Preventing Future Misconduct: The Public Disorder Intelligence Division, Surveillance, and the Containment of Anti-police Abuse Movements in 1970s Los Angeles

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:00 AM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Max Felker-Kantor, DePauw University
This paper investigates the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) intelligence gathering operations, the Public Disorder Intelligence Division (PDID), during the period after the Watts uprising of 1965. The LAPD’s ability to maintain itself as a powerful partisan entity, I argue, depended on its robust intelligence- and surveillance-led policing operations. Surveillance was a central component of the expanded capacity of the criminal justice system to monitor and preempt social movements after Watts. Intelligence officers routinely made decisions about what types of activities and politics constituted disorderly, improper, or criminal behavior; in effect, surveillance produced, rather than reflected criminality and disorder. An updated red squad, the PDID infiltrated radical black social movements, such as the Black Panthers, and targeted anti-police brutality organizations, such as the Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA), for criminalization. Yet, as I show, the power of the LAPD and city officials to control inner city communities of color through intelligence networks was not absolute. I explore the work of grassroots organizations such as the Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA) and the Citizens Commission Against Police Oppression (CCOPR) to transcend the physical and symbolic boundaries placed around their communities. They challenged the repressive and intrusive policies of the LAPD. In doing so, activists provided an alternative vision for the late-twentieth century city and challenged the perception of their communities as crime ridden and violent. Even as they succeeded in dismantling the PDID, the LAPD revamped police intelligence operations under the Anti-Terrorist Division while also shifting focus from repressing social movements as it did during the 1960s and 1970s to attack urban social problems of gangs and drugs during the 1980s through drug raids, mass arrests, elite anti-gang units, and military hardware developed after the Watts uprising.
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