Teaching to avoid riots

This article was produced for Watts Revisited, a multimedia project launched by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism that explores challenges facing South L.A. as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Watts Riots. Learn more at www.wattsrevisited.com.

Jay Davis stands in front of his class at Augustus Hawkins High School. | Photo by Anna-Cat Brigida

Jay Davis stands in front of his class at Augustus Hawkins High School. | Photo by Anna-Cat Brigida

When Jay Davis talks to his students about the 1965 riots, which broke out all around his South L.A. campus, he wants to make sure it is not just a history lesson. Instead, he pushes his students to use the images to talk about the history, understand the factors that provoked rioting and decide what role they would play in history. [Read more…]

Reporting on social change, 50 years after Watts

Erin Aubry Kaplan with her father, Larry Aubry. Kaplan covered the 1992 Riots, while Aubry covered the 1965 Riots. | Jenna Pittaway

Erin Aubry Kaplan with her father, Larry Aubry. Kaplan covered the 1992 Riots, while Aubry covered the 1965 Riots. | Jenna Pittaway

How is social change covered in the wake of civil unrest? Journalists, community organizers and students convened at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism on April 23 to reflect on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots — along with underlying issues, and how reporting can benefit the community. The event was the culmination of a months-long project that connects local and ethnic media outlets and organizations to investigate current structural problems and potential solutions in South Los Angeles. Through a partnership between USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism’s Metamorphosis Project, Intersections, five additional news outlets, six community organizations and a local high school, attempted to create a glimpse of contemporary challenges, as well as where change is happening that could be expanded.

Annenberg Civic Engagement and Journalism Initiative Director Daniela Gerson moderated a panel that considered how coverage of South Los Angeles can play a role in drawing attention to and alleviating structural inequalities that contributed to civil unrest and rioting. The panel included observations from two long-time South L.A. residents with first-hand perspectives on the unrest and coverage of it. Larry Aubry, a columnist with the Los Angeles Sentinel and civil rights activist who witnessed the 65 riots, exchanged thoughts with his daughter, KCET writer Erin Aubry Kaplan, who reported on the 1992 unrest. Among the questions they raised was: Just how should we refer to the event commonly known as the “Watts Riots?” Perhaps “culmination,” said Kaplan, indicating that such eruptions come from long-simmering issues and that terms riots, unrest, and rebellion do not encompass all of the elements.

Two of the project participants, KPCC Community Health Reporter Adrian Florido and Community Coalition press liaison Isaiah Muhammad shared the process of collaborating on an article about promoting healthy living, as well as some of the barriers for media to cover South LA such as an assumption of a violent narrative and lack of context. The four panelists agreed that many stories remain to be revealed in South L.A. — if only reporters can dig deep to the “grassroots level,” as Kaplan suggested. The audience divided into teams to do just that, meeting with community activists to discuss development, housing, jobs and health.

Visit the site at www.wattsrevisited.org.

Visit the site at www.wattsrevisited.org.

The event also marked the launch of WATTS REVISITED, a website that provides solutions-oriented reporting about challenges that South L.A. faces today. It was created by Intersections, the Metamorphosis Project and the Civic Engagement and Journalism Initiative, all hosted at the USC Annenberg School. Media partners included La Opinion, LA Sentinel, Hoy, LA Wave, KPCC, and students from the journalism program at Augustus Hawkins High School. Community organization partners included the All Peoples Community Center, Coalition for Responsible Community Development,Community Coalition, Community Health Councils, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, and Trust South LA.

Read event highlights in the Tweets below:

Cecil Murray, South LA’s civic leader and spiritual guide

The respected pastor who helped put out fires of the 1992 riots now fosters religious dialogue at USC.

Cecil Murray

Cecil Murray gets settled in his USC office. | Jordyn Holman

Since late November, residents from South Los Angeles have been peacefully protesting courthouse decisions to not indict police officers in Missouri and New York who killed two young unarmed Black men in the line of duty.

For Rev. Dr. Cecil Murray, the former pastor of South L.A.’s First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the demonstrations in memory of Michael Brown and Eric Garner bring to mind L.A. protests of days gone by in that they aimed to shed light on the disconnect between police officers and the people they serve.

