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Los Angeles riots: Connie Rice discussed LAPD during Times live chat

April 28, 2012 |  6:00 am

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice said there was "a rough and hostile relationship" between many Los Angeles residents and the LAPD at the time of the riots 20 years ago.

Take Rice, for example.

"I was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, waking up every day, trying to figure out a new way to sue LAPD," she recalled Friday during a chat streamed live on latimes.com.  "We were in full-fledged war."

Twenty years later, Rice, now co-director of the Advancement Project, says: "We’re in a place I never thought we would be."

In The Times' second live discussion Friday afternoon, Rice and Matt Lait, the paper's courts and police editor, continued discussions about LAPD reform after the riots.

Lait said the department is now more diverse, Rice added that police leadership has "changed its thinking" and both agreed that the LAPD is more progressive than some other departments in the state.

"There’s a lot of discussion about the LAPD and how it was and wasn't," Lait said. "But the fact is, it actually has civilian oversight and control. And many of the agencies throughout L.A. County and throughout the state really don’t have that."

Added Rice: "When I look at Oakland, we’re light years ahead." 

But she cautioned that if crime rates go up, the city could see a return to "old policing." On the other hand, if the department continues with its more progressive leadership and policies, she predicted that serious change could take hold within another decade.  

"We need about another 10 years of work in LAPD before we structure it in a way where all cops have those options to be community problem-solvers rather than folks who just lock people up," Rice said.

"We’re getting there," she said. "We really are."


Photos from the Los Angeles riots

Reader stories from the L.A. riots

LAPD officer reflects on L.A. riots during Times live discussion

-- Matt Stevens