Which one has better advantages LASD or LAPD

"I serve the people in LA, that's my job," says Sergeant Gus Gutierrez

By Johannes Gernert (text and photos)

An armed man, 42 years old, Hispanic, sets off into Los Angeles at night. Features: blue trousers, blue shirt, three silver stripes on the sleeve. He drives a Ford Explorer with tinted windows. The man is not considered dangerous. He is a policeman.

Around midnight he will meet two young men in a side street, Hispanics, age unknown at first.

8:21 pm. Gus Gutierrez slowly rolls his Ford out of the garage of the police station. He was just sitting in the crew room with his colleagues on the night shift. The East Coast Cribs have a funeral today. Could cause trouble if other gangs hit on the idea of ​​revenge. A funeral, a moment of weakness. Gutierrez turns into the street in front of the station. Newton Division, Los Angeles. One of 21 police sections of the third largest police department in the United States. NYPD in New York, CPD in Chicago. And then: LAPD. Los Angeles Police Department.

You know it from films, from TV series. It is known for the taxi driver Rodney King, who LAPD police officers almost killed in 1991.

Gutierrez can still see the police station in the rearview mirror, he has barely entered his ID number and reported to the on-board computer that he is now starting his shift, and they'll call him. Police officers on patrol want a superior, a sergeant like him. Martin Luther King, Central. “That's right around the corner,” murmurs Gutierrez, turns on the indicator and turns into a side street where a few patrol cars are waiting.

They discovered the car of a terrorist the FBI is looking for, one of the officers informed. A Toyota Prius. “We still need a unit,” says Gutierrez.

With two colleagues, he looks through a fence at the property on which the Prius, a caravan and a Mercedes are parked.

A mild summer night. The deep blue of the sky is getting darker and darker. They celebrate at the mosque club across the street. An elderly man with a full beard and a cap comes over.

What's going on? How much longer do you want to park the driveway?

“Do you have a key to the property?” Asks one of the police officers. The man goes to get him.

“Let's call the guys from the FBI,” says Gutierrez, “we have the car.” The new unit is parked behind the others.

8:35 pm. Six police cars are parked on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Ten policemen are waiting to see what needs to be done. Break open the car? Let the detectives decide. Gutierrez had her called. He walks around the fence. Cars snake past the parked police cars. The Muslim in the cap brings the key.

The policemen storm the grounds, quietly and quickly, they position themselves, elbows bent, pistols in hand. "Now open the trailer. Police."

No one there. The guy has to be somewhere else. Let the FBI take care of it. “When will I get my key back?” Asks the man from the mosque association.

9:01 pm. The situation has been resolved.

“For some colleagues, this may be a bigger thing,” says Gutierrez. "Not for me."

He is a tall, broad man with a trace of melancholy on his face because the features of his full face point slightly downwards. The eyebrows, the corners of the mouth. He reports via the on-board computer that the case has been dealt with for the time being. Searched car. FBI called.

Gutierrez parks in front of a subway branch and takes his wallet out of the trunk. He hasn't eaten anything yet. The night shift will last twelve hours.

Gus Gutierrez, who is married, has two small children and has the dough fetched out of the bread at Subway because too much bread is not good, has not been a sergeant long, only for a few months. As a sergeant you drive alone, not in pairs like all the others, you have to operate the computer at the same time. He slowly gets used to it, steers, taps, brakes, taps, accelerates. The trouble of the street penetrates his car over the radio, the emergency calls. From the distributors in the telephone center sorted by suspicion, by gender, by skin color.

Suspect, male, black.

Suspect, male, Hispanic.

Suspect, male, white.

He's looking for them from his Ford. He has to remember the most important details from the radio messages. White T-Shirt. Blue pants. On a bike.

But it always starts with:

Male, black.

Male, Hispanic.

Male, white.

The voices on the radio tell him how to see the world out there.

Black.

Hispanic.

White.

Just a few days earlier, his boss, the Patrol Captain, was at a Crimefighters Leadership Conference for a day with their boss, Police Chief Charlie Beck, whom they also call Carlito here because many Hispanics live in LA. The captain hasn't been a captain that long either, like Gutierrez hasn't been a sergeant for too long, because a lot has just changed in the Los Angeles Police Department. Several older colleagues have retired. They then move up from the bottom up. Officers become sergeants, sergeants become lieutenants, lieutenants become captains, captains become commanders. The LAPD is currently as young as it is seldom.

The Crimefighters Leadership Conference took place in a former cathedral, the pillars of which were bathed in purple light. It's been a difficult year for the police so far, the chief said, not just in LA, all over the United States. "How do we make people trust us?"