[Read more…]

Q&A: Brenda Stevenson on Latasha Harlins

Dr.  Brenda Stevenson, writer of "The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins"

Dr. Brenda Stevenson, writer of “The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins” | Skylar Endsley Myers

Brenda Stevenson is a UCLA history professor whose research and writings focus primarily on the 18th and 19th century American South. Recently, however, she has turned her attention to contemporary Los Angeles. Stevenson’s new book, “The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins,” discusses the 1992 Los Angeles riots  by analyzing the murder of Latasha Harlins.

Harlins was 15-years-old when she was killed by Korean grocer Soon Ja Du, who assumed Harlins was stealing. Although not as widely known as the Rodney King beating and trial, the incident is considered just as important a trigger for the 1992 rebellion. [Read more…]

OPINION: We may forget Dorner, but we won’t forget the LAPD’s history

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has developed a reputation in the Los Angeles community and in the nation as one of the most brutal and corrupt police departments in the U.S., a reputation stemming from cases such as Rodney King and those involving the Rampart Division. For more of the story please click here.

South LA pays tribute to Rodney King

Radio hosts Carl Nelson and Dominique DiPrima posed with Rodney King on Monday, April 30, 2012. (Photo courtesy of KJLH-FM)

Twenty years after the LA riots, Rodney King published a book telling his story: “The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption.”

He had been doing media rounds in April. He spoke about being a victim of one of the most brutal police beatings ever caught on video, the acquittal of the officers that led to the eruption of violence in Los Angeles and his struggles in dealing with the aftermath.

Just two months later, he was found dead – apparently drowned – in the pool of his Rialto home.

This morning, KJLA’s “Front Page” dedicated its morning show to remembering King.

And tonight, a community tirubute will be held in Leimert Park to honor the man who became a symbol for needed change in the Los Angeles Police Department and its treatment of minorities in South LA.

You can read about his conversation with KPCC’s Patt Morrison during a panel held on Saturday, April 21 during the LA Times Festival of Books here.

Please visit our special 20th riot anniversary site, www.southla2012.com, for more coverage on the event that changed the history of Los Angeles.

Manual Arts students write about the riots

This is a collection of writings by ninth graders in Mark Gomez’ geography class at Manual Arts High School about the Los Angeles riots then and now. They wrote their essays using the five themes of geography with help from USC mentor Adriana Chavez-Lopez

No, the LA RIOTS was not cause of the beating of Rodney King. Rodney King was another issue but it was a little about it ’cause the black community got mad ’cause the judge saw the video and still had the guts to say that the four police man were innocent. And they got the black people more mad then what they were already.
Jocelyn Macias

What We Learn About Push Factors And The L.A. Riots
What we learn about the L.A. riots is that in 1965 five days before Watts exploded the Voting Rights Act had been signed into law. In 1992 the concerns are that sight of blacks destroying their own community. That the riots were like black gangs and that they were like destroying there[sic] own society and not thinking of their members.

What Push Factors Drive Emigration Means
Political Push Factors: War is one of many political factors that can create refugees. Well the people refugees may flee a country, because of the fear they had and its leaders.
Environmental Push Factors: In the 1840s, a devastating plant disease struck Ireland. In Ireland a fungus destroyed most of the important crops of potato and the potatoes were the main food in Ireland so they couldn’t have been destroyed.

Economic Push Factors: Most of the early immigrants to the United States were poor farmers or working people. People go to other communities for better jobs.
Raul Gonzalez

One thing I learned about the beating of Rodney King was that in 1992 there was a lot of police brutality. The LA riots were also about how whites were favored over blacks. This was proved when the cops beat Rodney King for 81 seconds on videotape and got away with it. This makes me ask why did the jury say that the cops that beat Rodney King were innocent. I am frustrated with police getting away with things today. For example, even now there are some police officers that will pull you over because of your skin color.
Jessi Rodriguez

Reading the “1992 L.A. in flames after ‘not guilty’ verdict” article, I learned how the L.A. riots began. Also, I learned about the issue of Rodney King refusing to get arrested and supposedly getting aggressive causing Rodney to be beaten by the police. This in fact was not true. The policemen were not found guilty therefore caused the riots to begin. But the beating of Rodney King was not the only reason why the L.A. riots began. Blacks were tired of being mistreated and not being allowed to go to places they would like to go, it was unfair. Whites knew Blacks were desperate for money and they took advantage but the Blacks couldn’t do much.

