By the dawn of the 80s, punk rock was dead and a leaner, more muscular sound known as hardcore had commandeered the underground. On the West Coast, hardcore pioneers like Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Social Distortion and The Minutemen unleashed rage-fueled anthems that bypassed the cheek of punk and went straight for the jugular.

Chronicling every show, rumor and police raid was We Got Power, a fanzine founded by a pair of first generation hardcore freaks and best friends, Dave Markey and Jordan Schwartz. The epitome of DIY publishing, We Got Power seethed with unchecked passion, snark and attitude, and three decades later, their humble periodical now stands as one of the most vivid and enduring documents of Los Angeles in the Reagan era.

Start with Part One in which Lydia and I attend a police briefing, respond to an unfortunate situation at Burger King, roll a code 3, and embark on one of the most thrilling nights of our lives.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The Wood = Inglewood

Bump ‘Em Up = Scare someone a little

Break Leather = Pull your gun from your holster

Roll a Code 3 = Turn on the sirens & respond to a call

Lay a Dime = Make a call

Lapdogs = LAPD

Policecarbluelightsweb

Friday, April 28, 2006

10:25PM We leave the station through the back so we don’t walk past Lee and his friends again. I don’t ask Sarge about the SIM card. There is this part of me that doesn’t want to know. Lydia texts that they’re with the K-9 unit. I’m jealous. We’re heading out to a collision. When we get there I see two cars in the road. They’re both totaled. Paramedics are lifting someone onto a stretcher and there’s glass all over the road. It’s strange to watch people’s lives change like this, to know that wherever they were headed for the evening, it isn’t a destination they’re likely to make.

We stand around in the street with some other cops for a while. I try to look cool but it’s hard. I feel like a dork in my zip-up hoodie and sneakers. They’re all talking about the LAPD. Apparently, we’re on the border of LapDog territory. It’s kind of reminiscent of high school sports team talk. Neither seems to be much better than the other but there’s obvious competition and rivalry. None of these guys seem to envy the LAPD. They’re proud to be officers from the Wood.

11:15PM Back in the cruiser I glance at my phone. Wow, time’s up in 45 minutes. I’m disappointed. It’s been hours since we arrested Lee Anthony and I was really hoping for at least one more Code 3 tonight. We’re heading back toward the station. I text Lydia: Can u believe we’re almost done? Just as I hit send on the message Sarge responds to a radio call. Replacing the handset, he flicks on the rooftop flashers. Oh shit, your girlfriend’s in a pursuit, he says with a grin.

We’re off. We’re flying down Centinela and I fucking love it. The siren’s going, Sarge is doing that thing with the spotlight again, and I’m holding on tight.

Before I know it we come up on Lydia’s cruiser. They’ve got their lights and sirens on and they’re tailing an old beat-up Toyota that’s only going about 30 miles an hour. Sarge radios in that we’ve joined the pursuit. A pursuit! We’re in a pursuit! We’ll be secondary car, Sarge says to the operator. Fuck yeah, I think, secondary car!

Pursuit

Lydia’s cruiser stays right behind the suspect and Sarge and I are a bit off to the right. I can see Lydia’s blond hair in the back seat. We’re driving South on Crenshaw. I can’t believe we’re going so slow. I ask Sarge what he thinks is going on with the driver. Probably drunk, he says.

Two more cruisers fall in behind us. Now there’s four of us going down Crenshaw. We’ve all got our lights and sirens going and civilians are pulling over left and right. Sarge is screaming into the radio, manning the wheel with one hand. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited in my whole life.

The suspect drives straight through two red lights before meeting up with traffic, two cars deep, stopped at an intersection. Sarge’s seatbelt is off and he’s got one hand on his holster. The suspect rolls to a stop and Sarge has got his door open. He’s half-way out, screaming at Lydia’s car. He’s saying something about a bean bag, he’s breaking leather!

And then the light changes. The cars in front of the suspect start driving and so does he. Sarge slams the door and we’re off again.

I ask him what the bean bag thing was all about. It’s a gun, he explains, that shoots bean bag pellets. I ask him why we can’t just drive in front of the suspect and cut him off. You never do that, he tells me. You never know what’s going on with the suspect.

Three more cruisers have joined the pursuit. There’s seven of us going down Crenshaw. One of the officers is leaning out his window taking a picture of all of us with his cell phone camera. This is definitely the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.

We come up on another intersection and the suspect stops again. Just as all the officers are half-way out of the cruisers the light changes and we’re off again. I see Lydia look back our way and I wave at her. Sarge laughs at me and I realize I’m acting like a ten-year-old boy.

