From his office in Washington, D.C., Diop Kamau has a crystal-clear view of Hollywood -- if not the city itself, at least police department. That's because he's executive director of the Police Complaint Center, and he's been hearing the worst about Hollywood cops for the past decade.
Yesterday, Kamau (pronounced kuh-MOWH) caught wind of the department's most recent humiliation: a spontaneously hatched conspiracy to cover up a fellow cop's driving negligence in rear-ending a driver who was stopped at a green light. Today Kamau called to offer some expert analysis:
"I don't look at this as simply a case of police corruption or bad behavior," he said. "I think there's an imbalance within Hollywood Police Department, where the police union has more clout and power than police administrators who are charged with supervising officer conduct. That's been the essential problem with Hollywood PD for years."
Here at New Times, the names of the writers change, but the stories about Hollywood Police never do. In a Pulp post this morning, Bob Norman offers a compendium of our coverage. Among the articles, check out this 2004 story by Wyatt Olson to get the full flavor of Hollywood's police union.
Kamau, whose center sifts through 1,500 calls per month of police misconduct nationwide, says that the "consistent pattern" in Hollywood could occur only if cops in that city trusted their union to bail them out of any blunder that gets them in trouble with the department brass. "The officers know that equation exists, and they continually exploit it," says Kamau.
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The techniques employed by the Hollywood cops in the case are so common, adds Kamau, that they have places in the dirty cop vocabulary: "Creative report-writing" is the term used by gentleman cops, and for the saltier among them, it's simply called "pencil-fucking" -- doctoring a report to strengthen the case against a suspect.
Because of the pending investigation of the officers, the department itself can't comment, but before they do, Kamau warns South Floridians not to accept the "bad apples" argument that tends to come in the aftermath of scandals like these. Because while that may be persuasive for a department with an otherwise unblemished record, it doesn't wash with Hollywood's unsavory history.
"For police departments to claim 'It's a few bad apples' -- is it still a few bad apples when you have the same bad apple popping up so many times in the same agency? I say 'No.'"
Charges against the civilian driver in the incident have been dropped, and the county's Public Defender's Office is reviewing other cases involving these Hollywood cops.