The video that captured Rodney King’s beating was profound in many ways. For the very first time, the nation has witnessed police brutality in raw form captured on film, not by a member of the media, but rather by an average citizen.
And marginalized communities of color now had evidence of what we’ve been saying for years – law enforcement used illegal tactics and tended to target black men and use excessive force without cause or concern for discipline.
The proof was there. The video was released for all to see. Then came the trial and the acquittal of the officers. The date was April 29, 1992.
In 1992 I was deputy mayor of Los Angeles and found myself just as amazed as the next person to see Mr King’s beating repeated in my head as the not guilty verdict was read to the court. The two did not match.
As an individual, I knew it was wrong. As a community, it was too much to get rid of. Tensions between the police department and the black community had reached a tipping point before Rodney King’s beating and trial, and the eventual dismissal of charges against the officers was too much to accept.
Since the civil unrest of 1992, I have continued to represent South Los Angeles and surrounding communities as a representative in the State Assembly. I was chosen to chair the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee where I drafted legislation to reform policing by creating better standards of conduct and essential training for security forces. order.
I take with me the images of Rodney King’s tragic beating and memories of community outrage to help guide policies that strengthen the bonds between police officers and the communities they serve.
One of the main takeaways from this era is that violence and crime would forever be caught in the act by anyone with a video recorder or cell phone. And although technology now plays a major role as evidence in court, the justice system and police policies remain archaic and biased.
George Floyd, Eric Garner and many more have videos that prove we still need to work on police reform.
Incremental changes have occurred through consent decrees demanding change and some through other external forces like community groups calling for change. Some changes have come about with the right leadership in place, but changing a police culture that has its roots in slave-catching is not something that happens overnight. .
Last year, Governor Newsom signed into law my AB 89 bill creating new training and conduct standards for law enforcement recruits, including prison guards. My bill, also known as PEACE ACT, requires a college degree and raises the age limit for new officers to 21 from 18. This adds more training, life experience and discipline mental, giving officers a better chance of defusing situations rather than taking impulsive and deadly actions when not needed.
As a community, we must demand that law enforcement communicate better with our civic leaders and work with community organizations for better relationships. We all need to be responsible for improving our neighborhoods and communities. And we must learn from the past to create a safer and brighter prospect for everyone to thrive.
We must ensure that a repeat of the tragedies, pain and suffering that occurred in 1992 never happens again.
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer is the elected representative for California State Assembly District 59.