People wanted to put a stop to it, which led to the L.A. riots. People dragged motorists from their cars and beat them, cars were overturned and set on fire, and some people even took revenge against White and Asians. According to BBC news “at least 5 people were shot dead. About 2,000 were injured with a further 12,000 arrested.” Damages cost $1b to repair. Some people believed that people did this just to have new buildings but [in] reality they just wanted to be heard. A year later the police faced a second trial. Only the jury found two guilty, whose name were Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell. The point of this article was how people in South Central were tired of being unheard and mistreated. Some questions that I have that were not answer are: During the riots, how did Rodney King feel knowing part of why the L.A. riots happened was because of the beating? What could of happened if the police man were still not found guilty? This article reminds me of many issues, for example Martin Luther King. He and his family was also beaten and almost killed.

But he still fought for a change. Now we honor him on January 21. Martin Luther King went through many obstacles but yet he still achieved his goal, which was making change. I believe the L.A. riots were a good thing after all, even if people died.
Lisette Carranza

In my geography class we are talking about the LA Riots. Before reading the article about Rodney King, I didn’t know anything about the riots. I learned that policemen could be cruel and not always nice. The police had power over Rodney King and they abused it, so therefore he and the entire black community didn’t have the power to overcome the police. A question I have after reading about the riots is did one person start the riots or did a group of people start it?

The LA Riots were not only about beating Rodney King but also the whole Black community. If you were Black in 1992 and if you were somewhere at the wrong time or wrong place the same thing would have happened to you. I feel like I can relate to Rodney King because one of my family members passed through a similar situation. My uncle was stopped at a checkpoint and the cop stopped him because he looked dark. They took him to the police station and took his things so once he got deported the police station never gave him his cell phone or money. After reading about the riots knowing how cops beat Black people in 1992 and how my uncle was treated recently, I realized how in over 20 years there still hasn’t been a lot of change in racism.

Miriam Toledo

In my Geography class we have been learning a lot of new things. A few weeks ago we started to talk about the LA Riots. The LA Riots relate to Geography because in they wouldn’t give money to the rioters and that relates to Geography because of the 4 Worlds. What I recently learned was that over 2,000 people were injured in the LA Riots and 12,000 were arrested. Before learning this I didn’t know that Rodney King was NOT the MAIN reason for the LA Riots. He just maid[sic] black people say enough is enough. Some people may favor blacks and some may favor whites but more people favor the LAPD. In the Riots why were blacks beating Asians? When I heard about it, it reminded me of a few things like when people call Immigrants “Aliens” and insult them because they know they won’t fight back because they are scared. It also reminded me of the Civil War because they are treated differently because of their color “Discrimination.” I can relate to this because the LAPD are racist and they give people tickets and arrest them for their race. The problem has changed since the LA Riots but not completely gone away.
Belen Garcia

I learned that Watts exploded because the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, clearing away barriers for blacks to vote. This is related to the Voting Acts Right because it’s all about how blacks should have their own rights of voting. They were really happy because they had their chance of having voting rights. In a country that is about freedom why did blacks have to fight for theirs? This is really a lot like in EL Salvador where people always have to fight the government for their right. Another thing is that the people in El Salvador have too many problems with the government of getting their rights. Here in the United States is almost the same thing because its hard to get your rights especially for Latinos, sometimes Blacks, and other kinds of races. I wish that all those people that don’t have any rights they should get an opportunity of having some rights. Another thing is that about the people that cross that border and want an opportunity of having a job and helping their family and trying to be a citizen of this country. People all over the world think that they should come here because they think this is a country of jobs.

