No free clout
If anyone famous is reading this: please, no more soft PR for the police
Hey everyone! Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all of you 💙
I’m also thankful for the outstanding crank cop car submissions I got from a few readers—two whoppers from upstate New York and one from sunny Watertown, Massachusetts.
Here’s the “Cuomo hearse,” which is randomly really topical:
Sorry to report that we’re all going to have to do our Christmas shopping somewhere else, because “CapitalGunCals.com” is no longer an active website.
This car, which comes with everything but the Q:
It’s very powerful to see someone stand up for their belief that a gun can also be a letter.
And finally the “racist graphic design is my passion”-mobile:
Two words: Microsoft PowerPoint.
Speaking of free advertising, this week I want to talk about—what else?—a tweet!(Brought to my attention by my beautiful friend Jess.) A tweet wherein someone pretty famous and super rich does a little pro bono PR work for the police in Los Angeles. The stars: They’re not like us at all!
Behold: Kristen Bell of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Good Place in a terrible place… the Lancaster, California branch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The LASD is best known outside of Los Angeles for harboring active, festering “sheriff’s gangs”—at least 18 organizations composed exclusively of LASD deputies with a history of vile, deadly, racist violence that spans more than fifty years. The LASD gangs first appeared on my radar when a whistleblower tied the June 2020 police murder of 18-year-old Andrés Guardado to an LASD deputy’s desire to join the Compton-based, Nazi tattoo-having Executioners. There’s extensive documentation and lots of excellent reporting on these gangs—the 15-part Knock LA investigation by Cerise Castle is a masterclass—which means that we actually know a lot about how and where these entities operate. We know they get matching tattoos up initiation; harass and intimidate unaffiliated peers; break the law and hurt people to show their fealty to each other; and murder Black and brown men with impunity, because it isn’t murder because cops are doing the killing.
The Lancaster station, the one Bell’s posing in front of, is apparently home to some members of one of the lesser-known LASD gangs, a group that calls themselves the Rattlesnakes. Here’s a description of the gang from the LAist:
Rattlesnakes - Palmdale and Lancaster Stations. Tattoo is of a skull and a snake. The U.S. Department of Justice in 2013 issued a report finding that deputies "engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory and otherwise unlawful searches and seizures... against African Americans" and that "Some Antelope Valley deputies wear tattoos or share paraphernalia with an intimidating skull and snake symbol as a mark of their affiliation with the Antelope Valley stations."
Per the final piece in Castle’s Knock LA investigation, we know less about the Rattlesnakes than many of the other LASD gangs because LASD gang activity in places like Lancaster is new. And why is LASD gang activity new? Here’s Castle’s explanation, which I obviously buy:
As historically Black and Latinx communities are gentrified and re-developed in the Eastern and Southern parts of Los Angeles County, the families that once called them home are increasingly moving to the Antelope Valley. Data from the Census Bureau states that between 1990 and 2010, the proportion of whites in the total population of Lancaster decreased from 79% of the population to 49.6%. During that time, the proportion of Black people almost tripled, increasing from 7.4% of the population to 20.5%. The Latinx/Hispanic population more than doubled from 15% to 38% of the population. Deputy gangs have also cropped up in the region as the population diversifies. “The cancer has metastasized out to Palmdale and Lancaster,” says John Sweeney, a civil rights attorney who uncovered the Executioners deputy gang. “Wherever you are gonna find [Black people], you’re going to find Sheriff Deputies who are heavy handed and who violate the civil rights of citizens.”
What do you think of that, Kristen?
Of course, Bell hasn’t publicly commented on the photos or the “leftist backlash” to them (as in, a few mean tweets suggesting the actor do a quick Google search for “LASD gangs” to dredge up any of the info above) and I doubt she’s going to. Coverage from the Daily Mail and RadarOnline framed Bell’s appearance in these photos as especially scandalous because of a few things she said and did in the wake of George Floyd’s murder—things that, per these publications, make her a “BLM supporter” or “advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement.”
But the truth is, Bell isn’t betraying some deep history of activism by posing with cops. The two huge moves Bell has made in defense of Black lives are dropping a voiceover gig where she played a Black character (hero alert!) and appearing in that psychotic NAACP video where she—alongside Aaron Paul, Ke$ha, and the more famous Duplass brother—“took responsibility” for racism.
Making all of the vague, mandatory gestures in the summer of 2020 does not an advocate, activist, or a person with a beating heart and a conscience make.
Blocked and Reported
Here’s the latest in cops felled in the line of duty by their own insatiable need to post.
On September 24 in Honolulu, Hawaii, cop Chester Desiderio “received an unspecified administrative action” after getting in a fight with a state politician/vocal critic of police violence in the comments of a Facebook post. Desiderio accused the politician, former state Sen. Will Espero, of being “at a certain massage parlor and when HPD came to raid the place [the politician] went exit in the back to escape,” an accusation Espero described to Honolulu Civil Beat as “the dumbest, stupidest thing.”
On October 22 in San Jose, California, non-sworn SJPD employee Dennis Shevchenko was fired for posting on an unnamed “far-right extremist website” and… bringing guns and knives to work.
On October 27, an audit found that the Milwaukee Police Department violated the city’s social media policy when it spread misinformation about protesters throwing Molotov cocktails in June 2020. Lord, I see what you’ve done for others…
On November 5, retired union dick Ed Mullins of the NYPD was fined 70 vacation days, the equivalent of $32,000, for his nasty, nasty tweets. Outcome of the ongoing federal investigation into his activity still pending.
On November 10 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Rafael Roca was fired from the Holyoke Police Department after he posted a YouTube video about corruption in the department. Shocker? No. Per statements he gave to MassLive, it doesn’t even sound like he was surprised.
On November 16, Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara pulled a Mullins and announced his retirement riiiiight after day one of a Chicago Police Board disciplinary hearing concerning his prolific online activity. Per a Daily Beast report: “In a 2016 Facebook post, Catanzara posted a link to an article about a police officer’s shooting, and wrote, ‘WTF it is seriously time to kill these motherfuckers.’ In a post disparaging Muslims in January 2017, Cantanzara referred to a video of a woman being stoned and wrote, ‘Savages they all deserve a bullet.’ Catanzara also shared a transphobic meme on Facebook in 2019 that featured a person cowered over and read, ‘When you get shot in the groin by a rubber bullet and your made-up gender doesn’t protect your willie.’” I’m sure he’ll be missed.
Questions, comments, corrections? (“You don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer” is not a correction.) Shoot me an email at email@example.com, send “business” “inquiries” to firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM me on Twitter.