Daniel Felix, an Afro Latino living in Boyle Heights, said his community tends to be ignored by the police. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

By Chava Sánchez and Robert Garrova

Originally Published on June 3, 2020

On Tuesday, as we were headed into another night of protests in L.A. against police brutality and racism, we drove across L.A., asking several different communities about their relationship with the police.

On the sidewalk in Boyle Heights, Daniel Félix, who’s Afro Latino, said the only time he’s seen a quick response from police was when they were called on him.

“What I’ve noticed is they come to the aid of White people in their White neighborhoods,” Félix said.

He said he was recently in Whittier around midnight, and had gone out to take some food to a friend. A neighbor thought he looked suspicious and called the police on him. Félix said the cops were there within five minutes.

When someone needs the police in Boyle Heights, “you either have to wait more than an hour [or] you have to call a second, third time,” he said.

When the police do show up, Félix said they don’t seem overly interested. Their response is often, “‘just file a report and everything will be fine,'” he said.

“It’s something that shouldn’t be that way, but it’s what we live with and what we experience every single day,” Félix said.

Signs in support of Black Lives Matter in the windows of a house near Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. (Chava Sánchez/LAist)

Hanging out with some friends at Mariachi Plaza, a young woman who identified herself as Temper (she didn’t want to give her last name) said she remembers when police shot and killed 14-year-old Jesse James Romero in Boyle Heights.

“That kind of thing happens a lot around here,” Temper said. “It happens more than you think, with a lot of different people.”

We found Audrey W. taking it easy on the grass at Echo Park Lake. She was only comfortable giving the first initial of her last name.

Audrey said there needs to be a complete “reevaluation” of the training that police officers undergo. She was quick — as are so many across the country right now — to proclaim her anger and frustration with police.

A flyer on a light post depicts the death of George Floyd withe the words “Murder by Racism” over it. (Chava Sánchez/LAist)

“I mean, obviously f*** the cops,” Audrey said. “But there is a deeper way we need to go about this besides just f*** the police. We have to treat them like everyday people, but also to inspire and to teach.”

At an art space in Leimert Park, artist Aziz Diagme said his current work carries “a message of hope, peace.”

He said, “actually, in this block, policing is good. I know it’s not the same outside here.”

Diagme said he’s a proponent of community policing, which involves police forming relationships with the people they protect. “They have a program [where] the same cop who’s here, you see them every day,” he said.

Aziz Diagme (L) and Roscoe Lee Owens (R) in Leimert Park. (Chava Sánchez/ LAist)

Roscoe Lee Owens, 75, had dropped in to see Diagme. He agreed with him that community policing presents one way forward, so that people don’t have to walk in fear.

“Especially mothers and fathers,” Owens said. When his son tells him he’s going out, “I’m praying he comes back.”

As for the protests across the nation, Owens said the situation is overdue. He paraphrased something he said he heard from Joe Biden earlier that day, about things not changing in one presidency, but in a generation.

“Your generation,” Owens said. “Mine is done.”

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2020 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.


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