Isaac Castro

What I have learned from the Riots was how Rodney King’s beating was one of the causes for the riots. He wasn’t the main cause but a small portion. I didn’t really know anything about Rodney King and how he was beaten by four cops nor about the riots. This was really all new to me! But after I read the article and talked about it I learned a lot about him and how the LA Riots started. He was like the person who made the people lose control. In the end I think this is favoring the African Americans because those cops were punished for violating Rodney King’s civil rights! This favored the African Americans because they got the justice they fought for through all that violence they had to go through. One of the questions I had that wasn’t really answered was, “What happened to the four police officers that beat Rodney King after they served their punishment?” I would like to know what happened to them after all that happened. Did they live a normal life? Or a harsh one? This issue reminds me of how police authorities always believe the white person over the colored one. How could those four cops not be guilty — they have the beating of Rodney King on video! It was an all-white jury; it wasn’t really fair for Rodney King! One example is if a white person gets into trouble with a colored person, the police would most likely believe the white person! That’s what I learned about the Riots And Rodney King and his beating.
Nerry Amaya

I learned that the L.A. Riots started because of the beating of Rodney King, but it wasn’t the only cause. Four police officers were found guilty for beating Rodney King. A crowd of people started to burn shops and cars were turned over and set on fire. The Riot wasn’t only about police beating Rodney King, it was also about police brutality. People didn’t think that police brutality was fair. I think that police brutality isn’t fair and it needs to stop. Police need to start acting in a better way. I wonder why do police act so brutally. Is it because of peoples’ skin color or the way they look? Why did the police beat Rodney King? Why do police think their the shit only because they have a gun. Like what the hell is wrong with them? They should respect others too because they don’t like when people disrespect them. I think that the Rodney King case wasn’t fair because the judge was white and the police officers were too. The judge is racist because Rodney King was black and the four police officers where white so he didn’t think that the officers were guilty, people didn’t think that it was fair.
Ana Hernandez

I recently learned about the Rodney King beating and the not guilty verdict by the police who beat him. The Black people in the community reacted to that verdict because they found the judge’s verdict completely unfair and racist since the cops were White. A question I have is why did this whole Rodney King verdict have to occur. For the Whites and law to see how all of the police brutality and racism was affecting so many people in the community. I’ve seen people resist arrest before and Rodney King did not resist, the police began beating him while he couldn’t do anything and I’ve seen police beat at people like that and sometimes it isn’t fair because it could be five cops against one person, and that’s like what happened to Rodney King. Police can be rude sometimes, I’ve seen them be rude to my uncle once and they almost arrested him in our own house, they wanted him to come out of the house to talk but we all knew if he got out the property the cops would get him, for doing absolutely nothing. And since my uncle looks like a gang member, I believe the cops were discriminating him. The LA Riots did not only happen because of King, he was one of the reasons, but people just got tired of being mistreated and being judged for years and the police “not guilty” verdict finally made them react to the years of racism, beatings and unfairness, which is how the LA Riots occurred.
Carolina Silva

In 1992: LA in flames after ‘not guilty’ verdict article I learned that police officers were discriminating against other races that are not white, especially the blacks. What was significant about this article was that other law enforcements were concerned with what was going on and were disappointed in the LA police force especially on their behavior. This article favors the people with power and control over lesser people. The Rodney King verdict was unfair to many that thought those police officers should go to jail and pay for their hate crime against King. Though afterwards,” the four acquitted police officers had a second trial a year later on the federal charges of violating Rodney King’s civil rights.” Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were found guilty and each had to serve two years in prison. That verdict seemed fair enough, even though there were more than two officers beating King.
Diana Renoj

The LA Riots
Recently in my Geography class we have been studying the LA Riots. We have been trying to figure out if things have changed since the LA Riots. We read about the Rodney King incident, we read about how Rodney King was beaten and how the police officers that did the beating were found innocent in the first trial. Something that I didn’t know was that in the second [trial] only the officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell [were tried]. The other two officers were Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno. I think the jury that had to do with the Rodney King trial was being unfair. They were being unfair because I think that they were being biased because they knew that the police were guilty but since they are the law enforcement they didn’t have to deal the consequences of their actions. Rodney King wasn’t the main reason why the LA Riots happened. I think that it was just one of the few reasons why the LA Riots happened. I think the LA Riots happened because people were tired of being mistreated because of the color of their skin. If everybody would be treated the same then the LA Riots would of never happened. I think the police officers were a big factor to the LA Riots I think this because the people who were being the most unfair were the police. I think that law enforcement today is still unfair. I think that some police officers are racist. For example, one time the police stopped my brother-in-law for no reason. I think they stopped him because he was black and he had west coast tattooed on his arms. The police had no reason to stop him; they were just being racist.
Casandra Gutierrez

