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Time to Get Serious With the Oversight

Just to make sure all the bases are covered, I’ve decided to form yet another commission to look into the televised June 23 beating of a suspected car thief by Los Angeles Police Department cops.

True, L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn already has appointed his own toothless commission. But then African American activist Danny Bakewell, appearing at a dramatic press conference, announced that he was forming another one: the Community Commission on Police Abuse.

Bakewell, using a flashlight like the one used by an LAPD officer in the controversial beating, smashed a cantaloupe, a honeydew and a papaya.

I tuned in to the televised event a bit late and thought Emeril was making a summer fruit salad.

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No, I told myself. That must be Gallagher, the comedian who used to smash melons in his act. But I couldn’t figure out why Gallagher would form a commission on police brutality. That’s when I realized it was Bakewell.

He had to form his own commission, Bakewell said, because Mayor Hahn’s commission didn’t represent the black community. So now we’ve got a police commission, a Hahn commission and a Bakewell commission, not to mention local and possibly federal investigations.

I can’t say I was surprised that Bakewell didn’t ask me to be on his commission, because I have fielded quite a few e-mails and phone calls from African Americans who blasted me for my columns on the infamous flashlight case.

I had said that although the televised beating was out of line, it did not appear to be racially motivated. Call me naive, but although L.A. cops have a long history of harassing black people, I think they’re perfectly capable of roughing up anyone who leads them on a stupid car chase.

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Namely, there was the white guy who tried it in February. That chase ended when officers lit up the driver, guns blazing. It was an outrageous display in which they pumped eight holes into the driver, and it was far more damning than last week’s flashlight case.

Some African Americans wrote to tell me they agreed. But others made me think back on the O.J. Simpson case, when it was crystal clear that the racial divide is still deep and wide.

One caller accused me of being consistently anti-African American. We “know of your kind,” said another, who called me a racist Hispanic whose goal in life is to become an honorary white person.

(I e-mailed him back, saying I would let my Italian mother and Castilian father know that someone had finally figured me out.)

My favorite phone message was from a woman who said:

“Take your racist, wetback ass back to Mexico.”

Maybe she can head up a Human Relations Commission.

Speaking of goodwill, LAPD Chief William Bratton and ex-Chief Bernard Parks, now a councilman, went toe to toe for no good reason at a City Council meeting Wednesday.

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Parks, who is black and running against the white mayor who dumped him, seized on the political opportunity at hand, pandering like a champ. He said he had received numerous complaints from constituents ticked off at Bratton for language they consider racially insensitive.

Bratton fumed, arguing that he had reached out to the black community to address both crime and race problems.

No, Rodney: We can’t all just get along. Every time you think this thing might die out, yet another so-called leader throws gas on the fire.

It began when Mayor Slim Jim came out of his bunker, saw his own shadow, and jumped -- passing the buck by announcing his useless commission.

This served to fuel claims that the suspected car thief got jacked up because he was black. Unsurprisingly, the Rev. Al Sharpton was on the next plane to L.A., then Bratton called a local activist a nitwit, and it’s been all downhill from there.

For all the pressing issues in L.A. -- gang warfare, huge dropout rates, a housing crisis, crummy low-paying jobs, and a young man shot dead last week while cleaning up gang graffiti in Boyle Heights -- so-called community leaders are worked up about a suspected car thief who ran from police and got cracked with a flashlight.

And, yeah, coppers, I know the officers involved claim they thought the suspect had a gun.

First of all, he didn’t.

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Second, even Bratton has publicly called the arrest a tactical mess.

There’s no telling where we’re headed from here, given the leadership vacuum. So my commission will be in charge of overseeing all the other commissions, public officials and investigative teams.

It will be made up of Robert Downey Jr., Courtney Love and Robert Blake, and everyone who felt maligned or under-represented in the last couple of weeks. That includes nitwits, representatives of the melon growers’ industry and lowlifes who have led police on stupid car chases in the past.

Applications are being accepted.

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Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at steve.lopez@latimes.com and read previous columns at www.latimes.com/lopez


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