Can you tell us when you began working at CRS?
March of 1970.
What were you doing before that?
I worked with the California Youth Authority.
What kinds of things did you do there?
I was the program administrator with one of the institutions. Immediately prior to that I was
a supervising parole agent, and before that I was a parole agent. I worked in the institutions, as
well as out in the streets.
What drew you to CRS?
One thing, and I'll be honest with you, was boredom with my job, the one that I had. At the
same time, I was put in a position where I had nothing else to do but to resign, because
I was demoted for becoming involved in some civil rights activity
within the agency. For example, at one point we took over the Youth Authority offices in
Sacramento. We felt there were two problems with the system. One, the lack of minorities in
the system itself, and two, we felt there was prejudicial mistreatment of inmates
because of who they were. So we protested those things and wrote articles, and then used the
offices of the
State Department of Rehabilitation and Unemployment to do our work. The person
there who was the manager allowed us to do this as long as we did it at night, and we didn't go
through the main door....so we went through windows to be able to do that.
I was also involved with a prisoners' group; I acted as their advisor. I was used, I know
that, but as long as it wasn't illegal, it was fine with me. But, I was suspected of not being loyal
to the agency and that also angered other law enforcement agencies, so they had their eye on me.
We also held conferences inviting correctional people as well as other inmates -- ex-inmates,
rather -- to
talk about mutual concerns. The conferences were okay, but they never really turned out the
way we envisioned them. Somehow, the inmates thought that once we started advising them,
gave them power. There's no one who thinks he's God more than an ex-inmate who thinks he's
"seen the light". You have to sort of reign them in, but not to the point where they just said,
"To hell with it." Anyway, that's one of the things we were doing.
The other one was that we used to have demonstrations, and on one, I
went with the people who were demonstrating. Some of those marching were members of the
correctional group that was trying to bring about reform. We never were given the opportunity
to be heard; all we got was criticism. We said, "To hell with it. Let's demonstrate." So we
demonstrated in front of one of their newer parole offices. Here I was, the highest-ranking guy
involved in this thing and boy, the LAPD went wild taking pictures. Prior to that, I had made
certain that my position was covered by my subordinate. I also made certain that whatever hours I
took off to go to the demonstration, I put in that evening. Since I was the boss of that particular
area, I didn't have to ask anybody's permission, so long as I made up the time. And that's what I
But of course, once people are angry at you, none of that really matters. The issue went up to the
director, and he understood. He, more than likely, wanted me to do some penance somewhere,
but Reagan is the one that wanted me fired. So he finally reached an agreement with that group
that I ought to have a demotion. They demoted me down from that position to Parole Agent 1,
and it certainly hurt.
Prior to that, I'd say about seven or eight months prior, I had been
talking with one of the people from CRS, a tremendous worker in the L.A. office. He was asking
me, "Why don't you come over here?" after I'd been demoted. I said, "Heck with it, I'll just
consider going with you." So I submitted all my paperwork to come to CRS. During
this time, I was doing my thing with that group for correctional reform.
I came to work for the agency in 1970.
When I was being investigated (or "background-checked" by the FBI), the FBI was doing its own
checking. It's really interesting because while I was a field agent, I was cooperative, I worked
well with law enforcement agencies and this kind of thing, so when the FBI contacted the
California Authority people, they said good things -- they gave a good report to CRS. I don't
think CRS even knew what I had been involved with, from the reports the FBI
From then on, I worked with the agency. I started out in Los Angeles and then I went to San
Diego, and that was my official office. I worked there for about a
year and then I got promoted to the lofty position of Supervisor. So I had two or three people
for me: an attorney and two conciliation specialists. We were responsible for the entire region in
terms of dealing with conflict resolution.
At the time, the agency was more involved in providing technical
assistance to communities in the forms of economic development, education, law enforcement,
and one other area. In cases that existed before our group started coming into effect, they would
respond. But it was the kind of response where you went and you just hoped you did the right
There was no background training to this. I think that whatever we each brought from other
agencies, we sort of applied it to what CRS wanted to do. Then with our group, we
developed a mediation training program for six months, using various people already in the field,
like George Nicholau and St. Louis University. At the time, they had a pretty good outfit.
One federal agency, The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service,
used some of their people to help us develop our mediation program. Also, there was a fellow
who had his background in the labor movement and later formed his own agency. He was great
-- a great mediator,
a great person. You might remember him. He was killed in an airplane
landing in Chicago, he was out of Chicago. He was a tremendous mediator and tremendous
trainer, as George Nicholau also was. And the American Arbitration Association helped us.
Those are the people that were working with us. So for six months, we went through all sorts of
training -- that is, the trainers sitting down with us and working with us. We did a hell of a lot of
What year was this?
This was 1971 or 1972. At the end of that time, we came back. When I say "we," it was me
and one of my subordinates-to-be. (Each region sent two people to be trained.) In the end, I
think there were two problems, two mistakes that the agency made. One was that we came back
as "the experts," and that will really do you in. The other one is that there were conflicting
supervisory issues. For example, I was there as a conflict
management manager, but also the regional director was there to do what he was doing before.
So now when you have a problem of conflict, that would come under my jurisdiction. That, of
course, sent the regional director through the roof.
From that point on, my group would respond solely to conflict problems. We did some training
of staff, in terms of what it was that we had gained from our own training, but not enough. Even
at our annual trek back to Washington, there was a division between the Conflict Resolution
people and the rest of the agency. That really isn't good for cooperation. So then we got
involved in kinds of situations that our own experience and expertise sort of propelled us to. In
some cases that expertise propelled us to the agency. Maybe the director felt that we
should be everything to everybody. There was disagreement there. How can you say that if we
have specific areas of expertise, we ought to be able to deal with all kinds of problems?
Were there cases that you felt that you should have been involved in that you actually
No. I think there were cases where staff should have been initially trained about what it was
that we were doing. That way, when we needed them, we could have called upon them and not
go through a mini-training session before they went out into the field. But I really had no
interest, personally, in getting involved in economic development or education at that point,
because we were doing conflict resolution.
What kinds of cases were you mostly involved in?
Law enforcement and corrections. But we would get involved in other kinds of situations,
if we thought we'd be able to provide assistance.
And of course, if they were willing to have us come in.
But about 1972 or 1973, the axe fell and we lost a great number of staff people. Nationwide, I
think we initially had roughly four hundred staff people, and we were cut down a lot. When we
got chopped up, of course they went by the amount of time each person had with that agency, so I
position and stepped down to Conciliator. They brought my group in with the rest of
the region, which, more than likely, should have been done long before. From then on, I began to
get involved mostly in correctional and law enforcement kinds of problems, not only within my
region but also within other regions. I sometimes would get a call from Seattle to come in and
provide some kind of technical assistance to them with some of the things that they were doing.
From then on, until about 1986, I feel that we did a good job in
staying true to the purpose for which we were originally created. From 1986 on, as the agency
became even smaller
yet, my own feeling is that at that point, we got interested solely with numbers. If you,
number one, just put out the numbers, and number two, your little face is out in the media, then
CRS has survived, but the actual work
Now it's solely a kind of thing where the agency provides what they call technical assistance and
maybe something that might relate to what was known as mediation, but there's not the same
kind of involvement. Maybe the times are different.
Certainly you can't expect that what you were doing and the kinds of dynamics that were
involved in the seventies and eighties are going to be involved today.
But at the same time, there doesn't seem to be any positive growth in the minority
communities, except in the natural kinds of things.
For example, in the Hispanic community, it just is so by-your-bootstraps, you pick yourself up.
young people are getting better educated, the same as in the African-American community.
What things were going on in the seventies and eighties sure as heck are not the same as what is
going on today. Now you have a heck of a lot more professionals. You have a heck of a lot
people who know what they're doing, especially in terms of the kinds of assistance we provide
Who do you think is taking CRS's role in that now?
I have a very tender spot in my heart for George Nicholau, but he is probably too old now to
be able to do those things. And I don't even think he runs an agency anymore.
Was he a private practitioner?
Oh yes. If you followed sports, he later became one of the arbitrators with the National
Baseball League. Prior to that, he had been a private mediator.
When I got involved with the California
Department of Corrections, he was the first fellow I went to. This happened roughly about 1973,
right after I got demoted into another position at CRS because mine was done away with.
There were all sorts of problems occurring in the Department of Corrections. Mind
you that at the time, I think there were only about twelve or thirteen correctional institutions in
California. Today I think there are about forty.
They were having all sorts of problems. The state was trying to cope with the killing of a judge
out in San Quinton. A great deal of turmoil was happening. I started
talking to one of the wardens about what was being done to prevent this kind of violence and
what he thought we might be able to do. These talks were always over the phone, and
agreed that maybe we ought to meet.
So I used to go down to the institution
where he was the warden, and we talked and we would try to figure out how in the heavens we
could deal with this issue. Also, we discussed how best to deal with the
administration. That includes not only the corrections people, but the state people as well.
We decided, "Well, the first thing we might be able to do is bring in
more people that want to talk about it." So he did that. In the meantime, he talked to the director
of the Department of
Corrections. Since they had a good relationship, the director said,
"Yeah, go ahead and see what you can do about it."
The major reason why I was so interested in doing this is that I felt two things. One, I could
make an entire career out of just going to the institutions, and the other one was that
since I knew this fellow and he and I were pretty good friends, I
thought we could work together effectively. And the director was allowing him to get these
people together to talk.
We made certain that the group was multiracial. We didn't want to have anyone from the
administration say, "I want my favorite," which would then be translated into all white. The
warden (and he's a great guy) then made the selections and he just chose so many people from a
certain group. He got together a good group to sit down with and begin talking.
During the time that we were talking, some of the staff members
decided, "No, this isn't for me." They were looking for a promotion and they didn't want to get
caught up in being looked at as "social worker types" who are participating in this thing. They
were afraid to continue this project because they thought it would have a negative effect on their
promotability. Ironically though, we felt that
if we could do something great there, we'd have a hell of a lot of people wanting to come through
At this point we felt that it was time to go
meet with the Director of Corrections. This is what we then felt was a mediation,
where we had to sit down with the director and get him to agree to what we felt had to
be done because of the problems he had. Also, we discussed how we felt it ought to be done.
Basically, what ought to be done and how it should be done. So he said, "Fine, let's sit down."
So he and his assistant director sat down with us, and it was like "good cop, bad cop". The
director was the good cop and the assistant director was the bad cop. The assistant director pulled
out all sorts of good questions that were intended to knock us back.
But the director would be the guy that said, "Well wait a minute, Joe, hold on. Let's
listen to this thing a little more and see what happens." So finally he said, "Fine, I think it's
something that's workable."
Then we went back and met again with the group. In the meantime,
the assistant director was
investigating me, and he
found out what I had done with the Youth Authority. So he called me, and he put me on the spot
and said, "This is what I have found out about you. What do you have to say about it?" I told
him what I had to say about it. So he went to the director and the director said, "Fine, if the
warden has taken the chance to deal with him, I want to take a chance to deal with him. And I
like the guy, and when he was talking to us here about the things that might be done, it sounded
pretty good. Besides, we have nowhere else to go."
They were up against the wall with all sorts of criticism and the governor saying, "What the hell
are you doing down there?" and, "Can't you improve things?"
So it wouldn't hurt him to go ahead and say, "Let's try it. If it doesn't work, then we'll
just say goodbye." So that was the agreement we had. If he didn't like what we were doing, all
he had to do was to tell us to get out, and we'd get out.
So at this point we had a meeting and I told the board, "I've reached
limit here. I can teach you folks, but it isn't like the training that we got from George Nicholau.
Let's bring him in to talk to the group. So we did. George came in and talked to them, and they
liked him. So the next thing we had to do was to get George together with the director. The
director also loved him, because he made sense. He didn't talk about any of this off-the-shelf,
"let's be good and love each other" kind of stuff. He asked, "What can we do to change your
institution that won't bring all hell from the state?" That was one point. The other thing was,
"How can we make it so that, hopefully, the inmates can deal with this in a more rational
manner, rather than resorting to violence?" So, we didn't promise anything, we just proposed.
How did you decide which community resources to bring in?
I decided based on my good experiences. As far as the correctional people that were
involved in this group, I knew a lot of them, since I had been in corrections and they knew me.
That is another important thing about getting involved in law enforcement and with correctional
people. If you come in as the good guy, with no correctional or law enforcement experiences,
kiss your project goodbye. It isn't going to work. If you come in as a good guy with no
experience in this kind of thing, but with connections to a heavyweight from the correctional
system or the law enforcement system, it will have some effect, but you're still going to have to prove yourself all the way down the line. Whereas the
guy who has had the experience, he can talk the language all the way down, he doesn't have to
So your experience in corrections and
law enforcement gave you
a certain credibility? Nobody questioned who
No. I brought in solely correctional people, I didn't use community people. I wasn't in law
enforcement, I was in corrections. I wasn't a cop. Some
correctional workers are working for the people, others are working for law enforcement, and
others are working for themselves. So you bring in the guys that you think are good,
and some of them inevitably see for themselves that maybe the case is not the thing for them.
willing to work through this thing, saying, "Hey, I'm not really trusted by a lot of these people
because of what I've said, but I'm willing to see if we can work this out." So that's the way it
You know, at one point, and I'm going to take you off on a tangent, when we went to one of the
institutions in Southern California, I was introducing the folks. I had
introduced myself, and I was talking to them about what it was that might be done, and the
inmates took me on fiercely. One guy, a Hispanic who I had known in East L.A. (he had been
my partners in a gang I was in when I was a teenager), stood up for me. He said, "Hold on you
all." So they said okay. They still questioned the heck out of me, but they didn't bring in their
hostility. All because one of the guys had said, "This guy's alright." So we went on from there.
We brought George in afterwards to meet with all of the wardens and they liked him. There was
one guy called The Bear, who took George on. And he really took
him on! This guy was just a mean alley-cat. What he was trying to find out was whether
the majority of what George was saying was the truth.....or bullshit. That's what he was looking
for. They ended up being the
best of friends. Once they knew each other, they started to be able to work together.
So the wardens really liked him. Then we had to go meet with some of the inmates so that they
could see what they might be able to do.
Before you go much further, we need to back up a bit. Could you
tell us who you decided to talk to first, and why? Sort of walk us through that case.
I decided to talk to the warden first, because of his background.
Also because I knew him and because I liked him. And I trusted him. His background included
having worked with the UFW, when he was a warden south of Salinas. There were a
lot of farm workers there. He and his wife worked with Cesar [Chavez] in doing whatever had
to be done. I don't know precisely what it was, but I'm sure that he was training. I'm sure that he
was helping them deal with some of the problems with the farmers. That's why I liked him. At
the same time, he had been a member of the Board of Corrections. In this position, he acted
upon cases and determined whether they were ready for parole or not. He was just a good,
highly intellectual man that you could trust with your life.
I also had friends that I kept in contact with. I would ask them,
"What do you think?" Then I'd go to the warden and ask him. I had to be pretty solid in what
I was talking about when I came to him, because he
was the main man. So I had to talk to these folks that I knew to see how my words would
register with him. They would advise me as to different approaches to take.
What did you say to the warden when you went to him, in terms
of what you wanted to do? What were your goals?
Well, over the phone, I would suggest to him that the problem was so huge that I, alone,
obviously wouldn't be able to deal with it. So that's when we began to talk. Then in
the back of my head, and in my writings about it, I developed a possible program. What to do,
when to do it, and who to contact. Then I approached him. He would cross out certain items.
"No, we don't want to do it that way; let's do it this way." "Fine, it's your institution, it's your
agency, and you're the expert. Whatever you want, that's fine with me."
When we took our material to the director,
he only changed one thing. We wanted to have a corps of experts stationed somewhere
strategically within the state, so that in the event of problems, they could go anywhere and
respond with maybe one or two people immediately. We could visit the area, assess it, and then
come back to the group and say, "Here's what's happening, here's what I think we need, here's the
view of the warden. The staff is okay, or they're not okay." This kind of thing. We also talked
about developing the team, what it was that we would need, including the use of other staff
people that weren't part of the team. At the time, we envisioned a team of about sixteen people.
