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Institutional Depravity: Rodney King, George Floyd, Tyre Nichols

VOICES

THE VIEW FROM HERE - The common aspect of these three acts of police depravity is that all were done by a group of officials acting in concert. 

A vital point, which many people will rush to cover-up, ignore, or discount, is that racism is not the basic problem.  The photos of the depraved attackers and the innocent victim show that Tyre Nichols’ death was not race based.

  Another vital pointwhich is likely to be denied is that these depraved officers were not unique aberrations from the Memphis institutional culture. The Bad Apple Defense is a common cover-up for institutional depravity.   Since we have the long complex aftermath of the Rodney King beating, Los Angeles’ institutional depravity has been documented.  (See below) 

A third vital point is that the institutional depravity is not limited to the police department. 

Predatory Abuse vs Institutional Depravity 

Drawing the exact line between abuse and depravity is a subjective matter, but certain behavior can be so extreme that it is far into the depraved zone.   The King, Floyd and Nichols cases all are within the depravity zone. 

Los Angeles city council and judiciary still operate as criminal enterprises.  Everyone knew that the city was a criminal enterprise where the city council’s prime goal was to Manhattanize Los Angeles in order to make a handful of landowners, developers and Wall Street vastly more wealthy, while making Angelenos poorer.  After more than a decade of destroying poor people’s homes, i.e., Rent Control Units (aka RSO units), Los Angeles had created a homeless crisis and had fraudulently inflated housing costs in order to benefit Wall Street by pushing home buyers into larger and larger mortgages.  While people who bought homes in Los Angeles were financially raped, they did not die as did the homeless.  For years, however, it was apparent that about 30% of the homeless who died each year would not have died if they had been housed. The courts protected the city hall corruption by ruling that the city council’s actions were de facto “non-justiciable.”  According to Judge Fruin’s December 2016 ruling, the city not only did not have to follow state law, but it could ignore its own city council rules. Thereafter, both homelessness and homeless deaths escalated.  

Where does one draw the line between corrupt abuse and depravity?  Does three hundred needless deaths a year count?  Obviously, not to Mayor Garcetti or anyone in the city council since they doubled down on the destruction of poor people’s homes which increased homelessness and the number of dead homeless.   

What one finds with the institutional factors surrounding Rodney King, George Floyd and now Tyre Nichols are entire systems which are abusively corrupt, and that each city coddled depraved individuals. We recognized depravity when it is a savage beating, but not when it is done with suits, ties and judicial robes.  Yet, without judicial protection none of these barbaric events would have occurred. 

The Institutional Abuse Surrounding Rodney King 

It’s superfluous to detail the predatory nature of the old Los Angeles Police Department prior to Rodney King’s beating. The untold part is the way in which the city and the courts cooperated to protect the officers as well as higher public officials such as the District Attorneys and judges from scrutiny.  In March 1991, there was consensus amongst LA’s movers and shakers that the “Rodney King” LAPD officers had to be protected.  Thus, the appellate court connived to have the officers’ trial moved north to Simi Valley in Ventura County, an anti-Black, cop bedroom community, where a jury would not convict the officers.  For extra measure, they assigned LA’s version of the old Western hangin’ judge, Stanley Weisberg, to preside.  Let that sink in: the trial had to be moved to another county, but LA County Stanley Weisberg, was still assigned. Under Weisberg’s watchful eye, no Blacks were allowed on the jury. 

After the officers’ acquittal, California public officials from Governor Pete Wilson down declared that “justice had been done.” The 1992 Insurrection erupted and 54 were killed. As happens with such events, rioters and looters took advantage of the chaos. 

Shocked at the Injustice, the City Immediately Reformed its Police and Courts - No, Not At All!  

In fact, abusive corruption grew worst.  Out of sight of the general public, police and judicial corruption gained momentum.  Despite the Christopher Commission Report on extensive LAPD abuse, no one did anything.  Judges wanted convictions as it helped their judicial careers and testiLying and fraudulent evidence dovetailed with the judges’ career ambitions. In order to combat rising crime in the 1970's, each LAPD patrol division had its CRASH unit.  The Rampart’s Division CRASH became especially active in late 1990's after The OJ Trial.  http://bit.ly/3kMllgT Wiki Since the corruption involved police officers with the knowledge of then Black Police Chief Bernard Parks, Mayor James K. Hahn did not reappoint Chief Parks.  Although CRASH units victimized primarily Black and Hispanic communities, the Black community was so upset with Mayor James Hahn that he lost the next election for lack Black voters.  In order to understand what is lurking behind the scenes in Memphis, we need to comprehend the depth of abusive corruption in the LAPD and how it became worse after The Rodney King insurrection in 1992.  Abusive institutions tend to follow a similar pattern. 

