Patterico's Pontifications


Erwin Chemerinsky: Wrong Again

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:05 am

The L.A. Times today unquestioningly quotes Erwin Chemerinsky as follows:

“I see a tremendous difference in response,” said Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky. “Chief Parks and Chief Gates refused to admit or recognize the problems. Chief Parks never admitted that there was a Rampart scandal. He said that it was ‘ginned up’…. Chief Gates always blamed the Rodney King beating on Rodney King.

Chemerinsky is just flatly wrong. From “Official Negligence,” by Lou Cannon:

The shock was shared by Chief Gates, who had returned from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles around midnight on March 4, after participating in a conference on violence sponsored by the Bush administration. The chief’s security aide told him about the incident when he picked him up at the airport, but Gates was not prepared for what he saw when he watched the tape the following morning. Staring at the screen in disbelief, he played the tape twenty-five times. “To see my officers engaged in what appeared to be excessive force, to see them beat a man with their batons fifty-six times, to see a sergeant on the scene who did nothing to seize control, was something I never dreamed I would witness,” Gates wrote later. “It was a very, very extreme use of force — extreme for any police department in America. But for the LAPD, considered by many to be perhaps the finest, most professional police department in the world, it was more than extreme. It was impossible.”

Erwin Chemerinsky: does he ever get tired of being wrong?

P.S. The main point of this post is that Erwin Chemerinsky got something wrong again. But a subsidiary point is this: police chiefs have always responded to videotaped uses of force by police with criticism. Bill Bratton does it, and as much as he was admired within the LAPD, so did Daryl Gates. He also expressed culpability on the part of Rodney King, to be sure, and properly so. But his first reaction was to view the use of force as excessive.

Of course, anybody who just watched the video (and knew nothing else about the case) would agree. But police chiefs are not supposed to publicize their knee-jerk reactions. They’re supposed to know that there is often more to the story.

But all often, they open their mouths before they learn the rest of the story.

P.P.S. A full discussion of the Rodney King case is beyond the scope of this post. If you’re interested in learning more about the King case and the context in which it took place, I recommend Cannon’s eye-opening book. Here is a Salon interview with Cannon in which he discusses some of the book’s major points. Here is a representative quote from Cannon, a longtime Washington Post reporter, about the first few seconds of video (edited out by most stations) showing King violently resisting:

[I]t explains why the jurors in Simi Valley, who were from a very pro-police, conservative community, ruled the way they did. They thought that the media hadn’t told them the full story, and lo and behold, we hadn’t.

Right. And the media’s lack of explanation of the whole picture helped spark the riots, as Cannon explains in his book.

For more insight, here is a good account of the event and trials. I watched a 2-hour Court TV special on the Simi Valley trial, and I think this account is very accurate — and something most people are unfamiliar with.

29 Responses to “Erwin Chemerinsky: Wrong Again”

  1. EC=Creepy.

    I heard him say once that “a woman has a right not to incubate a fetus”. Yea, OK, he’s The Liberal Lawyer and all. But something about the way he said that made me feel really weirded out.

    David N. Scott (71e316)

  2. I know about the first few seconds of the Rodney King tape, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it (which is really a crime on the part of the media). Anyone have a linky?

    John (a82b39)

  3. simi valley jurors just don’t have any problem with their officers whacking a negro 56 times with their clubs.

    assistant devil's advocate (c0165a)

  4. That’s exactly how I felt, back when I was ignorant of the facts of the case — as I am sure you are, ada.

    Patterico (53b9bc)

  5. In fact, when I first heard about the riots, my only question was why the rioters had torn up their own neighborhoods, rather than seeking out the cops themselves to kill.

    Something somebody later tried to do with Sgt. Koon.

    Then later, when I saw the Court TV special and learned the actual facts of the case, I was appalled that I had ever felt that way. I still thought Powell was a racist and may very well have committed a criminal assault. But Sgt. Koon had earned my respect as a stand-up guy — someone who had once given mouth-to-mouth to a black transvestite, not a racist — and someone who really thought he was conducting the use of force in a way that would minimize the danger to the suspect and officers.

    Goes to show you what media coverage will do to your attitudes.

