Matt Weinstock

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June 17, 1957

Sometimes it is very difficult to know whom to believe. Take the case of a young sailor named Mike.

Mike, 19, on leave from his base in San Diego, went to a wedding and
reception a few nights ago. There a friend asked him to take a girl
home in his (the friend’s) car.

As they reached her home around 1 a.m., a blue Chevy drew up, two young men in civilian clothes got out and questioned him.

Mike asked who they were and they said they were police officers.
Fearing they might be hoodlums, he asked to see their identification.
They were reluctant to show them and Mike refused to get out of the car.

Finally, he did. Not knowing what to expect, he told the girl to go into the house. She did.

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At this point, another car pulled up and two uniformed officers came
over. One of them kneed Mike against a fence and choked him.

His neck bleeding profusely from the officer’s fingernails and his
shirt torn, Mike was taken to a receiving hospital. An officer warned,
"If the doctor asks what happened tell him you fell down."

After treatment, Mike was taken to City Jail and booked on a charge of
drunk driving. Insisting he was not drunk, he asked for a sobriety
test. The officer said he didn’t have to give him anything. This was
around 3 a.m.

Mike asked that his father be phoned but the call was not made. It was
not until around 7 p.m. about 16 hours later that his father learned
from a bail bondsman where he was. He put up $125 bail and got him out.

That’s the way Mike says it happened.

The officers’ arrest report tells a completely different story. It
states that they chased Mike’s car and he ran signals, drove recklessly
and ignored warnings.

When they finally ran him down he was drunk, abusive, belligerent,
refused a sobriety test and resisted arrest. There was no mention of
the two uniformed officers, one of whom had done the choking.

Mike’s father, incensed at what he considered a serious injustice,
decided to hire an attorney, enter a plea of not guilty and demand a
jury trial.

When Mike’s commanding officer in San Diego learned of his intent he
instructed him to have the boy plead guilty rather than risk any delay.
Mike has orders to go overseas in a few weeks and these, he said, could
not be changed.

Mike was run through the traffic court assembly line and had no
opportunity to tell what might be considered extenuating circumstances
in his case. When the judge asked, "Guilty or not guilty," he said
"Guilty" and paid a $100 fine.

And so a young man who had never been in any trouble has a blot on his
record and a low opinion of a least some police officers in the city
where he was born, reared and educated.

As in "Dragnet," the names have been deleted to protect the innocent.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Columnists, Countdown to Watts, LAPD, Matt Weinstock and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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