NEWS of the Day - April 23, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - April 23, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From the L.A. Daily News

With growing number of parolees in San Fernando Valley, LAPD scrambles to keep its eye on them

The children playing and laughing in the backyard next door couldn't see it, but police officers had forced open a safe in their Woodland Hills neighbor's garage and found a collection of guns and rifles.

The team led by LAPD Sgt. Jeff Nuttall had gone to the home to check on Byrone London, who had recently served a prison sentence for obstructing and resisting arrest.

London was supposed to stay away from weapons and drugs or risk ending up back behind bars. But here he was, living in a relative's house where firearms were stored and, officers believe, facing a risk of abusing drugs again.

His wife, who lives in the house with him, was arrested there for possession of methamphetamine only weeks before, according to police.

"Here's a meth head with a safe full of weapons," Nuttall said. "What if he gets high and decides to open it?"

But Nuttall's frustration was not just with this particular individual. Rather, he and many local officers and government officials are concerned about recent reforms to the state justice system that they believe have led to less effective monitoring of criminals when they are back on the streets.

Gov. Jerry Brown's public safety realignment program -- designed to ease overcrowding in prison, reduce recidivism and save the state money during the budget crisis -- shifted more responsibility for inmates and parolees onto already overworked local agencies.

One of the changes, for example: In the past someone like London would be supervised after his release by an armed state parole officer. Under realignment, he is monitored by county probation officers, most of whom do not carry weapons.

Under realignment, local jurisdictions took over responsibility for a new category of supposedly less-dangerous ex-con, called a "post-release supervised person" or PSP.

The term refers to someone who, like London, served his or her last sentence for a nonviolent, nonserious, nonsexual offense.

They can be defined that way even if earlier in their criminal careers they had served time for murder, rape or other serious offenses.

LAPD is not supposed to be the lead agency for performing compliance checks on PSPs, but the department prefers to keeps tabs on them anyway for the sake of public safety in its jurisdiction.

Earlier in the day, the same team from LAPD's Topanga Station had arrested another PSP, Jorge Sandoval, after finding a sword in his bedroom and meth, cocaine and marijuana near his dog food container.

Nuttall complained this was their second time arresting Sandoval for a drug offense over the last few weeks, and wondered whether the PSP was receiving adequate supervision.

"Compared to parole officers, probation officers are slow in calling violations," he complained.

Police noted that Sandoval had previously served a prison term for kidnapping and domestic assault. But he was still defined as a lower-risk PSP, rather than a parolee, because his last offense was drug-related.

Confidentiality laws barred the county Probation Department from detailing the agency's interactions with Sandoval and London, including whether they had been checked on before and found to be engaging in any inappropriate or illegal behavior and what sanctions they may have faced.

But Reaver Bingham, Probation's deputy chief in charge of realignment, said arrest is not always the appropriate response to violations.

"Realignment doesn't mean that everybody's going to wind up going to jail or prison because of a particular behavior," he said.

"It'll depend on the egregiousness of the behavior, public safety considerations, and whether intermediate sanctions can correct the behavior."

Those intermediate sanctions range from verbal admonishment to house arrest, electronic monitoring and flash incarceration. Warrants are issued only for those with severe violations, including absconding.

The statistics from the first six months of realignment offer a mixed picture.

On the one hand, the recidivism rate of PSPs is lower than the state average for parolees. The rate over the first six months in Los Angeles County was about 25 percent, according to county officials. The state average for parolees -- over a 12-month period -- is about 67 percent.

On the other hand, far more PSPs are failing to initially report to their probation officer.

Robert Stickney, Probation's director of executive support, compiled data indicating that as many as 6 percent of the estimated 6,000 PSPs placed under Los Angeles County jurisdiction have never reported to their probation officer.

"This rate is higher than the state's traditional initial parole absconder rate of 2 percent, and may be attributable to factors such as `testing' to see how the new system responds, having new locations to report to, among other reasons," he said.

Before Nuttall's team even left the police station, they had to scratch the names of half the 10 PSPs off their list because of bogus addresses - one was that of a Burger King.

