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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Publisher’s Notebook

• Power, Sex and Violence •

BY ANNE SOBLE

If Malibuites aren’t more discerning, or at least more discreet, the talk of the town is beginning to sound more like seemingly improbable, if not moderately tawdry, episodes of a reality show exploiting the name of the community in a desperate bid for an uncritical audience that has no idea what Malibu is really like.
Ironically, the individual transferred to the Lost Hills Station by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in March 2010 to try to calm roiled waters related to the nearly year-long disappearance of a young woman who was last seen in the area is now in the middle of his own miasma involving the same concerns about power, sex and violence that might have been factors in that woman’s death.
In doing so, the LASD exhibited the subtlety of dropping a quarter-ton anvil from a rooftop as the new commander was viewed by many as a pleasant albeit less-than prepared administrative official who many feared was chosen as much for his ethnicity as his professional credentials. Even an African-American who might have otherwise lauded the promotion was heard to ask aloud whether “this wasn’t about his being a brother, but his being an Uncle Tom.”
The 30-year veteran with family ties to the sheriff’s department replaced a commander who was promoted despite the fact, or possibly because of the fact, his veracity was subject to challenge. That the new station captain would also soon be subject to the same challenges about accuracy and openness was cause for dismay by those in the community who want local law enforcement to be beyond reproach.
One of our first journalistic concerns was that this new official downplayed misogyny and racism aspects of a pornographic mural related to the missing woman. The Lost Hills captain did not perceive that the concept of hate crimes could be applied to women, especially women of color. 
Any organization as large as the LASD is going to reflect social concerns, including sexism, racism, domestic violence, promiscuity, substance abuse and other issues. No one expects law enforcement personnel to be paragons of virtue, but when individuals are given power in the form of badges and are armed with weapons, society has the right to expect greater levels of self-control and personal ethics.
Reason and fairness should be expected to prevail in this case if the matter stays in the court system. The greater likelihood is quiet settlements will be negotiated and the matters will fade away. Still, the rumor mills are churning. It now appears that there are new allegations involving the LASD’s favorite haunt for “professional” events—Las Vegas—as it seems that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
The LASD creed states that its core values are: “As a leader in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, I commit myself to honorably perform my duties with respect for the dignity of all people, integrity to do right and fight wrongs, wisdom to apply common sense and fairness in all I do and courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and bigotry in all its forms.”
Citizens have the right to expect that these values will dictate LASD behavior, and the men and women who sign on should be held accountable.

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