Two Pedestrians Struck, One Killed

A cop in pursuit of trust

This article was first originally published in the Los Angeles Times, Wednesday December 13, 2006 by Will Beall. WILL BEALL, author of the novel "L.A. Rex," is a Los Angeles police officer.

AN ANCESTOR of mine, for whom I am named, was the sheriff in Neshoba County, Miss., before the civil rights movement. It's haunting to see my name stamped into his old tin star. I know almost nothing about the man, but I'm fairly certain William Joshua Beall conceived of law enforcement very differently than I do.

I have spent most of my career with the LAPD in 77th Division — the heart of South Central — serving and protecting people whose parents and grandparents migrated here to escape places like Neshoba County.

77th Division occupies less than 12 square miles, roughly from Vernon Avenue south to Manchester Avenue and from Central Avenue west to Crenshaw Boulevard. About 175,000 people live in 77th, mostly Latinos and blacks. So far this year, we've had 69 murders.

Most of our murders are gang-flavored, but many are plain Cain — raw homicidal impulses unchecked by middle-class propriety, the unfocused rage of the desperate and downtrodden. A man murdered over a chicken coop. Another killed over a cold beer on a hot afternoon.

Most of the victims are black men and, as they aren't apple-cheeked cheerleaders or children, few of their deaths make the news. These men are buried in places like Inglewood Park Cemetery, their pictures silk-screened onto oversized T-shirts and draped over their orphaned toddlers.

Some shooting victims survive, but I wouldn't call them lucky. They slump in wheelchairs with atrophied muscles, their fingers curled and claw-like, still defiantly wearing those goofy, straight-billed, powder-blue Yankees caps, still scowling at me as I drive past. They're the paralyzed veterans of South Central's sectarian violence — gang feuds so ancient that their origins are lost even to the gangsters.

Black men have bled and died down here for generations. When you process crime scenes in 77th and collect the empty shell casings from the ground, sometimes you find older casings, tinged with rust — the leftovers from some earlier, unreported shooting. Tragedy heaped upon tragedy, death upon death, and the trail of blood stretches back further than most of us care to look.

Spend enough time in South Central and you make some unpleasant historical connections. You begin to see the body count not just as the work of Crips and Bloods but as the legacy of restrictive housing covenants and economic isolation. Believe me, this nation's history of racial oppression doesn't feel so abstract after a few autopsies.

I know a lot of black people still don't trust cops. Can't say I blame them. For generations, police were the street-level enforcers of segregation and miscegenation laws. We were the guys with the dogs and water hoses at Selma. Little wonder the relationship between the black community and law enforcement in this country remains badly broken.

Folks in South Central remain understandably wary of cops like me. I walk into their lives uninvited, at inopportune moments — a retail sales rep from the same corporation that brought them the Middle Passage, Jim Crow, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. Some of them hate me on sight. Others want to trust me, but it's hard. It is the nature of policing to displease. This is inherently violative work. We're not firefighters, after all. We pull people over. We ask unpleasant questions. We arrested your nephew, and he swears he didn't do it.

Many people are content to let poor black men kill one another. Fortunately, the men and women I serve with are not among them. Our vigorous pursuit of black perpetrators is legendary; we're less famous for our corollary efforts on behalf of black victims. Officers work in 77th Division because they believe the powerless are worth protecting.

A recent article in The Times reported that the LAPD has fallen behind the Sheriff's Department in recruiting. The article blamed this hiring shortfall, in part, on minorities' lack of trust in the LAPD. Eulia Mae Love. Rodney King. Rampart. Rocked by scandal after racially-charged scandal, this department struggles to reinvent itself while under a federal consent decree. Meanwhile, another generation of dedicated officers nears retirement age.

So here's my totally unauthorized recruiting pitch: If you believe justice belongs to the pauper as well as the prince, if the life of the untouchable is as sacred to you as the life of the Brahmin, if you believe safety is a civil right owed both the gated community and the blighted one, then take the LAPD written exam. Hey, come work the south end. We're still fighting an uphill battle, and we could sure use the help.

Progress is slow, but it is happening. In my eight years, I've won a few people over. They rage to me about a videotaped use-of-force on the TV news, or some highprofile shooting, certain they know the latent sentiments behind the official explanations. "But you're one of the good ones," they tell me.

That's not a bad start, really, considering we're all not that far out of Neshoba County.