Police Officer Misty Goodnight, a member of Nuttall's team, complained that it was difficult to find many PSPs because Probation didn't seem to be going after those giving fake addresses. One person on their list, she noted, had 31 felony bookings on his record, but they couldn't find him because he gave a bad address.

"I haven't seen anything happen," she said. "We'll run these guys up months later, and we won't come up with warrants or anything in the system."

Realignment mandates that the CDCR send Probation packets of information about inmates months before their release, so that law enforcement can verify their addresses.

"Whoever is supposed to be giving me that information, I'm not getting it," Nuttall said.

Both the state and county did not have adequate time to prepare for realignment, and in the early days of the new system, PSPs would sometimes arrive in counties before their information packets did.

Probation had sought to have about 80 new staffers in place before realignment took effect, but the Board of Supervisors approved only 50 new staffers and only at the last minute.

For months, Probation had to make do with existing staff, so that some of them had to double or triple their caseloads.

The county Board of Supervisors continues to push the state to guarantee funding for realignment, rather than it being dependent year-to-year on the Legislature and governor. The Legislature has refused to make the funding permanent, but the governor hopes voters will approve a ballot measure in November that will lock in the guarantee for local governments.

Dana Toyama, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said it is too early to make judgments about realignment.

"We're only a few months in, and full implementation isn't even expected until around the fourth or fifth year, so to call it a failure or a smashing success is incredibly premature."

Nevertheless, she believes the transition has gone smoothly.

In the meantime, Nuttall's team continues to monitor the PSPs whose addresses they do know, showing up in force at locations where they could encounter armed felons.

When the team of eight officers in four cruisers swooped down on the home where London was staying, the size of the police presence elicited complaints from the PSP.

"This is very excessive," a handcuffed London said in a brief interview in front of the home as officers searched inside. "Look at how many police are here! And they just walk into my house like this. And it's not even my house. They're pulling my kid out of his room."

London also said he felt he got no help from the county in terms of re-entry services after he left prison.

"They did nothing," he said.

He said he had to seek out drug rehab on his own, adding that he had attended a session that morning before the officers showed up.

Nuttall said a strong police presence is needed on the PSP checks because many of them could be more dangerous than their classification indicates. London, for example, had previous bookings for attempted murder, willful cruelty to a child, domestic violence, burglary and hit-and-run, according to LAPD.

Nuttall pointed out that under the legislation, even a convicted murderer or sexual predator could be classified as a PSP as long as his or her last offense was nonserious, nonviolent and nonsexual.

"Some of the people who are on this program are absolutely dangerous career criminals," he said.

"Imagine if they were in your neighborhood."



From the Washington Times

Pressure mounts to fire Secret Service agents in hooker scandal

Lawmakers express confidence in quick reaction by director

by David Eldridge and Dave Boyer

Most of the Secret Service agents embroiled in a South American prostitution scandal are likely to lose their jobs — some as soon as Monday — a powerful Republican lawmaker said Sunday.

“You can't allow 11 men to tarnish the great reputation that this agency had,” Rep. Peter T. King , chairman of the Homeland Security Committee , said on NBC 's “Meet the Press.” “In the next day or so, I think we're going to see more Secret Service agents leaving.”

The New York Republican, whose committee is investigating the incident, told “Fox News Sunday” that “most … [will] either resign, retire or will be forced to leave.”

Six of 12 Secret Service agents and supervisors involved in a night of partying with prostitutes in the Colombian city of Cartagena on the eve of President Obama's arrival for a hemispheric summit have stepped down or have been fired since the scandal broke. Eleven military service personnel also have been implicated.

The Secret Service said Friday that a 12th employee had been implicated in the probe and another had been cleared of “serious misconduct” but would face administrative action.

Rep. Darrell Issa , California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee , told “Meet the Press” he has confidence that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan is taking steps to address the scandal.

“The most important thing is that this never happens again,” Mr. Issa said.

The ranking Democrat on Mr. Issa's committee , Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said blacks are particularly concerned about the integrity of the security detail around Mr. Obama, the nation's first black president.

