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An Open Letter to Peter Jennings About Gangs & the LAPD
by Davey D
June 5, 2004

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Dear Mr Peter Jennings

I just finished watching the Prime Time TV special you hosted on ABC last night.  It was with great anticipation that I tuned in especially after hearing all the provocative commercials on local radio stations and seeing the enticing ads on TV.  The subject matter of gang violence and police brutality are realities many of us who live in certain communities have to deal with first hand.  As was pointed out in your program there aren't too many people in LA who have not been impacted by the police and the gangs.

With all that said, I have to say as a California resident and a fellow journalist, I was disappointed, and in many respects, angered by what I saw on your show.  I felt the show was unbalanced in what was shown or in this case, NOT shown.  I kept asking myself as I watched, where are the community leaders who strived for years and in some cases, even lost the lives of loved ones to try and bring about peace in these troubled areas?  Why was there no mention of the historic gang truce that was forged in South Central in the aftermath of the 1992 Rodney King uprisings?

How come you guys didn't have people like former NFL great Jim Brown and members from his organization Amer-I-Can or former gang members like Bo Taylor and members from his organization Unity One?  Bo can be heard each week on the weekly Reality Talk [KKBT]?  These individuals have been in the forefront of dealing with the challenge of eradicating gang violence.

Where was urban peacemaker Nane Alejandrez of Barrios Unidos?  You could've reached out to him as well as actor/activist Harry Belafonte who was just on Air America Radio talking about the work he has been doing with Barrios Unidos and other organizations to help LA gangs set up legitimate businesses.  He even took a number of them to Africa?  I would've like to have heard how LA police Chief Bratton and LAPD were doing with their interactions with those community leaders.  After all, Chief Bratton kept repeating over and over that the police can not do this alone.

Why didn't Prime Time interview Minister Tony Muhammed of the Nation of Islam?  The NOI has a long history of working with gangs in LA. Many of their members have grown from gang life thanks to their tireless efforts.  Last year they were helping organize a 100-thousand-man march in LA to help spark change.  How has LAPD fared in working with the NOI?

There are dozens of other people that should have and could have been included in your report including former gang members Twilight Bey who has been featured in numerous documentaries and was the inspiration and main focus for Anna Deavere Smith's book and PBS TV special “Twilight Los Angeles.”

You could've gotten former gang member Bone who was both a consultant and shown in the movie "Training Day."  Actor/ Rapper Ice T, rapper Kam, record exec Micheal Conception, Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos, author Louis Rodriguez, former Senator Tom Hayden, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, activist Fidel Rodriguez of Divine Forces Radio or activist Najee Ali of Project Islamic Hope all could've been in the piece.  The list goes on.  The names of these community folks are well known.  How were they overlooked by ABC Prime Time?

One profound statement that you made in your report was that how the police are in the community some of the time, but the gangs are there all of the time.  I would venture to say that scores of these unsung heroes and sheroes are also in the community all of the time.  Many of them have been putting in work day in and day out trying to end gang violence while simultaneously dealing with an out of control notorious police department, which is seen by many as the root cause for many of the flare ups and increased frictions and hostilities between gangs. The significant role they play in fueling gang tensions is an issue Prime Time touched upon and then skirted over, especially when you spoke about the Rampart Scandal.

I understand that the Prime Time special was about the Los Angeles Police Department with the main focus being on the new chief William Bratton.  I clearly understand that you can't fit everything in one show.  As a radio talk show host I frequently will do shows where I direct all my attention on one side of the story so that perspective can be shared uninterrupted.  Perhaps in some respects it was good to get an unfettered perspective from the Los Angeles police.  We got to see and hear exactly what their going through and how their dealing with a harsh situation.

As Chief Bratton stated his goal was to try and heal the huge rift and mistrust that exists between the police department and the Black and Brown communities of South Central LA.  Part of that healing comes with dialogue.  He got to share that with you and the rest of the country during your one hour special.  But now I think as a seasoned journalist who many of us look up to, you have the challenge and responsibility to bring to light those other perspectives that were missing from your Prime Time report.  You spent a year working with the LAPD.  I hope you take a year to spend time with some of the aforementioned organizations and individuals so you can convey to the country their hardships, challenges and success stories.  Perhaps their tireless efforts can be a clarion call for those who had no idea that such activities were going on.  This is extremely important since ABC is getting ready to do a similar special focusing on the NYPD.

It would be a shame to leave viewers who never been to Los Angeles, with the false perspective that the only ones putting their necks on the line to end poverty, oppression and violence in the community is the police.  It would also be a shame to not squarely address the full extent police corruption exits in South central LA and similar communities and how they systematically undermine ongoing efforts to bring about positive change.

In closing I'm including a number of links for you and your producers to pursue so hopefully you can start putting together a compelling Prime Time Special that focuses on the challenges facing the community.

Davey D
Columnist San Jose Mercury News
Source Magazine
KPFA Radio

Davey D is a Hip Hop historian, journalist, deejay and community activist. He writes for numerous publications and magazines and puts out a popular Internet newsletter called the FNV Newsletter which has a subscriber base of 100 thousand people. To subscribe, send a blank message to