I turn my attention back to the suspect. I can’t believe he’s not stopping. What the fuck is he doing? There are seven, no eight cruisers behind him now. And shit, there’s a helicopter too! Is it a police helicopter? Maybe it’s the news. Maybe Lydia and I will be on the news! Should I call someone and tell them to turn on the television? My thoughts are racing a million miles faster than we’re driving.

Helicopter

The next light is red but the suspect turns right this time, down a darkened neighborhood street. The parade of cruisers is right behind him. He turns left at the next intersection. Maybe he’s going to his house? No wait, he’s stopping. He’s trying to pull a U-turn! No way! Where’s he gonna go? The road behind us is filled with cruisers! Sarge pulls up right behind him. The suspect tries to reverse to complete the U but Sarge drives right up on him, ramming his trunk with our front bumper.

Holy shit! We just hit the suspect!

I see the driver look up. He looks surprised. Then everything happens really fast. All the officers, including Sarge are out of their cars. They’ve got their guns pulled and they’re running at the Toyota. Someone pulls open the door. Someone else tries to shoot him with a tazer but I see it bounce off the door. Just before they pull him out of the car and onto the ground I get a good look at his face. He’s African-American, early forties. He just looks totally surprised. I realize that I probably have a similar expression on my face.

Beanbag_him

It doesn’t take them long to secure the suspect, to handcuff and put him in the back of a squad car. We spend the next half hour, all of us, out in the street talking excitedly and recounting the pursuit. Man, you girls got to see some action tonight! We hear this over and over and we nod enthusiastically. Right now, in this moment, Lydia and I want to be cops. I’m ready. Give me a fucking cruiser.

By the time we get back to the station it’s almost 1AM. We’re all still pumped up and stand around outside for a minute. Sarge and Lydia’s officers are making jokes about who’s going to write up all the paper work for the pursuit. They’re grinning and we’re grinning and suddenly I realize that it’s over. I want to hug Sarge but I see Lydia shake hands with her officers and I chicken out. We shake on it and I meet his eye. I know I’m not the only one who had a good time tonight.

The second Lydia and I close the doors to my car we’re babbling. We trade stories the whole way to the late-night Mexican place on Rose where I order a Tecate and a margarita. If there was ever a night to double-fist. My high lasts through the weekend.

My friends ask me if I would ever be a cop. Totally. I had no idea. I went into this really expecting to find a lot of racist, arrogant, ignorant, burnt-out, egotistical officers. I didn’t meet one. Instead I met a lot of people who sincerey like what they do, who like each other, who seem to genuinely care about the community, and who, once given the taste of the force, of the thrill, never want to go back.

And I have to admit, it’s been hard to go back to being a civilian again. I walked by the police station this morning on my way into the office and saw a couple of officers standing around outside. I walked by kind of slow, hoping they’d recognize me and call me over, that maybe I’d get to lean up against a squad car in my pencil skirt and high-heels and shoot the shit for a while. They didn’t notice me though.

Just now I heard a siren outside my window and couldn’t help but hop up from my desk to look out the window as a cruiser sped by. Oh shit, they’re rollin’ a Code 3.

Read Part One in which Lydia and I attend a police briefing, respond to an unfortunate situation at Burger King, roll a code 3, and embark on one of the most thrilling nights of our lives.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The Wood = Inglewood

Bump ‘Em Up = Scare someone a little

Break Leather = Pull your gun from your holster

Roll a Code 3 = Turn on the sirens & respond to a call

Lay a Dime = Make a call

Lapdogs = LAPD

IA = Internal Affairs

Gun_holster_3

Friday, April 28, 2006
8:14PM:
Sarge veers the cruiser to left again, into a subdivision of little apartment buildings. I’m looking out the window at some spectators standing on the sidewalk when I realize we’re about to come head to head with a red Bronco. There’s a young black man behind the wheel and no one else in the car. He attempts to drive around us but Sarge keeps the cruiser pointed straight at him and pushes down on the gas. There’s a police car behind the suspect and another one off to our right. The driver of the Bronco seems to realize this at about the same time I do and he slams on his brakes inches away from our bumper.

Sarge shines the spotlight right into the windshield of the Bronco, opens his door, pulls out his gun, and screams, Put your hands where I can see ‘em! Sarge is crouched behind his open door, holding the gun between his two hands, aiming it right at this guy’s head. I look back at the suspect. He’s terrified. My heart is pounding and I can feel a lump form in my throat. He’s just a kid, I realize. Whoever else had been in the street is gone and this kid is all by himself, facing off with a bunch of cops. He’s pushing his hands dramatically at the windshield before him. His palms are luminescent in the spotlight.