But the director didn't like that idea. He thought that each institution ought to have its own
specialist, and then based on the need, we ought to start bringing more people in. We felt this
really wasn't the
better of the two approaches, but since it was his thing, we said, "Okay, fine. We'll do it that
way." When my warden friend and I talked about it, we never did say, "If this doesn't work,
what do we fall back to?" We just said, "We want to go for that." When it wasn't what he
wanted, and he presented us with the fall-back, we agreed to go for it.
Was that method of contact typical of most of the cases that you worked on while you were
No. From the point that I contacted the warden until we could say that we had a team, that
took one year.
Were you working on other cases in the meantime?
Yes, but this one took most of my time. And since my boss was
Washington, whatever I told him in writing, he agreed to. So all I had to do was tell him, "Here's
what I'm going to do," and he would say fine.
So there wasn't any tension at all in this particular case?
For example, when you were trying to work out your agreement.
When you would say, "This is what I think we should do," and then the warden would
say, "No, I don't like it." Did you just say, "Okay, we'll just come up
with something else?"
No, we worked it out right there. It was a lot easier because of our relationship. "If you
don't like it, let's do something that you do like." What really dictated what was done was the
fact that it
was their turf, not mine.
So the institution asked you to come in?
Later on. Later on, they asked me to come in and help. Initially, I would go on my own.
Then, when I talked to the warden, he said, "Let me talk to the director." That director then said,
"Bring him in." At that point, we talked about all the stuff that we ended up doing.
So you ended up having meetings for
quite a long time?
Right. It all had to do with building some kind of trust in what it was that we wanted to do.
The most important people were the wardens. The second
most important people were the inmates, and the third most important people were some of the
staff people. Usually they were the middle managers; they're the scum of the earth.
Just trying to get them to do things is hard because they're so afraid. I shouldn't say all of them --
but very few have the guts to be able to say something that they're not really sure of, or that they
the warden is not going to like. Those correctional folks like to be right all of the time. There's
no such thing as being wrong. That's how we saw them.
How did you get around that?
Just went in like a bull. With the Youth Authority and the
Department of Corrections, my hand was equal to theirs. I could kind of carry that, even though
they would tell me, "Oh, you think you're a baby." But it really didn't matter, they were
locked up, they couldn't hurt you. Guys have feelings in the institutions. So you had to be able
work with that.
Incidentally, there's a key thing that I didn't mention. We also had women in the institution, and the warden's thought, not mine, was that
women are more apt than males to be receptive to inmates' concerns. The
reason for this is that male correctional workers tend to immediately pose themselves as, "I'm not
talk to you as an equal. I'm going to talk to you as my unequal and it's up to you to bring
yourself up to my level." The women don't do this. The women say, "What do you want to say?
Okay, let's hear it. All right, fine, fine. I'll see what I can do about it, and I'll come back to you."
And that's the end of the conversation. But she would go back, she'd get things done and would
come back with either a yes or a no, either I can't or I can. Whereas a guy would say, "I don't
agree with that," right off the bat. So that was the warden's keen sense. He was able to not
only see it, but then say it.
So did you bring in women from CRS?
We brought women from corrections staff. They're
good people, the women there. I was the only guy except for the attorney. He worked with me
for a while until he went to another agency. He's the only guy who worked with me outside of
the institutional people. I preferred it that way, because I
trusted the attorney, and he knew what he was doing. He and I were sympathetic with what we
were doing and I trusted him.
So what role -- beyond helping with the
planning -- did CRS play? Did you facilitate the meetings?
I facilitated all of the planning meetings and all of the training meetings, and then went to
director and told him, "Here's what we can provide for you. We can provide the money to get you trained -- that is, the
transportation per diem, to the training site, as long as you're willing to provide the fees for
training your team." He said that was fine. So then we paid for their way and the Department of
Corrections paid for their training. I was also there at the training. I participated as a
correctional officer and also provided some of the input that George couldn't provide in terms of
CRS's interests were that this program had to go beyond today.
Let's just say that when you're getting all the training, and we get back and six months
go by, the training should still mean something. So, to this date, that group is still
going. It's growing in size, but I don't know if it's growing in ability. I have my
doubts that it is. They write very little about the system, the process. They write a hell of a lot
about what they did, and it's getting like CRS, where everything's glorious, we did great things.
If you ask them all how...well, we still did great things.
How did you help the institutions accomplish their goal?
By being there. That's one. Also by always talking to the people that were responsible: the
director, the assistant director, and of course, the warden.
We had another problem; let me back up. Not only did the director
say that we were going to keep the specialists at the institution, but that this was going to be a
secondary assignment. It's not going to be the primary assignment.
The primary assignment is whatever position they're holding. That in itself was great because
these guys took it on their own to nip potential problems in the bud, whereas had we been
centralized, a lot of these folks over here may not have been able to recognize a situation. And
by the time they did, it would be a full-blown problem. So that was really, really good.
Then we introduced something else. It was what we called an
institutional assessment, which meant that three or four employees, not from that institution, but
from other institutions, would go into an institution. These people would be assigned by the
director, and they would tell the warden that they wanted to come in and assess problem
potentials. It wasn't put in those words, because that immediately sends the warden into a
defensive position. But instead they said, "We're here to help. We want you to know that when
we come in, we're going to discuss this with your people and we're going to discuss that with the
inmates. We're going to come back at the end, and let you know what we found."
I think one of the bad fallouts of that was that they allowed the
warden to change some of the things. But that still didn't matter, because then they would come
back to my friend and say, "This is what we agreed to with the warden, but here's what we really
saw." Then my friend would take it up with the director.
Now your friend was one of the wardens, was he not?
Right, right. He was an independent son-of-a-gun who could out-fox any of those wardens
that were there. He's an older guy, too. When he retired, he was about sixty-five.
So when I approached him he was in his fifties, late fifties, roughly.
He had a lot of what they call "background". You couldn't question him. If he went up to
warden and said, "Look, here's what I've done, here's why I've done it," the warden might not like
it, but he wouldn't bark back at him.
Did some of these meetings turn into mediations at the end?
Yeah, they did. They're not the kind of mediation that you're used to. They're the kind of
things that stop violence. So you talk to the people that you
recognize, the leaders, about what is happening or is about to happen.
You tell them, "Get them down here, we want to talk to you." That was one of the good things
about this situation. With corrections, aside from wanting to talk to
the prisoners and wanting them to agree to behave, if that's the right word, you always have in
the back of your mind that you can pull the chain and say, "Alright. Bring them in and let's
control it. Now we'll talk." So, many times, they were more willing to sit down and
talk about it before you brought in the people that would physically control it. So that was good.
I'll tell you one thing, except for lately when these idiots are shooting inmates, we
didn't have a major disruption at any of the state institutions. I can't remember any major
disruption. We may have had small ones. We may have had lock-downs. But no major
disruptions. Because the inmates obviously knew that if they got tangled up in some
kind of a hassle, it would be controlled. For example, with a lock-down. But there would
always be somebody who would come and talk to them about what
happened and what could be done to see that it didn't happen again.
So this is like a grievance committee?
No. This could end up being a grievance committee, but this was getting the inmates to
agree that they would abide by certain rules. So long as they did, they could have their freedom
back. That is, lift the lock-down. Some of the concerns that they expressed, you took them back
whomever it was that they wanted their concerns heard by. It was up to the warden as to whether
he wanted to do anything about it or not. He
would let them know, "I'm not going to do it," or "Okay, we tried."
At least inmates are realistic. They can give you tons of things that they want, but usually what
is really involved is food, the use of the canteen, their mail, and visits. Those are the important
things. The other ones are just icing on the cake. That's about the only way I can describe
For example, you'd have a situation where they would accuse a
certain officer of mistreating them, and it usually had to be physical. If a guy bad-mouths you,
there's not much you can do about it. But if you can get this guy for physically mistreating an
inmate or a group of inmates, then you got him. Then you either move him out by transfer or you
put him up on charges. That's up to the institution, to decide what they want to
Was there a time when you couldn't get the two sides to sit down
and talk it out?
If I understand you correctly, I don't think I ever had a problem in dealing with inmates and
staff where we couldn't reach some kind of agreement. Sometimes they weren't happy about the
outcome, but it was better than nothing at all.
One situation comes to mind, though. "Bear" was the fellow that ended up liking George
Nicholau. He's a huge man with huge hands. He called me, this was
maybe two years after. He said, "I have a problem here in the institution, and I want you to
come out here right away." I said, "Okay, what's the problem?" "These guys are raising hell,"
and he went on.
So when I got there, he gave me a run-down of what was happening, and he brought in one of his
program administrators and he said to me, "This is the guy that I think will do a good job helping
you. I want you to go in there and talk to these guys and I don't want to have any more crap." So
that's the way he talked to me. I said, "Okay, fine. Let's go in and talk to them." So we began
the discussions, and from then on, I went there every day for two weeks. Then one day, I
got there and the first thing the warden said was, "Where in the hell have you been?" I said, "I've
been on the road." He said, "We just had a problem here and we had to lock these guys
down." I said, "Okay, fine. What happened?" "Well, they went at each other." "Alright."
So then we had them in a situation where they were a captive audience, which I think was good.
So there was
no anger about, "Well, I was in class, I was in this, I was lifting weights." They had to be there
because they were locked down. So then we had an opportunity to talkWe did not get them
together, but went back and forth between them like Secretary of
State Kissinger did some time ago. We got them to agree to get
together. Also, we got them to
agree not to go at each other physically. They also agreed to take their shoes off and
we took our shoes off too. If you don't have your shoes on, you don't want to fight. That was
something that the superintendent's program administrator suggested to me, and I said, "Heck,
yes. Let them take their shoes off." The next step is to take your clothes off, and that helps
even more because nobody wants to hurt himself. But we didn't go that far.
So we sat down and talked. At one point we said, "Here's what we want you to do. We want you
agree to keep the peace between yourselves -- no violence. That's the top. How long can you do
it?" "Oh, I don't know." "Well,
we've got to agree to something. If you can agree to something, then the little carrot out there
said that we'll let you free."
Are you talking to all of the inmates at
the same time?
No. We're talking to the Mexican inmates. When I say "Mexican inmates", I'm talking
two gangs, one from the North and one from the South.
About how many members are there?
In that institution, maybe thirty-four.
All thirty-four were with you?
No, we had them select their spokespeople. It's a mistake to
assume that the guy you're talking to is the leader. So we said, "Hey, go out there and choose
yourself." Had we chosen the spokespeople, the inmates would have just laughed at us. So they
brought in some
people that they chose. You know, in an institution, you can know who the top
leaders are, but it's a lot harder to know who the lieutenants are. Anyway, they came
in and we talked.
At one point,
we used the old trick: "Alright, you don't want to come to an agreement? We'll see you guys."
So we walked out and closed the door. Then, as we were getting ready to go tell the warden that
we didn't get anywhere today, one of the sergeants come out and said, "Hey, they want to talk to
you." So we went back in.
So here's the plan we laid out for them: "Okay,
we're going to sit down, we're going to write something out. And what we're going to
write out is that you agree not to blah, blah, blah. What do you think?" So they read it. "That's
okay." The other guys read it. "That's okay." We agreed that for two weeks, there wouldn't be a
hassle. "And we'll be back before the two weeks have passed, to
see how things are going."
So for two weeks, things went well. At the two week point, I went into the institution and they
had gone at it. So we had to go out there and talk to the guys. As soon
as they saw us
come in, they dropped their weapons, which were pieces of stick and that sort of thing. This was
joint; it wasn't out in the field. We went over and talked to them and said, "You guys, we need to
down again." "Okay." So we said to them, "We expect you not to go at each other." "Yeah,
okay." We sat down and they didn't go at each other. "Alright, want to go two more weeks?"
The end result was the same as in our first effort; they just couldn't keep the violence from
Finally, how we got
peace was to transfer out some of the guys. From then on it was peaceful, and I can't
remember ever getting a call from that guy again.
So in your opinion, was that case a success?
Yes. You take every little success one-at-a-time, and if it takes something like
transferring certain guys out of the community to reach a peaceful agreement,
that's fine. They learn that if you can sit down and talk your problem out, maybe something
good comes of it and you won't get killed, jailed, or anything else.
I'm not naive enough to believe that they internalized everything we said, and that they're still
living by what they learned.
At least we provided the institution with an alternative to forcing
control, then that's a gain for them; that's what we had
hoped for, and it worked.
I think the wardens of that era, like many of the people in CRS, were more
grounded in the correctional theory. What was expected of them. They had long, extensive
experience in their positions, whereas today, the institutions have grown so quickly that
yesterday's sergeant is today's warden. That's hell, because these people don't have the experience
that these high-up jobs require.
Number one, they don't know what they're doing in terms of the inmates. Number two, they don't
know what they're doing in terms of their own staff. The staff can play these wardens as well as
the inmates can. So these guys just end up running in circles. Something has to be done.
In addition, a lot of these guys, as you well know, don't want to be running institutions. They're
pissed because they feel like they're stuck, and so they're not really going to adjust to the
setting. Right now they're lucky that they haven't had any huge uproars. Of course, that's probably
because the correctional officers are
armed with these high-powered rifles these days -- automatics and semi-automatics. And they
play the inmates against each other, too.
What do you mean?
Oh God. If you had read a lot of the stuff that's happened recently. They'll tell one group of
inmates that another group is gunning for them. And of course, before you know it, the groups
are after each other. The same happens with
individuals, so you end up having these fights, and that gives the guards an excuse to shoot.
That's brought out in investigations that the FBI and all these other folks have started, along with
investigators, etc. Only recently have they admitted the long history of these things. They're still
"We're going to continue to investigate, but we don't believe our people would do such a thing."
I guess what I'm really getting at is that this sort of intervention was my primary interest. We
did it in Nevada and we did it
Something else that we learned from working with these correctional guys, is how to work with
problems in the schools. I sort of
equate the prisons with the schools. They're both there, not really wanting to be there -- the
teachers in the schools, and the guards in the prisons. They're in the same position. So what we
decided to do
was to get some of these key correctional guys to work with me on the community stuff, and to
provide training in conflict resolution to the teachers or other school officials. We
didn't get together with the students; we felt that was the teachers' job.
So we sat down with these folks, and again, as we did with the
warden, we asked, "What is it that we think we ought to do? How do
we ought to do it? Okay, fine. Let's call some of these teachers that were concerned about this."
This happened to be San Diego. We called them in and we said, "Here's what we would like to
do. What do you think?" And then they gave us their
input. So then, it was
my job to put the plan in writing as a proposal to them. After a little more refining, they said,
great. We'll do it this way."
What we had to do was have them select
the group of people that they wanted to train, and there ended up being about twenty of them.
At the same time, we got the Department of Corrections to involve
these people in their training in conflict resolution. We did that for two reasons. One is that
thought I had about the teachers and the correctional officers, their having the same thing going.
The other reason was that hopefully, in discussing at lunch or dinner or
what not, having a beer, the corrections officers might pick up some techniques and ideas from
teachers. In the end, the whole deal worked out pretty well -- they found that they did have a lot
in common with one another, and everybody gained some insight.
In the meantime, we were working with the Navy and a University
down in San Diego. It's an independent university that uses a lot of the federal facilities.
The Navy allowed us to use their training
facility, and since this particular university was already using their training equipment,
and so forth, we were allowed the same privileges. The Navy
even provided us with video technicians to record our training. So we did that. We trained them
forty hours in conflict resolution. It really came out well, because they came back and did their
thing, and I think it lasted about two years before fading away. A
lot of the folks got promoted and that kind of thing, so it was pretty successful.
Again, another one of CRS's problems was that there was no provision, really, to provide any
assistance, beyond the original agreement.
And I didn't mention this: There was a
racial overtone in this case. Some shootings had occurred recently in
North San Diego, at a time when the Vietnamese were being brought in from Vietnam
into San Diego and then processed by the local Marine Corps, before being placed in homes
in North San Diego. Well, North San Diego has a tremendous number of Marine and Naval
retirees, so this really didn't go over well with them. There was tremendous upheaval there,
but that actually settled. The Navy, as far as they were concerned, settled that very quickly.