After reading about the Rodney King matter I learned that police were very cruel and thought that they can do whatever they desired just because they were the authority. I feel like most people are in favor of Rodney King because he was brutally beaten for no reason at all. One of the questions I had was “Why would our country leaders allow such brutality towards people of color?” This issue reminded me of the racist policemen of today, and how they mistreat people, mostly people of color. The Rodney King issue really made me think about how the jury in the Rodney King trial could even think that the four policemen were not guilty after they beat an innocent man. The most ridiculous thing about the Rodney King trial was that the jury was all white, not a single person of color. The reason why the L.A. Riots occurred is that people were tired of all the racism going on towards them, and the Rodney King beating was the straw that broke the camels back. I can relate to this because I’m the type of person that will not tolerate any disrespect towards me or the people I care about
Karla Ayala

Photos of the aftermath

On the morning of May 1st, 1992, award-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer Christine Burrill ventured out to different parts of Los Angeles to record the aftermath of the riots. During the following week, she captured hundreds of images showing devastation and despair. When she finished, she stored the pictures, never showing them to anyone or looking at them again… until now.

Check out the story here.

Remembering the riots: 4 Blocks, 15 and Pregnant

By Betrice Coleman-Sweet

imageIt is unbelievable that it was almost 20 years ago that my community was engulfed in flames and chaos. I remember that unforgettable day like it was just last week. I was in the 10th grade attending Middle College High School. I did not go to school on April 29, 1992 because I was not feeling too well. I was 15 years old and 4 months pregnant with my son.

At the time, I was struggling with not succumbing to the statistics that everyone told me that I would become outside of my home. I loved school. I loved and still love the neighborhood where I grew up. My block, 68th and Normandie, was such a cool block. Everyone looked out for everyone. My little brothers, Leonard (nine years old) and Leron (six years old), and I played outside with our friends on the block until the street lights came on almost everyday.

I recollect everyone, including myself, being anxious about the verdict of the officers who beat Rodney King. I too became sad and then enraged when I heard the not guilty verdict. Soon after, I saw the horrific images of Reginald Denny getting pulled from his truck on television. I could not believe it was happening just four blocks from where I lived. There were people everywhere. I have never seen so many people on Florence and Normandie in my life.

That same sadness and rage that I had quickly became fear especially when I began to smell the smoke. I had severe asthma so my mom was fearful of an attack coming on. She did her best to keep my brothers and I calm. I knew she was scared, as well. My dad was on his way home from work when the riots broke out. We did not have the luxury of having a cell phone back then so all she could do is pray that he was safe. It seemed like everything was getting worse as time passed. It probably took my dad an hour or so to get home but then it seemed like forever. I looked to the television I saw fire, people yelling and crying and law enforcement everywhere. I heard the helicopters flying. It was the first time that I had encountered the smell of buildings burning.

In an instant, my whole world was turned upside down. My dad ran outside and watered the house down. Our telephone was ringing non-stop, the television was reporting non-stop and I wanted it all to stop. I was about to be a mother. I remember thinking, “Is what they are saying true? Is there no hope for us? Will I be that welfare mom who has another baby before I am 18 and drop out of school? Is my life and the life of my child already mapped out for us?”

I saw the very people who were supposed to serve and protect only protect the rich in a comforting way. I saw my community protected with force and abuse. I saw the images of the people labeled as thieves, terrorists, looters, hooligans, thugs and gang bangers. Everyone fit into those category no matter where or who you were in my neighborhood. We were in the hood therefore we will be treated as such were my thoughts.

Days later the smoke cleared. Yet, there was unbearable pain and damage. One of my friends and his mom lived on top of the corner liquor store. I remembered crying my eyes out because their place was burned to the ground. My parents frequented the gas station on the corner of Florence and Normandie, however, they could no longer go there and had to go to another city to get gasoline. I vividly recall their panic in traveling in fear of running out. As we traveled, all I could see was reality in my community. What was left after was what was felt after.

20 Years later, my community still stands with rich culture and love. The pain is still there from unheard and untold stories. There is still much healing to take place. The images that are in the media still do not fully reflect the true essence of my community. My parents are still on the block. My brothers are doing very well. Leonard has his Ph.D. in computer engineering and Leron is currently has his M.S. and is a Ph.D. candidate in the same field.

As for me, I did not become a statistic. I graduated high school with 3.93 GPA, went on to college to get an AA in Journalism, became a business woman and a community activist who is now an emerging ally. My son, RaShaun, will be 20 years old in November and is finishing his sophomore year at Northern Arizona University.

