He always began the show with a stark but didactic narration: “This is the the city: Los Angeles, California.” Jack Webb, as the fictional LAPD detective Sgt. Joe Friday in “Dragnet” became a symbol of the public-spirited and good-intentioned police officer willing to risk his life, work long hours to solve crimes, and protect the public from murderers, rapists, and thieves. The “Dragnet” franchise is one of the most influential police procedurals in history.
Webb probably never actually said, “Just the facts, Ma’am,” as many think they remember. He didn’t speak in a monotone either. Instead, he had a clipped, almost machine-gun delivery style that was often used while delivering monologues about law and order and democratic values to shiftless criminals or languorous bureaucrats who seem to think the world owes them a living.
Just listen to Friday tell this ingrate punk about American exceptionalism in a manner that is neither hackneyed nor overly sentimental:
His words are prescient, prognosticating of future generations who would take American freedom for granted, albeit still relevant for even an old fogie like President Joe Biden, who seems to have forgotten that although America isn’t perfect, it offers a lot more happiness than most places in the world. Webb’s words ring true for a junior intellectual lightweight like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) or an older one like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) alike.
The progressives, the left-wingers, the former hippies, the counterculture, the New Left—they have effectively taken over LA and reshaped it in their frightening image.
“Dragnet” started on radio in 1949 and ran until 1957 on that medium. It debuted on television in 1951, where it continued until 1959. If you’re wondering how the radio and television years could have overlapped with Webb playing Friday in both shows, the answer is that he was actually doing two shows a week for six years.) Hollywood revived the series in the late 1960s—at the height of counterculture—and Webb came back for three more seasons, from 1967-1970, to lecture hippies about the dangers of drugs and to comment on the general decrepitude of a society that was becoming unhinged from its political and spiritual foundation.
Webb is just beautiful in these shows, so square, he’s cool. Wearing his ever-present tweed jacket, tie, and grey wool pants, Friday proceeds to run roughshod over the pathetic druggies that are threatening to take over America and expatiating at great length about the need for some measure of personal responsibility when one is demanding the freedom to do whatever feels good. And although the Los Angeles that Jack Webb knew was still under the control of the adults, there is often the portend running through the show’s commentary that it might not always be so: that this generation of libertines might someday subsume that older generation and transform society.
He was right. They’ve done it. The progressives, the left-wingers, the former hippies, the counterculture, the New Left—they have effectively taken over LA and reshaped it in their frightening image.
We can only remark, “What would Jack Webb say?” when surveying the current political landscape of LA, a city that is not only crime-ridden and replete with homeless people who literally camp on the streets and on the best parts of the beach, but where the once mythical LAPD has been the target of years of abuse and now budget cuts from the brainless acolytes of the defund the police cult.
Not only that, the city now has a District Attorney who seems to be a parody of a misguided, criminal-enabling liberal—someone who would strike Joe Friday as the realization of his worst fears. George Gascón has galvanized those in LA who remember a time when the city’s prosecutor was supposed to be punishing criminals, not enabling them.
“RECALL THIS MAN”
Incredibly, Gascón used to be an LAPD officer, even attaining the rank of assistant chief of police under America’s police chief, Bill Bratton. It must have been those years as a San Francisco DA, however, that distorted his vision of justice. Gascón now views “justice” entirely through the prism of rehabilitation, without any trace of punishment—that mental illness is the basis of many crimes, and that the city should always consider that alleged factor when sentencing or even deciding to prosecute. Immediately after taking office, Gascón announced sweeping plans for LA’s criminal justice system, something he described as “fundamentally broken.”
Those experiences taught me the criminal justice system is fundamentally broken.
Today, we will usher in a new era of criminal justice, and transform the largest criminal justice jurisdiction in America.
— George Gascón (@GeorgeGascon) December 7, 2020
On December 7th, 2020, Gascón issued a memo to prosecutors in his office instructing them to change how they deal with a range of low-level crimes. “The memo spells out misdemeanors which should be declined or dismissed before arraignment, with a number of exceptions at the discretion of the prosecutor,” ABC reports. The exceptions, what he called “factors for consideration,” include situations that may involve repeat offenses, domestic violence, or physical force used against an officer, among others. Those offenses—what Fox News calls his “do-not-prosecute” list—include trespassing, disturbing the peace, a minor in possession of alcohol, driving without a license, driving with a suspended license, making criminal threats, drug and paraphernalia possession, being under the influence of a controlled substance, public intoxication, loitering to commit prostitution and resisting arrest.
‘We were robbed, robbed of her husband, robbed of a dad, robbed of my son, and then for this attorney to do this, it’s just like robbery all over again,’ Mille Owen, mother of the late Sgt. Steve Owen.
Gascón also declared the death penalty to be off-limits as a punshment and that misdemeanors and minor felonies will no longer carry a prison sentence, but enrollment in remedial courses. Juveniles won’t be prosecuted at all. “Our prosecutorial approach should be biased towards keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system, and when they must become involved, our system must employ the ‘lightest touch’ necessary in order to provide public safety,” Gascón said early in his campaign for District Attorney.
It didn’t take long for Gascón to make enemies and for his policies to offend. Even one of his own deputy DAs couldn’t stomach this boss’s preference for lightening the burden on the criminal’s back and publicly rebuked his superior. The prosecutor says Gascón should never have ruled out the death penalty in the case of a woman and her boyfriend accused of torturing and murdering a 10-year-old boy. “This is not based upon new evidence,” Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said, according to the City News Service. “This is not based upon new mitigation or new law. I stand by the special-circumstances committee decision that I announced to the court on the record two years ago.” (In 2019, then-District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office announced that defendants Heather Maxine Barron, 31, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 35, should face the death penalty.)
