommend. Informative, Compelling, Timely.
Review Links: Goodreads
About the Author
Joe Domanick is an award-winning investigative journalist and author described in the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most outspoken of the breed... a muckraking journalist [who] continues to pound away at police officials ...and other civic center hotshots. In pen and in person he’s got a tough and hungry manner that makes them uncomfortable.” Currently, Domanick is Associate Director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, West Coast editor of The CrimeReport.org and editor and host of CMCJ's Juvenile Justice New Network forum: http://juvenilejusticenetwork.ning.com . As adjunct professor, he taught courses at the School of Journalism of USC Annenberg’s School for Communication from 1999 to 2012. Domanick's latest book, Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing will be published by Simon and Schuster in August, 2015. Website