Making LA: Policing

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Candles burn at a memorial for Ezell Ford in Los Angeles as protestors demonstrate as people gather to protest after two grand juries decided not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in New York, N.Y. on December 05, 2014 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by Mintana Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The LAPD has gotten a lot of praise for reducing crime and improving relations with minority communities. But violent crime is actually up this year (homicides are down).

The national conversation about police shootings has also touched Los Angeles. So far this year, Los Angeles police have shot 21 people. That’s nearly one a week.

Press Play takes a closer look at today’s LAPD with Executive Director of 2nd Call, a gang intervention organization in South Los Angeles, Skipp Townsend; and Editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, Jim Newtown.

Skipp Townsend said that one problem in policing right now is the lack of oversight. Looking back at the time of Bill Bratton, who brought broken windows policing to LA when he was chief of police, Townsend said that what worked was oversight, not necessarily harsher crackdowns on minor crime.

However, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint and longtime reporter on the LAPD, Jim Newtown said that broken windows, if applied properly, can make a big difference. “I think broken windows as applied by smart police departments has had a dramatic effect on crime,” he said. Singling out community decay and low level offenders can make serious crime drop.

Townsend pointed toward increasing resources to help change these low-level offenders, many of whom are mentally ill or homeless. Putting these people in jail, said Townsend is like “putting a band-aid on a situation that needs surgery.”

And, of course, the police shooting of Ezell Ford, a young, unarmed mentally ill black man, also rocked the community and set relations with LAPD back years. “When you start identifying these neighborhoods as ‘gang neighborhoods’, said Townsend, “once again it becomes us against them.”

More from Making LA.