“First of all, let me say I have concern about all presidents and everybody that the Secret Service guards,” he said on CNN . “But the fact is that African-American people have always expressed concern to me about this president. … They worry. They're concerned.”

Mr. Cummings said he thought Mr. Sullivan was taking the right approach to fix the problems in the agency.

“I don't think that we judge the Secret Service by its weakest link. They are gone, half of them, and I think others will be leaving shortly. … You can't, you know, legislate people not being stupid,” Mr. Cummings said.

Mr. King , who said he has four investigators working on the case, also expressed confidence in Mr. Sullivan .

Senators also are looking into the scandal. Sen. Joe Lieberman , chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee , told “Fox News Sunday” that his panel will hold at least one hearing.

Mr. Lieberman , a Connecticut independent who caucuses with Democrats, called on the White House to conduct an internal probe into whether any of its staffers were involved in the scandal.

“There's no evidence [of White House involvement], but I don't know that the Secret Service is actually investigating that question,” Mr. Lieberman said on Fox. “I'd say it's a reasonable question and that the White House ought to be conducting its own internal investigation of White House personnel who were in Cartagena, just to make sure that none of them were involved in this kind of inappropriate behavior.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney has said the administration has no reason to think staffers were involved. But Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, also has questioned whether any White House personnel could be connected to the episode.

Two prominent Republicans, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have said the Secret Service scandal and the ongoing revelations of out-of-control spending at the General Services Administration raise serious questions about the Obama administration's ability to effectively manage the federal government.

Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod brushed aside those criticisms during appearances on the Sunday talk shows.

“Do I think that the GSA problem is concerning? Yes,” Mr. Axelrod said on CNN . “And the president was furious when he learned of it. Obviously, we've revamped the whole operation as a result of it. But is it emblematic of our administration? Absolutely not.”

Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee , and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, told ABC's “This Week” that the culture of Secret Service might be improved if the agency hires more women.

“I can't help but wonder if there had been more women as part of that detail, if this ever would have happened,” Ms. Collins said.

“We probably need to diversify the service and have more minorities and more women,” Mrs. Maloney said.



Missing boy spurred era of anxiety

Probe for Etan forces parents to remember ‘chill'

NEW YORK — A generation of sheltered American children grew up in the shadow of anxiety that fell over this country one day in 1979, when a little boy with a charming grin vanished from a Manhattan street corner.

They never knew his name or saw that angelic-looking face. But their parents would never forget it.

For some, their caution was simply a result of what they read in news reports. Others, including Jim Stratton , had an immediate and very personal reason to be afraid.

“It sent a chill through everybody,” said Mr. Stratton , 73, whose son was in the same neighborhood play group as Etan Patz , the 6-year-old who never boarded his school bus on May 25, 1979. “You could not leave your child for a minute. Anywhere. It was like a dark cloud had come over the neighborhood.”

Before Etan disappeared, the notion that a child could be abducted right off the street, in broad daylight, was not familiar. Children roamed their hometowns freely, unencumbered by fear. They could walk to school and the bus stop and just about anywhere they pleased all by themselves. That all changed after Etan set off for school in his favorite pilot's cap and corduroy jacket and did not return.

A new age of paranoia had grabbed hold of the national psyche. And so many years later, that paralyzing sense of fear has yet to fully release its grip.

“In many ways, it was the end of an era of innocence,” said Ernie Allen , president of the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children . “Parents suddenly became much more protective and much more hovering over their children.”

Etan was one of the first missing children whose face would appear on a milk carton. In the coming years more faces would follow, mutely appealing for help from a public that began, for the first time, to mobilize on a grand scale in its efforts to find them. Even now, after more than 30 years, authorities still haven't given up hope for a resolution, for answers to every parent's worst nightmare.

Last week, authorities began ripping up an old basement near Patz 's SoHo loft with the aim of finding his remains, spurred on by a cadaver-sniffing dog that picked up a scent there.

“He was here the whole time for all of us,” said Cass Collins , Mr. Stratton 's wife, who has been haunted by his disappearance ever since. “He was always in our thoughts.”

