On Sunday morning, Conan Nolan asked Madison if she and her fellow commissioners had buckled to pressure from anti-police groups in reaching their conclusions about the Ford shooting. “There was no buckling,” she said. And in this Madison was speaking the truth, though not in the sense she intended. One need not buckle to the mob when one is herself a member of it.
But the mob may yet find themselves unsatisfied. Yes, the Police Commission has the final word on the propriety of a use of force, but the police chief has the last word on officer discipline, and as noted above, Chief Beck has already determined that both officers involved in the Ford shooting acted within the law and department policy. This sets up a confrontation between Beck and his titular bosses, though it is one in which Beck has little to lose by tweaking the commissioners’ noses. He is already serving what must by law be his final term as chief, so whatever opinion the commission may come to have of him is all but irrelevant to his future prospects. If he bows to the commission and punishes the officer, he will be seen as weak by those he seeks to lead, who will respond as any organization does to poor leadership. But if he gives the officer a pass, the commission may retaliate by making decisions detrimental to the department. Either scenario will be harmful to the city.
And now what? It requires no great feat of prognostication to predict that, regardless of what Chief Beck decides, LAPD officers will react to the Police Commission’s ruling by being more circumspect in their enforcement efforts. Considerations of law and tactics will be replaced by those of politics, with the result being officers who will be satisfied to take a report when someone is shot and put up yellow tape around the dead bodies, but not to pursue those responsible for the crimes for fear of risking a violent confrontation that will be judged by people lacking even the vaguest notion about how police work should be conducted. In the Newton Division, where Ezell Ford was killed, violent crime is already up 35 percent for the year, with homicides up 42 percent and shooting incidents up 93 percent. Violent crime is up in the other areas of South Los Angeles as well, as it is throughout the city (though not yet by as much). With the city’s gang members emboldened by the commission’s ruling and its police officers demoralized, we can expect Los Angeles to see a violent summer.