Anaheim Police Shooting

What the Anaheim Riots Can Teach Other American Cities

It's time to reform the police and cut bureaucratic red tape.

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After Tom Tait was sworn in as the mayor of Anaheim in November 2010, he issued a statement announcing the city's commitment to "kindness and freedom." One reader—knowing this to be the type of governmental hubris that's almost too easy to lampoon—urged me to reach for the poison pen. I declined. Although the statement struck me as naïve, I cut Tait some slack because of his apparent sincerity.

Two years later, as Anaheim makes national news because of riots sparked by police shootings, Tait is in an unexpected situation of having to put his well-intentioned rhetoric into practice. How he and his city resolve the conflict—whether officials can restore civic order and erase images that look like they come from a war-torn nation rather than the home of the "Happiest Place on Earth"—might offer lessons for other cities throughout the country.

As Tait told me in an interview Wednesday, his original intent was to spark a cultural change within city government that encouraged employees to help residents navigate the bureaucracy. He sees kindness and freedom as closely related—i.e., a government that kindly serves the people also is one that creates the broadest latitude for its citizens to live their lives as they choose

He offered examples of where the two concepts intersect. Shortly after taking over as mayor, Tait learned of a plan by residents in the Colony District to host a July 4th parade that included not just the wealthier historic neighborhoods but also the apartment complex nearby. It was a nice idea to bring people together even though they are divided by economic and ethnic differences.

"Someone calls the city and the official there said they needed a permit and that's a fee and a certificate of insurance and approvals," Tait said. "The parade didn't happen. … On the other end of the phone, there's a guy who works for the city and he has a check list. He goes into government probably to help people, but he has a tight fence put around him."

Tait also told the story of how a city security guard gave an elderly man a ride home from City Hall after seeing him struggling in the heat. Tait learned about it because the man's supervisor wrote him up—the guard was being punished for doing something that was outside of procedure. Tait was appalled and was thankful that a department head recognized that the guard should be praised, not punished.

Changing a bureaucratic culture sounds naïve, perhaps, but Anaheim had beginning in 2002 gained national attention for putting into place some unusually kind and freedom-friendly public policies that no other major city in the country had embraced. Like many older cities, Anaheim wanted to encourage new tax-generating developments. Most cities adopted the government-driven redevelopment approach in which favored businesses were subsidized and others were driven off their property by eminent domain.

Instead of taking the heavy-handed "hatched in City Hall" redevelopment approach, city officials banned the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes and then "upzoned" targeted areas, meaning that they loosened zoning rules so that owners had more latitude on what they could do with their land. As a result, the Platinum Triangle area near the stadiums boomed as property owners found great value in selling their low-rise warehouses to condo and office developers. It was a market-friendly approach that did not violate anyone's property rights.

The city also reduced regulations on businesses, issued a business-tax holiday, stopped prosecuting minor code violations as crimes, reduced some misdemeanors to infractions, and worked on fostering a more helpful attitude among city workers. Tait, then a council member, helped build a bipartisan council agenda to advance it.

In the early 2000s, I wrote about Anaheim's nonsensical rules that forced people who lived in low-cost motels to move out every 30 days. Officials didn't like that these old motels were turning into budget apartments and were making life difficult for some of the city's poorest residents, thus forcing some of them into homelessness. The then-new freedom-friendly city administration took a different approach by working with the motels to assure safe and sanitary conditions and bringing in the Rescue Mission to administer services. That's an example of how a changed governmental approach can expand freedom and kindness, the mayor argues.

"I don't think people are free to be kind in the city because of all the rules, because of the culture and the bureaucracy," he said. "It's not about changing the rules, but about changing the culture." He wants to allow city employees to "use their brain" and not just follow the rules.

Unfortunately, in my view, the city's police department has embraced the wrong kind of policing methods—ones that are unkind and undermine people's freedom. I don't see police officials there using their brains to handle a situation born, in part, of overly aggressive policing tactics and insufficient police accountability and transparency.

Clearly, the cultural changes the mayor is trying to implement in the city bureaucracy need to filter into the police department—a point Tait also makes. Cops need to get out of their cars and get to know members of the communities where they patrol. They need to put down the riot gear and recognize that in a free society, police officials are supposed to protect and serve the public—and must respect the inherent rights of all citizens.

I never thought that Tait's seemingly naïve statement upon taking over as mayor would have taken on such significance, but life is funny that way. Despite my cynicism, I agree that reforming a rigid governmental and policing culture is exactly what's needed in Anaheim and elsewhere. Fortunately, I can't think of a more sincere mayor to advance those ideas.

NEXT: Detroit: Graveyard City

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  1. Sounds sweet when you write it up like that, but honestly, the last thing I want any government official doing is ‘using their brain.’

  2. Prediction:

    The occupying-force, enforcement-of-authority, STOP-RESISTING police culture will continue unchanged, and a protect-and-serve police force will remain a naive dream.

    1. Except for an IA cop I know. He’s a good guy. Must suck to be him.

  3. “Freedom” is a quaint anachronism we can no longer afford. Everything not mandatory is prohibited.

    1. Drop to your knees and bow in fealty to the betters you serve, peasant.

  4. Good stuff and thanks, Reason and Steven G. I didn’t know about all this attempted change in Anaheim, and it seems common sensical….which means, of course, it’s not. The anecdotes of success are encouraging.

    Also agree this attitude shift CLEARLY didn’t make it to the Cop Shop – tons o’ work to be done there. Sad and disturbing.

    Detroit could learn something from all this, though….wihch means they won’t:
    The city also reduced regulations on businesses, issued a business-tax holiday, stopped prosecuting minor code violations as crimes, reduced some misdemeanors to infractions, and worked on fostering a more helpful attitude among city workers. Tait, then a council member, helped build a bipartisan council agenda to advance it.

