Gang-Bangers On Both Sides of the “Law”

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George Fierro, the 15-year veteran El Monte, California police officer who was videotaped on May 13 kicking a prone and unresisting suspect in the head — and then engaging in a self-congratulatory high-five with another policeman — “owns a clothing company that glorifies gang and prison life,” reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Torcido Clothing proudly advertises its wares as “some of the hardest authentic jail house threads for the street.”

“Torcido” is Chicano slang for being imprisoned. Among the products offered in the company’s on-line catalog is a t-shirt bearing the inscription “186.22,” with a bullet for the decimal point. The number refers to the penal code section dealing with gang crimes.

While I don’t begrudge any man the right to indulge his entrepreneurial instincts, it seems there’s a pretty clear conflict of interest involved when someone helps send people to jail, and then markets a clothing line that glamorizes jail life.
Frank Girardot, columnist for the Whittier Daily News, points out that Officer Fierro’s company “caters to gang members and glorifies the Mexican Mafia. His `brand’ so sickens good cops that at least one tried to warn California gang investigators about a potential rogue in their midst.”

According to LAPD Detective David Espinoza, “I understand the gangs really love this cop. I understand the clothing has hiding places for contraband, guns and dope. Things that can hurt our real cops on the street.” (Note well that even here the first priority is “officer safety.”)

What makes all of this unbearably ironic, of course, is the fact that Richard Rodriguez, the 23-year-old suspect on the receiving end of Fierro’s kick, is a suspected gang member who was observed flashing “gang signs” during the half-hour pursuit that led up to the videotaped incident.

As noted previously, retired Deputy Sheriff Dean Scoville, a contributor to Police magazine, believes that Fierro’s only offense in this matter was to live in a time when it’s supposedly considered bad form to be seen assaulting an unresisting suspect.

Of Rodriguez, Scoville wrote: “Look at this tattooed mug! A parolee at large with a long rap sheet, his face is a cartographer’s wet dream, charting his ongoing descent into hell. He should have a tat on his forehead that reads: `Here There be Monsters.’ In manner, deed, and appearance, he has done everything he could to subvert his own humanity and now his metamorphosis is complete. He has become an animal and, in that backyard, he was a cornered one.”

I wonder if Fierro sent Scoville a brief note upbraiding him for needlessly criticizing his core clientele.

Oh, incidentally, the “long rap sheet” mentioned by Scoville leaves the impression that while Rodriguez isn’t the kind of person you’d want loitering in front of your house, he’s probably less dangerous than the typical police officer.

Rodriguez’s “priors” at the time of the chase included only one legitimate property-related offense: “driving without owner’s consent.” He also has convictions for possession of a switchblade — which in and of itself shouldn’t be a crime — and “possession of a controlled substance” — which shouldn’t either. After the case he was booked on suspicion of felony evading and interfering with or obstructing police, with the special allegation that he committed those “offenses” for benefit of a gang.

And here’s where we confront the defining irony of this case: While it is exceptionally difficult to see how a gang benefited materially from Rodriguez’s actions on May 13, the officer who assaulted and arrested him both provides and receives material benefits in his own intimate relationship with criminal gangs.

In this respect, Officer George Fierro could be considered a living microcosm of the entire American police state apparatus

8:33 pm on May 31, 2009