He made his mark as a self-styled activist against police brutality 19 months ago when he was apparently pushed into a plate-glass window by a Long Beach policeman. Network videotape of the incident made him an enemy of many police, but a hit in the black community, where he was hailed as an emerging leader. He later formed a private investigation firm and earned $300 an hour testifying in court cases.
Now Don Carlos Jackson is changing direction again.
The 32-year-old former Hawthorne police sergeant--who gained minor celebrity status in January, 1989, when hidden cameras filmed him as he was allegedly assaulted by Long Beach Patrolman Mark Dickey--left Los Angeles this week for Pennsylvania.
Jackson will attend Pennsylvania State University, where he will work toward a master's degree, and perhaps a doctorate, in administration of justice. His intended thesis: police racism and violence. He said he plans to study police procedures in several big cities, including the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments.
Penn State officials said they encouraged Jackson to enroll after he spoke at the school. He has been hired as a graduate assistant and will have his expenses paid in exchange for teaching undergraduates 20 hours a week.
"I really wanted to strike out on some new ground," Jackson said. "You can't get everything done with a video camera. It's time to diversify and expand my horizons."
At least a few former colleagues in the Hawthorne Police Department said they will not be sorry to see Jackson go. "We will be glad to experience the lack of media attention," said Lt. Herb Mundon, who called Jackson a troublemaker who is "just moving to another locale right now."
Jackson said he hopes his research will influence changes in police training so that officers are less aggressive with blacks and other minorities.
He also speculated that the studies will help the consulting business that he formed last year with his two partners from the Long Beach "sting," David Lynn and Joseph Travers.
The partners helped research the complaints of 55 residents of Los Angeles' Dalton Avenue, who earlier this year accepted a $3-million settlement for damages from a 1988 LAPD drug raid. Police allegedly wrecked apartments and beat several residents.
In May, Jackson testified in court on behalf of 70 plaintiffs who said they were harassed by Hawthorne police because they were suspected members of the Vagos motorcycle club. The city agreed to a $2-million settlement.
Jackson said his firm of Jackson, Lynn & Travers already has more business than it can handle. The three are hired by attorneys at $50 an hour to investigate cases of alleged police misconduct. Jackson makes $300 an hour when he takes the witness stand, as he did for five days in the Vagos trial.
"I've found you can't be a starving artist in this movement," Jackson said. "All the money I make goes back into my work."
Jackson may be gone, but he will be back.
The misdemeanor charges against Dickey and his partner, Officer Mark Ramsey, are still pending. Defense attorneys said they plan to go to court Friday to again demand unedited tapes of the incident from NBC. Jackson will testify in the case.
And he makes no secret of his political aspirations. Jackson noted that Los Angeles City Councilman Gilbert Lindsay's term will expire in 1993, about the time he finishes his master's program. "That would probably be a good time for me to be back in L.A.," Jackson said with a hearty laugh.