Constructing Police Abuse after Rodney King: How Skid Row Residents and the Los Angeles Police Department Contest Video Evidence
Abstract:This ethnographic article explores the manner in which the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), a grassroots organization made up of homeless and low-income Skid Row residents, generates video evidence for use in lawsuits against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). For marginalized communities fighting police abuse, the 1992 acquittal of four LAPD officers charged with the beating of Rodney King demonstrated that even the most “obvious” and condemning video evidence is subject to reinterpretation and reframing by skilled legal professionals. In response, LACAN has developed interactional filming strategies designed to constrain officers' ability to offer alternative explanations, while alleviating disparities in court-recognized authority. In the tradition of legal consciousness scholarship, this article “de-centers” the law by shifting emphasis from formal judicial decisions in the courtroom to citizen groups in their own communities, as they learn to use legal norms and conventions in social justice campaigns.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: March 1, 2011