Simpsons fans will recognize the reference:
The beatdown to which I refer here was administered by one Jack Dunphy, once a contributor to this blog, in an absolutely brutal takedown of some lazy woke “reporting” by Los Angeles’s Dog Trainer of Record:
Gentle readers, today I present the latest, incandescently glaring example, brought to you by that seemingly endless font of such rubbish, the Los Angeles Times. The story, by staff writer Jeong Park, appears on page B-4 of the paper’s Sunday print edition, but was posted Friday evening under the provocative headline, “They say sheriff’s helicopters buzz lowest over Black homes, and they’re out to prove it.”
“Aha,” the reader is expected to say, “those dirty, racist cops are even harassing black people from the sky!”
Park begins the story thus: “Law enforcement helicopters routinely buzz around Greater Los Angeles. But in certain neighborhoods, they swoop in — low and loud. So say two community groups that are studying the effects of helicopters on the health of county residents.”
I’m tempted to quote the whole thing, it’s so good . . . but I want to send you over so you can read it for yourself. I was expecting a fairly standard “helicopters fly where the crime is” sort of analysis, supported by some statistics that the paper had conveniently omitted. There’s some of that, but this is oh so much more. First, Dunphy addresses this paragraph from the story:
Shapiro said the groups had found that in every census block of L.A. County that is more than 40% Black, the median elevation of helicopters was below 1,000 feet, the “minimum safe altitude” for congested areas as set by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Well! If the FAA says 1,000 feet is the minimum safe altitude, and the cops are routinely flying below that, ipso facto we have a problem, don’t we? Except, as Columbo used to say: there’s just one more thing. Here’s Dunphy:
The online version of the story links to the FAA’s Guide to Low-Flying Aircraft, which indeed says that aircraft operating over a “congested area” maintain “an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.”
Alas for Times writer Park and the Oxford and Bard College-educated Shapiro, they failed to thoroughly read the very document they present as proof that police helicopters are operating in a racist manner over Los Angeles. If they had, they would know the 1,000-foot minimum altitude rule applies to fixed-wing aircraft. Had they bothered to read a mere two paragraphs beyond the point where the 1,000-foot rule is mentioned, they would have learned that helicopters are explicitly exempted from this rule, and that helicopter pilots are directed to “comply with routes or altitudes specifically prescribed by the [FAA] Administrator.”
Go ahead and read the document yourself. He’s right.
But it gets worse. The “reporter” forgot about a little thing called . . . LAX:
The journalistic face-plant doesn’t end there. Had Park bestirred himself to do any actual reporting beyond Googling up the FAA document he believed supported his premise, had he done more than speak with the people making the specious accusations he wants his readers to believe, had he bothered to pick up a telephone and speak with someone at the FAA, or even a pilot working for one of the local television stations, he would have learned the following:
A few miles to the west of South Los Angeles, where one finds the highest concentration of black residents said to be so disturbed by low-flying helicopters, there is a place called Los Angeles International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest. (Perhaps Mr. Park has noticed it when looking out the window of the L.A. Times’s offices in El Segundo.) Because of its proximity to LAX, the FAA designates the sky above South L.A. as Class B airspace, the most highly restricted. All aircraft entering the area must first receive clearance from the LAX control tower, and though clearance is routinely granted it is only under certain conditions, among which are that helicopters remain below 900 feet between the Santa Monica Freeway and Florence Avenue, and below 500 feet between Florence Avenue and the Century Freeway — the very neighborhoods where the concentration of black residents is highest. This is done so as to avoid interfering with aircraft approaching LAX (and under certain weather conditions, departing from it).
That’s my bold type.
Oh my. That’s quite the oversight.
Also, that’s where the crime is. Dunphy notes that the paper’s own Homicide Report online database documents where the murders happen, and used to have a map with dots on it to represent where those murders happened . . . until the dots were removed for reasons that are, we all agree, a total and complete mystery. Dunphy:
The Los Angeles Times can make the dots disappear on their map, but they can’t do anything about the murders. That’s why the police are in — and above — those neighborhoods.
Just a devastating post, delivered with Dunphy’s usual humor and wry understatement. Kudos.