Civil Rights Attorney Calls Unrest in Mo. Tragic

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice reacts to the "violent turn" of events in Ferguson, Missouri.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and community outrage following the shooting death of an unarmed teen have sparked civil rights discussions among Los Angeles community leaders. Kim Baldonado reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. from Leimert Park Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Published Thursday, Aug 14, 2014)

    Civil rights attorney Connie Rice described the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, which has seen four nights of protests after police shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager as tragic.

    Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death turned violent, with some people lobbing Molotov cocktails and other objects at police who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

    "My assessment is that Ferguson is sort of in the dark ages when it comes to police-community relationships and they had better wise up quickly," Rice said.

    Rice speaks from experience.

    Not only has she sued Los Angeles Police Department for police misconduct, but she's also had a hand in reforming the department.

    Former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton called on her to write a report on lessons learned from the Rampart corruption scandal in the late 1990s.

    "Between Rodney King and the Rampart scandal you had eight years of LAPD finally hitting rock bottom and once they hit rock bottom, then we could go in and say, 'Here's how we're changing,'" Rice said.

    But change, says Rice, takes decades.

    In 2007, Bratton called Rice again to help the LAPD learn from the May Day melee in McArthur Park, where police used batons and rubber bullets on protestors and journalists, during a relatively peaceful march.

    "It took a lot of work, changing the training," she said. "You're after getting the cops to have a different mindset."

    A change in mindset and leadership is what Rice believes Ferguson needs now, but some LA residents say they haven't seen much of a change here at home.

    "I've been basically fed up with the way that our young African-American men and women are being treated by the cops," said Wanda Knight, a Leimert Park resident. "It's really sad and it really hurts my heart."

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