Martin, Zimmerman, judicial backlash and policy change: update

Yesterday I claimed that the disappointment and mobilization in the wake of unpopular judicial verdicts in the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson cases didn’t lead to changes in policy.  (That’s another disappointment!)  I asked for corrections.

Lindsey Lupo, a political scientist at Point Loma Nazarene University, who has studied the issue, wrote in response:

Regarding your question about whether police policy changed after the Rodney King beating, you are correct in that it did not…even in LA.  Just after the beating in 1991, Mayor Bradley instituted the Christopher Commission to study the LAPD. It was headed by Warren Christopher and released 4 months after the beating, but 13 months before riot.  It made sweeping recommendations but not much changed in LAPD culture after its release (a report called “Five Years Later” was released in 1996 and confirmed this, particularly with regard to use of force, bias, cultural awareness, and racism). In 2000, another commission was instituted to study the LAPD in the wake of the Rampart scandal.  It too found that not much had changed in the last decade.  I’d venture to say that not much has changed even now….in LA or elsewhere.

Professor Lupo is an expert on these issues, and the author of the excellent book, Flak-Catchers: One Hundred Years of Riot Commission Politics in America (Lexington Books, 2010).

Full disclosure: I was proud to serve on Prof. Lupo’s dissertation committee.


About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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2 Responses to Martin, Zimmerman, judicial backlash and policy change: update

  1. Nancy Whittier says:

    Have you read the article in this Sunday’s NYT Magazine on LAPD’s approach to gang violence? It argues that the changed approach was partly a slow response to the Rodney King case.

    • I didn’t see the piece, but will look. Maybe this is one way that policies actually change in response to events, slowly, through appointments and negotiations, and mostly under the radar. I’m curious what Lindsey thinks.

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