The crime rate, the number of crimes, is considered to be the best measure of public safety in the USA. When the crime rate falls, one can feel safe in a city, the police reporters report in a friendly manner. But if the crime rate rises, their patience decreases. The police chief comes under pressure and with him the city council, the mayor. In LA, the crime rate rose significantly in the first few months of the year.

“We don't judge ourselves by numbers,” the chief said. "We have to ask ourselves whether we've made LA a better place." And when he looked around, the chief said, looking around his commanders, lieutenants and captains, the answer was yes.

Of course, they are measured against it: the numbers.

The mayor also came to the conference and warned that too many people still did not trust the police. He's not just saying this because of the public discussion in the country.

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“We train to target the largest area of ​​the body, the upper body. If you shoot and he doesn't stop, you shoot again "

Sergeant Gus Gutierrez, when asked why cops don't shoot legs

Ferguson. New York. Baltimore.

Shots. Riots. Curfews.

Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Freddie Gray.

Suspects, male, black.

Dead.

He remembers, said the mayor, how his colleague in Baltimore had told Ferguson that something like this couldn't happen in her city.

Then Freddie Gray died there.

“We are not immune either,” warned the mayor. "If the wind blows from the wrong direction, it also starts to burn in our city."

Can you guess how great the danger is when you accompany someone like Gus Gutierrez through the night?

9:41 pm. A suicide attempt. Someone is holding their leg over a railing. "We're going there now," says Gutierrez and accelerates. He feels like something like that happened the other day.

Gutierrez stops at a bridge over the Los Angeles River, two police officers are already there. “Nothing,” says one of the two. Gutierrez lights down. Nothing.

"Is everything okay with you then?" He asks the two colleagues. “Otherwise we could call a helicopter to illuminate the area.” But, he thinks, the area is actually pretty well lit. He gets back in the car.

Often it is simply nothing.

When his mother found out a good twenty years ago that he wanted to go to the police, she fell out. The parents are from Mexico. Seven siblings, five of them boys. One of his older brothers had died years earlier as a police officer in a car chase. He slammed his car into another police car.

“I serve the people in LA,” says Gus Gutierrez. “My job is to get the bad guys and keep the streets clean. That is my motivation. "

He believes in deterrence, in that when they are exposed outside, crimes will decrease.

Recently they have also been doing this with a special technique. Gus Gutierrez doesn't believe in them that much. But well, he says, he could show that now.

The technique is called predictive policing. A computer program is supposed to calculate places where a break-in or a car theft is to be expected. It usually does this by checking where break-ins have previously occurred.

Some police officers grumble that they already know their hot spots and their gangsters, what is the computer doing there? Civil rights activists from the city say defining such areas incites police officers into aggressively searching for suspects and stopping people more frequently. They would still rely too much on their gut instinct, on their prejudices.

Each shift is given a slip of paper stating the streets in which something is particularly likely to happen.

One street on the list is 41st that evening. When he got there, Gutierrez reports the new status to his computer: Predictive Policing.

He's cruising along the 41st. It smells like something grilled. On a sports field, boys play soccer in the floodlights.

There are a dozen or so gangs in his turf. “A lot of the black gangs are fighting each other all the time,” Gutierrez says. The last murder, he recalls, must have been around the corner from here.

But everything is calm right now. It's almost a little too quiet for him. "Now we are done with this predictive policing," says Gutierrez and changes his status.

In LA it also happens from time to time that a policeman shoots someone. Just the other day. Somebody grabbed the policeman's taser and attacked him with it.

So far there has never been a case that has led to riots like the one with Rodney King. Like in Ferguson or in Baltimore.

You have to know your levels of force, says Gutierrez. The levels of violence. At its end, on the last step, there is Idol. Immediate Defense of Life. For example, if you threaten to pass out. When someone fires at you. Then, says Gus Gutierrez, we'll shoot to end the threat.

People, he already knows, always ask after something like this: Why don't you aim at your legs?

“We're trained to stop this person,” Gutierrez says. “We train to aim at the largest area of ​​the body, the upper body. So if you shoot and he doesn't stop, you shoot again. "

After that, he says, you always have to justify yourself for what you've done. You have to be able to explain yourself.

Gus Gutierrez and his colleagues outside the Mosque Association on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard in L.A.

He knows that even better since he became a sergeant. Now he always has to fill out the reports.

10:34 pm. Gutierrez drives through the Housing Projects. Flat buildings. Some guys have a couple of guys at the door, in the light of the lanterns. Little going on.