But how to shake the fear? Mrs. Collins , a writer, has two grown sons, one of whom was a rather anxious child, often fretting about venturing off on his own, she said. Last week, when she read about the renewed search for Etan and felt that old familiar gut punch to her stomach, Mrs. Collins decided to apologize to her son.

“I said to him, ‘If you got a sense from us that the world is a scary place, it came from Etan Patz ,' ” she said, her voice choked with tears. “That's where it came from. And I'm sorry if we did do that. Because it's not a good thing to imbue in a child.”



Thousands of computer users might lose Internet

Advertising scam by hackers spurs problem

by Lolita C. Baldor

For computer users, a few mouse clicks could mean the difference between staying online and losing Internet connections this summer.

Unknown to most of them, their problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of infected computers around the world. In a highly unusual response, the FBI set up a safety net months ago using government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for those infected users. But that system is to be shut down.

The FBI is encouraging users to visit a website run by its security partner, http://www.dcwg.org, that will inform them whether they're infected and explain how to fix the problem. After July 9, infected users won't be able to connect to the Internet.

Most victims don't even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their Web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.

In November, the FBI and other authorities were preparing to take down a hacker ring that had been running an Internet ad scam on a massive network of infected computers.

“We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands because … if we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service,” said Tom Grasso , an FBI supervisory special agent. “The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get ‘page not found' and think the Internet is broken.”

On the night of the arrests, the agency brought in Paul Vixie , chairman and founder of Internet Systems Consortium, to install two Internet servers to take the place of the truckload of impounded rogue servers that infected computers were using. Federal officials planned to keep their servers online until March, giving everyone an opportunity to clean their computers. But it wasn't enough time. A federal judge in New York extended the deadline until July.

Now, said Mr. Grasso , “the full court press is on to get people to address this problem.” And it's up to computer users to check their PCs.

The hackers infected a network of probably more than 570,000 computers worldwide, taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system to install malicious software on the victim computers.

The hackers turned off antivirus updates and changed the way the computers reconcile website addresses behind the scenes on the Internet's domain name system. Victim computers were reprogrammed to use rogue DNS servers owned by the attackers. This allowed the attackers to redirect computers to fraudulent versions of any website.

The hackers earned profits from advertisements that appeared on websites that victims were tricked into visiting. The scam netted the hackers at least $14 million, according to the FBI . It also made thousands of computers reliant on the rogue servers for their Internet browsing.

When the FBI and others arrested six Estonians in November, the agency replaced the rogue servers with Mr. Vixie 's clean ones. Installing and running the two substitute servers for eight months is costing the federal government about $87,000.



From Google News

Cybersecurity bills aim to prevent 'digital Pearl Harbor'

Foreign spies, criminals are inside virtually every U.S. company's network

by David Goldman

NEW YORK -- Cybercrime isn't just a threat to your bank account or personal computer -- it's an issue of national security.

Foreign spies and organized criminals are inside of virtually every U.S. company's network. The government's top cybersecurity advisors widely agree that cyber criminals or terrorists have the capability to take down the country's critical financial, energy or communications infrastructure.

"The reality is that our infrastructure is being colonized," said Tom Kellerman, former commissioner of President Obama's cyber security council, at a Bloomberg cybersecurity conference held in New York last week. "The terrifying thing is that governments no longer have a monopoly on this capability. There is code out there that puts it in anyone's hands."

Using cyberspace to take over our infrastructure, turn off our electricity or release toxins would amount to "a digital Pearl Harbor," Richard Clarke, the coordinator of President George W. Bush's counterterrorism initiative, famously said in 2009.

Staving off such an event is a logistical nightmare.

Much of America's critical infrastructure is owned by businesses. Gaining intelligence on cyber threats -- both in advance and after an attack has been launched -- requires cooperation from companies and, often, from private individuals.

That's why Congress is taking up as many as six different bills this week that deal with that issue: balancing the security of our core infrastructure with the privacy of corporations and people.