There’s also the case of Sgt. Steve Owen, who served with the LAPD for 29 years before he was murdered on October 5th, 2016, when the officers arrived to investigate a burglary. “I have always believed in the justice system, but with my husband not only murdered… executed, this new District Attorney has turned this justice system that does work completely upside down,” Owen’s wife Tania, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, told Fox News. Sgt.
Owen’s mother, Millie Owen, agreed:”It just takes you right back to the scene… We were robbed, robbed of her husband, robbed of a dad, robbed of my son, and then for this attorney to do this, it’s just like robbery all over again.”
The man who killed Owen first wounded him and then stood over the body and began shooting him at close range—a “calculated execution” according to reports. Tania Owen spoke directly to others in Los Angeles County who are also wondering if Gascón is operating in the real world or in a twisted social justice project: “I’d tell them to be strong, this is not over… We still have a voice; we can do something about this. Recall this man.”
In the first two months of the year, the murder rate in Los Angeles surged by 186% over the same period in 2020—60 people were murdered in LA County as of February 28th. Those figures have continued to rise. In the midst of all this, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told Fox News that this should come as no surprise with a DA like Gascón around to coddle the criminals responsible for this mayhem.
Gascón identifies with the criminals, rather than their victims…
“They need to really pick and choose very carefully. Because for them it’s very easy to say, ‘Oh yeah, all cops are bad,’ and, ‘Let’s reform and defund the police,'” Villanueva said. “Yet they’re the very first ones to pick up the 911 when someone’s crawling over their back gate trying to get into their house.”
All this—and Gascón has only been in office for six months. Things are sure to get worse because, as Fox News host Tucker Carlson noted, Gascón identifies with the criminals, rather than their victims:
“Gascon believes that poverty causes crime, an idea for which there is no evidence in actual social science. However, it’s the kind of thing that halfwits learn in college, repeat, and turn into policy when they get power. The irony is, we know exactly what policies like those Gascón is imposing on Los Angeles will do and who they will hurt. They will affect people who live in the neighborhoods with the most crime, and those are the poorest neighborhoods.”
Not surprisingly, Gascón remains the target of a recall effort. He was only in office for three scant three months when some good citizens announced that they had had enough of the bad policy and national embarrassment. They decided to orchestrate an effort to boot the DA out of his office and force him to run again, just as Californians had done with Gov. Gavin Newsom. The recall only needed 20 signatures to initiate the campaign, but will need almost 600,000 to formally recall Gascón. We can only hope that the citizens of Los Angeles are successful in their attempt to take back at least a piece of their city and establish perhaps a beachhead of law in order in a community that has seemingly lost its way.
SUNSHINE STATE NO MORE
Gascón’s chimeric policies and escalating crime may be the most dangerous elements of LA in 2021, but the city still looks like some dystopian fantasy out of a horror movie. The homeless line the streets of LA in tents and cardboard boxes for miles like some strange inner-city excrescence and have recently started spilling onto Venice Beach, a section of sand that used to be populated by bikini babes and bodybuilders. A petition from local residents is demanding that the city do something about the rising crime and intimidation: “Venice’s world-famous beach and boardwalk are crippled,” the petition reads. “Local children are refusing to come to the beach because they’re frightened by what they’ve witnessed. Seniors who live on or near the boardwalk are terrified of walking in their own neighborhoods.”
California has truly become emblematic of the scourges that define the current Democratic Party: sanctuary cities, defunding the police, high taxes, social chaos, and only a passing acquaintance with law and order. And Los Angeles is a microcosm for it all.
And in the midst of all this chaos, the city decided to slash its police budget and follow the current liberal mantra of defunding the police. The city promised to immediately cut $100 million to $150 million from the LAPD budget and redirect it to programs for black residents of the city—as if policing itself isn’t a very important program to ensure the safety and security of those black residents. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged that the city would ‘identify $250 million in cuts so we can invest in jobs, in health, in education and in healing,’ especially in the city’s black community ‘as well as communities of color and women and people who have been left behind.’”
Coupled with Gascón, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti adds another layer of dysfunction to the operation of the city. A lockdown king who issued a series of bizarre prohibitions, Garcetti often appears more like a stand-up comedian with a gifted sense of irony than a serious politician. But he’s very serious. “My message couldn’t be simpler,” Garcetti told journalists at a December 3rd LA news conference announcing further stringent lockdown measures, “It’s time to hunker down, it’s time to cancel everything. If it isn’t essential, don’t do it.” The mayor even went so far as to ban any “unnecessary walking.”
Ah, this is the city.
It is worth remembering that California used to be a Republican fortress in the same way it currently feeds every Democratic presidential candidate with electoral college votes without question. Ronald Reagan served as a two-term governor. It used to be a land of sunshine and opportunity. The sunshine is still there, but the opportunity has long gone—as have so many of its residents—fleeing for other states where they can work and not be taxed beyond reason.
The city forgot that rehabilitation is only part of criminal justice—for serious crimes there must be serious punishment.
California has truly become emblematic of the scourges that define the current Democratic Party: sanctuary cities, defunding the police, high taxes, social chaos, and only a passing acquaintance with law and order. And Los Angeles is a microcosm for it all. The city seems determined to collapse under the weight of its progressive policies and to become a wasteland on the Pacific Coast. A series of social justice advocates transformed a thriving metropolis of opportunity and ambition into a sanctuary city safe for illegal immigrants. It vilified the cops and excused the criminals. The city forgot that rehabilitation is only part of criminal justice—for serious crimes there must be serious punishment.
Joe Friday always recognized that being a cop was a tough job in LA because there were a lot of people in the city willing to break the rules and defy the law. But at least the city leaders weren’t on their side. Today, they have a cheering section in Democrat leaders, and Joe Friday’s job has become not just tough but damn near impossible to fulfill.