In Inglewood, many support police, condemn video

Saturday, July 13, 2002

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Two large TVs hang from the ceiling at Granny's House of Soul Food and this week customers have been paying as much attention to the screens as they have to Granny's BBQ meat loaf, smothered chicken and black-eyed peas.

They have been focused on the video -- the violent snippet of reality TV that shows a handcuffed black teenager being body-slammed by a white policeman onto the trunk of a car, then rocked by the officer's roundhouse punch.

Like many of his restaurant customers and neighbors, 39-year-old Christopher Randle, who is black, is struggling with what he has seen. He supports the city and the police department. A lot of officers, he said, are regulars. And after Sept. 11, people here are hesitant to criticize the police.

"I think the Inglewood Police Department is a fine department, I really do," said Randle, whose family owns Granny's. "But it has problems like any other department."

Since the video went into heavy rotation on CNN and other channels on Monday, Inglewood's image has been tainted along with the reputation of its police department.

The reality, residents say, is quite different.

Inglewood is not a racist city, they insist. Blacks make up 47 percent of the population, and both the mayor and police chief are black.

Police here do not have a history of using excessive force, according to federal, state and local officials who track such claims. The violence that has plagued the city has come from gangs, not cops, those officials said.

The incident happened last Saturday during an arrest at a gas station in this city on the edge of Los Angeles. Sixteen-year-old Donovan Jackson and his father were stopped because the car they were in had expired tags.

A bystander's videotape shows Inglewood Officer Jeremy Morse roughing up Jackson. Morse has a streak of blood next to his ear.

Morse's lawyer said that the officer showed restraint in his use of force. He said Morse struck the teenager after Jackson grabbed the policeman's crotch.

Hundreds of protesters demanded Friday that criminal charges be filed against Morse.

During the rally, the protesters chanted "No justice, no peace."

The bystander who taped the arrest, Mitchell Crooks, was taken Friday to Placer County in northern California to begin serving a seven-month sentence for driving under the influence, petty theft and hit-and-run, said sheriff's Capt. Rick Armstrong.

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