cover image Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing

Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing

Joe Domanick. Simon & Schuster, $28 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4107-3

Racial conflict, urban violence, and big-city politics tangle in this intricate, incisive study of reform in the Los Angeles Police Department. Investigative journalist Domanick (Cruel Justice: Three Strikes and the Politics of Crime in America's Golden State) starts with a lengthy account of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sparked by anger in black and Latino neighborhoods over the beating of Rodney King and the police brutality it symbolized. He follows two decades of efforts to reform the LAPD's harsh, racially biased, militarized policing style while coping with gang crime in minority communities. This task was impeded by obstructionist brass and the Rampart scandal, which revealed that officers routinely beat and shot unarmed suspects, concocted false arrests, and resold stolen drugs. Domanick recounts this sprawling, complex story well, showing events through the eyes of a varied cast of police officials, street cops, civil rights leaders, and "gang interventionists" whom he credits with helping lower the temperature and body counts of gang wars. The book's central figure is police chief William Bratton, who reenergized stalled reform initiatives while lowering crime rates. Multifaceted, even-handed, sharp-eyed, and plainspoken, this gripping narrative is one of the best investigations yet of the explosive issue of police relations with minority communities. (Aug.)