Suddenly my door is flung open and a female cop is crouching next to me. She’s got a shotgun in her hands. Put your hands in the fucking air, she screams. The suspect waves his hands at the windshield again. She cocks the shotgun with a loud double crack. Holy shit, I think, sliding down in my seat. I’m directly across from this kid but because of the spotlight he can’t see me. I’ll let you know if I’m going to shoot, she says to me. Cover your ears because it’ll be really fucking loud.

Sarge screams instructions for the suspect to climb slowly out of the car with his hands in the air. I’m all the way down in my seat now, my head just barely above the dashboard. I’m really scared. I don’t think the kid is going to start shooting but if he does I’m going to be directly in the middle of a gun battle. I watch him reach down slowly with one hand to open the door to the Bronco. Sarge and the female cop are absolutely rigid, like hunting dogs when they point. The second the kid’s two feet are on the ground a young Latino cop is on him, pulling his hands behind his back.

Sarge runs over while the other officer handcuffs him. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and crane my neck up from my slouched position.

While Sarge talks to the suspect the Latino officer comes over and sits in the car with me so that he can run the kid’s info. I see his name come up on the screen: Lee Anthony, age 22. (*Name has been changed.) I can’t really hear what Sarge is saying to Lee but I make out the sentence, You’re lucky I’m old-school.

Then Sarge brings Lee over to our cruiser and leans him up against the hood.

Lee is facing me, just feet away, but because of the spotlight in his eyes he can’t see me. He doesn’t look that scared anymore. His big puffy jacket has fallen off his shoulders and is bunched up around his wrists and he’s wearing a couple of long, gold chains with, what I’m assuming are fake, diamond-encrusted emblems. Suddenly the Latino officer flicks off the spotlight. Thing’s driving me crazy, he says.

Now Lee and I are looking directly at each other. Sup, he says, nodding at me. Hi, I say back, feeling self-conscious. The Latino officer takes one look at this exchange and immediately flicks the light back on, causing Lee to squint in pain. I’m somewhat relieved. Sarge sits down in the driver’s seat next to me. Doin’ okay? I nod at him and muster a smile. I ask him what’s going to happen to Lee. Eh, we’ll just bump him up a little. I ask Sarge what that means. He chuckles and explains that it’s gang slang for scare him a little.

8:52PM: Turns out that Lee doesn’t have a license, just an ID, so they’re going to take him into the station. As Sarge starts up our cruiser I watch two officers lead Lee away to their squad car. I feel sorry for him. It’s Friday night. He didn’t really seem to be doing anything wrong and now he’s got to spend the evening dealing with this. His car’s going to get impounded. He’s going to have to call a parent or his friends to come help him out. I don’t envy him. We’re in such opposite places, me and Lee.

Police_lights

9:20PM: After all the excitement with Lee Anthony everything else feels pretty subdued. Sarge seems to come down easily from it all but I’m still buzzing, waiting for the next time we need to roll a code 3—slang for putting on the siren and following up on a lead. I ask Sarge if it’s weird to drive a regular car when he’s not on duty. It is, he says. His wife yells at him a lot: This is not a pursuit. Sarge has always liked to drive fast. I remember that just before we got in the cruiser at the start of the evening he walked over to a maroon-colored Porsche. I ask him if that was his car. Yup, isn’t it a beaut? It was pretty cool, I admit.

Inglewood is starting to seem pretty small. There’s Louisiana Fried Chicken again. And now we’re passing my office for the fourth or fifth time tonight. I’m almost feeling bored but I just keep listening to Sarge talk about life on the force. He says when you’re on patrol you never use the term quiet. It’s bad luck. The second you say it all hell breaks loose. I’m tempted to say it. I wish we could go to more calls. I keep seeing them up on the screen but I know it’s Sarge’s job to kind of monitor the overall evening and not get caught up in little disturbances. He tells me some of the cop slang. My favorite is breaking leather, used when you pull your weapon from its holster.

Lydia sends me texts now and then. Later she’ll tell me about how her two officers walked her out of the station after the briefing without saying a word. She was feeling kind of nervous until they got in the cruiser and the female turned around, looked her in the eye and said, Okay. The most important thing you have to figure out first is…And it was here that Lydia was sure she was doomed to an evening of boring cop instruction but instead the officer continued, …where we’re gonna eat. Lydia just texted that they got barbeque. I have this fantasy of me and Sarge going to some kind of diner together. I’ll get to sit across from him in his uniform with the three stripes on the sleeve and that big gun strapped around his waist and the other customers will look at us and wonder what’s going on. We’ll eat something old school like steak and eggs and I’ll put a lot of Tabasco on everything and Sarge will grin at me and nod approvingly.