This struggle has started so many movements and created so many leaders. I am resilient in being a part of the continued empowerment within our blocks that bind us.

About Betrice Coleman-Sweet

Betrice Coleman-Sweet started writing as a young girl. She is the former Editor/VP of Communications for Treazuremag.com, an online women’s magazine. She is currently a writer who has contributed to several publications, including her own blog Queenbsweet.blogspot.com. She is also a publicist with her own PR Firm, Serving Angels Media and COO of Global Marketing and Entertainment Experts (GME Experts). She covers some of Hollywood’s Hottest Events and Red Carpets.

Hollenbeck Police Captain reflects on L.A. Riots

Photo by Brian Crawford

By Jessica Perez

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the L.A. Riots, an upheaval that erupted in South Los Angeles following the acquittal of four police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King.

On April 29, 1992—and several days after that— the city exploded with violence, looting and arson, leaving 53 people dead and thousands injured. Although South Los Angeles and Koreatown were amongst the hardest hit areas, thousands of properties were damaged or destroyed across the city.

Los Angeles Police Department Hollenbeck Division Capt. Anita Ortega had been serving as an officer for about 8 years when the outbreak occurred. Although she was not directly involved in the riot response, the violent scenes were all too familiar, having spent many years living in South L.A. and witnessing the 1965 Watts Riots as a kid. In our Q&A below, Capt. Ortega shares her reactions and explains how police-community relations in Los Angeles have improved in the last 20 years.

BH Beat: You were part of the LAPD when the L.A. Riots broke. Where were you and what was your reaction?
Capt. Ortega: When the 1992 riots came along, I was a relatively young sergeant working out of North Hollywood. North Hollywood wasn’t as impacted as South L.A. obviously, but I grew up in the South LA area… I didn’t live there at the time, I had moved out of the area but I still had family that lived there so that was the hard part. I was really worried about those people who were not destroying the community.
I was very taken back by how there were so many people destroying their very own community.

BH Beat: What do you most remember witnessing live or via broadcast?
Capt. Ortega: I wasn’t part of the direct response but the television coverage was amazing. I think what touched me most was the destruction of homes, the destruction of property, the disruption of livelihood for some, the looting that was occurring.

I recognized so many of the buildings and structures and intersections that I had grown up seeing for years and years. It kind of felt like I was in a third world country or something… It was unbelievable. It was shocking… devastating.

LAPD Hollenbeck Division Capt. Anita Ortega. / Photo by Erik Sarni

BH Beat: How did you react to the Rodney King verdict?
Capt. Ortega: My take on that is as police officers we have policies and procedures we have to follow. Once we’ve done our part arresting and testifying, then it’s left in the hands of the jury and the judge and whatever their decision is something that we accept and that’s just how the process works.

BH Beat: What sort of impact did this have on you as a police officer and as an Angeleno?
Capt. Ortega: It was very hard; it was very touching. Not only from a professional standpoint, as a police officer, but from a personal standpoint as well.

I became a police officer in 1984 because I wanted to give back to my community. Because of the things that I experienced, where I grew up, and what I saw, I felt it was my obligation to give back as much as I could and the best way I thought I’d be able to do that and make an impact is by becoming a police officer.

BH Beat: Describe the relationship between the community and police officers during the trial and after the verdict?
Capt. Ortega: There was a lot of tension. There were so many walls that were set up. That’s when we really had to start grinding down and developing relationships and renewing our relationship with the community. What I saw back then as far as relationships and what we have now as far as partnerships and the progress that we’re making as an agency working hand in hand with the community, is just incredible.

BH Beat: Has the city changed since the L.A. Riots? What have cops and people learned since then?
Capt. Ortega: The city has changed significantly. You look at the senior lead officers and they’re so intimately involved in the community. We attend meetings; we work in partnerships that didn’t exist 20 years ago where we have community members getting involved and trying to improve the quality of life for the community.

You know people by first name, you feel like you have a relationship with them and friendship with the community, which is something that didn’t happen 20 years ago. It was always an “us versus them” mentality and that’s not the case anymore…. I know that we’ll never, ever go back to that time again.

This story originally appeared in the Boyle Heights Beat.