Message to the Grass Roots: First: Community Control. Then: Community Based Policing

An episode of Message to the Grass Roots, a cable access talk show produced & hosted by Michael Zinzun from 1988-1998 at Pasadena Community Access Corporation, which is now Pasadena Media.

00:00Copy video clip URL Opening title and music.

00:27Copy video clip URL Open to the studio. Host Michael Zinzun introduces the program and guest, the attorney Humberto Guizar.

02:30Copy video clip URL Zinzun asks Guizar about the connection between race relations and policing. Guizar describes his view of the institutional problem of policing and how police misconduct affects different communities. Guizar and Zinzun talk about the continuing issue of police brutality since the LA Uprising and the release of video depicting Rodney King’s beating by police. Zinzun also talks about the lack of change in the LA police force following the resignation of police chief Daryl Gates and subsequent replacement by Willie Williams. Zinzun also describes the disparites of representation from communities of color within policy making structures and the need for independent accountability within the police force and community control. 

07:22Copy video clip URL Guizar responds. Guizar outlines the idea of institutional racism in policing and policy-making structures, regardless of the racial makeup of the police force. Guizar also responds to the media’s representation of police beatings and the LA riots. Zinzun provides some initial measures that the police and lawmakers can take to gain community trust and meaningful change in the issue of gang violence.

11:50Copy video clip URL Zinzun introduces footage known as the “taser dance,” where a group of police officers, having repeatedly tasered a Black man who was involved in a traffic accident, beat him and arrest him. Officer Stacey Koon, a former sergeant with the LA Police Department who was involved in the Rodney King beating, is seen in the footage. Zinzun tells of his organizing efforts around the case of Felipe Soltero, a 17-year-old who was beaten by Compton police officer Michael Jackson and later filed suit against the officer. Guizar, who represented legal council for Soltero, discusses the impunity police officers maintain in a system where the District Attorney’s office fails to properly investigate and prosecute cases of unethical conduct. “The message is that you get away with beating the crap out of people. You can mistreat people, and what’s going to happen to you? Unless there’s a videotape, nothing.” Zinzun connects the lack of political will to prosecute police misconduct with broader social movements, stating that between 1984 and 1992, the DA’s office in LA Country filed only 16 cases against police officers, four of which were the result of the Rodney King case.

25:23Copy video clip URL Phone call from a viewer named “Buck.” The caller describes an incident where police murdered his friend, broke into his apartment and arrested him.

28:45Copy video clip URL Theme music and cut to commercial break.

28:59Copy video clip URL Public service message from Musicians for Life and the National AIDS Network featuring the musical group Los Lobos.

29:30Copy video clip URL Ad from Direct Impact, a non-profit organization advocating Pro-Choice abortion policies.

30:06Copy video clip URL Ad from The National Arbor Day Foundation in support of Rain Forest Rescue.

30:36Copy video clip URL Ossie Davis featured in an endorsement for Message to the Grassroots.

30:59Copy video clip URL Ad for the African Marketplace in Pasadena, CA.

32:17Copy video clip URL Return and theme music to Message to the Grassroots.

33:15Copy video clip URL Zinzun introduces a second roll-in footage, involving an El Salvadorean man who was beaten by police in Boston, Massachusetts and accused of resisting arrest when he reacted to police ripping his arms out of their sockets. The man later died of asphyxiation.

40:22Copy video clip URL Return to the studio.

41:50Copy video clip URL Call from viewer named “Jane.” Jane talks about an incident where police violently escalated a small dispute in a local neighborhood, beating a young woman, breaking into homes and opening fire on unarmed citizens.

44:22Copy video clip URL Zinzun turns the focus to the specific details of the Soltero case, which occurred on July 29, 1994. 

45:33Copy video clip URL Third roll-in footage showing the beating of Felipe Soltero by a Compton police officer. Video cuts away and Guizar, attorney for Soltero, provides context to the incident, which he describes as “indicative of the immigrant bashing” happening in the local community. Guizar talks about California Proposition 187, also known as the “Save Our State (SOS)” initiative. The 1994 ballot proposition eventually passed, to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit undocumented immigrants from using non-emergency health care, public education, and other services in the State of California. Guizar argues that the proposition could pave the way for stripping access to public education granted to children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States who are nonetheless citizens.

48:38Copy video clip URL Full video of the third roll-in footage plays. It depicts the confrontation between the Compton police officer Michael Jackson and Felipe Soltero.

50:00Copy video clip URL Return to studio. Guizar summarizes the circumstances surrounding why police were called to Soltero’s house, the altercation between the police officer and Soltero, and the charges and damages incurred by Soltero. Guizar also describes the DA’s unwillingness to investigate the police officer for misconduct.

53:15Copy video clip URL Call from viewer “Rita.” She questions the credentialing process and training of the police force. Zinzun and Guizar talk about the community response to Soltero’s beating and arrest, the DA’s false promises to be responsive to his constituents, and how to find solutions to police accountability and community oversight. Zinzun then makes closing remarks.

57:49Copy video clip URL Closing title, music, and credits.



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