    1. “The city also reduced regulations on businesses, issued a business-tax holiday, stopped prosecuting minor code violations as crimes, reduced some misdemeanors to infractions,…”

      In retrospect it’s a shame that; “stop shooting unarmed people in the back” didn’t make the list…

      1. perhaps Tait was naive enough to believe that something so obvious did not need to be spelled out. What normal human being thinks that you actually have to tell cops that’s not acceptable?

        1. The kind that has finally come to recognize that authoritarian thuggery among law enforcement will remain a problem until shit’s done about it.

  5. Cops need to get out of their cars

    There’s a guy in Vermont who seems to think this is a good idea.

    1. We’re changing the motto to : “the flattened polcie car state”.

    2. Give them pink tricycles, and watch their authority slip away through waves of laughter.

  6. Cops need to get out of their cars and get to know members of the communities where they patrol.

    Good point. I hate being beaten by strangers.

    1. Lol. +1.

  7. Wait, Tom Waits is the mayor?

    1. I thought the mayor was Tom Taint.

    2. He’d rather have that bottle in front of him than a frontal lobotomy? That doesn’t work so well in the third person.

    1. The CBS journalist has a strangely familiar name…

      1. STEVE SMITH LOVE ROWING! AND RAFTING AND RUGBY AND RASKETBALL AND RAPE! STEVE SMITH ALSO LIKE ALLITERATION!

    2. Wow, she lost her job on the police force and had to leave the Olympics, but keeps saying her boyfriends Neo-Nazi views are not hers. Maybe it’s time to find a new boyfriend before he costs her even more. Or maybe he’s just he funniest guy in the world.

      1. Or maybe she should just declare herself a Maoist, that’s quite popular in Western Europe and certainly not enough of an infraction to get one into trouble.

        1. it can even lead to promotion or an alternate career in academia.

          1. Or a successful career in journalism and as a writer.

  8. Tait is in an unexpected situation of having to put his well-intentioned rhetoric into practice.

    LOL. We’re past the point of politicians having any shame, or any accountability for their promises.

  9. it’s time to reform the police

    My suggestion: strip them of immunity and put them on trial before a jury of their peers citizens.

  10. Why do you have a picture of Fred Thompson with this story? You could have explained that with alt-text.

  11. “… encouraged employees to help residents navigate the bureaucracy.”

    Here’s a better idea: Eliminate the bureaucracy entirely.

    1. Dude, that’s what governments are for: to get in a man’s way.

  12. Cops better not pull shit in middle of nowhere Texas. Old timer puts 5 rounds into bad guy at 165 yards (with a pistol!) to save some cops ass.

    http://www.guns.com/texas-gun-…..10236.html

    1. I loved this:

      Means took cover behind his police car and returned fire with an AR-15, but Conner maintained cover behind a tree. Eyewitnesses report that this positioning gave Conner the upper hand over the out-gunned police officer.

      Now, they don’t say what the shooter had, but unless he was packing a Barrett, I don’t see how the cop could be “out-gunned”.

      1. Yeah, you’ve got an AR, he’s got a pistol. If anybody’s outgunned, it ain’t the officer.

        Now, Mr. Officer apparently placed himself in a less advantageous tactical position. But that’s different from being outgunned.

        1. The story isn’t written real well and it’s a little confusing what the bad guy was shooting at the cop, but anyone who has ever fired a pistol knows just how difficult it is to hit a target at 165 yards (I do almost all my practice at 7-15 yards)…and apparently 4 out of 5 were under the stress of taking return fire! Meanwhile, the cop is playing stormtrooper with an AR-15. And here I thought “assault” rifles were magic killing machines!

          1. Later in the article, it mentions that the shooter also had an AR-15.

            At that point, Conner [the spree shooter] returned fire against Stacy [the helpful pistolero] with his AR-15.

            Hell of a shot with a pistol, even if the pistol was something like a 6.5 JDJ. Especially when he was taking fire.

            The author evidently had a lot of fun with the local Central Texas dialect.

            1. And the story made me redouble my efforts to pick up every last piece of crap my dog puts out.

              Probably pick up someone else’s crap too.

    2. Never ‘take cover’ behind a car. Even a moderately powered rifle will shoot through it like it is a cardboard box. The wheels and engine block provide some protection, but not much.

  13. The one inconvenient fact not mentioned in the story is the gang problem that Anaheim PD has to deal with.
    Anaheim has the Goose That Lays Golden Eggs in the form of the Disney Resorts and the City Owned Convention Center as well as the sports stadiums and the referenced redeveloped areas.
    Unfortunately, the multi-generational gang culture that was spawned decades ago in South-Central and East LA has now spread throughout SoCal. The north side of Anaheim has several neighborhoods that are largely under gang control, the area where this problematic shooting took place.
    There were at least two shootings within the same week but anyone with a working brain acknowledges that one was according to police procedure and the one referenced was probably dubious.
    Outside agitators have attempted to make the most of this situation and turn peaceful assemblies to protest the shooting into confrontations with the police and opportunities to commit vandalism of public and private property.

  14. As Tait told me in an interview Wednesday, his original intent was to spark a cultural change within city government that encouraged employees to help residents navigate the bureaucracy. He sees kindness and freedom as closely related?i.e., a government that kindly serves the people also is one that creates the broadest latitude for its citizens to live their lives as they choose

  15. Very nice, thanks for sharing.

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  16. There are many racial riots in america, it only destroy the sources of the country.

  17. Every big accident teach a lesson to the countries, but the important thing is did the nations learned.

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