There are some key differences between the bills, and lawmakers are furiously trying to merge them together.

The bill most policy analysts focus on as the likeliest to pass is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, introduced by Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It passed his committee with strong bipartisan support (a 17-1 vote) in December, and it has more than 100 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle.

At the bill's core are incentives for private businesses that control core, critical infrastructure, particularly in the finance and energy sectors. Those businesses would receive tax breaks if they share information with one another and the government about attacks. There are rules that would force them to strip out any non-crucial information from customers or business partners.

A rival Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, would instead mandate information sharing through government regulation. That bill is supported by President Obama, but most speakers at the conference thought it had little chance of passing.

Critics have attacked the bills both for being too lenient on privacy and for being too rigorous. The bills have been blasted by both civil liberties organizations, and, interestingly, those in the intelligence community.

"All the bills on the Hill are insufficient," said Mike McConnell, formerly President Bush's national intelligence director. "We say we don't want to infringe on privacy rights or burden industry in any way, so the result is we don't do anything."

At a corporate security conference last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller warned attendees: "There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked, and those that will be."

McConnell thinks it will take a "catastrophic event" to force changes.

"We are incredibly vulnerable," he said. "If we don't make our policy makers think about this seriously, we'll be dealing with something like 9/11."

Other nations and organized crime organizations have more and better intelligence on U.S. citizens and businesses than the U.S. government itself does, in McConnell's view. That's a major policy dilemma.

Privacy advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union counter that the Rogers bill would kick off a free-for-all in sharing of customer records.

The bill would "create a cybersecurity exception to all privacy laws and allow companies to share the private and personal data they hold on their American customers with the government," the ACLU wrote in a December letter to Rogers and others in Congress.

It added: "We will vigorously oppose this legislation as inconsistent with the long tradition of Americans' reasonable expectations of privacy."

Yet other security professionals stressed that we have to rethink privacy in a world where hackers have already infiltrated all our systems and know everything about us.

"Let's get real," said Kellerman. "We have 100,000 Big Brothers. Meanwhile, the United States is fighting this with one hand behind its back."

"We have been juvenile about the discussion of privacy," said Roger Cressey, senior vice president at security consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton. "This is an issue of leadership. If we don't take it seriously, we're going to have a serious attack."

"We have to change our perspective on what's permissible and not permissible," said Col. Cedric Leighton, a former military intelligence officer with the U.S. Air Force. "It's not a lost cause, but only if we know what we're facing."

The bills aren't perfect, but even opponents of the Rogers bill said something needs to be done.

"We don't all have to agree on everything to do something," said Howard Schmidt, President Obama's current cybersecurity coordinator. "We talk about it and talk about and talk about it, and all we're doing is just admiring the problem. We need the authority to do the things we've been talking about for quite a while."



LAPD goes from longtime oppressor to community partner

In 1992, the LAPD was regarded with suspicion and downright hostility by many in South Los Angeles. Now, two decades after the riots, the 'siege mentality' is gone, crime is down significantly and 70% of city residents approve of the department.

by Sandy Banks

April 22, 2012

What LAPD Sgt. Rick Arteaga remembers most about the first night of the riots is a curbside history lesson at the intersection of Manchester and Vermont.

Six police officers were trying to face down 400 angry residents. The Los Angeles Police Department brass had just ordered the officers to withdraw. "Get in the car!" Arteaga yelled. But his rookie partner froze, unwilling to turn his back on the advancing mob. In those menacing seconds, a single fear grabbed them both: This was a crowd bent on vengeance and they were about to be lynched.

Arteaga grabbed the shotgun from the floor of his patrol car and made a noisy show of loading a round. The crowd backed off just long enough for his partner to retreat.

The "not guilty" verdicts in the Rodney King case had, in minutes, reached the streets. Arteaga had never seen anything turn so bad so fast.

People were cursing and shouting at him: Four hundred years! You've been suppressing us for 400 years!

Arteaga, just 29, was thinking, "What did 400 years have to do with me?"

Everything. Because he wore the uniform of a force that had ruled South Los Angeles like an occupying army.

