When I was working as a Police Officer assigned to the South Bureau Community Resources Against Street Gangs with my partner, we observed this plain dual purpose detective vehicle with a South African emblem. We went staight to the media because if we didn't, the car would be moved and no one would believe what we witnessed. The emblem can be seen on the front grill of the vehicle. Scroll to read the Los Angeles Times article and the apology by then Chief Daryl Gates.
Photo taken at Los Angeles Police Department, South Bureau Homicide lower Crenshaw Mall Parking Structure
LAPD Investigates Placing of South Africa Badge on Police Car
By ANDREA FORD-TIMES STAFF WRITER
AUG. 12, 1989 12 AM PT
The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating why an emblem representing the South African flag and the words “South Africa” was placed back on the grill of an unmarked city-owned police car after the badge had been ordered removed last week.
Lt. Doug Collison, commanding officer of the South Bureau homicide section, where the car is assigned, confirmed Friday that the investigation is under way. “I’m disturbed by the whole incident and consider it a very, very serious matter,” Collison said, adding that “This is not what we’re about.”
Several black officers, however, contend that the emblem controversy is symptomatic of a wider problem: Police supervisors who, through their silence, have tolerated what the black officers describe as an openly racist clique of white policemen who work in the South Bureau, which patrols predominantly black neighborhoods.
The black officers, who spoke on condition that they not be identified for fear that they would be “isolated and ostracized,” said they were deeply offended by what they interpreted as an endorsement of the South African government’s policy of racial separation, or apartheid. Some of the officers also contend they had seen white officers wearing swastika rings while on duty, but that could not be confirmed.
One officer said mounting the South Africa badge on the vehicle was “tantamount to driving around in a Jewish neighborhood with a swastika on the car.” He added that Jewish people “wouldn’t tolerate that and we shouldn’t either.”
The car is used by homicide detectives in the course of their investigations.
The officer said that Mayor Tom Bradley and black City Council members should “do something” about what he described as racist activities by “a great many” members of the Police Department. Bradley’s office said he was unavailable for comment. Also unavailable were City Councilmen Nate Holden, Robert Farrell and Gilbert Lindsay, the council’s black members.
The black officers said they have not taken their complaints to police officials because similar complaints in the past have brought no action.
Cmdr. William Booth, the LAPD’s chief press officer, said Friday that if the officers know of such incidents, “it is their duty” to bring them to the attention of police officials or the department’s Internal Affairs Division. No such complaints have been lodged, he said.
“Personally, I don’t think a flag of South Africa provokes the same kind of revulsion around the world as a swastika,” Booth said of the car emblem. “Nevertheless, it does show a lack of sensitivity, especially in a community where you know the sensitivity is there.”
Booth confirmed the black officers’ assertion that the emblem was removed from a police car Aug. 3 during a dedication ceremony for a suite of South Bureau homicide offices and a police substation inside the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall. High-ranking police and city officials attended the dedication. Booth said police supervisors had noticed the emblem and ordered it removed.
Later, Booth said, someone “very unwisely and very dumb” put the badge back on the car, in violation of LAPD rules against “decorating” city property without the approval of the City Council.
A Times reporter and a photographer saw the badge on a late-model brown Chevrolet Caprice on Thursday while it was parked in a “Police Only” spot in a public parking lot at the mall. The car was still there but the badge was gone 90 minutes later when a television crew arrived to film it, a member of the crew later said.
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