But, it didn't settle the kids.
So at one point, these Vietnamese kids were being harassed by Latinos and African
Americans, to the point where one Asian kid got so angry that he pumped a bunch of
rifle shots into a community center where these kids hung out. He didn't hit
anybody, but he was arrested. It was at that point that we began dealing with the
community. The educational folks thought, "You know, we ought to get them when they're very
young and since we have the facilities, we ought to take that on now." Something to that effect.
how we got involved with the schools; they brought us over because they felt that maybe
they should be the ones to deal with this, since the kids were living such a large percentage of
their time out
in the community. Anyway, the contacts that we
had in San Diego helped us move into the North San Diego community.
It was just a matter of calling someone that I knew in San
Diego and making arrangements.
Did you go beyond training? Did you actually intervene between
the different groups?
Sure. In this situation, it was like keeping the "community types"
and the "refugee types"
apart, so that there wouldn't be any violence. But the Asians really
weren't looking for violence. Not the community in general, at least. Probably one or two kids
were, but definitely
not all. At any rate, there was a lot of anger. The community folks knew that they had to do most
work to solve their problems though, not CRS. They provided us simply with the road to where
they wanted us to go.
But to answer your question, a couple of them. One is in Pomona
where I worked with a group of Mexican Americans and a group of African Americans, getting
them to come together, and that's tough to do. I contacted the city council and the school board and went down to find out what was
happening. It started off again by knowing someone in
city of Pomona, and asking him who the people might be that I ought to contact. He was willing
to sort of lead the interface for me, and so that's how we got in contact with the Latino
community and with the African American community. With official
folks. It isn't hard with official folks. You just show up and introduce yourself, and they'll sit
down and talk to
you. But the community folk, they don't care who you are. I mean, they want you to prove
These kids were gang types and their parents were very nervous about the tensions between the
Latinos and the African Americans. But more pronounced was the relationship between each
group and law
enforcement, and that was the biggest problem. Parents saw cops beating up on their kids,
them, for no reason whatsoever.
So my first job was to bring the Latinos and the African Americans
together, and get them to agree that they ought to come together, in order to get at these
people who were abusing them. I told them, "You may not like each other, but if you have that
common thing, we can do something."
How did you do that?
Sitting down and meeting with them, especially with the
Going into the African American community, I needed to go to this old abandoned outdoor
shopping mall that
had had its heyday from World War II until about 1970 or so. It was right near a park, and the
kids began hanging
around there -- the Latinos, especially. I'm not saying that the African American kids didn't hang
but the Latinos' turf was really the parks. So it was going out
there and meeting with these guys. Now, I wasn't about to
go out there and meet with these kids on my own immediately, because it would've taken years to
get any kind
of relationship going. So I got together with the
gang workers, and they would then take me to these guys and say, "Hey, this guy's doing this. He
wants to work with you because he understands this is happening. Tell him about it." Pretty
whole problem was boiled down to cops. Cops, cops, cops. So I said, "Well, I'm going to see
what we can do
The same thing happened with the African American community.
I'd make contact with someone who was working with these kids,
and he would take
me in there. Of course, they immediately see that I'm not African American, so there's a lot of
questions about, "Whose
side are you going to be on?" So I said, "Look. The only way we can get past that is for you to
try me out,
and then I'll come back and talk to you." I didn't dare bring in an African
American worker with me, because the response would be, "Look at you! You need that guy to
here and talk to us. You can't do it on your own." So I kept going back and eventually the guys
agreed that maybe we ought
to get together and talk about the issues.
In the meantime, there was a high school principal that agreed to work with me, as well as an
American gang worker. There was another school representative as well, an
African American, that agreed to work with us to bring these kids together and help determine
what could be
done. They had a much greater influence on those kids than I ever could. So there was an
"Let's confront those cops and see what we can do about this whole situation."
How did you get cops involved in this?
The first thing I did was to go to the chief through a lieutenant
that I knew, a Hispanic lieutenant. He was willing to work with me.
So then I went to the city council and presented my so-called plan to them, and explained
that I had an agreement on the part of the police chief and that I had community folks helping
me. They agreed to hear me out, so I explained to
them what I thought should be done. One of them got involved, and that gave us a pretty diverse
There were four community people, four school kids,
the police chief, the city administrator, somebody from the school board, some
people from businesses, city council and so forth.
So we got together, and pretty soon it was obvious that although I had
folks that were educated in the sense of negotiating, these guys had it by the tail. They would be
able to run around these things.
So we had to then call a recess and get together with the folks and sort of go through mock
meetings, explaining what to do, what to say, that kind of thing. Eventually I asked, "Do you
feel ready?" "Okay. Fine," they said.
So we got them together again and the
concerns were bread and butter: "You're beating us up, and you're beating my
kids up. You're not giving us a fair chance." That was a concern. But employment.....
the police department and the rest of the city, aside from token
employment, had no people of color. So that got bigger than just the cops "beating my kid up."
There was an agreement reached that
number one, the police would have such a simple thing as a minority person on call, both
African American as well as a Spanish speaking Hispanic on Saturdays and Sundays in the event
there was that kind of need. Beforehand, if a man who couldn't speak English was arrested, too
bad. "We haven't got that kind of capability," they'd say. "We'll wait until Monday or get your
But this way they could provide that kind of service. Another item was to get training
police officers in human relations. Not
provided by us, but by someone like the L.A. County Human Relations Commission.
It worked out with the city administrator and members of these
groups, that they might be able to develop employment opportunities, not only for the adults, but
also for the kids. Especially during the summer, because this is when these kids get into all sorts
of hassles. It was a written agreement and they lived up to it.
Today it's different, and I can't tell you that I really followed up on it,
because I just didn't have the time to follow up on it. I would call them to find out what was
happening, but I never really followed up as I should have. Anyway, that's how we got into
Pomona and that's how the community folks were the ones who again were the mainstay.
One of the guys that wrote about me said that I was a good synthesizer of the things that
happened. There would be all sorts of stuff
going on and then I would take it to the City Council, saying, "this is what happened." But I
flavored it with my view of what I thought ought to be happening, and they agreed with it. It
isn't as earth-shaking -- and I think mediation in the community isn't always earth-shaking -- as
working in corrections, because there's a difference between people beating the hell out of each
other and to trying to work things out. Whereas here, if the cops were beating them up and we
didn't want to help, they could always sue and get whatever it is they're looking for out of that.
But do they know that?
Oh yeah. But it's more expensive. And can they afford it? These folk are poor people and
so you really don't expect them to. And when it comes to money, it's hard enough to
bring them together over the issues; when it comes to money, that's
really difficult to get people to agree.
So you think that these communities were more aware of mediation services rather than the
You know, they may have been. I never asked. But when I
talked to the community folks, I had to really describe what it was that we were talking about.
So although they may have known, they never let on that they did know.
Q - Did you ever run into any problems with people feeling that you
weren't being objective, that you were taking the side of the low-power group?
Immediately. "You're Mexican, well, we know whose side
on." With the community folks also, "You're Department of Justice? Well... We don't expect
much." And with the police, "You're with the community? Oh. For a minute I thought you
were one of us."
How did you get around that?
Well, I stressed what we were all working toward the same goal, and that kind of allayed
their concerns. But
hey, if you're not a cop, you're not a cop and you're not with them. So you have to do a lot of
talking with them -- you
have to have coffee with them, or go out for a beer. You know,
having a beer with some of these cops did a lot more than sitting down with them with the
groups. Because when you're having a beer, the mood is a lot more relaxed. You can talk about
what it is that people
are thinking. Not just
strategy. "They're pissed because they're human beings and they expect to be treated just like
you would want to be treated. You're educated, you're the adult, these are kids. If they crap on
you, are you going to sit there and crap on them? Are you going to beat them up?" It just goes
on like that. It's just a shooting-the-breeze kind of thing and it builds
lot of the trust -- as long as you don't preach to them. In some instances you
even say, "Yeah, that guy's an idiot. He got what he deserved. But maybe you should take a
And I used to tell them, "I remember when I'd get a call from a police officer
and he arrested one of my guys and I said, 'Oh yeah?' 'Yeah. But the guy getting out of the car
fell and he bumped his head on the floor and hit his head on the stairs.'" So you let them know
that you're aware of all their little tricks, but you don't condemn them except by
maybe suggesting that there are better ways of doing things.
One of the hardest things in talking to these guys was getting myself
out of a certain role on the one hand, and the other one, preaching. They don't tolerate preaching
It's like they're daring you to train them. If you can sit and have a beer with these guys, though,
sometimes they start to understand what you're trying to say. But again, it takes time.
The allowances should be made by the agency and not be considered as a waste of
time. "My God! You've already put in a week on this and you've only got this far?"
That's the type of attitude that some of the middle managers had. I only put up with it
because they're political appointees and they've got no experience. So as a result, they come out
Did you ever give the low-power groups technical assistance?
I know you said that you
helped kids or inmates learn how to negotiate. Did you do anything
else to help them frame their interests or their concerns, or otherwise help them present their case
in a more effective way?
We did that with students at a later time. But it was more helping them to do the mediation
Yeah, peer mediation. But I didn't get into that much. With inmates, the only time that I
would sit down and talk to them was when we were actually doing mediation where we felt that
we had to discuss with them what it was that was about to take place, because more than likely
they didn't know. We'd explain about mediation, the
agreement on the part of the administration to sit down and talk about things. We'd inform them
that they would talk and they might get together with members of the administration, but then
they might not, meaning we'd do a shuttle kind of thing. Yet in the
end, they'd have to accept that the administration was in charge. And they
knew that. It's just like when they talk about this bull that the inmates "run the prisons." That's
true, and I don't know who spreads that stuff around. Even the inmates know that's not true, and
they tell you. "What do you mean we run the prison? Look at all the guns these guys have. And
if those aren't enough, they'll
call the National Guard, the Highway Patrol, the resources go on and on." Yet in the end, they'd
have to accept that the administration was in charge. So you go in
and tell them, "Hey, if they don't want to do certain things, they'll tell you."
I saw that as getting them up another notch as compared to the level we felt that maybe the
administration was at. Sometimes, some of the folks they
gave us from the administration weren't that cool. They were not too smart, and very defensive.
So if an inmate -- and this is just an example -- if he were to say something that the guy didn't
would say back, "What do you mean to talk to me like that?" You don't do that in a mediation
kind of situation. So that was really our problem in that sometimes we had to take what the
administration gave us and many times they were people who just had nothing else to do.
Or, this is my
favorite, though later on it became not my favorite. There was a guy I had my eye on; I wanted
to train him so when he went in to his orals, he could say, "Well, I've been trained in conflict
resolution." Because later on it took an aura of acceptability on the part of staff. It was our
initial premise. "If we do this thing right, we can get some people promoted." And that really
meant minority staff --
we wanted to see more minority staff getting promoted.
Although we had a multiracial group, we really had more
minorities than we had anybody else. Sad to say, we didn't have any Asians, because at that time
the Asians weren't statistically significant in the prison system as inmates. But the guys who got
were minorities and they did a good job, too.
When you train these folks, it's good to have the key people trained.
But it's also important to train some of the middle staff and the lower staff. The lower, newer
is always watching and they've got to know what to watch, what
to see, what to report and how to report it. Also, the guy at the second level can't be defensive at
all. He can't say "That's not happening. I've got ten years experience, you only have five." And
he's got to have the guts to take it to the captain, and the captain has to have the guts to take it to
the assistant warden in charge of security, and he has to do something. But each one of them has
his own little niche to protect, and if you start bringing in too many people, things start to
"I think there's something about to happen," warnings to the next guy, he's concerned that you're
not doing your job.
So you've got to help these guys to understand that from the top
down, that when somebody brings you x-number of concerns about what might be happening,
they should look into it before they start blaming that guy for not doing his job. And as you
begin to start building that relationship with that guy, they're going to feel freer to tell you what
is happening. Maybe even doing something beforehand, and that's the important thing with
people who assess. "If you can, do it, take care of it. If you can't, get somebody else from
someplace else to do it."
This reminds me of something you said earlier, that you see
now as being different than they were in the early days.
Different, yeah, but not improving. I'm talking to you about CRS, I'm not talking about "the
I think the process is more sophisticated, certainly. I think that more
people -- that is, community types -- are more aware of rights, where to seek help,
hey, they can even do it themselves. I think corporations are now smart enough to have in their
human resources departments people who can handle these kinds of problems, so that they don't
get beyond the walls. I don't mean because you're going to get criticism. It's so that you don't
have problems with the postal people who come back shooting. They're able to see things that
are happening and maybe they can talk to the chairs of corporations so that they don't get
defensive about that. If you have a problem, get it solved. And if it costs money, how much?
We don't want to pay all these lawsuits because of what we didn't do.
I think that was one of the selling things we would take to
citydom or school superintendents, that what you can do now, keeps you from being criticized,
which is really important to them. Keeps you from having to pay out all these suits after your
lack of attention to the situation. All the days off that your staff may have to take because of
injuries that they might receive, all of the pupil payment that you get for kids who come to
school. They would lose that money because the kids had to stay out of school, the parents
didn't want to send them. Law enforcement being deployed, that's expensive. Insurance
companies taking a second look at you and saying, "Hey, we don't think that you're a good risk."
They're going to raise whatever premium they charge and it just goes on. And it's nothing new
and it's not something that they haven't thought about, but it's something that they see that if
you're aware of it, you're going to make those community folks aware about it
too. So the idea of people getting together to talk about mutual
problems, that's still good. Even though the pressure isn't as pronounced as it was back in the
60s and 70s, it's still there. You've got to get people to understand that you mean business, and
that if you don't do it then something else has to happen. The thing is that you have to have to
define that "something else". You just can't go in there and blow smoke.
Earlier, when we talked about the changes in CRS, you thought
that from 1986 on,
they sort of got concerned with numbers and media and things like that. Can you tell us how media affected your job while you were at CRS?
The media had very little effect on me, personally. I don't think the media had much affect
on CRS as a whole, even though they sought out that kind of thing. I
think in some rare instances, they got in the way because they wanted you to play the case out
through them and you had to say, "No, I don't want to talk to you." You didn't say it that way,
but you told them that you wanted to deal with the people by yourself. Then when it was over,
if they were interested, we would talk to them. But if we talked to them, we'd
have representatives from the parties there to talk about it and introduce themselves.
But the things that we got into weren't that big. They were just local community kinds of things,
so they weren't really that earth-shaking. Even with the
training we did in San Diego. That was good publicity for everybody: Corrections, the Navy --
because they went from how the situation started, all the way through how we got involved -- the
University, the school district, and the community were all involved and
they painted a picture of what happened. Plus, they explained what we were doing in the
training sessions. We got the media to agree to not hang around the training sessions. We
felt that if they were there, some of these people would be playing to the cameras. So we said,
"No, we don't want to do that."
I think more in some cases, it was more of a trick on their part, where they would call the media
and then they would call you. It happened to me in San Diego with a group of Mexican
Americans. The problem was big enough to them, so they called me down there, and I went
down there and I talked to them and they had set up a community meeting for that night. So I
went to the community meeting and it didn't register, why are those lights so darn dim? So we
sat down, the lights went on, "Alright, Mr. Alderete, tell us about what it is that..." It was the
San Diego Tribune and I don't know who else. So I said, "Hey, you guys tricked me into this
I'm not going to talk." So the media agreed to leave and then we got down to business. But I had
good laugh because this is something that I at times had wished on other people.
During any of the cases that you had worked on, did any of the
parties ever insist on having the media present in order to sit down at the table?
No. I can't remember anytime. They insisted on
having person A, person B, attorney A, that kind of stuff, but later on, either through peer
pressure or through agreeing that maybe that wasn't a good idea, they would settle.
One of the interesting things that I did was in Texas, in a really small
border community. The reason I mention this is because these people had nothing. The people
who were the power had nothing and the people who were concerned had even less. But at the
same time, it's ironic. The president of the school board was a real redneck. All he owned was
a little tiny store, and he thought he had the world wrapped around his finger, and he was married
to a Mexican
American, and he had her whipped around as if she was a slave.