Up ahead there’s a Jetta with a couple in the front seat just sitting at a green light. We come up behind them and they slowly pull out into the intersection. Tourists, Sarge mutters. We follow them for about a hundred feet and they finally pull into a deserted parking lot on our right. Sarge pulls in behind them and gets out of the car. Within moments he’s standing beside the driver’s side window gesturing and obviously giving directions. I send Lydia a text: We just pulled over some lost tourists. What are u doing? She writes back: Starbucks.

I watch the tourists pull out of the parking lot and drive off in the direction from which we came. Sarge is on his cell phone again. When he gets back in the car he doesn’t say anything, just gets on the computer and sends out some kind of IM message to all the officers: Call my cell ASAP. Within seconds Danger Zone breaks the silence in the cruiser. I stare out the window at a flickering street light. Sarge is clearly upset about something and I don’t want to get in the way.

Okay, Sarge is saying into the phone, where’s the SIM card? Mike at the station called and Lee Anthony’s down there with a couple of friends and he’s claiming that the SIM card is missing from his cell phone…No, I don’t know…I don’t want to know…I just want that card to magically appear at the station so that this shit doesn’t go to IA.

He snaps his phone shut and lets out a deep sigh.

This is the kind of shit I was telling you about, he says to me. Sometimes this line of work goes to people’s heads. They do stupid things and we all have to pay for it. Lee Anthony’s claiming that someone stole the SIM card from his cell phone and if it doesn’t reappear then it’s going to go Internal Affairs and we’ll all have to deal with it. I’m surprised that something like this would get so much attention from above but Sarge explains that these days, with incidents like Amadou Diallo, cops are guilty until proven innocent. He sighs again and starts up the cruiser.

Amadou_diallo_time_cover

9:45PM: We head over to “the yard,” a squat building with an electronic gate outside. Inside there are gas pumps for the cruisers and a car wash. We went over there earlier because Sarge likes to start the night with a fresh wash. We back into a parking spot and Sarge cuts the engine. We just sit there in the dark for a minute and I get a little nervous. He’s been quiet and I’m not sure what we’re doing here.

Suddenly, out of the darkness another cruiser appears. It’s got its lights off too and parks nose to nose with us. Sarge leans an elbow out of his window as the driver comes over.

I don’t want to know anything about it but we’ve got about 20 minutes to make sure this SIM card gets back to the station, Sarge whispers gruffly. The officer outside nods and tells Sarge that he’s meeting another cruiser in just a minute and they’re going to sort it out.

We get out of the car and go inside. I need to use the restroom but Sarge doesn’t have a key to the ladies room. We’re gonna have to go over to the station. We get back in the cruiser. There’s a palpable sense of tension coming from Sarge but I can also tell that he’s enjoying playing the role of captain, that he kind of likes having to mind after these young officers. I imagine he’s a good dad.

When we walk into the station the first thing I see is Lee Anthony sitting there with two friends. Hey, he calls out to Sarge, Hey man, I just want my SIM card back. Come on man. I need to call my mom and my phone don’t work. Come on, man. Before I can hear Sarge’s reply I duck into the ladies room. I really need to pee. When I come back out Sarge is gone, presumably to the back, and so I take a seat a few chairs down from Lee.

Sup, he says, nodding at me again. Ain’t you that girl from earlier? I nod and give a weak smile. His friends are looking me up and down.

I just want my SIM card back, Lee is saying to me. Why didn’t they just take the whole phone? Why they gotta fuck with me like that? Come on, you were there. I know you saw somethin’. I stare straight ahead.

Alright, he says, you ain’t gotta talk about it.

A beat goes by and I let out a breath. Then he starts up again. You a cop? I shake my head and tell him I’m just riding along. You in training? I shake my head again, repeat that I’m just on a ride-along.

Fuck, I think, why did I just tell him that I’m on a ride-along? This is not going well. I crane my neck subtly to see if I can catch a glimpse of Sarge behind the front desk. No such luck.

Then: You got a boyfriend? I look up and Lee’s eyes are glittering at me. His friends chuckle and before I have time to respond Sarge opens the door to the office and calls me back. He apologizes for leaving me out there. It’s cool, I tell him shrugging casually. I don’t want Sarge to think I’m a wimp.

I follow Sarge’s imposing figure down the back hallway. I’ve only got two hours left of my ride-along. I never want this night to end.

What’s the training process like to become a cop, Sarge? He turns around and grins at me.

TO BE CONTINUED…read Part Three here.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The Wood = Inglewood

Bump ‘Em Up = Scare someone a little

Break Leather = Pull your gun from your holster

Roll a Code 3 = Turn on the sirens & respond to a call

Lay a Dime = Make a call

Lapdogs = LAPD

IA = Internal Affairs