The L.A. Times’ Ted Rall Versus the LAPD: He Made It Up. And He Got Caught.


Try to imagine the shock of it: You’re walking along without a care in the world when suddenly, for no reason at all, a motorcycle cop roars up, hops off his bike, grabs you and slaps you in handcuffs, shoves you against a wall, and then writes you a ticket for something you didn’t do.  And in a final gesture of contemptuous insult, he tosses your driver’s license in the gutter before making you sign the ticket.  It must have been a harrowing experience.

Or it would have been, if it had actually happened.

Ted Rall is a writer and cartoonist whose work, until recently, regularly appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  He would not argue with my characterization of him as a leftist, though he would likely dispute my description of his artistic style as that of an animator from The Simpsons who has just polished off a fifth of bad gin.  (Examples can be found at his website.)  On May 11, Rall wrote an opinion piece for the Times in which he criticized a recent campaign by the Los Angeles Police Department to crack down on pedestrian traffic violations such as jaywalking.  In so doing, he recounted his own unpleasant experience at the hands of an LAPD motorcycle officer in 2001.  “This one is personal,” he begins, and then goes on to describe his mistreatment:

Just over 10 years ago, I was ticketed -- and handcuffed -- for an alleged pedestrian violation while crossing Melrose Avenue.  Ironically, this was one of the rare times that I was innocent of even jaywalking, something I do every day.

Anyway, I had done everything right. I waited for the green “walking man” signal before stepping off the curb.  I walked between the crosswalk lines.  I got across the street just as the flashing red signal began.

All of a sudden, a motorcycle officer zoomed over, threw me up against the wall, slapped on the cuffs, roughed me up and wrote me a ticket.  It was an ugly scene, and in broad daylight it must have looked like one, because within minutes there were a couple of dozen passersby shouting at the cop.

Another motorcycle officer appeared, asked the colleague what the heck he was thinking and ordered him to let me go, which he did.  But not before he threw my driver's license into the sewer.

This tale of oppression prompted someone in the LAPD to look into the matter and determine if a complaint had been filed.  And yes, it was discovered that Rall had indeed written a letter to protest his abuse, which was assigned to a sergeant for investigation.  The results of that investigation have come back to haunt Rall, prompting the editors at the Times to drop him from the paper.