The Mexican American who convened this Mexican American group owned...well, it was really
And in the very small border towns, warehouses tend to be huge -- they hold everything from
items, to refrigerators and TV sets, all being held there while the brokers get the stuff across to
That's not to say that you can't do a little
job on the side. Well, he was the guy with the Mexican Americans,
and their concerns were the usual ones. No Mexican American
teachers, no coach for their basketball team, they didn't have football. Classrooms were in
extremely poor condition. It was one hundred percent Mexican Americans, so you're just
concerned with the Mexican American school group. In fact, the school district, the city, was
maybe 96% Mexican American, the rest were all white. Our ability to sit
them down and quickly come to an agreement was simply because this guy saw the power guy
over here and the power guy had money and they agreed to everything that the Mexican
Americans should have had years ago.
What brought the power guy to the table?
He's a Mexican American, number one. I had a few drinks with
him. When he first met me, he looked at my shoes, and he said, "What kind of shoes are those?"
And I said, "Well, they're the kind of shoes that I like." At the time, during that era, they were
the kind of boots that were up to your ankle and you zipped them up and they shined. And that
just didn't go with him. I had to wear cowboy boots. "No," he said. "Here, I'm giving you a
pair of cowboy boots." "I can't accept them." "Well just wear them during this." I finally
agreed to wear them, so that was good enough for him, and so once that was done we sat down.
I didn't even have a chance to say why I was there. When this guy saw the other guy, he knew
immediately that the case was lost for him. So there was a little give and take and, "We like you
and we like you. We want the best for our kids," and that kind of thing, "And this is what we
want." "Okay, fine. We'll stay away from the Texas Board of Education." They come in and
inspect. Later on he told me, "You know, I'm really glad we didn't have that Texas Board of
Education because we'd have gotten even less had they gotten involved in it. The way we played
it was, they bring in the Justice Department, and they don't want the Justice Department
investigating them, so you played that part, but the part we played was being there and getting it
done." Anyway, that's the way it went.
We had one fellow there who taught at one of the local junior colleges, but the rest were all just
poor, poor people. They weren't what you might call "dirt poor", but they were poor. To give
you an example, at the
hotel I went to, they asked me, "Do you need a phone?" I said, "Yeah, I need a phone." She
reached down and said, "Here's a phone for you. Just plug it into your room." They were
probably the better-off folks. I would never want to put anybody through that. I understand now
that the highway ran all the way into Mexico. Also, the Bank of London is there, so you can
imagine the kind of activity that's happening when you have such a huge bank in this little town.
Also, the railroad station, far, far out represents what it ought to. It's just mind-boggling to see
this huge, beautiful train station in this little town. The one town is only about 1550 people,
maybe 1200. The bigger one is probably 30,000, so a lot of stuff is going on in that area that I
don't want to know about. But this is an example of the preparatory stuff I did, visiting
individuals, observing who I intended to, getting the people to sit down and talk. All those
preparations took place before the agreement to sit down took place. But once I sat down with
them, he was in charge, and he was in charge way back here when I was called in. Fine, the guy
was maybe eighty, tall, about six feet two, skinny as a rail, pressed Levi's, cowboy boots,
cowboy shirt, hard drinking guy, and still with this mind where he knew where he was going.
When the whole thing was over, I took my boots off and put my personal boots on, he insisted
that I take a gallon of....well, it's not the usual drink that Mexicans would want to drink; it was
something else. 125 proof. I brought it home and I put it on the table and I looked at it. In
fact, my father-in-law happened to be there and I asked him, "Do you want to drink some of
that?" I told him what it was, and we got a little lemon going. After he left, I threw the rest of
the stuff away.
It was just a he-man drink.
Keeping in mind the power difference that you just talked about,
was there ever a time that you worked with one party without letting the other party know about
it? Where you're strictly working with one party and keeping that away from another party
To what end?
To the extent of maybe you're providing some assistance that you think the subordinate party
really needs that you don't think that the superior party would take too kindly to you providing.
Well, two situations. If I had given up, if I had decided that nothing was going to happen, I
might do that.
Or if I was called in, but I wasn't called in by them and they really didn't feel that they needed to
get together with them, yeah, then we would talk about what is it we can do to hopefully get
whatever you want. But I can't really remember having to do that.
One time, you asked about technical assistance, I worked with the
Hispanic Advisory Council to the Los Angeles Police Commission.
. We developed a report on the shootings of minorities by the LAPD.
This came out of one really egregious shooting in which a black woman was shot
something like 72 times because she was wielding a knife about twelve feet from the police. So
they killed her. Even the Latino Police Commissioner was angry that the cops had done that, and
he was an extremely conservative guy. Of course, the African American member of the
commission was really
Out of that came the development of a Hispanic Advisory Council. We suggested that we'd get
the community together,
and that was fine with them. But we really didn't intend to do
that. What we intended to do was build a solely Hispanic advisory committee. This is after we
had talked to two members of the police commission. At the time, the African American
community wasn't organized enough to deal with the situation quickly like the Latino
So we got them together, and what we would do within the Hispanic
community was to rile people up about the stuff that cops were doing. Not CRS as such, but I'm
member of the group. So we came up with a report on the shooting and the report involved
Latino attorneys, members of the advisory group, psychologists, teachers, corrections officers,
former policemen. I was an advisor, I wasn't a member of the group. Anyway, the report was
written, really castigating the L.A. Police and jumping all over a guy who is a psychologist out of
the University of California, Riverside, because he's the guy that had written the report on the
shooting and he screwed it up. He came out like the police hadn't been wrong, it wasn't their
fault, they were protecting themselves.
So we not only tackled that issue, but other shootings in L.A. When the police chief, the guy that
was a real nemesis to the minority community, got that, he held his gut and he read it and he
said, "We're going to put this in our library." But we did get one over him. We registered it with the federal people you send written materials to and that kind of
stuff, so that's registered there. It was a well-written report, I have to say that. We paid for it, we
got it published, and we used the Latino brain power and they did a good job on it. So anyway,
that's technical assistance. If all I provided was stirring the mud, and providing the money for
the report and publishing it, that's technical assistance in my eyes. The brain power was theirs.
And from there on, the Hispanic Advisory Council went from 1979 until
1998, I think November 1998, when it
disbanded due to lack of interest. Well, maybe not lack of interest, so much as the increasing
sophistication of folks. They no longer need an advisory group to the police commission. If
they have a concern, they bring it right to the commission. You don't have to fool around with
The same way with the Asian commission, although they did it with the police department itself.
And that was their big mistake because all the cops did was say, "Yes sir, yes sir, you're right.
Thank you." They'd leave and that was it. With the African American community, they went to
the commission but that's exhausted too, they're no longer together, they need it less than they
have in the past. You still see a lot of folks -- especially in some of the older Union movements
that're still back in the sixties mindset: "Let's get together and let's go demonstrate and
throw rocks through windows, and they'll listen to us." But that doesn't work anymore.
Sometimes it does, but generally speaking, no.
Going back to the Mexican American Advisory Committee that you helped.
Once this report came out, what did that do to your relationship with the cops? Could
you continue to work with them?
Hey, the commission accepted it. I don't know if the LAPD had any ill feelings towards me
personally, but they didn't have any ill feelings towards the agency. This is a report that was
done. It wasn't saying that the LAPD is a racist so-and-so. It says the LAPD does racist things,
some LAPD people do racist things. That's a hell of a lot different. So I think that deep down,
agree. I'm sure that the chief saw it that way and wished that it didn't happen, "But by golly, I'm
a cop's cop and I'm going to go down with them." That's how he saw it.
How do you decide when to end an
intervention in a community?
Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes they become a part of you, and you have a heck of a time
breaking away. Even if you say, "This is it," you'll still find yourself calling to see how things are
And when you travel
somewhere, you always try to do a site stop to see how things are going. Even today, I still call
the folks at the Department of Corrections. But I don't call them to find out how they're doing, I
just call them to talk with some of the guys I know. With the Native American
community, although I haven't done it in six months, I keep in touch with the guy who was then
the director of the California Association of Indian Tribal Leaders and I stay in contact with the
Shasta County Sheriff's Department. I probably wouldn't call him today because he's
up to his neck in those racist killings, or the attack on the two temples and the killing of those
two gay guys. There's also another killing they're involved in. But here's a cop that's a
type of cop. He's Bible-toting, throws out all these Bible sayings, and yet can put himself
away and say, "I've got to do a cop's job. And if my people are doing something wrong, I've got
to look into it." And he does. He does his job.
Also some Native Americans up in the county north of that, that is sort of a turn-around on the
redneck. It's still redneck country, but the sheriff in charge is African American. He is six feet
four, he must weigh about 250 pounds, he played football. He has the department of about 65
sheriff deputies. When you go in and talk to him about a problem, he doesn't close the doors.
He's open. And he keeps getting elected. And again, I tell you, this is a real redneck area, too.
But he does things right, so as long as you do things right in that area, you're okay.
Let me rephrase the question a little bit to say, how did you
when to end your involvement? There must be a point where you stop going in.
If I don't like the people I'm working with, then I'm out of there as soon as it's over. And it's
pinpoint. It's like saying, "Boy, some of those people in that minority community, I wouldn't
invite them to my house." Same with the city folks. Actually, I probably feel that way more often
with the city
folks. But, I don't know how many cases I've been involved in like that. I cut off in
San Diego, they're not in the case anymore, but we became friends. L.A., I have a whole bunch
friends that I worked with that I still keep contact with. There's the editor of the Hispanic Link
in Washington DC. He and I worked together in San Louis Obispo on a school problem. At the
time, he worked for the US Commission on Civil Rights and we had a lot of fun working on that
case. The Hispanic community managed to get some good stuff out of that school district.
I worked at Santa Maria and I had a
difficult time breaking away from there, because I...maybe I identified with them. You know,
your job, and you like the folks so much, that you hate to leave. Their
honesty, their intent to do what's right, their ability to do shenanigans when they're called for and
not be concerned about whether they might get arrested for it or not. Anyhow, sometimes you
I still talk to my wife about a lot of the things that we did, like when
we went to Miami, the 1972 Republican
and Democratic Convention.
We weren't invited. We went because we felt we could help. So we went down there and that's
when we got in a horrible situation with that preacher that was in Nixon's outfit. To his credit,
the director of CRS refused to abide by Nixon's request -- actually, I don't know if it was a
request or order --
that we do spy work for them. You know, "spy on these people and then give the information
directly to me." He refused, even with Nixon's people there, so that was to his glory, I think.
But as a result, in 1973, we got chopped by more than half. I think there's a correlation.
If it happens, you respond to it by the seat of your pants. No planning. Well, we'd plan to be
there, and that kind of thing, but you mostly were out there listening, and if you felt something
was about to happen, then you got back with the staff, you got together and you talked about
it, and you developed something. When we heard that Cesar Chavez was coming from Texas
with his Texas group to meet with the Florida group and then march, we found out that the
march was going to intersect at one point with a Cuban march that was going on at the same
In some ways, the UFW Red and black
flag sort of matches with the Cuban group's flag, whatever flag he waved, and they were going to
criss-cross and we were afraid that if that were to happen, there'd be a tremendous problem. So
what my boss then did, he went to the city folk and we went to the UFW people together and
somebody else went to the Cubans. I don't remember exactly how it went, but the end result
was -- and this was a very simple thing -- they just changed their routes a little. Everybody
agreed to it, and there
wasn't a fight. Maybe there wouldn't have been one anyway, but at least you prevented that
Another time, we had to rescue the Nazis, or the Klan, and maybe the right word isn't "rescue" at
We had to keep the real folk from attacking the Klan. We had to stand between them and the
folks and tell them, "Hey, this isn't the way to do it." In the meantime, somebody else (and I
don't know if it was us or the sheriff or somebody,) was developing a way out for them. And
once that came about, the Klan left.
I personally like to talk about this because of my concern about inexperienced managers. This
manager was standing up there crying, "Get all your forces!" And I grabbed the phone from him
and it just happens that the guy on the line was a former cop out of Atlantic City; he
was with CRS, a real good worker. He's in Seattle now -- his name is Bob Lamb. Anyway, I
grabbed the phone
and said, "Bob, cancel that. There's nothing happening. There's already been an escape route
developed. Don't call the cops because if the cops come in, all hell's going to break loose."
So he said, "Okay, fine." The guys got out soon after and there were was booing and
and that kind of thing, but they didn't get attacked in the sense that we expected them to get
attacked. It was good that the cops didn't come, because they would have swept everybody up.
They were already pissed because the local counter-culture young people had taken over the park
they were doing all sorts of skinny-dipping and all this. That's nothing bad. But the cops were
up in arms that, "Hey, they're not abiding by the law." So you can imagine when you have this
group fighting the Nazis. So they didn't call them in. There after, Bob would say, "Angel called
me and we averted a potential problem." And to this day, that manager hates my guts, but it had
done. You could see that it was being handled by the local people, so why call the cops?
Were you ever in a case where you personally felt fear from some
violent attack against you?
No. It wasn't personal, no. I did a mediation with a fellow by the name of Fred Grey in
Nevada state prison, and when we walked along the walkway we were
called N****s and S*****s, and all this other kind of stuff. But we walked out in the yard and
talked to these inmates and nothing happened. We sat them down. This was a problem between
the Native Americans, the white, mostly Nazi types, and the African Americans. There were
very few Latinos in that particular prison. The Native Americans didn't get along well with the
African Americans and the Nazis didn't get along with anybody, so what we wanted to do was to
get them together and at least get them to agree you to live at least without attacking each
other. Then living would be much easier. You get all your goodies back, etc.
We wanted to get one guy -- the warden -- involved, because he was allowing all of this activity,
he was hiding things from the director. So we met with the director and he said, "I want you to
mediate this situation, and I want you to give me enough meat so I can cancel this guy." And we
that. As the inmates talked to us, we just wrote everything down and jotted the down the names
of the inmates;
they didn't mind that. When the whole thing was over, and we got an agreement from the
inmates, we took it to the director and he eventually fired the guy. I don't know how much of
what we had to say had to do with it, but I saw that as what I ought to do simply because of what
the inmates were telling me. And the information that the director was getting was vastly
different. I know inmates lie, but that doesn't mean they lie consistently and totally. And I know
lie. So we just fed the director the raw information, and it was up to him to do whatever he
with it. Anyway, we got a letter of commendation from Judge Griffin Bell for having done that,
because the inmates had been just ripping that prison apart. It was all part of a sort of typical
You go out there in the yard, and all you see are these inmates are kicking rocks, which
means they have nothing to do. They're just standing around, looking around and talking and
that kind of thing. So the priority had to be, you have to give these guys something to do --
education, activities, bring people from the outside. We weren't suggesting that they bring in
conciliators. Just bring regular people in here -- religious people, educational types. That's not to
weren't already doing it to some extent, but put an emphasis on it.
What we'd like to do today is to go through one case with you, one fairly typical case,
at least insofar as you had what you might call "typical" cases. I realize it's
probably not really easy to think of one, but one that was
fairly typical of the kind of thing that you did. Is there a case that comes to mind? What we
really want to do is talk through how you got in, how you assessed the situation, who you talked
and when, how you got the parties to the table, what you did at the table, and how you
The typical, like the mundane?
Well, mundane sounds boring. The one that we started with yesterday, when you got all of
wardens together from all of the prisons, that was an out-of-the-ordinary case, that was an
exceptional case. So, I'd like to look at one that was a little more usual, rather than exceptional.
But still one that has enough meat that there's some detail, and one that was somewhat difficult
to handle. Let's not talk about how you handle the easy ones, because everybody can deal with
the easy ones. Think of one that was fairly tricky.
I'm just trying to think of which one, one that I can really remember the things that I did.
Some of them just moved one right after the other and there's not really much concentration on
planning. It's just step one, oh great, that happened and you're not thinking in those terms, but it
Probably, one of the good ones is my involvement in Reading. And
this involved Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians from Vietnam
and some of the other areas in which the United States had been involved during the war.
