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Opinion: Swarming South L.A. isn’t going to make black Angelenos trust the LAPD

Sgt. Jeritt Severns, left, searches a man’s pockets while Officer Sam Oh gathers information following a call of someone pointing a weapon in Pico Union.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: That Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck describes LAPD tactics in parts of South Los Angeles as just an “occasional stop,” while painting them as merely inconvenient, flies in the face of hard data and experience. (“The LAPD’s biggest conundrum: How to suppress crime without alienating South L.A.'s black residents,” Feb. 4)

Condoning harassing and detaining black (and also brown) people in their neighborhoods as the way to end violent crime misses the point. It’s also shameful when there’s a far better answer, one that roots out the causes for drugs, gangs and guns in the first place: Redistribute the city’s resources to provide real jobs, better housing, quality education and youth engagement in these communities.

But here’s the rub: Really solving the problem means having to address age-old power dynamics such as white privilege and the power of the police to call the shots. It’s time for all of us to start looking beneath the surface and stop accepting Beck’s vision for the future of Los Angeles.

Karen Hilfman, Los Angeles

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To the editor: How can the LAPD officers deployed to high-crime areas of South L.A. protect and serve the people and gain their support?

First, they should meet with community leaders and get guidance for the policies to effectively suppress crime, protect the officers from excessive risk, and gain the support of the people. Second, they should meet the LAPD’s most ardent critics and ask them what they think are the best ways to protect community members. Ask what they would have the police do, what they would do if they were in charge.

The key is to get the most vocal critics to see the big picture and be part of the solution. At public meetings, critics and community leaders need to be present so people can voice their opinions. The LAPD should arrange monthly meetings with community leaders and critics to gauge the department’s progress.

Teamwork, unity and constant communication: That’s the way to win this war on crime.

Sid Pelston, Beverly Hills

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To the editor: Your puff piece shows why the police have so much trouble getting support in the black community.

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It sounds quite dramatic to mention that the LAPD’s swarm of South L.A. netted about 300 guns seized, but you downplayed the fact that this happened over six months — meaning police found about a gun and a half per day.

For this, the police stopped your interviewee four times in one night. There was no analysis of what proportion of these guns were held by otherwise law-abiding citizens simply trying to protect themselves as white citizens do every day, but are never discovered due to the lack of stops in white areas.

Each stop involves a resident whose day was disrupted, with concurrent fear and anxiety. No wonder the community does not respect their “protectors.” I am white, and would deeply resent this kind of treatment — but I don’t have to worry.

John Michael Lee, Van Nuys

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