But even the appalling behavior of a fringe group can be dismissed for the idiocy it manifestly is. What is truly discouraging is the failure of local political leaders — some of whom appeared at the memorial service for the officers on Friday — to denounce Mixon and the poisonous culture that produced him. Last week, Oakland mayor Ron Dellums met with reporters and discussed the shootings. One reporter expressed his surprise at finding so many people who seemed indifferent or even jubilant at the death of four police officers. “People in the neighborhood,” said the reporter to Dellums, “said they were not sympathetic — they expressed no sympathy for the officers when we went down there. What does that tell you?”
Incredibly, Dellums couldn’t muster the courage to denounce such people. “I don’t want to comment about that,” said the mayor. “This is a moment of tremendous grief and tragedy. This is not a time to politicize death.” Only in Oakland and a handful of other cities would it be considered “political” to condemn such execrable behavior. With leadership like that, is it any wonder that Oakland finds itself in its present condition?
Not long ago I had occasion to meet what we might call a Lovelle Mixon in training. He was a 17-year-old gang member who was on probation after being arrested for possession of a handgun. As a condition of his probation he was required to submit to a search at any time, yet when two of my coworkers attempted to stop him he ran into the home of a neighbor, presumably to hide the gun or drugs he had at the time. He eventually came out and surrendered, but the woman who lived in the house refused to allow us to search for whatever it was that prompted him to run. There followed a rather heated standoff with the woman and some of her friends, all of whom were the mothers of other gang members in the neighborhood, and all of whom attempted to excuse or rationalize the young man’s behavior. (Sadly, but predictably, there wasn’t a father anywhere to be seen.) If you stood in front of the home where this occurred and proceeded to walk in any direction, you wouldn’t get two blocks before you reached a spot where one young black man had been shot by another in the last year; yet all these women could do was rail about how the police harass their sons.
“He’s nice, he’s kind, he’s sweet . . .”
Someday that young man — who, like Lovelle Mixon, has grown up seeing his crimes ignored or excused by everyone he knows — will kill someone or be killed himself. I can say this just as surely as if the bullet had already been fired and is now out there somewhere searching for its target. And whether that young man turns out to be the murderer or the murdered, those same women will get together at that same house and tell each other how nice and kind and sweet he was. And what a shame it all will be.
– Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.