This situation arose from a complaint on the part of the Native Americans of police abuse by
some of the members of the eastern office of the Shasta County Sheriff's Department. The
eastern office is located up in the mountains, about fifty miles east of Reading, and the
were not normal complaints or usual complaints. These were complaints where the Native
Americans said that they were stopped on the road, and the excuse was that maybe a tail light
was missing, and
when they were stopped, the Native Americans assumed that they were going to be made fun of
abused. So, the immediate stance on the part of the Native Americans was to be
very defensive. According to the Native Americans, the sheriff continued to provoke them,
attempting to elicit violence on the part of the Native Americans. And of course if it
worked -- if violence occurred -- then that then gave the officers the
excuse to do whatever they wanted to do. That's what started it all. When I was told this by one
the members of that group, what I first did was to not only talk to him, but to call some of the
folks in the surrounding communities.
Prior to this thing having happened, we had talked about the
possibility of developing some cooperative group with the sheriff's department, involving the
minority community as well as members of the majority community. This group
of interest to -- and for -- the minority community.
So, the people that I contacted were the agencies that serviced that
area, which were very few, but they were Native American and African American. Latinos
didn't have any group that they could call upon to serve them, and the Asian community had a
religious group that served them, but they didn't get the sort of help from that group that the
Americans and the Native Americans got from their groups. It was mostly internal, and they
usually took care of
problems that arose within that Asian community and in effect, they took care of themselves.
Incidentally, the Asians had what would be considered a good mediation process. They had a
good way of handling problems, especially problems of maladjustment on the part of the kids.
You're aware that what happens is that these kids met with an immediate cultural clash with the
of the community. On the one hand, they knew they were supposed to abide by what their
parents mandated, but
at the same time they saw the people around them doing other things. They
wanted to do those kinds of things, and that created a problem. So these people are used to
helping in those areas. But when I called, the Native American person told me that I should
Did the Native Americans contact you initially?
No, I contacted them because I read their complaints in the
Having been involved with it in the past, I then began to talk to them about what had happened.
They began to suggest to me the things that I ought to consider. I was planning to come in. I
would immediately respond to those guys, mostly, because I had that interest. Not so much that
it was a life-and-death situation, but in this case, it was a perpetual trend of Native Americans
being abused. So I contacted the Asian group and they were really non-committal and
they were wondering what it was that I had in mind, and I just couldn't describe to them what it
was that I was attempting to do. From my point of view, they didn't understand this kind of thing,
sitting down with the folks in the sheriff's department and talking about things for the benefit of
everybody concerned, since they didn't see this as being a problem for them. The African
American community was really the most active, because although they'd been there a long
time, and they had groups that had civil rights interests, they hadn't had this opportunity before to
begin dealing with the sheriff's department. I mean, they'd had opportunities, but those never
because of lack of interest on the part of either the city folks or the county folks. So in this
area, they immediately took over the leadership.
When I went up to talk to them, the leadership (Native American, some Latinos, the one Asian,
and the African American community), liked the idea of developing something that would help
them deal directly with the sheriff, aside from going through their normal complaint process.
They felt very intimidated going into the sheriff's department and then being confronted with it.
"If this is found to be a lie, we're going to prosecute you," those kinds of things. So they felt that
if they could have direct contact with the sheriff, on an ongoing basis, that this might be a
workable thing for them. That's how the folks agreed to attempt to get into the sheriff's
Then I went to the sheriff; I met him and I met with his assistant sheriff and described to him
the concerns that the African American and the Native American community had, but
specifically the Native community. He listened well and he talked to me a little about the good
things he was doing, but at the end, he said, "Yeah, I'd be willing to sit down and work things
out." So that's how we got them together.
This was sort of a subtle kind of a mediation that happened very quickly -- that is, the agreement
sit down and talk to these folks. Then as the weeks went on, they began to feel more free to
talk to each other about their concerns. What the sheriff ended up doing was to transfer people
around so that he would have different people at the eastern office. Mind you, that it's very
difficult for him to do, because these guys live there. So if he transferred all of them, that means
they would have to commute to other parts of the county in order to perform their duties.
But he did remove some of them, and probably some that he wanted to get rid of anyway. So
that's what happened.
The problems subsided, but the Native Americans had a tremendous problem there of drinking.
It's an alcoholic problem that they have found extremely difficult to control. So they're
constantly getting stopped and there's that constant complaint that they have been abused. I
think in many cases, they're not abused, it's just that already their expectation is that they're
going to get abused, and if they perceive the tone of voice that's being used by the deputy as
abusive, then of course it becomes abusive. So you have to deal with that.
Also concerns were of the people who had been arrested and how they were treated in the county
jail itself, and this included one famous case that involved a Native American and the deputy
sheriff, where one Native American and one deputy sheriff were killed in a shoot-out. For
months, the sheriff was looking for who did the shooting. There was tremendous turmoil,
because the Native American community was very concerned that the sheriff's department was
going to treat them unfairly. But as it happened, the person that was accused of having shot this
deputy sheriff turned himself in. He went to court, and he engaged an attorney who's
He's an attorney known for the pro bono taking of difficult cases, and this was an extremely
difficult case. When he took it to court, within, I'd say, two to three months, he got the guy free,
because the guy actually hadn't done the shooting. He was part of the problem, but he didn't
actually do the shooting. He didn't serve any time, he's out right now and I didn't have anything
to do with it, except that I would go to the courthouse just to observe, and to make certain that
folks weren't abusing anyone else. Not necessarily even just the sheriff's department, but the
would be roaming around in trucks, and yelling racial slurs. That's all I did
But getting back to what this group ended up doing, the agreement of both parties was that
they would meet once a month and they would discuss problems that not only concerned them,
but concerned the overall community and the sheriff's department. They also agreed that
the Native Americans and the African Americans
would provide in-house training for their deputies in terms of community relations, human
relations, and these kinds of things. That gave us an opportunity to sit down and develop
something for the department with the Native American community. They quickly took them up
on that, and the sheriff went ahead and started assigning a certain number of deputies for this
in this particular situation.
When you noticed in the paper an area that could benefit from your assistance, did
you have a particular goal in mind at that time when you made the initial phone call?
When I made the initial phone call, the only goal I had at that particular point was to get in.
didn't know what could be done. I knew that back some time, they had wanted to get together
with the sheriff, and they had had concerns about the complaint process, but my immediate goal
was to get in. So through him, I was able to contact these people.
I had already contacted the sheriff, so I had no problem with that, and I really didn't think that I
was going to have a problem with it. What I wanted to do was to build something on my
shoulders, so that I could go into the sheriff and say, "The community says blank; the community
interested in blank; they would like to sit down and talk to you." I wouldn't just go in there and
"Do you think we ought to get together?" Because I knew I'd get a "no". Not that he would
against it, just that it's something else that he'd have to put up with, and he just probably wouldn't
want to. But once the community says, "We think we ought to," then he would respond.
So there was no opposition at all?
If there was, it was very little. The deputies themselves, probably up there in the mountains,
they were concerned, and probably some of the rednecks up there were concerned, but they
never did attack the Native Americans. The attacks that occurred with the people who they
stopped were a result of these individuals becoming belligerent and then that just took it to
another level, and they got hurt sometimes.
After you contacted the community leadership, did you call the
city and let them know that you were coming in, or did you just show up and say, "Hi"?
No, I contacted the sheriff, I didn't have to contact anybody else.
You did that prior to coming in?
Sure, I didn't want to surprise him. And the sheriff here in California, he's the
Did you ever surprise any of the parties in any case?
Not as such. Sometimes I'd be called in by the community and I would agree to go in only to
discuss what concerned them, but not to commit myself to provide service. Once I asked the
police chief if he'd meet with me. He said, "Oh, you want to meet with me? I already
know that you've met with these folks." That doesn't matter. As long as I hadn't gone to the
newspapers or something and said, "According to this community group, the police department
has done this,"
without consulting the police chief, then I wouldn't be to blame for him being angry.
So anyway, the end result of this discussion back and forth, aside from agreeing to get together
to setup the training situation, was also the various communities inviting each other
to potluck dinners, inviting the sheriff and some of his deputies to come and join in. The African
American community inviting the sheriff to come by and observe their community center and to
take part in what they were doing, not just to cruise around the perimeter to see if there were any
Are these ideas things that the
community people developed?
We sat there and discussed the situation. "What do you think about this?" And sometimes
they would give
me an idea and that would trigger something else in my head, and I would agree with what they
proposed and I'd say, "Well, we could also consider this." Sometimes they'd say, "Yes, that's
okay." Or sometimes they'd say, "We like our idea better." And that's the way it usually
Tell me a little bit about this human relations training that was
done with the community.
Okay. It would start off -- and this is the Native American group -- it
would start off with them presenting a historical account of that particular Native American
group and their concerns. They would really deal with all of the harshness that they've been
treated with all of these years from the United States Army that came through there, from the
state militia that came through there. Then, of course, when law enforcement was the sole group
that enforced the law, they had to endure abuse from them as well. It's a fact that the
US Army and the state militia did treat these people not only harshly, but criminally back in the
days. It was a fact that the sheriff's department had treated them criminally, though no one had
ever really been taken to court and found guilty for this kind of activity. They have a distinct
distrust of the US Army, even though they've been heroes in the army. The state militia no
longer exists because of what happened to them. So that was part of the training.
The other part was helping the deputies understand some of the cultural traits that present
themselves during a confrontation with them. One of them, of course, was, "The reason that we
get very defensive is because of all of the things that I have spoken to you about regarding the
way we've been treated. We hope that you understand that when you come up to us, and you tell
us to roll down the window, and you come on with your voice of command, saying, 'Open the
let's see your license,' that we are going to respond in kind. There are better ways of approaching
us because we're not going to hurt you." They say, "Obviously, we understand that you have to
use caution, and you have to be concerned when you approach an automobile," because most of
the stops made up there are dealing with drunk driving, and you're going to have to be careful.
"But at some point you have to understand that we're not going to do anything to you, and that
ought to be able to treat us better."
They also sat their deputies down amongst themselves, because maybe in the training there
would be three people. They would sit them amongst themselves and have them discuss some
ideas about how things could be improved, and these folks would go around the table, sitting
down with them and exchanging ideas about whatever it was that they were discussing at that
table. Then in
the end, there would be a bringing together of everything that they had talked about.
How much good it did, I really don't know -- in terms of internalizing. Whatever happens is a
one-day thing, but it got them talking, and the hope was that more talks would occur without
either party having to be so defensive.
There were a lot of concerns on the part of the deputies that they were being forced to do
this because of political reasons. So we tried to point out to them that number one, Native
Americans don't vote that greatly, and number two, their numbers aren't that big. That's what it
really amounted to, just getting together with the deputies and letting them know how the Native
and telling them about some of the historical points that maybe some of the deputies weren't
They also talked about the need for hiring Native American deputies. That county probably has
one Native American deputy, out of a hundred and fifty total. And it's important, it's key that
those people. Not only with the usual reasoning that some people have, but also so that they
learn from each other and keep each other grounded, they have to have someone there from that
group that can observe these
guys' activities. Although in most cases, if you have one Native American, one Latino, one
African American in the department, he's pretty much going to go along with the department.
Because in the end, he has to live and work with those people.
But if you have one, then maybe next year you have two, and maybe the year after that you'll
have three. Like in
L.A. County, with Latinos. When the number of Latinos was very small in the sheriff's
department, you went into the locker room, and all you could hear was, "This Mexican that, this
Mexican joke here, and we've mopped them on the head," and all this other kind of stuff. As the
Latinos deputies' numbers grew, then you started having fights in the locker room. And that was
When the Latinos began to stand up against these whites who were making
those comments, even though the only way they could respond was in somewhat of a violent
way, the whites got two messages: One, "You won't be allowed to do it
anymore," and two, "You'd better change your ways." So I viewed it as being a good thing.
Management-wise, I really can't say, because I wasn't part of that, but the end result was that this
kind of talk ceased. The same thing happened in the African American community as their
numbers grew. You saw them react to the black jokes, including the Mexican deputies who
were making those kinds of jokes.
I'm just wondering if it manifested in other ways beyond out-loud.
Did it cause other tension?
It may have, but one thing it didn't do, and I don't remember ever having it happen, that is, if
you're a cop, you go assist that guy. At the end, you can fight all you want.
Did this training that you were talking about have any significant
effect? Were you able to see any changes in behavior in the deputies that went through it?
Not so much that.
Did the Asians ever get involved?
They got involved in the meetings. They attended the meetings, but they just
listened. These representatives, although they were "leaders," they couldn't make decisions there.
They had to go back to their groups, discuss the situation and get some kind of consensus,
and then come back and talk about what might be done. They were always willing to attend
conferences and this kind of thing, but we were never invited to attend the meetings at their
Our meetings were always at the sheriff's department or at
the African American community center, certainly the Native American centers as well.
Up in the mountains, they had a community center as well as a medical center, so we
could meet there. But Reading was really the best area to be in.
How did you determine what your role was going to be? I'm
hearing that you sort of switched hats. Sometimes you were an advisor, sometimes you were a
conciliator, sometimes you were a mediator. How did you determine what your role was going
Well, the mediation gets you into an agreement with the sheriff
and the citizens to go farther. It's a launching pad for further progress. I got together more with
people. So getting together the community people, I was an advisor,
a guy they would bounce ideas off of. I was also the guy that they would chastise
sometimes for not being assertive enough -- sitting back, listening to the sheriff make his total
case, and sometimes making some comments that they didn't agree with. I would choose not to
say, "Hey. Wait a minute. What you just said..." and that kind of stuff. So I would get chastised
for that. Not in an angry way, they were just reminding me that they saw that I hadn't done that
and they wanted to know why.
So they saw you as their spokesman?
No. Not as a spokesman. They saw me as a facilitator. The
Native American community, and especially the African American community would never let
me be a spokesman for them. They can speak for themselves. And they would invite the sheriff.
This was all happening after we formulated the agreement that they would meet on a monthly
When they would meet in the African American community center,
with a given group, and the sheriff was there, it was their thing. I didn't have to be there,
although I was invited. Sometimes I wasn't able to make it. I probably was invited all of the
time. The sheriff would go, and they would get rid of him, and then he'd come back.
He understood, though, that with Native Americans or African
Americans, their concern was to improve things among them, between them; it wasn't so much
just to rattle his head with angry words and that type of thing.
Was there ever a case that you were involved in where you
the spokesperson? Perhaps the community group was either, one, not organized enough
themselves to know what their interests were, or two, there just wasn't a leader there that could
articulate their needs. Did you ever become a spokesperson?
No. The closest thing to that was in San Diego on a housing problem with one of the staff
members of the San Diego County Housing Authority. He was working with me down in this
housing group right on the Mexican border. I went down there at there.
He was concerned that the administration wasn't paying attention to that particular group, and so
he advised them to contact me, and that kept him out of trouble.
And so I went down there and began meeting with these folks, and he came down and was
meeting with me, and we both became spokesmen for that particular group. Really, we were
trying to get the administration to get off its duff and pay attention to these people's needs.
As a result, that staff member was fired. That was after many
involvements, that wasn't just one involvement. They saw him as being disloyal and all these
other things that agencies accuse you of when they see you being an advocate. It was really my
fault for getting him enmeshed in this and not giving him a way out, and so he got fired and I
was told not to come back.
But, that came about because we were really pushing them to demonstrate and get out there. "Let
them know, because they're not going to pay attention until you put as much pressure as you can
What's the lesson there, if you had the opportunity to do it over
Well, in that particular case, considering the people of the Housing Authority, and that era,
I'd probably do the same thing over again. As I saw it, there was really no way out, and the
people there were just not getting the services they needed. They weren't getting help with their
roads. Also, there were illegal aliens running into their apartments and stealing stuff, so you just
couldn't wait and be a good guy with the administration.
Besides, the administration, in my experience, has been mostly to blame for all of the problems
that occur in the areas that I have worked in. It's never been the case where the minority
community creates a problem and then the administration comes down. Even when they
demonstrate and they break windows, the reason those things occur is that somewhere along the
they weren't responded to in a way that they should have been, so they express their frustrations.
That's my view, and maybe it's not right.
It sounds like in these cases, the issues are pretty constant. Have
you ever been involved in a case where the issues kept on changing and maybe expanding over
The problems getting worse?