Twenty years later, Arteaga heads a team of senior lead officers in the 77th Street Division, a few miles from that riot standoff.

The team, streetwise veterans of this part of the city, is the heart of a community policing effort born in the riot's aftermath.

The officers are the face of a more enlightened department. But they share the legacy, too, of its darkest hours.

Critics say the police gave up when the riots erupted, letting big chunks of Los Angeles burn while looters and hoodlums ruled.

The officers say commanders held them back, fearing that street clashes would produce endless violent video loops and countless battered Rodney Kings.

Some cops are still bitter about that call: They weren't running away. They were following orders.

"We were considered cowards," Arteaga said. "It was hurtful that we were being blamed for what the community did."

His words reflect the disconnect: They were burning down their community. Police were outsiders, standing back.

For 20 years, the department has wrestled with that. Now crime is more than pinpoints on a map.

The riots were proof that what was wrong in South Los Angeles could not be fixed with battering rams.

An independent commission investigating the LAPD in 1991, after King's beating but before the riots, castigated the department for excessive force, racist cops, indifferent commanders and disdain for residents.

Community policing was prescribed as a way to restore the public's trust and dilute the "siege mentality." Its focus was on crime prevention and mutual respect between officers and citizens.

Today crime is lower than it's been in decades, and 70% of L.A. residents say they approve of the Police Department.

But it took years — and a series of police chiefs — for the LAPD to manage the philosophical shift. That evolution relied on many things: progressive leadership, broad recruitment, technological advances and, not least, a drop in violent crime that gave everybody room to breathe.

In the busy 77th Street Division — 12 square miles in South Los Angeles, from the edge of Watts to Inglewood — there were 143 homicides in 1992, but only 32 last year.

"It used to be corners you'd go by and there were gang members everywhere," recalled senior lead officer Gary Verge, whose turf abuts the Crenshaw area.

A lot of those gang members are now behind bars. "That's a lot less bad guys on the block."

There's also a lot less crack cocaine, which fueled violence among drug dealers and robberies by desperate addicts.

"Now, there are times you're driving in circles and nothing's going on," Verge said. "There are fewer shootings. Not so many people running with guns. People aren't turning and fighting as much as they used to."

The drop in tension pays dividends. Police officers aren't primed for trouble, and residents don't blame them for everything.

"We used to go to block club meetings and we'd be the problem," Verge said. " Police ain't this. Police don't do that . Now they trust us to solve the problems."

They have the luxury, finally, of focusing on nuisances that more prosperous places don't tolerate: street vendors clogging a busy corner; young men gambling in the park; graffiti covering a vacant house; a trash-strewn alley where transients smoke crack.

And a bunch of guys wearing baggy pants, crowding the sidewalk outside a tattoo parlor.

I'm on a ride-along with Verge when he spots them on Crenshaw Boulevard. He pulls his patrol car to the curb, gets out, walks over, tells them to move. The young men argue. The Times photographer riding with us aims his camera and shoots.

A few parolees wander off; they can't afford a beef. Several people pull out cellphones and start recording the scene.

A helicopter hovers overhead, a backup officer arrives. The heated back-and-forth goes on. Fifteen minutes pass.

Everybody pull out your phone and put it on him! someone in the crowd keeps yelling. Verge is handing out business cards.

I think back to 1992 and how this drama might have played out, when they didn't have cellphones, but bottles and rocks.

Verge is not backing down. The crowd considers this harassment.

Police have been watching the shop for months. They rarely see customers go inside, but "employees" sporting gang tattoos always seem to be hanging around out front.

"This is a real 'I pay taxes' business," protests the shop's owner. Divine the Great, he calls himself.

He hires gang members as tattoo artists "to give them something to do," he said. "I don't want them robbing my house, just like you don't want them robbing yours."

You could see Divine the Great as the "community" part of community policing.

But Verge sees the tattoo shop as a blot on a boulevard that residents want swept clean.

The department is moving in little steps, away from disorder, toward partnership.

Ask Curtis Suttle, a worried father, pleading with the 77th Street station desk officer for help.

