Bill Watkins 9/17/2019
According to the LAPD website, a NASA study found that “The citizens of Los Angeles accept helicopter patrols as a necessary part of the City’s police system and strongly favor their continuation.” There are two major problems with that statement. First, the referenced study took place almost fifty years ago, so could not possibly be considered current. Second, the quote is misleading and inaccurate, extracted from a report on test results from a small sample of citizens in only two geographic areas of Los Angeles.
The actual quote from the last page of the 1970 NASA report is: “The residents of the test areas accept the helicopter patrols as a necessary part of the police system and strongly favor the continuation of the patrols.” The test areas used were the West Valley Division and University Division, the first centered in Reseda, the second called Southwest Division today, centered near USC. The study was narrowed to track the effectiveness of LAPD’s fleet of four helicopters in the late 1960’s at reducing and controlling crime. Quality of life, integrity, ethics and honor were not a part of the study, as would be needed today to test LAPD Air Support Division’s effectiveness in carrying out the department’s stated mission:
It is the mission of the Los Angeles Police Department to safeguard the lives and property of the people we serve, to reduce the incidence and fear of crime, and to enhance public safety while working with the diverse communities to improve their quality of life. Our mandate is to do so with honor and integrity, while at all times conducting ourselves with the highest ethical standards to maintain public confidence.
Several years ago, LAPD stopped pursuing complaints by the public regarding “low-flying airships,” putting in question their commitment to “working with the diverse communities to improve their quality of life.” In the highly dated NASA report on LAPD helicopter use, the word “noise” appears several times—first on page twenty-six, in the public opinion section: “The most undesirable feature of the helicopters, to residents, appears to be noise.” Noise is mentioned twice on page twenty-eight, as well, but is left out of LAPD’s History of the Air Support Division webpage.
Perhaps it’s time for a new survey. One that takes in not just crime-stopping, but quality of life issues like disturbing the peace. What price are L.A. residents willing to pay to go after suspects? Is putting a spotlight over a property thief worth the noise? Is it worth the cost of fuel? Could this city be not just safe against crime, but peaceful? How can these warlike tools, first brought in to assist traffic safety in 1956, ever be a part of a long-term vision for peace?
Today LAPD Air Support boasts a war chest of twenty choppers, up sixteen from the last time NASA checked into their effectiveness and popularity with residents. LAPD has misrepresented a fifty-year old NASA report on their website, and they have disallowed formal complaints by L.A. citizens against their noise. Some day, citizens who love peace must stand up and circle around this perpetual war perpetrated by LAPD and other paramilitary forces across this land, demand silence in the name of nature and its native inhabitants, whose land we violently stole.
One LAPD pilot called their choppers a “force multiplier” in a recent phone conversation. A sad concept for a devolved, hard place. Is this what we want, Los Angeles? A constant war? I do not, and plan to move out of country soon, but while here, I will offer my pen as a hopeful peace multiplier. Let’s rise above a war begun in 1492 against nature. I ask Native America back. Please help us, and excuse our pollution.