Or people started talking about one thing and then were bringing in more things.
No, once they agreed to deal with given issues, we tried not to let them continually expand.
That doesn't do any good. It makes it so you just can't handle it. So no, I can't remember any.
I've seen situations where it came to the point where Latinos and
African Americans split, and this is over the goodies, as in Fresno county. It started out with a
mutual concern over Fresno State University developing a community radio station. The
problem was that the minority community wasn't given voice in terms of how it was going to be
developed. Everybody else was given that voice. So they got together and they started raising
that issue and we were called down there to help them get together with the administration.
So initially the Latinos and the African Americans confronted the station with our on-site help.
As things went by and the discussions went on, that administration soon saw that the African
Americans had a better grasp on the politics of that situation. We also saw that the Latinos were
concerned. The group was very small and so the university began to cater to the African
American community. The Latinos saw this and tried to get back with the African American
community, but the African American community saw what the school was doing, so they went
for that. So that caused the split. In the end, nobody got anything because they were supposed
to have a coalition of people being able to provide things. But since that part of the situation
didn't occur, people just ran away. Eventually, when they developed that radio station, the
school just went ahead and on their own, developed an advisory group and developed and hired
people, but not through us and not through the original coalition. They said, "Hey, we can't work
with these folks. The Latinos pulled out and so we're just left with African Americans. We're
going to be accused of all sorts of things." So that's how everybody lost out.
So now what is happening?
Now they've got a broad representation, but they went with another level of people. Not the
grassroots types, but the more agency-influenced types, the more professional types, that's who
they went with. Probably, that was good because the grassroots types started something and then
the professional types got to become advisory people. I never sensed any anger on the part of the
African Americans or the Latinos because they had started it and then weren't chosen, because
the fact still
remained that African Americans and Latinos were selected. At the time, the Asians didn't play
much of a part as they do now. The point is that they got what they wanted in one sense,
but they didn't get what they wanted up here when the situation broke out. We went up when the
occurred, and at that point, we just really couldn't bring
them back together. In fact, the Latinos said, "To hell with them, we
don't want to cooperate with them." So they pulled back.
But when you go up another level, the university sees the reality that they've got to involve
the minority community. So even though the grassroots types didn't get to be part of that
advisory group, African Americans and Latinos were still part of it.
Do you always operate by trying to
get the parties to come
together face to face?
Yes. But sometimes that doesn't happen.
What do you do if you can't do that?
Then I shuttle. It isn't really a good process because I don't have
the goodies that Kissinger had. Kissinger didn't really do mediation, he just went over there and
said, "I'll give you this if you agree." But it is more difficult. The easiest thing to do is to get
two people together. You can read them better that way. But if somebody says, "I want you to
go tell these people this," it's really hard to trust their intentions. Especially when the city, or so-
called group A, is talking to group B through you and you really don't know what the response is
going to be over there. Or how it is that they intend to talk to these folks. They can offer them
the moon and these folks are going to say, "That ain't right. It ain't going to happen." And when
you go back and tell them that they don't want it, they say, "Well, we tried everything, and they
wouldn't go for it." And that's sort of an oversimplification of things, but I really prefer to sit
down and talk to both parties.
What kind of preparation do you give
to parties before you sit
down to bring them together?
If I observe that one group is not able to negotiate with another
on a particular level, then we try to bring them up to that level. It'll never occur that they'll
be on a really level field, but at least they should understand some of the things that might
happen and some of the processes that might take place. Also, you talk to them in terms of the
potential for the city or official group to try to buy them and not really do anything to fix the
For the most part, whenever I got involved with officialdom, I usually
felt that's what they were trying to do. They weren't trying to be of any help. The only
guy I give credit to is this guy in the sheriff's department at Shasta -- he really tried. And the guy
up in Cistfield County, they cared. When you go down into the big cities, that's something else.
That's my observation, not necessarily an accurate one, perhaps. So as you can see, I would
prefer to work in the small communities where you can get a hell of a lot more done than you
can in the big city. What I would see in terms of the cases that I read, is that there's
a lot of talk and a lot of writing, but in the end, very little occurring. The city folks will still say,
did a hell of a job."
In the cases where you realized that people weren't sitting at the
table in good faith, did you try to end the process, or did you just try to work with them as long
as you could to try to get them to a solution?
You know, once we sat down, I never sensed that they were there for any other reason but to
be there in good faith. If I didn't think they were in good faith -- and
again, maybe I had a thing against officials -- if I sensed that the officials really weren't
really didn't have that necessary good faith, I would go back and tell the folks, "Hey, no sense in
meeting with them. Give them more time. Put more pressure on them and see what happens
In fact, when I was talking about Pomona, we did that. And it was really on the minority side
where the Latinos and the African Americans couldn't reach an agreement on how they were
going to operate. So I told them, "I think I came in too early. Why don't you go ahead and work
this out and I'll come back when you're ready. Call me back." So in about a month and a half, a
Latino called me. And all he said was, "Angel, we're ready." And so that's when we were able
to do that. I didn't do it as a technique. I did it in frustration. The city folks, I felt all throughout
were there in good faith, even though you had to drag some of the police people there. Once
they got involved, especially when the city manager got involved, they participated.
Did you ever have a party walk away from the table?
Yes. This Latino group in Fresno. They just said, "To hell with it," and they walked off.
And did you try to influence that or did you just say, "Okay"?
No, I asked them, "Why are you going?" Their response was, "Well, they're getting
everything, all of the
attention." Things had happened outside of the table and I had very little control over that, so I
said, "Let's see if we can't work through it." In fact, I and another co-worker were mediating that.
both ended up agreeing, at that point, that there wasn't much we could do and so we walked away
Did you usually work alone or did you have a co-mediator?
In mediation I usually worked alone. Many times, from the very beginning to the end.
There were times -- two times -- where somebody else started the
process towards mediation and then when he got very close to it, he called me in, or she'd call
me in, and we'd work to get it towards that end and I would mediate. That was when we had
conciliators who were conciliators, and mediators who were mediators, and the differentiation
was that I did the official hard-core mediation and they did all the conciliation work.
everybody ready and to the point where they were saying, "Yes, we're willing to sit down and
discuss." Then I would come in.
So you wouldn't have met them before that?
Maybe I'd have met them once or twice, but when they said, "We're ready to mediate," I
come in, already having been briefed by the conciliator. Then I would meet them once or
twice just to get the feel. Then it would be my job to then talk about what the issues were. The
Texas thing happened just like that, only that was an easy case.
It would seem to me that that would create quite a trust-building
problem. That they were working with somebody all the way through and then all of a sudden,
the personnel change and they've got a new person in there. Did you have a hard time?
Not a hard time. The Texas one...well, that's not really a real case because it just happened
fast and they wanted to get things over with. There are some strange dynamics involved with a
going into Texas. But I was called in there, and the fellow who set
the situation was Texan and he took me down there the first time, and then it was up to me. That
means that I had to go back several times before they said, "Yeah, let's sit down and really do it."
Although I had agreed to mediate, they wanted to find out who I was. That's the way it
happened. With Nevada, both of us went in at the same time, so that
was really no problem of trust.
The thing of trust is one of the things where you go in there and you say, "My name is so-and-so
and I'm with the Federal Government, and I'm here to help." And they say, "Yeah, okay. How
long is it going to take you to make us believe that you're going to try to help us?" And that's
true in every case. It doesn't really matter if I go in there from the very beginning or if I go in
there after this other guy. He's already laid down some level of trust, and there's sort of a
of that trust onto me. So I never really saw that as a problem and I never met that as a
problem. In fact, I never thought about it. The guy says, "Come on in." I came in and we
started working and although we discussed potential problems, potential "problem people" and
certainly the issues, we didn't ask, "Are they going to trust us?" and these sorts of
Did you ever have to work in a situation where you thought you
minimal trust? Where they were keeping one eye on you?
All the time. Yeah, and it's up to you to develop that trust. You're okay when you first
hands. They love you. Then they say, "Alright, prove yourself." That's the way it is. It's always
been that way.
Do you ever think that your race or your gender affected the trust
of a party? And in what way?
With Latinos, negative and positive. With African Americans, negative and positive, mostly
negative. More so than Latinos, of course. With whites, you were there and they tried to get you
out of there as soon as they could. So you had to build your trust with them. With the Latinos,
I already brought some level of trust because I'm "one of them." But there are situations
where, although you're a Latino, they still don't trust you. Especially in law enforcement cases
where in many cases, Latino officers are a hell of a lot more vicious than similar white or
African American officers. The same way in the African community, but not as much in the
Latino community. They want to be as much of a cop as the white cop. In some cases, not all
cases. With the African American community, if the case didn't involve Latinos, the question
would be, "Why not an African American mediator?" So then you had to work through that, and
in most cases they'd be able to develop some trust and would be able to carry out the mediation.
And if they say, "We insist on an African American mediator," you'd have to take
off, go tell the boss and the boss will send an African American mediator. Although my boss
believed that everyone should be able to do mediation, that's not necessarily the case. An African
mediator, from the very get-go, is going to be better working with African Americans. That's as
good as anybody else working with the officials. And with the Latinos, it's going to be the same
way. It's going to be much easier to work with Latinos than working with officialdom. With
officials, you're there and they've got to do something about it. With whites, it's the same way.
You're going to have to prove yourself with the Latinos, you're going to have to prove yourself
with the African Americans.
Are there significant enough cultural differences so that it's really
an advantage to have a mediator who's the same race, going beyond the trust issue? Can a
Latino better adjust to the Latino negotiating style, communicating style, and the same thing,
black adjusting to black? Do you conscientiously think to yourself, "I'm dealing with a black, I
need to change the way in which I'm communicating?"
Initially when I go in, I'm talking to the person and he happens to be African American, that
registers, so I know that I have to have a certain approach to them. Of course the obvious one is
straightforward, honest. Not that you're not honest with anybody else, but it's got to be
straightforward. With the Latinos, the same way. Straightforward, honesty. I never had to
mediate a case where whites were the people that were being abused. But in dealing with the
white chief, I was aware that he
represented a certain culture of white police, and that I had to approach him in such a way. But
with them, I had to first find out, "Who's this guy? What does he do? What is he known to have
done? How is he known to approach people? What is his attitude toward..." All of these other
kinds of things, so that I had a picture of this guy when I went in to see him, and therefore I could
approach him in such a way that he didn't kick me out of his office.
And at the same time, I needed to try to talk his language. I'm not going to totally be able to
language, but I can show him that I understand some of the things that are happening within the
system and also try to put myself in such a position that he's willing to listen to me and willing to
talk to me. Now that's extremely difficult, but sometimes it happens. And it takes time. You
know, this whole thing about drinking their ugly coffee with them all of the time... I don't know
you've had that opportunity. I've had bad coffee. And you've got to sit there and talk. It takes a
lot of visits to get the guy to say, "Well maybe this guy isn't going to try to do something to
And you always keep away from media. Not that the media's going
to come rushing to you on a case and want to know what earth-shaking thing is happening there,
because the kind of cases that we get involved with just aren't that earth-shaking, except for the
people that you're dealing with. But, there are some times where the media wants to get into it,
and you have to slow them down. When you slow them down, they go away and they usually
never come back.
What about gender, specifically? Did that ever impact your
Working with Native Americans, the female never really gets into
it, except in the background leadership and in offering sage advice. They're never put out front;
that spot's reserved for the macho, male Native American. With Latinos, back in the sixties, it
was essentially the same
way. But always a Latina is the smarter one. I view it that way. Well, not necessarily the
smarter one, I guess, but
the more emotionally secure one. She didn't have to run around, dancing and jumping up and
She just offered the advice and in her own way got the guy to agree that maybe this is the
approach he ought to take.
It's been essentially the same in mediations that I've been involved in where the men have been
involved. But again, I sense that the ones who actually brought most of the situations to the floor
been the females. Also the toning for discussion has been on the part of the women. Although I
Latinas and Asians and whites, the African Americans, as I've seen them, can be very assertive,
very aggressive, and like I said, unlike the other folks, they present themselves extremely well
and can be very intimidating to other people involved.
Did that help or hurt?
You know, I never was confronted, although I was very concerned sometimes that I might
be. What do
you do? But I was never confronted in a mediation situation like that, nor in preparing for it,
except where I was asked, "Why isn't there an African American here to mediate?" When we
responded to things out in the street -- like the Los Angeles riots, that kind of thing -- then you
confronted with some very angry, assertive, and aggressive females. But they come short of
violence as compared to other males, and not just African American males.
Many times, in our discussions amongst ourselves, we discussed how we wished that all
the other people were as aggressive and assertive and as intimidating and as angry as the African
American women, because then you wouldn't have to worry about bringing officials in to be
willing to listen. Again, that's our small group's view -- it's not necessarily everybody's
What did you do, for instance in L.A.
during the riots, to try to calm down tensions when you had these really potentially violent
I can only speak for myself, but generally the agency responded to the police department --
this case, the LAPD -- to be available to them simply for whatever information that we could
about potential problem areas. Not as intelligence, but more like letting them know, "we
think you ought to do certain things."
For example, do not send the troops out to control things, but letting
people like our people go out there and try to either calm down the situation by talking to them,
or disperse the situation by dealing with the leadership and hope that the leadership would bring
the people away from that situation. It's really hard to pinpoint what it was that we did, because
it was mostly a seat of the pants kind of thing. You're there because the problem has presented
So then you're only dealing with it through your own experience.
You can't really program a riot or the aftermath of a riot, so you just go along with those
situations. You anticipate some of the things that might happen, based on your experiences
having dealt with other riots or other disturbances, but you still have to be very careful. You
can't commit yourself to the police department and you can't commit yourself to the community.
You're just there to use the process to keep problems from escalating. I can only use my own
sense, I didn't see anyone talking about it. We had very little chance to sit down and talk
immediately. Most of our meetings were, "Here's what today's assignments are," and you were
Probably the most significant thing that I think I did was to be out on the streets and talking both
some of the leadership of the police unit, and to several of the leaders of a given group on a
given corner who were raising hell. With police unit leadership, you would ask them, "Give me
a chance to talk to these folks before you decide to intercede." The sergeant that I was working
with was really good and he said, "Yeah, go ahead. We don't have any problem with that." So I
out there and talk to these folks and they would crap all over me, but that was okay. As long as
they were crapping all over me, it meant that wouldn't crap on the cops, which meant that the
cops wouldn't go after them. So I would take the abuse and I would say, "Okay, but what about
that? You're using all these angry statements at me, but don't you think that you could do other
things to deal with the issue aside from expressing anger, anger, anger?" We just had gripe
sessions with these folks. If they got too close, I would fold my arms
and I'd start talking to them and as I would talk, I would take steps -- very, very small steps --
forward, and what I was actually doing by moving forward was moving the group back. So I'm
talking to a group of
maybe about twelve to fifteen people with maybe a couple of leaders, and they're riling up the the
people in the
group behind them.
How soon after the riots began did you come on the scene?
That night when things were still burning. We landed in Burbank
and then proceeded to L.A., and we met at our hotel. We couldn't do anything that
night because we didn't know anything.
Had you met with other people?
No, we just met with our own staff. Then we began to determine what was happening and
how we might
be able to help.
How did you assess what was happening in that case?
We had already had some people down there -- I think a couple of people who were probably
stationed in L.A. at that time. So they knew what was taking place and there was contact with
police department. When we got there, it was a matter of them briefing us on what
was happening and then working out potential assignments for further assessment of the
situation, and making assignments for people to deal with the police department and the sheriff's
department and city folk in general. Then some of us would have to go out into the community
and sort of get a feeling of what was happening.
We stayed on the periphery. We really didn't move into the area of
the problem itself because they had the National Guard there, and there
was a lot of checking and rechecking and concern that we might get fired upon by some of the
people involved in the riot or maybe some trigger-happy guy from law enforcement. So we sort
of stayed on the periphery and talked to adjacent communities about what was happening, what
they saw as happening. These people, even though they were not actually in the problem
area, had a pretty good handle on what was happening. We also spoke to police departments in
How did you decide what was the appropriate time to actually go into the problem area?
