To the editor: The numbers speak louder than words. The Times' data indicate that Los Angeles police officers have killed 243 people over the last 15 years; that averages to more than 16 killings per year. ("Ezell Ford's shooting violated LAPD policy, police commission rules," June 9)
These killings are happening all over the country. That's not a random happenstance. It is more than a coincidence, and indicates that we are faced with a very serious systemic problem throughout the country. It demands significant changes.
As a retired problem-solver for Air Force space programs, the first place I would consider a major change would be in the criteria and practice of selecting candidates for our police forces. The power that comes with the uniform is so likely to attract those with the wrong psychological makeup.
It only takes a few bad apples to bring down a police department.
George Epstein, Los Angeles
To the editor: With respect to the question of why police decided to confront 25-year-old Ezell Ford in South Los Angeles on Aug. 11, 2014, when we ask broader questions, the root cause of police involvement in incidents like this one becomes obvious.
Why do four times the number of people with mental illness receive treatment in jail or prison than in proper treatment facilities? Why can people with severe mental illness expect to live 25 fewer years than others? Why do up to two-thirds of people with mental illness have a co-morbid medical disorder?
With any other medical illness, a person is given treatment based on symptoms. In California, people with mental illness must become gravely disabled or a danger to themselves or others to be compelled to get treatment, assuring danger and that many deteriorate to the point they are on the street, end up in prison, are victimized or die.
California law needs to be changed. Waiting for danger is waiting too long.
Brian Jacobs, Tustin
The writer is government affairs chair for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Orange County.
To the editor: As a 75-year-old man who was born and raised in Los Angeles, I see that nothing has changed no matter how you paint it.
I was discharged from the armed services in 1959 and went to work for the U.S. Postal Service. During that time, I was constantly stopped by Los Angeles Police Department officers for the most ridiculous reasons: Your car looks like one that was reported stolen, you have a broken taillight (I don't) and so on.
The LAPD has gone through multiple chiefs, but little seems to change. There was an old saying that went something like "If you're black get back; if you're brown stick around; if you're white it's all right; and if you're blue don't worry." Now, when a black or brown person is shot, the excuse is that his hand went toward his waistband.
I really thought Chief Charlie Beck, who initially decided that the officer who shot Ford acted according to policy, might be different. May Ford rest in peace.
Luis Cruz, La Mirada
To the editor: It seems that almost every week there is a story in the news about an unarmed man, sometimes with a criminal record and apparently breaking the law, not complying with a police order, willing to fight and ending up being shot.
I wonder whether, if people like Ford had simply obeyed the law and acted as if their life mattered, there would have been a different outcome.
John Bush, Culver City