Gang members are threatening his 16-year-old son. The boy's a basketball player, not a gangbanger. He lives with his mother in an apartment a few blocks south on Broadway.

Suttle wants an officer there right now. The desk cop gives him a phone number. But it's busy every time that Suttle calls it. Forget it, he says, storming off.

"I'm fixing to take care of this myself ..."

And I'm imagining all that might go wrong between a gangbanger and an angry dad.

Then I spot Michael Shea, another senior lead who's offered to take me on a ride-along. I tell him what happened and we head outside. Suttle is halfway down the block.

"Sir!" Shea yells. "Do you have a situation you need the police to help you with?"

Suttle, a retired trash truck driver, has spent 30 years raising kids in South Los Angeles. He's trying to aim this one toward college. "I don't want nothing stupid to happen," he said.

He jogs back and gets into the officer's car. The troublemakers are gone when we reach the apartment. But the boy and his mother are waiting for us. The kid has already fought gang members once. Mom is scared to let him leave the building now.

Shea talks to both parents and to the building manager. He questions a woman who lives across the hall. He leaves them all with business cards, with his email address and cellphone number.

To the teenager, Shea administers a gentle lecture. He sees past the tattoos and swagger. The drawings on the boy's arms aren't gang-related. He's just a kid new to the neighborhood, who doesn't want to lose face by backing down.

I'd guess that Shea lost face with that family. He couldn't promise safety. He didn't collar the bad guy.

But Shea relies on a different metric: "Twenty years ago, nobody would have listened to me. Nobody would have called."

Back then, folks would sooner risk an ambulance ride, or a visit from the coroner, than open the door of their home to an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Even the best community policing might not have been enough to avert the riots.

Four hundred years of baggage takes an awfully long time to unpack.

But the city might have seen it coming if police officers in South Los Angeles had been plugged into their neighborhoods.

When the fires started, Shea couldn't believe it. "I had no idea. Why would people burn down their own things? That didn't make any sense to me."

He learned that logic can't explain everything. And that the line between good guys and criminals can be blurry and shifting and thin.

He remembers guarding a damaged market near Slauson and Vermont. The front wall was gone and a car was cruising the aisles, "with a Mexican lady on the roof and her kids grabbing things from the shelves and throwing them inside."

Was that about Rodney King? Oppression? Poverty? Or just an opportunity to steal?

When the officers were finally allowed onto smoldering streets, the depth of their isolation sank in. They watched parents shamelessly pushing strollers packed with looted diapers, sneakers, stereos.

The officers learned a lot about race and reality that spring.

"The officers who were black had it the worst," remembered Tim Wunderlich, a senior lead and the son of a cop who "fought in '65," the Watts riots.

In '92, the thugs who attacked white trucker Reginald Denny pelted black officers with racial slurs. "They were calling them Uncle Toms, traitors, all that stuff. They had it harder than we did," Wunderlich said, "because they were on the side of the 'enemy.'"

For Verge, who's black, those moments stung. He was born a block from the 77th Street station and had friends and family in the riot zone.

But in 1992 he lived in Simi Valley, where the officers charged with beating King were on trial. The Ku Klux Klan planned a rally at a nearby park. But the local residents wouldn't allow it.

"They said, 'We're not having this in our community.' It was white people that ran them off. That made me feel good," Verge told me. "You know what everybody said about Simi Valley."

Simi Valley had been called a racist town. Just as South Los Angeles had its hoodlum label.

It's hard to take the measure of a place when you're only passing through.

This is what community policing really comes down to:

Tuning in to a community. Trying to understand its issues. Getting to know its people.

Has the LAPD done that in South Los Angeles?

The answer depends on your reference point.

For Arteaga, it's the face of a middle-aged black man from that first-night riot standoff, who told him in a voice as cold as ice: This is for 400 years of oppression.

"I'll never forget the anger in his eyes. It was directed at me. Not for who I am but for the badge, the uniform I had on. ...

"You could never have made me believe back then that I would live long enough to see this kind of partnership."