Update: Since this story ran in late July, Ted Rall and aNewDomain have released a far clearer version of the LAPD audio. This second enhanced tape is an order of magnitude better than the first version discussed in the story. It does seem to back up Rall’s story that he was handcuffed by police in the 2001 jaywalking incident and that there were several shouting passersby protesting his treatment. Listen here. Ed
aNewDomain commentary — We now have an enhanced version of the LAPD tape that Los Angeles Times editors told me the cops gave them, audio they used to prove I lied, which led to my firing as its political cartoonist and blogger in late July.
You can hear the cleaned-up version of the tape below. My incident is at the 03:30 mark.
On this first enhanced version, you can hear a female witness — a witness the LAPD convinced my editors at the Times did not exist and I was making up.
She protests: “He was just jaywalking … you need to take off … you need to take off his handcuffs.”
She says that at 3:30 and repeats it at 3:50.
To this, the LAPD officer who stopped me replies: “No, no, no, no, no.”
When the bystander persists in protesting the cop’s handcuffing my wrists, the LAPD officer whistles.
At the time of the incident, I was puzzled by his whistling, which seemed like unusual behavior. Now I believe I understand, that it is the officer’s technique to tamp down sounds (like protesting bystanders) that he doesn’t want on the recording.
The recorder on his uniform was not obvious. I had no idea the encounter was being recorded or that a copy existed until this week.
At 4:58 the LAPD officer says, “Here, I’ll take that until we’re done.” It was probably at that point that he removed the handcuffs, in order to free up my hand so I could sign the ticket.
Any way you look at it, the LAPD version of the event doesn’t jibe with the audio tape that they made. And they apparently didn’t bother to listen the tape and do their homework.
Cops were wrong when they said that I didn’t get handcuffed. They were wrong when they said I was mistaken about the presence of protesting witnesses. And they were wrong when they told or implied to my editors at the Times that I’m a liar who should be fired.
And The Los Angeles Times believed the LAPD, not me, their columnist. So they sacked me.
What do you make of all this? Listen for yourself:
Did the officer deliberately whistle to alter the recording? Did he deliberately muffle the recording?
It is the job of the media to question authority, not to blindly defend it and eat its own.
Even in its defense of the LAPD, the LAT couldn’t be bothered to do due diligence. Editors made no effort to investigate the curious claim that this longtime traffic officer had never, ever handcuffed anyone. We showed that wasn’t correct yesterday. The Times didn’t even bother searching its own website before siding with the LAPD.
If they can’t type the officer’s name into a search field, I suppose it’s too much to expect the Times could be bothered to track down a sound engineer in L-friggin’-A?
Classic Streisand effect: In their attempt to discredit me and destroy my reputation as a journalist, the LAPD wound up discrediting themselves and further eroding their own reputation.
But the LAPD’s reputation has, of course, already been destroyed by decades of police brutality, systematic corruption and fatal police shootings of one unarmed black man after another.
Two shorter clips, enhanced differently, follow. Listen to them below.
So the cops were wrong. And there are other questions …
The main question is: Why? Why would the cops lie, if they lied?
The audio tape was not a public record. No one requested my permission, required under California law, to release it. Did The Los Angeles Times file the required papers to get it?
Did The Los Angeles Times approach the LAPD to request the tape, or did the cops (or a third party, like the police union, or the pension fund for cops) approach them first?
Did the Los Angeles Police Protective League cops’ union — which has been gloating on the LAPD.com blog that my firing should be a “lesson” for media everywhere — go out of their way to try to get rid of me? (We are waiting for the LAPPL to get back to us on this question. Ed., Aug. 6, 2015)
Why would the LAPD spend taxpayer money to dig out an ancient audio tape and go to the trouble of doctoring it? And why would they then transcribe it, which they did, and walk it over to the Times, apparently to get me fired?
Under LA law and LAPD rules, an officer must include contemporaneous date, location and other identifying data within each uninterrupted recorded incident. Otherwise it’s a violation of a citizen’s privacy rights.
But that info isn’t on the tape.
Was it illegal for the Times or the LAPD to get the tape, which isn’t public information, without my approval? Read legal analysis from California attorney Tom Ewing and journalist Gina Smith on that question, here. (Times editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, in an email to aNewDomain, said the Times can’t comment on the (Ted Rall) issue.” Ed., August 6, 2015).
That’s one question. Here’s another:
Does the fact that a big chunk of The Los Angeles Times is now owned by Oaktree Capital, an investment firm that itself is powered by billions in investment from the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Fund, have anything to do with this?
This pension fund, points out investigative reporter Gina Smith, has previously demanded firings of editorial writers and commentators at UT San Diego (the former San Diego Union Tribune). That media company was recently purchased by the LA Times’ parent company, Tribune Publishing, in a deal announced this past May. Critical eyes are now scrutinizing this media consolidation and the market power it gives sole players. Watch for our upcoming report.
Notes on Audio Enhancement Methodology
The long enhanced version posted here was processed by a technician who wishes to remain anonymous because he lives in Los Angeles, is African American, and has frequently been harassed by the LAPD.
He was able to isolate the sound of the eyewitness who saw me being arrested for jaywalking and then handcuffed — the eyewitness the LAT claimed didn’t exist, in an act the LAPD said never happened.
His statement: “I used a noise reduction plugin to diminish hiss, handling, and street noise. An equalizer cuts low frequency rumble and boosts the upper mid range to enhance intelligibility. A limiter brings up the overall volume.”
A different person, who lives near Los Angeles and also prefers to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation by the LAPD, used this longer version to create the two shorter clips. She said: “I’m using audio repair software to remove surface/street noise with de-noise filters, and an equalizer targeting the vocal ranges of the bystanders.”
I have hired a professional audio technician based in Los Angeles to further clean up the tape provided by the LAPD. Update: Find the LA audio pro’s enhancement of the audio, which is even clearer, here.
For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.
Update Aug. 6, 2015: For further reading, check out these links: