The deep divide between the LAPD and Los Angeles’ immigrant community widened with Sunday’s shooting of an immigrant worker who was armed only with a knife and was likely too drunk to use it, at least that’s the way the immigrant community in the 6th Street and Union Street neighborhood seems to feel. The community apparently believes that LAPD Officers from Rampart bicycle team should have used different tactics in dealing with Manuel Jamines, a 37-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who “liked to drink, but was never violent,” according to the decedent’s cousin Juan Jamines. “I don’t know why police had to kill him.” Relatives of Jamines also said he was a hard-working day laborer who struggled with alcohol on the weekends.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the entire incident lasted only 40 seconds and did not give officers much time to asses the threat the man posed. Chief Beck’s apparent readiness to acknowledge that his offices acted so quickly in killing Manuel Jamines will remind Los Angelenos of the way Mayor Villariagosa and then Police Chief Bill Bratton threw LAPD under the bus following the MacArthur Park Riots in 2007. The City of Los Angeles has so far paid out over $16m in settling claims from rioters who pelted LAPD Officers with frozen bottles of water.
At a new conference today, Mayor Villaraigosa urged residents not to resort to violence. “We need to calm the waters,” he said. Whenever Villaraigosa opens his mouth, it seems that Los Angeles taxpayers better get ready to dig deeper into their pockets to finance the cash settlements that Villaraigosa doubtless hopes will “calm the waters.”
Since the 2007 MacArthur Park Riots, little effort has been made by Mayor Villaraigosa to improve conditions in this troubled area, sometimes called “Westlake,” and described by Chief Beck as “not an easy place to police,” in part because of its large immigrant population and widespread illegal vending.
You only need to drive through “Westlake” (with your windows rolled up and doors locked) to see how the area has continued to decline as a result of the Mayor’s neglect. Cleaning up “Westlake” is probably not a job the Mayor wants to tackle as it will inevitably cause friction between law enforcement and an immigrant community who consider a knife-wielding drunk to be “not violent” and who would prefer different tactics in dealing with such situations.
The Mayor’s “tactic” has been to ignore the problems of “Westlake,” because it inevitably brings cultural differences under the spotlight and will not endear Villaraigosa to the immigrant community he shamelessly panders to. But the problems of “Westlake” will not go away with the signing of another fat taxpayer check, and it is time that Los Angelenos demanded real action from Villaraigosa, not press conferences and platitudes.