Remembering the 1992 L.A. Riots

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The entire city was swept up in the events of that week, but for law enforcement, the memories were especially vivid.

“We heard the verdict and almost spontaneously a couple hundred people showed up in front of Parker Center expressing how upset they were,” said Bernard Parks, L.A. City Councilman and former Deputy Chief of Police.

“The early morning and late nights when we were out patrolling streets, it was kind of eerie because we had no idea where folks were, whether there were snipers.”

Police officers weren’t the only ones faced with rioters. Firefighter Ian Burnett was sent from Torrance to Inglewood and South Los Angeles.

“There were lawless groups of crowds that did not want us to put the fires out,” Burnett said. “They were turning the hoses off, cutting the hoses, stealing stuff off the fire engines, and things like that, and that was just the first day.”

imageFirefighter Brent Burton was also fighting fires, but he was stationed in Hollywood.

“I went from being on the roof of one building with the hose and my partner squirting water, to being on the roof of another building with some other fire fighters with a chainsaw cutting a hole, to being on the ground with another group of fire fighters and large 2 ½ inch hose line, to being on the top of my engine with our big dead gun squirting water at a commercial building,” Burton said.


Natural History Museum has preview of new section

imageListen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky today as Natural History Museum employees showed off the new addition still under construction, North Campus.

It doesn’t look like much now. But when it’s done, the 3 ½ acre area will serve as a new front yard for the museum and a new outdoor destination for museum-goers.

Don Webb works for Cordell Corporation and was involved with the master planning.

“There’s something really deliciously ironic about taking the natural history and putting it back out into nature,” Webb said.

The new addition will include gardens, ponds, streams and exhibits for butterflies, birds and bugs. The gardens will allow visitors to learn to plant their own gardens and will have flowers blooming year-round.

It’s funded in part by the County of Los Angeles and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Mia Lehrer headed up the landscaping design. She hopes this will give city residents an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the natural world, before walking through the actual museum’s doors.

“Connect Angeleno’s to the nature in the heart of the city, connect to the museum’s collection and connect to the museum’s research,” Lehrer said.

North Campus won’t be officially open until June of 2013 for the museum’s centennial celebrations. So if you’re eager to see the new landscape, you’re going to have to wait a little longer.

Judge in West Adams cleans graffiti every night for safety

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

image“Wait a second, there was an urban legend that there was a judge that was painting out graffiti,” Totten said.

Judge Robert Totten’s not a stranger to someone calling him an urban legend. Every night, he walks the streets of West Adams with his three big great danes and cleans off the graffiti in his neighborhood.

Totten isn’t hired to do this. He does it purely to make it look better and safer for his family and neighbors. He summed up his beliefs by quoting former LAPD Police Chief Bill Bratton.

“It’s a broken window. If you allow the broken windows to remain, and the graffiti to remain up, then it attracts more,” Totten said.

He doesn’t need much. Only a couple of wash cloths, paint thinner and spray paint. If the graffiti is on a gray or white surface, he’ll just spray paint over it. Otherwise, he’ll scrub until it’s gone.

“So this will just take me two seconds and he’s gone,” Totten said.

Totten says the graffiti is gang related and he has caught people in the act.

“I remember stepping over and saying come on guys enough’s enough, and they go, white boy you’re next,” Totten said.

These types of vandals doing the graffiti end up in his courtroom. During the day, he is a commissioner for juvenile, ruling on cases like murder, robbery and vandalism.

One tagger I spoke with that wishes to not be identified says that him tagging an area illustrates his loyalty to his gang, their brotherhood and their territory.

There are some nights when Totten will clean an area, and the next day, there’s graffiti again. But, that doesn’t bother him. He just goes back and cleans it off again.

“I get satisfaction knowing they’re not getting anything out of it, except putting themselves at risk,” Totten said.

Totten has tried to bring the issue to police, but says police have to weigh what’s more important at the time: catching taggers or solving robberies and murders?

In 1990, LAPD created PACE, Police Assisted Community Enhancement Program. The program is designed to battle graffiti through different city agencies. When graffiti is seen, LAPD fills out a form and forwards it to the proper city agency to alleviate the problem. LAPD was unavailable for comment.

Totten hopes giving back to his community will slowly remove all the bad tensions in the area.

“Positive energy’s going to win out,” Totten said.

Until authorities can do more, Totten says he doesn’t mind people thinking he’s an urban legend.

LAUSD and ECC adopt attendance plan to raise low attendance rates

imageThe East Los Angeles Library was filled with parents, students, ECC and LAUSD representatives to hear about new attendance goals. The Education Coordinating Council is an organization devoted to improving education. Trish Ploehn, an ECC member, outlined their goals.

“Children are ready for school no matter what grade they’re going into, that they perform well once they’re in school, that they graduate from high school, that they go to college and graduate from college, and they move on to employment and a career. That is what we want from our youngsters,” Ploehn said.

The ECC, along with LAUSD, have teamed up to devise a plan to boost attendance in over 80 schools. LAUSD Board President, Monica Garcia, presided over the meeting. She emphasized the name change from “truancy” to “attendance” report. ECC member, Sharon Watson, said that truancy has a negative connotation. Fellow LAUSD social worker and parent, Debra Duardo, was pleased with the name change.

“I’m so happy that we changed the name to an attendance task force, rather than a truancy task force, because we really need to work together and get our whole community to understand, when kids don’t come to school, it impacts us all,” Duardo said.

Duardo says that the problems start in kindergarten. Nationally, one out of ten kindergarten students are absent for 28 days throughout the year. In LAUSD, it’s one out of five kids. For African-Americans in LAUSD, it’s worse, with one out of three students. Parents like Ruth Tiscareno voiced concerns about students falling through the cracks.

“My concern is of all the children who are seriously and emotionally disturbed, who have IEP’s, who have parents that do understand or don’t understand that attendance is important, but that it also coincides with the IEP. Sometimes, if you don’t know, you can’t fight for your rights,” Tiscareno said.

Tiscareno says she wants more parents to get involved with the LAUSD Board and hopes members understand how different problems arise in parenting.

LAUSD is working on a number of ideas to improve attendance such as: incentives for positive behavior and a strong data tracking system to consistently determine why children are absent.