Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fwd: Caring about life and death in South L.A.; sainthood for Serra

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Los Angeles Times <>
Date: Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 9:06 AM
Subject: Caring about life and death in South L.A.; sainthood for Serra

Los Angeles Times - California Essential
Saturday | January 17, 2015
Welcome to Essential California, our weekly newsletter. I'm California Editor Shelby Grad.
Caring About Deaths in South L.A.
In this era of "The Wire," cold-case squads and record-low homicide levels, it's hard to a remember a time when murders in the inner city were so common that they were easy to ignore.

But to many, that was South Los Angeles during the 1980s and early 1990s. At The Times, triple murders sometimes merited little more than a brief mention.

Veteran LAPD Det. Sal LaBarbera, who is retiring after more than 6,000 homicide investigations, never lost count.

In a conversation with Steve Lopez, LaBarbera explained why he kept investigating murders in South L.A. for decades -- even when it seemed the city didn't care.

"Yes, we do handle a lot of gang cases, but we treat every case like the victim was a member of our own family. If you can't do that, you don't belong here," he said.

LaBarbera is retiring just as numbers for 2014 show that violent crime went up for the first time in years in L.A., including a slight increase in homicides.

Is California's Saint a Sinner?
It's impossible to look at the history of California without agonizing over the legacy of Father Junipero Serra.

In the 18th century, Serra founded the state's mission system, bringing Catholicism and ushering in the forces that would shape modern California. But the zeal that made the Spanish Franciscan so admired -- especially in the Catholic community -- also is what has made him so reviled by others. The mission system proved disastrous to hundreds of thousands of native Californians. Serra's mission system could be brutal in pushing Indians to join the church, and it also exposed thousands to foreign diseases that wiped out full villages.

In recent years, a harsh reappraisal by academics has changed the way Serra is taught in California classrooms. Recent textbooks warn that with the arrival of the missions, "thousands of Indians died, and by the end of the 1800s much of the Indian way of life had died also."

This tortured history is sure to be remembered once again with Pope Francis' announcement that he plans to canonize Serra.

California Catholics have for generations sought sainthood, including trying to attribute a miracle to his name.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez hailed the news: "It's wonderful to think that this new saint once walked the road that is now the Hollywood Freeway and called it El Camino Real, 'The King's Highway.'"

But others are likely to focus on the darker side of the missions. Said historian Steven Hackel: "It was an oppressive system for most Indians."

In Sheriff's Scandal, Top Brass Under Scrutiny
Last year, seven employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department were convicted of obstruction of justice as part of a sweeping federal probe into violence and corruption in the jail system.

Ever since, there have been questions about whether the probe would end there or move up the chain of command. Source now are telling The Times' Cindy Chang that some of those convicted have testified before a grand jury. The targets are unclear. But the sources say some questions have involved former Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

The department has a new sheriff, Jim McDonnell, who has vowed reforms. But problems are cropping up. Three deputies were recently relieved of duty for allegedly accepting bribes from drivers and stealing items from towed vehicles. And a new report found the department lags behind other major law enforcement agencies in releasing information about officer-involved shootings.

Finally, Some Great Reads for Your Weekend:
-- Battling brain cancer, becoming a poet.

-- A beloved Fresno shoemaker is killed, and the community steps in.

-- Sandy Banks on why the "Black Lives Matter" movement is different from other civil rights protests.

-- As Mitt Romney mulls another White House run, Robin Abcarian checks out his massive La Jolla beach house remodel.

-- How much density can L.A. neighborhoods handle? Koreatown might be a test case.

-- For all that Jerry Brown has achieved, one dream will likely die hard.

-- And is Brown neglecting the poor in his efforts to craft a conservative budget?

-- A new front in the transgender-rights battle: gender-neutral public restrooms.

-- The pastor, the church and a huge embezzlement scandal at Pasadena City Hall.

-- Bypassing Congress to preserve pristine Northern California lands.

-- Is marijuana as dangerous a drug as LSD and heroin? A judge in California is mulling the question.

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