When a few LAPD scapegoats were placed on trial in a faux move to cover-up LAPD corruption, the city selected Judge Jacqueline Connor, a judge who had allegedly been friendly with the CRASH officers including Rafael Perez, the most notorious CRASH officers. Unexpectedly, the jury convicted them, but Judge Connor threw out their convictions.  That ended the CRASH unit trials and any investigation into the role which the judicial system had played in railroading innocent people into prison.  As it was, Ramparts’ aftermath resulted in reversal of 106 criminal cases, and 140 civil lawsuits cost the city $215 Million ($365,393,873 in 2022 dollars).  On September 19, 2000, the LA City Council signed the consent decree with the Department of Justice which then supervised the LAPD for the next decade.  The Consent Decree also let the judges off the hook. 

The LAPD emerged from its decade of DoJ supervision a substantially changed institution.  A subsequent article can contrast the Keenan Anderson case with Tyre Nichols case 

What About Memphis’ Culture of Depraved Corruption? 

The foregoing sketches only a tiny part of the vast institutional corruption in Los Angeles which the depravity of the LAPD exemplified. Let’s remember, the Rodney King beating resulted in zero reform. When criminal behavior is sanctioned, like Jason Reedy’s criminal battery on councilmember Kevin de Leon, the behavior escalates.  Had all the officers who beat Rodney King been properly convicted and sentenced to long prison terms, that would probably have tempered the excesses of the CRASH units. There would have been no 1992 Insurrection. The King officers’ exoneration in 1992, however, made LAPD abusers feel safe.  Officers Perez and Duran did not try to murder Javier Ovando until 1996. 

Years Will Pass Before the Public Learns the Entire Story of Memphis’ Institutional Depravity  

No doubt, the officials hope that quick action will avert more intense scrutiny of Memphis and its abusive culture.  Let’s look at one curious aspect -- Tyre Nichols was allegedly stopped for reckless driving.  Why would a specialized anti-crime unit officers yank him out of the car, beat him and hand cuff him? 

Either most or all of the “Tyre Nichols” officers belonged to SCORPION a special anti-crime unit patterned after the LAPD CRASH units. Not only was the unit to stop crime, but here’s a unique Memphis twist: they were supposed to focus on reckless driving!  November 12, 2021, MPD Launches New SCORPION Unit to Help Reduce Violent Crimes, by FOX13Memphis.com News Staff

“Our efforts are not just to write citations and send them on their way,” [Memphis Police Chief CJ] Davis said during a crime forum on Wednesday night. “When we identify individuals who are reckless driving to the point where others are in danger, we want to take your car too.”  (Bold added) In 2008, Chief Davis had been fired from Atlanta PD for stopping a sex crimes investigation of Terrill Marion Crane, who was married to an Atlanta police officer.  

Why Reckless Driving? Why Take The Car? 

Do only criminals drive recklessly? Why not follow the normal routine of issuing a citation without hauling them off to jail unless it’s a DUI?   

Answer: Civil Forfeiture.  In Tennessee the police can seize your car if it is used in connection with a crime.  While using a car to transport drugs is the typical crime, if reckless driving is the crime de jure for Memphis PD, the cops can say that the perp drove recklessly and then confiscate the car since the car was used in crime of reckless driving.  This scenario would explain the bizarre marriage of a special anti-crime task force and reckless driving. Without jumping to conclusions, the clues point to Tyre Nichols’ being killed during a MPD car-jacking.  That explains why they yanked him out of the car.  If they only cited him for reckless driving, he drives off in his car, but the cops want the car. Thus, they have to arrest Nichols. Under the Felony Murder Rule, when a death occurs during a felony like carjacking, it’s first-degree murder.  September 30, 2016, VOX, These States Let Police Take and Keep Your Stuff Even If You Haven't Committed a Crime 

These Facts Require a Full DOJ Investigation. 

(1) Chief Davis protected an officer’s husband by stopping a sex crime investigation 

(2) Chief Davis started the Scorpion Unit knowing the disaster of the LAPD Crash unit 

(3) Chief Davis expressly stated one objective of the anti-crime Scorpion unit, “we want to take your car too.” 

(4) Civil Forfeiture can make a fortune for the department which seizes the cars.  Tennessee can seize and keep a car even if the owner is not guilty. Civil Forfeiture 

(5) There is no evidence Tyre Nichols was driving recklessly. 

When a depraved beating occurs, one will find a much larger abusive system which gave rise to the criminal cops.  As Los Angeles showed, only the Federal Department of Justice’s intervention can reform the Memphis MP.  Fixing MPD, however, will do nothing to reform the rest of Memphis, just as it did nothing to hinder Los Angeles’ corruption.

(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor.  You may email him at [email protected].  The opinions expressed by Mr. Abrams are not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)