He thought for a long time whether he should really become a sergeant. Gutierrez was previously with the Metro unit for nine years. The metro is something like the elite fighting force of the Los Angeles Police Department. In the evenings he always drove home with a car full of guns. They practiced shooting regularly.

When the president came to town, he discussed security with the Secret Service. If a dangerous criminal had to be arrested somewhere, they would disengage in their cars that didn't say LAPD or “Protect and Serve”. They were always outside. He got into shootings. Something was going on.

“I am a person who likes to be challenged,” says Gus Gutierrez, the man with the good-natured face.

The first time he could have become a sergeant was in 2008. He passed the test. Then he thought of his car full of guns. He stayed with the metro.

The second time he was in the top nine. Nine out of 600. He couldn't cancel anymore. Although he's getting two dollars less an hour, first of all. It should be worth it in the long term. He will continue to rise. Someone like him gets around $ 80,000 a year.

He got married a month ago. They have had two children for a long time. Should his children also go to the police later?

“I'm actually hoping for something better for her,” he says. "They should one day become doctors or lawyers."

11:03 pm. Suspect, male, Hispanic. On a bike.

“A quiet night,” says Gutierrez. “Extinct, the whole city.” He's always watching what's going on in the neighboring districts. Also nothing.

He recently caught a car thief. In L.A., the police cars scan the license plates of the other cars and take photos. The photos are saved regardless of whether a suspicion has been confirmed or not. Privacy advocates complain.

A couple of colleagues had read a license plate and caught the thief, male, Hispanic. He stopped and ran. Right in the arms of Gutierrez, who had come to help.

11:29 pm. An officer asks for a blue-check device that can be used to take fingerprints and identify suspects. Vermont Avenue, 43rd. That sounds very interesting, that's where Gutierrez goes.

Two young Hispanic men are standing by a fence, their arms handcuffed and behind their backs. They wear baggy trousers, and one of them wears a trucker cap.

“They probably sprayed,” says Gutierrez. “They look like they're in a corridor. Chances are you've been arrested before. Presumably they gave wrong names because they are wanted or because they are out on parole. "

If you're out on parole, you'd better not have any contact with the police.

However, the two only stood in this little alley next to the house. Otherwise they cannot be blamed for anything so far.

The engines of four parked police cars are running in the street. Seven policemen.

A quiet night.

What if one of the two suddenly ran? Because he doesn't want to risk an entry.

The payment: Police officers kill an average of 2.6 people every day in the United States. That researched the Washington Post. From January to May 2015, 385 people died, 365 of them were men. Blacks are particularly likely to be victims of police violence. In three cases, police officers went to court over a crime.

The protest: Most of the time, police violence goes unnoticed. An early case that sparked major protests was that of Rodney King. He was beaten up by police after a car chase in 1991. Somebody filmed this. They were acquitted, there was rioting with dozens of deaths. The police were later sentenced to 30 months in prison. In 2014 there were again major protests, including in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore: police officers previously killed the unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the asthmatic Eric Garner died during his arrest, the 12-year-old student Tamir Rice was killed. Three examples, three black young men, no legal consequences for the police. The protest movement is called "Black Lives Matter".

Just an impulse.

The policemen are white and young. Some are just leaving the police school. You can tell how they want to do everything right. It is just not that easy to take fingerprints with the small device when the fingers belong to a hand that is handcuffed and the owner of that hand has no particular interest in the procedure succeeding.

Airplanes pass by in the sky.

The Bluetooth doesn't work in the first car, and neither does the next. When the bluetooth finally works, the fingerprint is too bad.

“Does he sweat?” Asks one of the young police officers. "I think the second print is just sweat."

“I don't sweat,” says one of the two young men at the fence. You seem a little amused.

Gus Gutierrez is standing to one side and tripping his feet.

"If the device doesn't work, you win for today," he says. "That's how it is. Sometimes the gangsters win, sometimes the cops."

How does he know they're gangsters?

“They look like gang members. That is very likely. I do not judge anyone. It's just my experience, ”says Gutierrez.

Male, Hispanic.

No blue uniform.

The young colleagues now lead them to one of the police cars and place them on the hood. They first remove the handcuffs from one and then the other to get better fingerprints.

This time it works. The first one was arrested for a robbery.

Well, Gus Gutierrez walks towards the car, lowers his head and raises his arm in the farewell sky to the night sky.

Johannes Gernert,35, spent ten days researching in Los Angeles as a Kellen Fellow