When Betty met Bill (Bratton)

Betty Pleasant, the Wave's Soulvine columnist, has been hammering away that there is a racial aspect to the gang murders sweeping South Los Angeles and the Eastside. LAPD chief Bill Bratton has tried to insist there is no proven racial basis for the violence. They came together recently, and Pleasant describes the action. My favorite line: "if he don’t start nothing’, there won’t be nothin.’"

The prospect of being thrown into Bratton’s orbit gave me pause. Not because I was afraid — as I am not afraid of anything human — but because of our similar proclivity to mouth-off in public. I didn’t want to have a “scene” with Bratton, but I knew that if he pulled a Leo Stallworth on me, Bratton and I would brawl in full view of image-conscious politicians, peace-loving Buddhists, the working media and viewers of YouTube. I couldn’t pass on the press conference because it was too important to miss. So, I decided to go and resolved that I would leave Bratton alone if he left me alone; if he don’t start nothing’, there won’t be nothin’...

I was busy collecting my notes and I didn’t see Bratton coming. I suddenly looked up and there he was, standing in front of me. He said to me: “I was hoping you would be here.” I bristled and said: “Are we going to fight?”

He ignored my question and proceeded to explain to me why he holds so tenaciously to his position. I exhaled and explained why I hold so tenaciously to mine. As the assembled media and others turned their attention to Bratton and me, we engaged in a civil discourse of different opinions. No name-calling, no insults, no raised voices, no rancor, no anger. We behaved like civilized adults. It was amazing! We both expressed our feelings on the issue.

He talked of his need for and the difficulty of obtaining proof of racially motivated gang activity before he could admit to such a thing. I told him that the department’s own statistics on gang-related murders presented to the Police Commission just the day before showed that 37 percent of the blacks murdered by gangs so far were killed by Latinos. “What further proof of a problem do you need, 100 percent?” I asked.

We both came away from our dialogue with something: I now have a better understanding of why Bratton feels he must take the position he does, and I believe he now has a better understanding of why I feel I must take the position I do. I remain firmly convinced, however, that I am right and he is as wrong as two left shoes. But we have vowed to talk again about this and anything else on which we disagree.

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