    Patterico (b92050)

  6. I hold the media more responsible for the riots and dozens of deaths than I do the LAPD.

    Patterico (4aecd0)

  7. Why did the U.S. invade Iraq after 9/11?

    Angry people don’t always care who they take their revenge on.

    alphie (015011)

  8. Why did the U.S. invade Iraq after 9/11?

    The real question is: Why did the US pass a prescription drug benefit for seniors after 9/11?

    Angry people don’t always care who they take their revenge on.

    And stupid people don’t care what they argue about, or whether they have a point.

    Pablo (08e1e8)

  9. I have heard Chemerinsky on both the Laura Ingraham and Hugh Hewitt shows. Both hosts, with bona fide right-wing credentials, seem to like him personally which leads me to beleive that he is probably a friendly and charming sort of guy. My guess would be that he has just fallen in love with the idea of being a media icon and seeing his own name in print (or pixilated on the screen) and that leads him to make outlandish and silly statements like the one about abortion that David mentions in the first comment. I would be willing to guess (and sincerely hope) that he is not such a buffoon in the classroom.

    JVW (25ca83)

  10. I followed this case very closely at the time and believe that Koon saved Rodney King’s life. Melanie Singer was ready to shoot him and Koon intervened. His thanks from her was her testimony, which I believe to be dishonest. That account, which was excellent, neglected to mention that she retired on disability after that incident and had a conflict of interest at the time of her testimony. I sent money to Koon’s family while he was incarcerated. That case began the long decline of the LAPD.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  11. Umm. Is EC 2 for 2 for getting it wrong? I thought that the “Ramparts Scandal” (media version) was largely ginned up.

    craig henry (c4d6d4)

  12. Mike,

    It’s amazing the difference it makes to know the facts. I don’t know anyone who would really go to bat for Laurence Powell, a racist who arguably lost control at the end of the incident. But anyone who really knows the facts has respect for Koon. I think he was screwed by the media and the system — and very nearly paid for it with his life.

    Before I had a blog, one of the things that would enrage me about the LAT was how they would talk about the “four officers who beat Rodney King.” I’ll bet they don’t even *know* that Koon never laid a single baton stroke on King (nor did Briseno, if memory serves). Of course, Koon took responsibility for everything that happened, like the stand-up guy he was. But that doesn’t mean he “beat” King. All he physically did to King was Tase him — which had no effect, reinforcing the impression that King was on PCP.

    Patterico (c9f3a0)

  13. The result of this incident will be an object lesson: let the woman or minority officer shoot the suspect. I guarantee that will happen in the few incidents in which minorities are stopped.

    Rule by PC has it’s downsides. This is one.

    Jim Rockford (e09923)

  14. The backstory is that the chokehold had already been banned over a bogus incident in which a miscreant allegedly had a stroke due to a chokehold. That left the police with the baton as the only step short of deadly force. That fact was mentioned in the linked article. I wonder what happened to Koon ? He certainly deserved better of the LAPD.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  15. Our law school used the Chemerinsky book for ConLaw. The best thing about the book?…

    …Ok, wait, I’ll think of something.

    Jinnmabe (5a3756)

  16. Ok, still nothing, but I’m sure something will come to me…

    Jinnmabe (5a3756)

  17. Since the phony rape charges at Duke that were supported by most faculty–by their silence if nothing else—I don’t really trust anything they say. I particularly don’t respct or trust their Law Department. A more hypocritical bunch would be hard to find.

    Howard Veit (4ba8d4)

  18. Chemerinsky, from his participation on Hugh Hewitt which usually comes at the time I catch the show going home, is a partisan lefty with a legal veneer to soften the appearance. I’ve never heard him question leftist orthodoxy.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  19. I attended almost all of the Simi Valley trial and I knew all of the defendants and most of the players.

    Gates’ statements showed us how out of touch he was with the realities of the Police Commission’s policies in 1991. Indeed, Physical Training Unit OIC Sgt Ken Dionne testified under oath in Lyons v. City of LA (1982) that if the police commission ordered cops to use metal pipes instead of the upper body control holds that injuries (e.g. brutality) would rise. He and the rest of his training staff, including now-Asst Chief Earl Paysinger, resigned their posts at the Academy in protest.

    As a result of the Police Commission’s move against the upper body control holds, hundreds of suspects were unnecessarily beaten by LAPD officers between 1982 and 1991, until Rodney King finally illustrated on video what Sgt. Dionne and his training staff had warned nine years before.