Curious that there's utterly no mention in this blog of the huge sex scandal involving the LAPD, which is the lead, page-one story in the LA Times today.

Read it here at:



I very much enjoyed this article. Job well done. Just goes to show the enormous amount of talent we have on this Department.

I'm not quite sure what this article has to do with the presence or absence of information on a sex scandal...

I thought this article was outstanding and I appreciate the chance to read it. I think the vast majority of people can understand that it is virtuous to defend the weak and the poor, but only a very rare individual has the courage to put their life and their livelihood on the line everyday and do it.

Well, Gina, what would you like mentioned about the "sex scandal"? Do you really believe anyone in the LAPD would comment on a pending personnel investigation or ongoing lawsuit???

I read the times (small caps intended) article and didn't see any news yet. It will be news if the allegations are proven true, or the complainant wins the lawsuit. Until then, complaints and lawsuits are a dime a dozen.

But one thing that is in need of addressing in the LAPD, which I don't hold my breath that it will, is the recent insult to all members of the Department contained in a newsletter. It was a joke of a commentary saying that "Favoritism" is not tolerated in the LAPD.

The whole promotional interview process is based on favoritism and cronyism and anyone who has gone through one knows it well. Yet, the Department warns employees about it.

During interviews for a counter-terrorism position, the panel is only concerned about the applicants favorite "core value" and how that Parks-era mandate is used on the applicant's daily work ethic. No questions are asked about the applicant's terrorism training or about the subject matter at hand. If the panel were to pick candidates according to knowledge of the subject matter and ability related to it, the right people would be picked. Instead, the interview panels use general questions about sexual harassment, affirmative action, and core values and don't even touch the subject matter the position is all about.

That way Captains and above can place their "favorite" employees in those coveted positions ahead of the best qualified.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is favoritism and cronyism and the City of L.A. is full of it.

So, a newsletter mentioning that favoritism is not tolerated is an insult to all city employees, espcifically hard-working LAPD personnel who try to get a coveted assignment.

Back to the streets where the most qualified do succeed, and the phonies pay their dues.

Dear Detective Beall, As I told you on the phone yesterday, your article was a beautiful affirmation of the good in law enforcement. Your lives matter to me, and I am grateful our lives matter to you, too. It was a real sweet way of saying it. And like I told you yesterday, I know it isn't easy being a white man in law enforcement today. Just putting the badge on takes a lot of heart. Kudos to you, warrior.

Gee, Gina - maybe that's because the article was posted on the 13th, and the story you are referring to broke on the 15th? Might want to check your dates before you jump on the bashing bandwagon...

Well done. There probably isn't anything in what you just read because that wasn't his topic. I'm willing to bet you believe everything you read in the paper you find at work or in your driveway (latimes). Wether true or not, try and comment on the issue you read and then decided to comment on specificaly what you just read. Hope your having a wonderful holiday season.

Gee, what an irony. I moved from North Hollywood, CA to Amroy, MS in Monroe County, not far from Neshoba County about 2 years ago. A month or two after PASSING the LAPD written test AND the Ventura County Written/Physical exams. The main reason being that the State of California DENIES the average citizen the RIGHT to self-defense and the extreme liberal mindset of the population is taking the State downhill. Although I'm Hispanic and FACE PREJUDICE in my new home, I still like it here better than I did So Cal. The state of MS takes a heavy hand to the corruption PRACTICED DAILY within the LAPD. As THE state with the most prosecuted, corrupted publicly held offices in the NATION, this state is doing more to KEEP AND ENFORCE the law and justice. This state ACTUALLY ENFORCES the rules upon the 'rule makers'. In a sense, I feel I have more freedom and liberty than I did living amongst the government made up of more 'liberal' and 'equality' accepting individuals than I did growing up in CA and during my return to CA after my enlistment. Of course, preferential treatment and racism still exists here, but where does it not??? And by this, I also mean to implement that reverse discrimination ALSO exists.
The irony of a reverse migration for the sake of freedom and liberty without the loss of safety and security to a region with a history for the worst tract record for racism and prejudice.

I must commend Beall on his article. It was well written and I can totally relate to your words. We need more officers like you. God Bless! And, as for CP's demented beliefs. I feel sorry for that person and you will never win your lawsuits and it's a shame that you have to waste the taxpayers money. Move-on and let it be. I do not think you completely understood Beall's article. We need to recruit good officers and understand why people have lost asn interest and trust in this department. Negativity is not the answer.

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