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Sam Levin reports for us from Los Angeles on the legacy of the brutal beating of Rodney King by the LAPD, which happened thirty years ago:

LAPD in recent years has faced scrutiny from a new wave of activists who have organized against police killings of civilians, discriminatory arrests and traffic stops, harassment and surveillance of Black and Latino residents, and militarized responses to protests. Arguing previous reforms have done little to curb the department’s brazenness, they are calling for sweeping change: take away power, and funding, from LAPD.

“LAPD is still corrupt and violent and brutal,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA. “Since Rodney King, LAPD has just gotten slicker. Very little has changed, other than they’ve gotten better at PR.”

The calls to defund LAPD gained traction during last year’s uprisings after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – and activists are launching a new campaign to build on that momentum. “We can reimagine public safety by divesting from police and freeing up those dollars to invest in the things that actually bring about safe communities,” said Abdullah.

Recent data has repeatedly shown that LAPD officers stop and search Black and Latino residents at significantly higher rates than white residents. In the last two years, officers have been accused of falsely labeling civilians as gang members in databases, citing fabricated information. Last year, the LA Times found that the police department appeared to have repeatedly violated its own rules when it used force against protesters, in some cases causing significant injury. And in the last month, LAPD has been twice forced to apologize – first after officers allegedly circulated an offensive meme mocking George Floyd, then after the chief admitted he gave hugely inaccurate data to the LA Times that falsely suggested a major decline in controversial traffic stops.

“There have been reforms on paper, but if you ask community members if anything has changed, they say nothing has, really,” said Andrés Dae Keun Kwon, a lawyer with the ACLU of Southern California. “It’s the same old disproportionate stops, targeting, harassment, brutalizing and killing.”

“We were hopeful that this kind of confirmation of our experiences would mean that there would be justice and meaningful change,” Abdullah, of BLM, said of the King footage. Instead, “we saw police double down on violence and brutality … telling the world, ‘Don’t believe your lying eyes.’ It reminded us that the truth wasn’t really important to a system that put targets on the backs of Black people.”

Read more of Sam Levin’s report here: Rodney King – 30 years after brutal beating, activists say LAPD ‘still corrupt and violent’

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