Thoughts on the Ambush of Two Compton Police Officers Last Night
To be clear, this is tragic. I hope that the officers survive and fully recover.
I am providing some background and context to people who may not have some details of the events surrounding the shooting. And no this is not an attempt to justify the actions. It is to suggest that the incident did not happen in a vacuum which may also help people understand why protesters went to the hospital that was trying to help the officers.
All of this can seem completely appalling to outsiders. Random violence like this can be terrifying but it is important to understand that the tragedy does not start and stop with these two officers and it won’t end unless we take a look at the bigger picture.
What is that picture?
- These deputies were part of the LA County Sherrif’s Department. As we have seen, not all police departments are created equal. Some function well and others not so well. LA Sherrif’s Department would tend to fall into the later for reasons that you will see later. (This is not to say all officers are bad. It is to say though that there are likely problems, even big problems that are not getting addressed.)
- There is at least one smoldering issue going back to June of this year. A young man was shot in the back by an LA County Deputy. There was no video. There was no body cam. He was running away. The sheriff, Villanueva, was withholding the autopsy results. The family had an independent one done and released it. The coroner released the report against the sheriff’s wishes and it was consistent with the independent report. There have been protests (but they have not resulted in any damages so no real media coverage). The community has continued to pressure but nothing and it, in my opinion, seems dirty.
- And there is a reason why the community in this area is and probably should be skeptical. There is a deputy whistleblower from that same area. He said that the officer who did the shooting was “chasing ink” — to be part of the police gang called the executioners. LA Times did an article on the accusations of the whistleblower at the end of June. (Some people speculated immediately after the shooting that it could have been a hit by the police themselves. This theory dropped off so I don’t think it is accurate but also don’t be surprised if it reemerges.)
- A discussion of this would not be complete without a discussion of the Sheriff himself. Sheriff Alex Villanueva was elected 2018. There were concerns immediately after his election but people still hoped that it would be ok. He pretty quickly killed those hopes when one of his first acts was to try to rehire a personal friend who had been fired from the force for allegations of domestic violence. It did not work but the hope was short-lived. More recently he refused to attend a Civilian Oversight Commission meeting that he was subpoenaed to attend. And his handling of the shooting of the kid has not been good to the point where the coroner defied him and released his results. (I have not been tracking this closely so I am sure there are more.)
So where does all this leave us?
It leaves us with a community that likely has a police gang in their midst and a Sheriff that has not demonstrated too much transparency which could help ratchet down the tension.
Community members live with gang violence but have to also decide whether they want to call the police and possibly become victims of the police too.
And, while the shooting of these deputies is tragic, they will look for the shooter and, if found, he will be prosecuted. The issue with the police is that if this gang exists as stated, they have victimized the community (possibly killed at least one innocent kid) and have done so with impunity.
I don’t know if the ambush was random or if it was retaliation by other police officers or by a member of the community retaliating against something the police “gang” did.
I do know, however, that we need police accountability and transparency with the community they serve.
Policing done right makes everyone more safe.
Policing done wrong makes everyone less safe — even the police themselves.