News & Politics

Police Work in 2021: When You Don't Arrest Anyone, No One Gets Hurt

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

It was a small story on a local news channel’s website, one that may not have attracted much interest. “Pursuit and Standoff in Valley Village Ends Without Suspect in Custody,” read the August 8 headline from CBSN Los Angeles.

This seemed odd. How, I wondered, did the suspect give the cops the slip when he was surrounded and with a police helicopter overhead? I gave the story a click, and here it is, in its entirety:

A vehicle that nearly hit an LAPD cruiser close to the intersection of Lankershim and Burbank Boulevards led police in a pursuit and eventually a standoff at a Valley Village used car dealership.

The suspect pulled into Boktor Motors, located on the corner of Riverside Drive and Colfax Avenue, where he exited his vehicle, threw a traffic cone at officers. He then took off shirt and began doing pushups, before getting up and fidgeting with one of the cars on the lot.

Eventually, the man disappeared into the back of the car dealership. After a time, police left without the suspect.

LAPD told CBSLA that they determined there was no threat to the public and decided to clear the scene without the suspect in custody.

In other words, the cops just gave up, apparently leaving the employees of the car dealership to their own devices should the suspect emerge from his hiding place.

Impossible, you say. They wouldn’t just skedaddle like that, not with a felony suspect hiding somewhere nearby, would they? They would, and they did.

This is not an aberration, apparently. This week a similar incident happened, and though it wasn’t reported in the media, I heard all the details from someone who was there.

On Tuesday morning in downtown Los Angeles, a man in a stolen U-Haul truck led police on a pursuit before abandoning the truck and running off. He climbed to the roof of a business, stripped down to his underwear, and for the next two hours he scampered among several adjoining rooftops, ripped power lines from the buildings, and did damage to the roofs themselves. Some of the buildings were left without power, and the adjacent businesses had to be evacuated lest the suspect drop through a skylight.

Police crisis negotiators were called to the scene, but they were unable to persuade the man to come down. The police, it seemed, would have to go up and get him.

Not really, as it turned out. The senior LAPD officer at the scene was the captain of Central Division, and he announced to the gathered officers that, per the instructions of the Central Bureau deputy chief, they would not in fact go up and get the man. They would, like the officers had done at the car dealership the previous week, skedaddle.

But unlike the suspect at the car dealership, this one wasn’t even hiding. He was right up there on the roof in plain view of the officers in a circling helicopter. All it would take was a ladder and a few cops willing to go up and take care of business. That’s what cops do, or at least they used to.

Yes, the police left, leaving the man to come down at his leisure and disappear, and the hell with the stolen truck and the damage and disruption to five separate businesses. That’s police work in 2021, not just in Los Angeles, but all across the country. “Could be dangerous,” goes the thinking, “we’d better not.”

And when the call to retreat came, the frustration among the cops must have been tempered with relief. They knew if they went up to the roof there was a good chance they would have to fight the suspect to get him into handcuffs, and this is of course frowned upon these days. If things didn’t go precisely by the book (and they never do), if they had injured the suspect in the fracas, they would have been endlessly second-guessed by that same captain and the deputy chief and everyone else in the chain of command, right up to the chief and the police commission, all of whom perform their duties in the comfort of their air-conditioned offices.

Perhaps you think I’m being unfair to the brass, but consider the recent woes of an LAPD officer who, after going in pursuit of a suspect who minutes earlier had tried to murder a fellow officer — in the lobby of the police station — was found to have used excessive force while arresting him. Did he shoot the suspect unnecessarily? Did he choke him? Did he beat him senseless with a baton? No, he hit the suspect with his fist and forearm. Keep in mind that the suspect had fled the police station after wrestling with a cop, taking his gun from him and trying to shoot him with it. He then exchanged gunfire with another cop before speeding off in his truck.

Officers were pursuing the man through the streets of San Pedro when he abruptly stopped and started to walk away from the truck. One can understand the desire among these officers that they not have their guns wrestled away as their colleague’s had been, but one of them, say LAPD chief Michel Moore and the police commission, was too vigorous in his application of the rough stuff and must be punished.

And there you have it, the current state of police work in America summed up in three Los Angeles incidents. When you just let the crooks get away, no one gets hurt, there’s none of that pesky paperwork to fill out, and there’s no uproar in the media. Everyone’s happy, right? Good luck, America.

Related: Even the Left Is Mad About Biden’s Anti-Crime Speech