The South African Emblem

South Bureau Homicide, Crenshaw Mall, Crenshaw and MLK Jr. Blvd.,
Los Angeles, California.
- Tuesday, August 8, 1989

LAPD Investigates Placing of South Africa Badge on Police Car

By ANDREA FORD, Times Staff Writer|August 12, 1989

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.

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