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Bloody Christmas and the Irony of Police Professionalism: The Los Angeles Police Department, Mexican Americans, and Police Reform in the 1950s

Edward J. Escobar
Pacific Historical Review
Vol. 72, No. 2 (May 2003), pp. 171-199
DOI: 10.1525/phr.2003.72.2.171
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/phr.2003.72.2.171
Page Count: 29
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Bloody Christmas and the Irony of Police Professionalism: The Los Angeles Police Department, Mexican Americans, and Police Reform in the 1950s
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Abstract

On December 25, 1951, approximately fifty Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers brutally beat seven young men in their custody, including five Mexican Americans. The ensuing controversy became known as Bloody Christmas. Mexican American activists demanded investigations into allegations of police brutality and LAPD accountability to civilian control. The LAPD's new chief, William Parker, however, had just launched a reform campaign based on the police professionalism model, which stressed police autonomy, particularly about internal discipline. Parker and his allies in city government stifled external investigations into department matters, vilified LAPD critics, and even ignored perjury by officers. They thus helped create an organizational culture that valued LAPD independence above the rule of law and led to the LAPD's estrangement from Mexican American and other minority communities.

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