Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
After watching Bosch and then following a Los Angeleno developer on Twitter (@moseskagan), this seemed a good indirect review of LA's underbelly, beyond google streetview and youtube.
The upshot is that LA is too nice a place to live, so its ghetto is gentrifying. The bad is that its culture of violence has been exported1 and not put to productive use. The Roman empire offered citizenship and farmland in the provinces to its warriors; instead of inflicting this violence on ourselves, it seems far better to channel it through military service towards natural-resource driven wealth.2
Instead of warehousing people in the penal system; offer them an out via military service. While a) there isn't much data, and b) the service branches would cry foul (all now have enlistment regulations against "jail or service" offers), it appears at least to not make the situation worse.3
Since offers like these were once made, and it at least exists in academic dialogue, who stands to lose were jail-or-army offers re-tried? The for-profit prison industry, the anti-military, and people against the upskilling of the disadvantaged (ie. the middle-class and people who need poor people). While there are probably other groups on the `anti' side, the political power of the above groups alone seems to militate against any retrials.
Winning had always been important to John Skaggs. His mother did not discourage this. But she had made it clear that the Skaggs children were always to appear mild, sportsmanlike, and well behaved. No matter how determined they were to prevail, they were to appear easygoing and civil.
He went to California State University at Long Beach but dropped out after one year. He found sitting in a classroom unbearable. Eventually, he followed his fathers path into the police force. As Skaggs grew older, his mothers admonition stayed with him; he remained outwardly placid and inwardly exacting. Beneath his amiable grin lurked a perfectionist of the first order. He knew what would serve and what wouldnt. He didnt subject his insights to much examination. He didnt argue. He simply acted casual and bulldozed ahead.
Along the way, Tennelle learned the homicide detectives creed from an early partner standing over the body of a murdered prostitute. She aint a whore no more, he said. Shes some daddys baby. Wally Tennelle loved that philosophy. Whatever the wider worlds response, the homicide detectives call was to treat each victim, no matter how deep their criminal involvement, as the purest angel. The murdered were inviolate. They all deserved the same justice.
Law, of course, isnt like hygiene, and crime prevention inevitably leads to stereotyping people as potential threats. But proactive patrol work sounded better. Prevention carried an added bonus, as legal scholar Carol Steiker has noted: it gave police wide latitude, since the Constitution places many constraints on legal procedure after a crime, far fewer before it.
Years later, asked why he had known from his first days as a homicide detective that he never wanted to do anything else, Skaggs gave a curious answer. He did not say he loved investigating homicides. He simply said that when one discovers one is good at a task at which few others excel, one has no choice.
Bernal tried to defuse the situation and hold him back, but Skaggs was not to be dissuaded. In this, as in everything, Skaggs sought to propel events to their conclusion as quickly as possible.
This was part of the altered perspective of the craftsman: Skaggs saw lies the way a good contractor would notice a beam out of true.
Prostitutes tended to be among the most dysfunctional people in the street environment, their problems intractable, their unreliability profound.
Back in the day, an open-air drug market in MacArthur Park and a kind of sectarian war in exile among Central American immigrants had made Rampart a savagely violent place. Crime was still relatively high when the LAPD secured bond funds to add a new station there. But by the time the station was built, wealthy Koreans, in flight from crashing Asian stock markets in the late 1990s, had snapped up real estate in the area, and developers had built hip new lofts that attracted students and professionals. At the same time, homicides had plummeted among the areas remaining Spanish-speaking immigrants.
Perlo had spent the previous day and night pleading with his client not to take the stand. Perlo had a plan. It was not to tear apart the prosecutions casehe had gone through the pages and pages of Skaggss investigation without spotting a holebut rather to build a credible alternative theory of the murder, enough to sow doubt and confusion in the jurys mind. If Jessicas testimony could be called into question, there were plenty of other ways that the car and the gun and Bryant Tennelle might have come together without Derrick Starks. Chiefly, he planned to show that Bobby Ray Johnson, the cousin of the man in the wheelchair, had had access to all of them. He did not want any facts to come out that would conflict with the alternate theory, a strong possibility if the prosecution got hold of Starks.
He saw another danger: that Starkss testimony could open the way to the admission of evidence the judge had excluded. He hadnt had high hopes for the case before this. But at least he had a defense. An argument. Starkss testimony could ruin it.
But nothing he said made any difference. Starks, watching the prosecution take shape before him, had decided his attorney was incompetent. So now he swung his way into the stand, scooted around a little in the chair to get comfortable, and took a deep breath. Perlo, questioning him, did his best to conceal his dismay
The defense attorneys, noting that the jurors were mostly white, had speculated that they could not relate to the circumstances of the case. But at least one juror was not as far from the ghettoside world as they thought. This was the Davis foreman, forty-four, a white man with blond hair and blue eyes who worked as an upper-level manager of a chain of local fast-food restaurants. His job often took him to Compton and other neighborhoods south of the Ten. He lived in the suburbs, but he had grown up in military housing in Washington, D.C., and attended schools that drew from the citys black neighborhoods. He had been in many a street fight. As an adolescent, he had learned the rules of the black inner citylearned that when it came to fighting in a lawless place, if you back down, you back down forever, he explained.
Commenting on the Tennelle case, this juror proved more perceptive than some of the professional cops who had trailed in and out of the courtroom. He knew Midkiff had been a prostitute. He suspected, without its ever coming out at trial, that Starks had pimped her out. He was astounded by fellow jurors who couldnt understand why Bryant was wearing what he called the stupid hat. Its to feel safe in his environment! he said.
Speaking of Bryant, the foreman seemed to comprehend the place the struggling eighteen-year-old had occupied among his friends. Told that Bryants friends had thrown play punches, he nodded knowingly. They had to teach him to fight in order to risk hanging out with him, he remarked. A friend who was seen as weak could jeopardize ones respect and status and therefore ones safety.