    The proof that Gates was out of touch was that he sent Mike Bostic, a commander with almost no time on the street, to act as his use-of-force expert. Compared to Sgt Duke, whose expertise and in the use of force for both LA and POST, Bostic had no expertise or credibility. Duke lived and breathed use-of-force policy. Bostic was good at taking promotional exams.

    Like the “Boston Massacre,” the LAPD defendants were acquitted NOT because they had not used excessive force against King, but because those officers had followed the Police Commission’s flawed policies.

    Unlike the Nuremberg trials, where low-level soldiers and officers were tried along with the generals, the generals (Mayor Bradley, his lawyer and friend Warren Christopher, the Police Commission and City Council) blamed the handful of convenient cops.

    The so-called “MacArthur Park Melee” occurred because community activists like Earl Ofari Hutchinson prefer to blame cops for committing the brutality imposed by current and past Police Commissions. Legal dweebs like Connie Rice and Andre Birotte who either don’t understand LAPD history, or refuse to examine it. And while I agree that Lou Cannon’s book is full of remarkable evidence, it’s clear that some of his opinions derived from that evidence are flattened by his personal interpretations.

    In a working democracy, an honest press would expose this pathology to LA voters. But because LA is controlled by Democrat lawyers, politicians, journalists, and judges (pretty much since the 1950s), it’s not likely that anything will change in the next 50 years.

    Fifteen years have passed since Rodney King, 28 years since Eula Love, and so many more. The fact that Democrat politicians have enjoyed exclusive control over the hiring of police candidates and have controlled LAPD policy throughout that period should raise some questions. Like the LAUSD that has crippled hundreds of thousands of minority children since the 1950s, at what point does a journalist raise questions to incite angry voters?

    Yeah, it’s convenient to blame cops for Villaraigosa’s policies, but doing so will only guarantee more brutality in the future.

    Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.

    Clark Baker (35519b)

  20. By the way, I contacted Doug Linder after reading his link (the same one you provided). Linder tells me that he obtained his information from Cannon’s book. Linder hasn’t yet made corrections, and I doubt he will. But my point is that Linder’s reliance of the interpretations of evidence collected by a journalist is not as conclusive as it would appear.

    Clark Baker (35519b)

  21. FWIW, two things
    1. I think there was one faculty member from Duke Law that was critical of the DA’s behavior in the alleged rape case all along. One of his main points was the way the line-up was done against standard procedure (only Duke Lacross players were in the line-up). I don’t remember his name, though I was happy to see some intellectual honesty coming from somewhere.
    2. Chemerinsky appears on Hewitt with John Eastman (I think), a conservative on faculty at…(I’m blanking, same school Hewitt teaches at). Chemerinsky is expected to present “The Left View”.

    At this date, 15 years later as you say, how many Americans are completely unaware of the additional footage and context of the case that you mention? I hope somewhere along the way somebody was able to confront a news editor eye to eye on that one. Puts perspective on why “not bearing false witness” is listed with “Thou shalt not commit murder”.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  22. Clark, I’m also wondering the current status of Koon (& the others). Do you have any idea?

    Susan R (db00f3)

  23. Actually, one officer sued Warren Christopher for “Defamation of Character” after being falsely identified as a “Problem Officer.” The LAPD union (LAPPL) told the officer they would represent him. We awaited for the delicious moment of putting Christopher and his merry inquisition of 100 leftist lawyers to defend their sloppy misrepresentation of facts in a real trial.

    In are remarkable twist of fate, the police union forgot to file the officer’s claim in time, blowing the statutes and protecting Christopher. The officer sued LAPPL for fraud and LAPPL settled the matter with union dues. In a remarkable coincidence, LA cops got raises, new police cars and several new police stations shortly afterward, and the non-existent morale improvments were echoed throughout the media.

    I’m not sure she’ll ever admit it publicly, but I discussed the problems I found with the Christopher Commission Report with former Police Commission President Edith Perez a few years later. After several minutes, Ms. Perez told me this:

    “Everyone knows the Christopher Commission Report is a fraud. But if we admit that it’s fraud, LA might explode into another riot. So we 1) farm unworkable recommendations to committees and, after a discreet period of time, 2) dismiss the recommendation by saying this: While we recognize that the recommendation was relevant when first introduced in 1991, the passage of time and other reforms have rendered this particular recommendation no longer appropriate.”

    Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it.

    Clark Baker (35519b)

  24. Susan: I haven’t talked with the officers in several years, but I met Stacy Koon at a retirement dinner last year. He fared best among the rest of the officers. The rest have struggled to distance themselves from their history.

    I worked for Stacy during the 80s and found him to be ethical, smart, and educated (M.P.A). He was a good supervisor. His post-conviction book did well and, from what I know, he’s still a minister in Southern California. He’s got a great family.

    I’ve posted many essays about the LAPD and my experience there on my blog.

    I’m also the ONLY officer in LAPD history that was convicted (by jury) of a crime (battery) after officially following LAPD policy. My 1993 conviction was overturned after Judge Veronica McBeth and Deputy Distrct Attorney David Sotelo were found guilty of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct.

    The difference between bad cops, prosecutors, and judges is that when a cop is found to have violated someone’s civil rights, they’re often fired. McBeth stayed on the bench until she resigned several years later.

    David Sotelo was appointed to the Superior Court by Gray Davis. You can email me directly at CLARK AT NYM DOT HUSH DOT COM.

    Clark Baker (35519b)

  25. During their incarceration, I considered Koon & Powell political prisoners. A fact often lost is that through all their court trials, all the force used against Rodney King was found to be justified except for the last 12 seconds. For that they were sent to prison. Those of us who have been in actual use of force situations know how difficult it is to subdue a combative suspect & then deescalate.

    Retired Sergeant (dde475)

  26. “… all the force used against Rodney King was found to be justified except for the last 12 seconds…”

    … by a jury that convicted one AND acquitted one of the baton-swinging officers. Of the two officers who didn’t use batons on King, one was convicted. Your comment does not explain the jury’s rationale. If four officers conspired to violate King’s civil rights, why the split decision?

    They were either all guilty or all innocent. The compromise speaks volumes of the integrity of the jury – which is why a change of venue (to Ventura County) was so important.

    No male white LAPD officer is safe before any LA jury. I say white male because no female LAPD officer has ever been charged criminally for using excessive force against suspects, although tens of millions of dollars in excessive force civil suits were charged against female officers since 1980.

    For example, after LAPD Officer Karen Tiffault shot and killed an unarmed naked 16-year-old boy in Foothill Division in 1999, she was never charged, although the boy’s family received the same settlement that was given to Rodney King.

    For fun, Google search terms like FEMALE-POLICE-CONVICTED. I found not ONE female cop charged or convicted for using excessive force against a criminal suspect, in the United States, EVER. This isn’t because they use less force, but because prosecutors and the LAPD, for some reason, refuse to criminally charge female cops.

    The “jury nullification” that invites jurors to ignore evidence and acquit the guilty also implies that jurors can ignore evidence to convict the innocent. If you’re a male white LA cop, that’s often more than enough evidence to convict.

    The LA jury system is no longer credible, and too many judges and prosecutors are willing to Nifong innocent cops to demonstrate their willingness to punish cops for flawed political decisions AND to perpetuate the mythology of brutal racist “Warrior Cops.” And some prosecutors are elevated to judge if they play that game.

    Clark Baker (35519b)

  27. […] Read the rest… […]

    Jury Experiences (f515ed)

  28. Clark,

    My comment does not explain the rationale of the jury because it defies explanation. Koon & Powell go to prison. O.J. & Robert Blake go free. I agree fully with your comments about a white male LA cop not wanting to go before a LA jury. A scary thought.

    In my career, I survived 2 trips before a federal jury for alleged civil rights violations. Thank God the jury pool for federal court stretched far beyond LA City or I would have been screwed even though I was guilty of nothing other than being a good honest police officer.

    Non other than Tom Beck, a very aggressive civil rights attorney who specializes in suing cops represented the plaintiff yet I prevailed. After my second acquittal I had male & female jurors actually hug me & thank me for being a good and honest cop. One of the most gratifying experiences of my career. It was refreshing to see a jury get it right for once, or in my case, twice.

    Retired Sergeant (f0a38c)

  29. […] If we could ignore them or do without them, there wouldn’t be much reason to get angry. But a recent Patterico post reminded me of how long they’ve been performing so poorly. Here is a representative quote […]

    Pursuing Holiness » Blog Archive » More Media Malfeasance (bc33d8)

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