The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

2023 in Los Angeles:
Three Police Murders in Two Days

Jan 23, 2023

In Los Angeles in early January, the police killed three men in two days. On January 2, the cops shot and killed 45-year-old Takar Smith. Cops had been called by Smith’s wife during a domestic dispute. Smith’s wife had told the police dispatcher that Smith was schizophrenic and was acting erratically because he was off his meds. "He’s acting crazy and he’s supposed to take medication because he has like a mental illness," Smith’s wife said. But cops shot Smith anyway after they surrounded him and he picked up a knife.

On the following day, January 3, L.A. cops shot and killed 35-year-old Oscar Sanchez in South L.A. after he had been throwing objects at passing cars, according to the official LAPD account. On that same day, the cops also killed Keenan Anderson, after they said he tried to run away following a minor traffic accident. Body camera footage released by the LAPD showed that Anderson, a 31-year-old high school teacher and father, was begging for help as several police held him down. At one point Anderson said, "They’re trying to George Floyd me." One cop had his elbow on Anderson’s neck while he was lying down before another cop Tasered Anderson for roughly 30 seconds straight before pausing and Tasering him again for five more seconds. Four hours later, Anderson was declared dead in a hospital after he suffered cardiac arrest. Because Anderson was the cousin of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, his death at the hands of the police received widespread coverage by the news media.

In all three cases, the LAPD carried out cold-blooded executions. To try to quell rising public outrage, L.A. Chief of Police Michel Moore took the unusual step of holding a press conference in order to publicly criticize his own cops, admitting that the cops probably should have called for county social workers trained in de-escalating standoffs, especially for people thought to be suffering mental trauma.

But these killings were not the result of so-called “mistakes” by a few police officers or dispatchers, as Moore tried to make it seem. L.A. cops are trained to be aggressive and impose their authority in poor and working-class communities. Those cops with the highest numbers of arrests, traffic stops and custodial stops are rewarded with the most prestigious assignments, or else they get a better shift and an easier assignment. In other words, the policy of the LAPD, like police forces in big cities around the country, is to act like an occupying army in working class neighborhoods.

Regular, systematic police violence is one part of a class war carried out in the interests of the capitalist class, in order to protect the profits and privileges of the capitalist class, as they degrade and destroy the living standards of the vast majority of the population.