That is a good question, because I can remember being told about things that were
but I can't really remember being told, "This is what we're going to do." We were mostly left on
our own and since we worked in small teams, that's exactly what we did. So we decided when
we would go into the problem area and we decided when to deploy ourselves in these situations.
We were just told, "You're out there in that area, and you've got a new job to do. Now, here's the
out there and do it." But we had our experience and we had contacts and that kind of thing, and
we had a general plan about what it was that should happen. In those kinds of cases, you follow
your own instincts. You hear about things occurring at a given area, so you move over there to
see if it really is happening, and to talk to the police in that area, and then decide what you ought
The cops at that point were very good about cooperating with us and at that point also, we could
move into the problem areas pretty freely -- except at night. At night, it wasn't the best thing to
do. Once we'd
done that, and having sort of surveyed the area, then we were able to make some kind of
assessment, and then we decide how to commit ourselves -- "I'll be here and you'll be there. You
me know over the radio what's happening over there, and I'll do the same thing. Then in the
meantime, I'll find out what's happening here, and once I start doing something, I'll let you
know." That sort of gameplan.
I'm picturing what you're doing in the area. You're sort of standing around and sort of
migrating over to a particular person and engaging in conversation, saying, "What's going on
here?" Is that how it happened?
When you go up to these groups and talk to them, how do you
start it? What do you say initially?
While the police and I would banter back and forth, there was
usually at least
one guy that was just standing there watching -- not saying anything, not doing anything. I'd go
him and say, "Hey, what's happening? My name is so-and-so and I'm with the Department of
Justice, and I'm here to watch
that these guys don't overreact on you." He might say, "How are you going to do that?" So then
conversation begins and they say, "Hey, come over here. This guy says..." And then you start
talking. So when we talk to the sergeant, we tell him, "We're going to try to get these
folks from not engaging with you and we're going to go over there and talk with them. It may
sound like we're laughing and having a good time, but what we're really trying to do is
get them to agree that maybe it isn't the best thing to get up in your guys' faces and start
screaming at them."
As an example, that would be one way.
Eventually, the police would usually get impatient with all this bantering back and forth, and the
would want to make some progress. He'd come up and say something like, "Alright men, you're
going to have
to clear out. We're going to have to move you out.
There's no more of this hanging around. We'll give you ten minutes to start moving." So then it
be my turn to use the rapport that I'd developed with the guys to move them out of the area.
get the out of here; we'll go to the next block down and keep talking." We'd start moving and
the police would start advancing their line, but very slowly. They're not going to instigate
anything. They'd start moving
very slowly until they'd advanced a satisfying distance for them, and then they'd stop. You just
had to pay attention
to how far they were advancing.
They were trying to clean out the area? Is that what they were trying to do?
Yeah, little by little.
What were they trying to get people away from?
The center of the city, mostly. In fact, 2nd and Broadway, 1st and Broadway. The problem
for the police is that the farther
they push, the more the crowd wants to get back to where it was.
Did they get it cleared out in the daytime and then it all comes back together at night?
No. At night, people disperse, for the most part. There's no need for them. They did not
continue this at night
because people would probably get hurt. They'd already had how many people killed? So they
didn't see the
need for it. Besides, these are ad hoc groups. They may have one or
two that come in as leaders, but people would just gather and they would become a group and so
they're easy to handle because you can sort of say, "Let's move." They don't have really have a
plan or an agenda,
so they're easy to control. You just keep saying,
"Guys, don't move that close." And the police will let you know. They're here and when you get
too close, they'll let you know and so you have to start all over again. That's the way it was.
Then at night, even in the afternoon, they'd either get bored, or it's time to go see something, or
they'd realize it's time to go do something, time to go to work, and so they'd just disband and the
next day they'd come back. Not necessarily the same people, but the same kinds of people doing
In this particular case, if I remember right, we had pockets of people in the center of the city, so
we had to really start working with them quickly. Not two of us, but several of us doing the
same thing. Not all of us use the same techniques, of course. Others would sit there and
that kind of thing, and other people would sit there and talk about the weather and what happened
in "last night's ball game" and that kind of thing. But the goal was always getting the attention
what they really wanted to do, which would almost certainly cause people to get hurt.
They're not willing to give up that machismo thing.
Where did you feel the danger in that particular situation?
At night coming back from some assignment and having to cross the National Guard lines.
The police, they know how to control themselves. The National Guard, though.....they are just
citizens, and I
just don't trust their trigger-fingers. So when they'd come up and talk to you, you'd just hold your
hands up. Then
they'd let you through -- we had to remind them that our hotel was within the restricted area so
they would let us in. Once we got past them, there was no problem.
Did you wear anything that identified you as CRS?
Yeah, we wore CRS caps. It was a blue cap with a
yellow CRS on it. And they wanted us to wear those silly jackets with CRS emblazoned all over
them but we didn't.
When you say "we"...Washington?
No, "we" is my partner and I. But Washington was insistent on it, not so we could be
identified so the cops didn't shoot us, but to advertise that CRS was involved. So we,
when I say "we," I can only talk for me and my partner, I don't know what the other ones did. I
suspect that most of them didn't want to wear them and didn't. But we refused to wear them.
You know, get the cap so that someone can see that there are some officials involved. I usually
wore a T-
shirt like this and at night I wore a white one, not a black one and during the day, color so that
you're visible. That's all we did as far as special clothing.
Did you witness any violence?
To tell you the truth, no. I never witnessed a single act of violence on either part. Law
enforcement types or the people that were involved or the peripheral types, no violence
whatsoever. A lot of verbal sparring, but no physical violence.
So your main goal was to try to assist the police in
dispersing the crowd out of the area. Did you have any other goals in mind?
The major goal was -- and it's the goal that Washington had
dictated -- to keep violence from occurring. Our goal, as two guys
there, was to keep each police unit and each group from going at each other, which in the global
picture was to keep violence from occurring. We refused to use those kinds of words because we
knew that they were designed mostly for the media, and we didn't want to do that. That's really
it, a very simple kind of approach to a problem that anybody with common sense and a little
experience would have been able to handle. It didn't take a PhD, it didn't take a rocket scientist,
it didn't even take a guy with a B.A. necessarily. It just took a guy with common sense to go out
You know, it's interesting because the media didn't portray it that
way. This is a whole different image than what I'm hearing from you, because it almost sounds
sane, the way you're saying it. But the way the media presented it is that something is out of
control, these are people that you cannot have a conversation with, people who are determined to
I'm getting a different feel from you, that you were able to approach the people, have a
discussion with them -- that they were receptive to what you were saying.
Even that poor guy that got his head bashed in, that truck driver -- even that area wasn't as
bad as they say made it seem. We drove through that very area a few days after that happened,
nobody ever hurt us. Nobody ever threw rocks at us. In fact, they waved at us. At night the
would, if four or five African Americans were gathered on a corner, say "Alright, call the SWAT
people out because we sense a
potential problem." So that kind of activity gave the newspaper people and the people on the
radio a real sense of mayhem. But
nothing was really happening.
I remember one time we responded to a call, and we got there and we couldn't find any
problem at all. A bunch of people, ladies and kids, were running around with sodas in their
hands, laughing. They had the cops sitting up there and they didn't do anything about it.
I would imagine during these discussions with these people
that you got to a lot of the underlying issues. Yeah, of course you had these riots, the fires, and
things like that, but by talking to them you were able to get at some of the underlying issues that
they felt were problems in their community. Did you help them sort of organize their issues
together, say, "Hey, that's a good point, you should do something. Follow up on this"? Or were
you just a sounding board?
During the initial phases, nothing like that happened because we
were more concerned with the prevention aspect of our job. Sometime afterwards was when
to get together, and that included not only African Americans but also Latinos and Koreans. I
mention the Koreans, but a lot of our people had a lot to do with getting together with the Korean
business people and trying to reason with them about things. Their tone was really combative,
and so I wasn't involved in that one, but our people had to talk to them about not only toning
their discussions down, but also getting those people off the roof that had rifles. I doubt if they
would have used them, but it's very intimidating, and it might have caused some person over
here to take a shot at one of those guys. So they agreed to that, but that was probably the biggest
area of concern that anybody had: the clashes -- really mostly verbal clashes, and maybe some
pushing and shoving
between the Korean business people, or between the general Korean group and the African
There's another concern that there was a lot of looting involved and
only the African Americans and Latinos were getting blamed. But, everybody was sticking their
head into it. That's where I think we played the role of not only placating, but starting the
discussion on what ought to be done. At that point, it was getting groups together that wanted to
get together to discuss the issues that we were dealing with and out of that came a get-together,
that was the aftermath of the violence.
How long after the riots was this?
Four months, five months, something like that.
Did CRS initiate this?
CRS initiated what I'm about to talk about. But there were other
initiatives developed by the sheriff, the city... everybody wanted to get into the act once things
had gelled and looked safe. What we decided to do at the meeting with African American
groups, Latino groups, Asian groups, police groups, was to hold -- for lack of a better word -- a
conference. But it really wasn't a conference; it was the getting together of all this leadership of
minority folks and non-minority folks and law enforcement, to begin the discussions about
concerns as well as what would happen or should happen. So we met several times. Not only as
a large group, but in pockets.
My responsibility -- and that of some of the
other CRS people as well -- was to gather small groups of interested, savvy facilitators and
begin discussing this matter with community folks, and then develop ideas about what ought to
happen. In other words, here's a group that's meeting and discussing "the problem." If you
discuss it here, you're doing it in a vacuum. But if each member goes out and gathers other
people to talk about it, then you begin to sense what's really happening. It's very unreal
to say, "Alright, everybody in L.A. county, let's get together and talk."
So this was sort of the closest possible thing to that.
Were you moving from group to
No. I dealt with the city of Signal Hill, which is in the Long Beach area,
east Los Angeles. I worked with the various areas in Signal Hill -- the
harbor area, various areas in the Latino community. The African Americans did their thing with
the African American community and the Asian group did their thing with some of the Asian
folks, and the Anglo types did something with the Anglo community. Also, we had to get
with the law enforcement types because meeting with the chiefs and the sheriff is one thing, but
meeting with members of the department is certainly another thing. Although the chief may say,
"This is the way it is," you talk to the law enforcement guy out in the street and he'll give you
a whole different picture.
So you talked with each racial group separately?
Yes. Then in the end, we met together with Latinos, blacks and Asians, each representing
their own group. I think that sort of approach is good for two reasons. One reason is
it speeds up what it is you're looking for, and it lessens the likelihood that someone will say,
"That's not right!"
because if that happens, then the process becomes unwieldy. But if you have the African
the Latino input, and the Asian input and you bring it to the table, then you can deal with that.
So, that's the way it went.
So what were you looking for?
That's really a good question, because we met over and over again, and despite all o that, the
disbanded. I think it was just so much information, and it wasn't
just a one-time get-together with these folks and then no going back. We just kept going back
forth, and more ideas began to come out, and we collected boxes of information. In our group,
had proposed to develop our own method of finding information and present it to the larger
There was so much information and these volunteers did this on their own. They just couldn't
provide that kind of time.
So were you looking for causes?
We were looking for issues -- well, the causes of the problem, but also potential solutions.
And that would involve law enforcement and the whole bunch. There
law enforcement people that I worked with that were tremendously helpful, because
they invited everybody that was involved with me to meet at their department, which is really an
ideal place because they had all the equipment to help us do this stuff. That chief was
great in working with us. So when we were able to get
up and talk about what was happening, we were fairly well-organized because we had everything
not only chronologically, but also the ideas were there. Sometimes in other groups, it really
One of the good things that happened, sort
of a byplay on this, was that some of the African Americans, Asians and Latinos got together and
said, "Look, this is really great, but all these talks are so formal, are we really going to get
anywhere?" So they said, "What we ought to do is have a monthly get-together with these guys
at this particular place, and you know, break bread and talk." And that's what we
did. And I see that as probably the best thing that occurred. There was no written follow-up to
that, but barriers were definitely broken. We shared foods from various ethnic groups and such.
Cops were coming in and hugging community people and sitting there and really talking.
The chief of police from L.A. was really astounded at
what could happen. Of course, this is the kind of a police chief that is really insulated
in this little cocoon up in a glass house, so he's only hearing what everybody wants him to hear;
by the time he hears
something, it's gone through this long chain of people, each of whom has filtered it a little bit
Anyway, going back to our informal get-togethers -- the chief was just beside himself. These
people were actually getting along with cops. Now, he had had experience in Philadelphia
and I'm sure that he had done these kinds of things before, but I guess he'd never seen it work so
The sheriff was there, as well as police chiefs and
other subordinate administrators from various county departments -- small ones, big
ones, college types, and we filled Eleanor's. Oh, Eleanor's a caterer by the way, so she had this
huge hall and it's a
typical Mexican hall, in the sense that it's sort of built as you go along. "Well, today I have
money, so I'll add another part to it." Part of it is outside, and we had the beer and white wine in
laundry tins with ice in them and we barbecued. The Compton NAACP person considered
great barbecue chef, so he's the guy that brought the barbecue, other people brought Mexican
food and Asian
food and the police brought beer.
How did you measure success? Is
there ever a sense that a good
meal indicated a measure of more general success?
Meals created good feelings, but very little discussion on the philosophy of good community
just a good feeling about people getting together, and noticing that we don't have that many
Of course, a lot of those differences are sort things that are sort of harbored by people that want --
whatever reason -- to keep the turmoil
going. But I got a really good feeling out of that whole situation. The community folks were the
ones who really came up with that idea, by the way. It wasn't a suggestion by CRS or the cops; it
was the community people
who said, "Let's get together and sit down and talk to these guys in a more relaxed atmosphere."
So although we never got anything down on paper except the report that came from us, I think
the result from that was this kind of good feeling and comradery. They were in
agreement that we ought to do this pretty often, and we did it about three or four times.
Then it just didn't happen anymore. It was too much of a hassle -- for those of
us who had committed ourselves to keep contact with everybody -- to just keep this thing going.
course, since they were volunteers, it was obviously too much for them.
Was there still a need for it, or had the relationships developed
to the point where it wasn't needed so much anymore?
That may have been the case. I always see a need for people to just sit and talk to each other
eye to eye. I see that as being very important for good human relations, and for good community
book, the report certainly won't provide it. A promise certainly won't provide it. Official
involvement certainly won't provide it. It's the human part of the police as well as the
community that engenders that. Again, that's my view.
Yes. What I'm thinking of is, maybe relationships had developed to the point where if
someone has a problem, they'd feel free to call up the cops that were at the barbecue and tell them
about it personally.
That may have been. But I think the problem there is that since all of this happened, there
been a lot of turnovers -- new chiefs, a new sheriff, new
captains, all of this. And new community leaders, of course. They just don't have the continuity
that the original people had. And I think that, to a certain extent, that's our fault. The lack of
follow up and continuity -- it just
seemed to me from 1986 on, that all we were interested in was crossing that final line. You
know, this is the
end, and pushing it aside into the files. Unless somebody called you on it, you just really didn't
keep in contact. And like in that case, if I happened to like the person, or was interested in the
situation, I would keep in contact. But if I wasn't then I just didn't. There's no time for
Would you try to set up mechanisms
before you left that would enable the people to go on without you?
Oh sure. And it was done, again, because of my relationship with the people that I had been
working with. Had that not been established, I would have left at the end, because another case
was always waiting.
But from this case, we went onto Compton, where there were tremendous problems.
Compton was connected to the riots -- the case involved the
schools, the community, and the police department -- the police department versus the African
American community, which is the majority group there. There were also problems between the
and the Latino community. It involved drugs and crime, on the part of both minority groups....
shouldn't say it that way. Really it was both majority groups -- the African Americans and the
Latinos, because the white group is very small in that area.
There were a host of problems. The police department felt like the step-child of
Southern California's law enforcement community. When I got involved with them, of course I
involved with the chief. But then within two or three months, he left the department because he
some money from one of the police groups. So that left a bad taste in the police department's
mouth. He also happened to be white, and that created an even bigger problem, because most of
officers were African American. Luckily, they appointed an African American chief who had
been with the department from his patrol days. He knew the city, the city knew him, he knew
the officers, and he knew where a lot of the hidden problems were. So we were able to work
After starting over here with getting together and sharing food, we went into Compton, where
we developed an advisory group to the Compton police department. Again, the advisory group
was meant not necessarily to be just advisory; it was meant to sort out
a lot of the concerns that both the department and the African American and Latino
communities had. This had a lot to do with the problems with the schools and the violence
occurring at the schools. At this time, between the Latinos and the African Americans, there
gang problems of all kinds -- African American-versus-African American, Latino-versus-Latino,
That advisory group was developed, and that all came out of the African American and Latino
participants in that group. In this case, it came from us where I suggested to them, "What do you
think about doing something with the Compton police? They agreed, and that began the
get-together with these folks.
Incidentally, when we first began to get together with the African
Americans and Latinos, we met in a meeting room of a Mexican restaurant. Then at other
meetings, we'd meet at some hall in the African American community and then eventually we
met in the police department's roll-call room. That's how things evolved. It was really
engendered by their relationship with the police at our gatherings once a month.... maybe it was
every two months. Anyway, they felt they could carry this on beyond just eating
them. The police chief, the guy that had to leave, was very receptive. But when this other
fellow took over from within the department, and he continued this fellowship.
As I mentioned before, he had a strong desire to play a role in the school situation. In large
cities, the schools, and especially high schools -- those are the gangs' domain. Police, this is their
domain. "Don't you come into my place, and I won't go into yours." So that had to be broken
down. Aside from that, the schools would say, "The only time we want you here is when we call
you." Usually, that's when the trouble is already happening and you have to go in and bust things
up. Then of course the police say, "You don't tell us what to do." So this group was
instrumental in initiating the get-together with the school people and the police, although at that
point, I left.
Again, we were lucky because we had an assistant administrator who was willing to take a
chance on involving the police and involving the outside community folks. The school district at
that time was in limbo. Something had happened involving the administration that involved
money and so the administrator had to leave. So then the state took over and took the school
district under its wing and appointed an administrator who soon had to leave because the
community didn't want him. Eventually, they appointed an African American administrator and
he was able to begin to work with the community. I think it was relatively successful,
although I didn't play a part in that, the community did. The police
chief was the mainstay in
that involvement and it was a very, very slow process. From the time that the riots occurred to
the time that we got together with the community folk, up to the time that the community folks
said, "Let's eat," up to the time that the community said, "Let's do something with Compton," it
took months. As a matter of fact, it took maybe a year and a half.
How did you work through those slow times?
Contacts. Contacting them. Also, going in there for other reasons. There were other
reasons. Like visiting old friends. For example, one of the co-chairpersons taught at a
community college. I would visit with her at the school, go to lunch with her. I'd meet with the
chief. Do the same thing -- go to lunch, drink coffee, meet with one of the insurance brokers
was part of that discussion group. You've just got to keep contact. Otherwise, it just isn't going to
happen. They've got to see your face around.
That's the key thing to a lot of involvements. If I see a strange face, as a community person,
you're going to need a longer time to begin to deal with me than the person who's always
around, who I know who he is and what he's doing or what he's done. So you just go there and it
Like with the school person, it was very easy because she was all for it. Even though she lives in
San Diego, mind you, she would take a train every Monday and do her school thing at an
apartment in the Compton area, and then on Friday would take the train back. That was how
committed she was, that she wanted to be part of this kind of situation.
I'm repeating myself on the chief -- I can't say enough about that chief, dealing with the personnel
that he had. Not that they were bad, they were good policemen; it's just that the educational level
wasn't that great. He had a college education that ended at junior college level. But he was
secure enough to bring in people that had a better education to come and help him as assistants.
Well they didn't have assistant chiefs then. He was the chief and they were captains. So he was
secure enough to bring those kinds of people in. They're the ones that took the lead in
a lot of the things that began to happen in Compton. That's when I left there and went to INS.
I've got a question that we've been talking around for a long time and I want to hit it directly.
How do you measure success?
By people telling me that it's worked, or, "We think it's going to work and we're going to
give it a try." I don't think I was ever involved in something where, at the end of my
involvement, from then on, heaven was going to throw Golden rings down on the people I'd
worked with. It was always,
"Yeah, we're going to try it." Even with corrections. Look how long it took us just to get the
department people to say, "Okay, we'll go with it." It took us a whole year. So it does take time and a boss needs to be able to understand that. That means that
the boss has to have had street experience, mediation experience, and experience in the field that
you're involved in. This way, he or she can understand what the dynamics are. They know you
can't go in and say, "I'm going to mediate," and then a week later, "I have a mediation case and
I've got to decide everything." That just doesn't happen. Perhaps on
occasion, but in reality, not often. Then just because you said, "Eureka! Success!" That doesn't
mean -- and I'm repeating myself -- that you don't have to have follow-up. If you want to find out
happening, you've got to have the R&D that you've mentioned. If you don't have research, it
isn't going to happen. And if you're afraid to try things out in the community, it's not going to
happen. You can go over the same old trite things and all you do is you repeat the same things
that you learned ten years ago. You've got to be willing to take a chance. That's where a
lot of people stub their toes. They take a chance, it doesn't go right, and they tell themselves, "I
told you so."
What are some of the things that you did to insure confidentiality
during these conversations? How did you let people know, "Hey, this is just between us and it's
I'd tell them, "Now, if you're interested in getting this thing to be a success, the only place
that we're going
to discuss these issues is here. If you wish to discuss them amongst yourselves, that's fine. But
if you take it out of your ring, then we're not going to be part of that," and if it was important
enough for them that you be there, then they'd abide by it. I never had anybody -- not that I was
important -- but I never had anyone not abide by that. Also built-in by both the official people, as
well as the community people -- there's a built-in distrust of the media. So you say, "Don't deal
with them, because they'll make a situation unmanageable when it really is manageable." So
they're pretty good about that, too.
Was there ever a time when you'd tell them, "Hey, we're going to
keep it between us," but them something got leaked to the media and people looked at you and
said, "I think you said something."
No. What we did wasn't that important that the media was around. Even if you said, "Hey,
we're doing this, come over here." Nothing like what happened with that get-together after the
riots, even though that attracted a lot of media.
The thing we did in San Diego with the training attracted media, but that's because the Navy was
involved and they wanted to make sure they were recognized. And I'm not being cynical, that's
reality -- the Navy wanted people to know they were involved. So did everyone else, including
But these were official people providing a service to another official group, so everyone wanted
to share in the talking to the media. Had it been a community group and official group, I greatly
What would you say are the most important skills or attributes
Gee, I had a group of twelve once that I wrote down. One is to be honest and
Honest not only with the people that you deal with, but honest with yourself. Be able to say, "I
screwed up" and if necessary, tell the group that you did. Also when they mess up, you can't
point it out to them. You aren't going to be as prepared for that sort of bluntness as you are with
It takes a certain
technique to be able to get a person to accept that he did do the thing, not necessarily right, but
then to point out what they should have done.
A good civil rights mediator should be self-effacing. You're going to get a lot of taunting and a
lot of fun made of, especially from the law enforcement types. So make fun of yourself and that
sort of breaks things down.
Being secure is probably the most important one. What you're doing is important. What you're
doing can have some good results. It doesn't matter how small the case is. And most of them are
small, but accept it as it is, and deal with the people accordingly and that's really it. I think that's
probably the most important.
Also an ability to listen, that's key. An ability to listen to their point of view and not let your
point of view interfere with what you're doing. It's going to come up, but even through your
facial expression, don't let it show. If you really disagree, you do it on the side with them. But
you've got to know the people, because if you do it on the side with certain people, you might
If you're going to use even the one, "Well, yeah, that sounds
okay. But I'm aware of another way that's been done," and then drop it and go on to the next
subject, they may bring you back individually, or in the group there and say, "Hey, that sounds
pretty good, but I'll still stick with mine." That's one. They'll be judgmental. I guess that's one
part of what I said before. You can be judgmental if you want, but don't let that interfere with
what it is you're doing.
You also need an ability to take criticism. That's really good. The ability and respect for
criticism of the people that you work with. From your bosses, take it, but you don't have to
respect it, that was my idea. An ability to be hit on the side of the head with something you're
doing and all of a sudden somebody gives you something clear out of the left field. And how are
you going to handle it? Be flexible. Listen to it, see how the rest of the people take it. Either
put it away and talk about it later, or if it's demanded, you discuss it then. Try to talk to the guy
and convince him not to bring it up now, we'll talk about it later. And at the end, if it has to be
talked about then, you've got to talk about it.
What do you think your greatest strength is?
Getting people together. That's really my greatest strength. Bringing people together,
helping them to reach some willingness to get together with the other group.
Do you have any special techniques you can share with us that
might be helpful?
Coming in and working with them in such a way that you indicate to them that you know a
a lot about what it is that is happening. Show them that you can share a lot of your experiences
that parallels what they're dealing with. That's probably one of the good things. The other one,
course, is being able to talk with them. Being able to listen to them. I mean sitting down and
saying, "Okay, I want to hear you." Or coming up with something that he or she wasn't talking
about, it wasn't important to them, but if you don't understand what they're talking about, being
able to reflect it back to them and say, "Is this what you're saying?" or, "If I understand you
correctly..." Go through all that and make them feel like you're not attacking them. So you
could do that and show them that you're interested and you do that by, "Okay, I don't understand
you right now, but maybe you can help me get to the point that you want me to get to."
Be punctual. If you say you're going to be there, be there. Don't join the gang if you're dealing
with a group of hard-to-reach types, don't become one of them. When I say hard-to-reach types,
you're dealing with a group of gang kids. Don't start doing that dance with them because they're
going to put you down immediately. We had one mediator who was actually passed a wine
bottle, and the moment he took that drink, he became one of them.
So you break bread with people, but you don't have alcohol.
Well not in a case like that, because that's the gang thing. You may have a good point there,
if I get you. When it comes down to it, they're offering you something and in your education
you know you don't over-identify with the people that you're dealing with. Therefore, you don't
accept the drink and if they're drinking in the park and they've done this for years and you drink,
then you're just saying that it's okay to break the law. It goes on and on.
Before we close, we meant to ask you about a moratorium
Oh. The Chicano Moratorium March. That was an interesting one because that was my
baptism one. But it involved Gonzalo Carno, a good mediator, me, and another lady. She was
from Oregon, she had gone to MIT, she had all these degrees. She was really good, despite all
the training she had had. She could move right in. She wasn't a minority-type, either. She could
move right in with either the Latino or the African American groups. This time, though, it was
strictly Latino. She was really good.
We started from the very beginning when the people decided they
were going to fight against the Vietnam War. They were developing this march from the park,
Rubin Salazar Park, and it was going to end at East L.A. College. So what we had to begin to do
was start planning what was going to occur. That included the sheriff. The park is on Indiana
Street and on the west side is LAPD territory and on the east side is L.A. County Sheriff's. East
L.A. college is in the sheriff's territory and the route was going to take place on Purdue
Boulevard, all the way to Atlantic Boulevard, North on Atlantic Avenue to Brooklyn Avenue,
which is now Cesar Chavez Boulevard, and then west to East L.A. College. So the route had to
be developed. My boss, Ed, and Gonzalo were involved in that and Gonzalo and I were later
involved with the city. We were also involved with the college board to get the use of the
stadium so everybody could file in there and then have speeches and all that. Well in the end,
we weren't allowed that, so we had to meet at East L.A. Park, which has a large field. But the
problem was that it was right next to the sheriff's department substation. So that's how the thing
was. We weren't successful in getting East L.A. College. So then we had to meet with the
and the sheriff gave us a battle about the crowd and about the people and "How in the hell can
Department of Justice get involved in something like this," "All you're doing is giving these
Also they were
upset with the Latinos because the Latinos were against the Vietnam war and they were against
the sheriff, and all his shenanigans against the Latino community. Rubin Salazar had written a
really devastating report against law enforcement. The chief of police of L.A. had gone to the
Times and stated to the publisher that, "This reporter, Rubin Salazar is out there agitating the
Mexicans and they're not ready for this kind of activity." It was like the former chief of Police
of L.A. saying, "The Mexicans are just that far from running around from tree to tree with their
tails." He was no longer the chief then. But the law enforcement types went up to him and said
the Mexicans weren't ready to receive this kind of information that Rubin Salazar was
expounding on. So then Salazar responded by writing this huge report about law enforcement
and actually chastising the L.A. Times for even being willing to listen to the cops about the
readiness to get this kind of information.
So the stage was set in the sense that the Latinos were saying, "We're going to have this march,
matter what you say." And the cops were saying, "You'd better behave because we're going to be
out there in large numbers." So L.A. County and probably the CIA were involved. There was a
lot of paranoia about the CIA being involved and taking names down and taking pictures, and
I'm sure they were involved. Also the state law enforcement types and the sheriff's department
were involved too.
In order to get good information, they got all their Latino officers to
infiltrate the park area. I thought, "This is going to be funny." So the situation started and
everybody was really concerned because they knew that if they could just get out of the park,
be okay. And as they went down the street, they knew that if no one misbehaved himself,
including the law enforcement people, it was going to be okay.
So every time you heard a siren, you froze, because at the time they didn't have the wails, they
had the sirens. It just so happens that at the same time, a Latino kid tried to walk out with
something without paying and the shopkeeper called the cops. So that, to them, was the start of
the problem. But they came and everybody behaved themselves and nothing happened. So they
went to the park, but the tension was already really high.
One of your famous people there in Denver, Corky Gonzales, came here. He was doing his thing
on top of the truck bed. He was really going well. Then someone lit a firecracker, and so the
problem started. The police moved in and they started moving people and the Latinos refused to
move. The police also said before that, "You've got five minutes to clear," to make it official
and legal. But they wouldn't move and then the police started moving in.
Well, at that point, when it's declared illegal, you don't stop and talk
to an officer as he's trying to move you out, saying, "This is against my constitutional rights," and
this kind of thing, and so they started moving in. So the problems started and the violence began
and people were scampering all over the place and clubs were swinging. The funny part was,
here were all these undercover officers, on their knees waving their badges. And some of them
So the problem had already begun and they started marching down and the police tried to keep
things in some kind of order. Small scrimmages sprung up all over the place and it wasn't until
Atlantic Blvd., that a sergeant from the sheriff's department suspected that there was some illegal
going on in the Silver Dollar Bar. So the damn fool shot a flair into the bar, and it hit Rubin
Salazar right in the head. Of course it imbedded itself into his head, obviously he died, and that
was it. When people heard that had happened, East L.A. went up in flames.
Most of them moved to East L.A. Park where to this day, we believe that there was a provocateur
from law enforcement that said, "This is what's happened down on Whittier Blvd, let's go after
him. The sheriff's killed Rubin! Let's go after them!"
So there's the sheriff's building there and they began to go there. Nothing really happened to the
department, it's just that people began getting beat. And so we were trying to break things up
and get people to move all over the place.
Also at that time, there was this group called the Brown Berets. They were involved and they
had their bus somewhere. So I was standing here and the leader came up very concerned that
although everybody's getting pushed around and bounced on, that they're going to really catch
hell. So he said, "Our bus is down...Can you guys help us get there?" So I said, "Sure."
So two other guys and I escorted them a mile and a half to their bus. We got them there, got
them in their bus, had them wait there. Then somebody on our staff went and picked up his car,
and I got in the front car and we said, "Let's go." We caravanned them out of East L.A. and
dropped them off on the freeway where we waved goodbye... So that was our contribution to
I don't remember how many days that lasted, but it really lasted overnight and then the next day,
sporadic firing and that kind of thing. A lot of businesses went up in flames. And then came
time to start the thing all over again. So we sat down to see if we couldn't make friends and not
angry and love each other. But that was the moratorium. The thing was that law enforcement
wasn't that sophisticated about what they were supposed to do during these activities. In fact,
although we had experiences in the past, we had only experiences in the civil rights kind of thing
where you march with the group and you do it until the end and then if you're attacked, you're
part of being attacked. In this case, we were observing and we tried beforehand to work into
getting them to accept some things, so that it would move more smoothly, but none of us got
hurt. One worker got put in jail, he was arrested. But no one got hurt.