Broomfield’s film exposes the fact that the City of Los Angeles allowed a serial killer to operate with impunity for 22 years, murdering untold numbers of women. Neither the LAPD nor the City government took the case seriously because the victims were black women, many prostitutes or drug addicts. This point was made repeatedly and convincingly, both on screen and during the Q&A after the film, by stars Pam Brooks and Margaret Prescod, who has been pressing the LAPD about the killings since 1986, thereby earning the wrath of, among other geniuses, Darryl Gates, our city’s second worst mistake. Gates, in his inimitably idiotic way, called Prescod and her compatriots in the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders “dummies” for even raising the issue.
Broomfield’s stunning work shows that Prescod and her allies have been right all along, though. The film gives an irrefutable performative demonstration of the fact that the LAPD has never taken this case seriously: In 2009 the LAPD knew of one survivor of the killer’s attacks. In 2014, before Broomfield started filming, that one survivor was still the only one known. But in the course of filming Brooks managed to locate and arrange for Broomfield to interview not just one additional woman who survived the Sleeper’s attacks but four. How is it possible that a serious investigation could leave such major witnesses to be discovered, and not even discovered by the police, four years after a suspect’s arrest?
It’s unconscionable. The City of Los Angeles will never live down the shame of having, through racism and indifference, abandoned dozens or hundreds of its most vulnerable citizens to a cruel thrill-killer (or killers; the true extent of the damage may never be known). It couldn’t have happened without the utter dehumanization of these women, each and every one someone’s child. According to Joshua Kleinfeld of Northwestern University, “in Southern California, police slang in the early 1990s for the murder of drug dealers, gangsters, prostitutes, and other lawbreakers was the vivid and extremely disturbing term, ‘NHI (no humans involved) Homicide.'”2 And once the police and white Los Angeles have dehumanized people to the point that they can be killed without consequence, killers will flourish. Why wouldn’t they?
And now we come to the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance. We’ve already discussed the HPOA’s shameful attitude towards the homeless people of Hollywood. The cleaned-up, for-public-consumption version can be seen in the infamous 2014-15-WORK-PLAN-FINAL-VERSION1-1, which announces the HPOA’s intention to eliminate “visible homelessness.” The meant-to-be-private, must-be-redacted-before-being-seen version can be found in Steve Seyler’s nauseating reports to the Joint Security Committee of the Hollywood Entertainment District BID and the Sunset-Vine BID, in which the homeless victims of the BID security patrol are not just rousted or arrested but mocked and forcibly photographed in humiliating poses for… what? To sate the voyeuristic cravings of Seyler or the Committee’s members? The attitude displayed in these documents is sickening enough on its own. When considered in the context of the massive failure of justice that is the City’s handling of the Grim Sleeper murders it’s unforgivable.
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
–W.H. Auden, September 1, 1939
- If you don’t know anything about the case this LA Weekly article will explain the story up to 2008 and Wikipedia’s not bad for the rest of it. And this interview with Nick Broomfield is well worth reading.
- Kleinfeld, Joshua. A theory of criminal victimization. Stanford Law Review May 2013, pp. 1119ff. This slang remains current.
Mugshot of Lonnie Franklin is a public record and is republished here as such.