To Pimp a Nation reveals how America uses the same methods as pimps to control and profit from their subjects. However, America’s methods are so sophisticated that the average citizen doesn’t notice. This became apparent to me when I went from the hood life to the good life and made efforts to live a legitimate, upstanding lifestyle. This meant no more ignoring parking tickets; if I wanted to get out of them I had to do it by the system, which meant learning to fight them legally.
Rather than crudely demand money under the threat of violence like traditional pimps, America enshrouds its tactics in legality. Today I find myself once again being robbed by the city for nearly $500 dollars. In July, I parked my car next to Hollywood High School. The parking signs say, as they have for many years, “No parking between 7am and 5pm on school days.” Luckily it was summer break and, as I have for over 10 summers without ever being cited, I took advantage of the free and easy parking adjacent to the school. But just for safety, I went to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) website to make sure it was summer break. The LAUSD school calendar did not list this particular day as a school day so I parked with confidence and walked over to Hollywood Boulevard for some writing and coffee. A couple of hours later, to my surprise, my car was gone.
In LA it could seem that one needs a lawyer just to park on the street but I’m one of the few people who can transpose the multitude of parking regulation signs and determine with accuracy if I can legally park. When Parking Violations Bureau towed my car I immediately began documenting things. I went online to see if I misread the calendar. I checked the school’s website, which seemed to have been abandoned since the end of the school year; the latest posts were about the graduation ceremony, tickets caps and gowns, etc. I checked the school staff parking lot for cars, which was empty. I even talked to another parking attendant who seemed confused as to why my car was towed. No one could answer the simple question; what authority supersedes the LAUSD, in determining what a school day is?
I was supposed to film a commercial that day and for the first time in career as an Assistant Director, I was a no show. Yes! I had never missed work until the day Parking Violations Bureau towed my vehicle. I Ubered to the Official Police Garage (O.P.G.), the Impound lot where my car was located. It was a mile away located in a concrete parking structure and the lower section had been converted into an office where a bunch of burly tow truck drivers stood. Their process for returning someone’s car to them is more designed to maximize the amount of money they make. For instance, if you don’t have your registration or insurance paperwork with you, you are forced to sort this business out without having transportation, which could lead to them racking up more storage days and thus more $$$. Police can simply verify everything electronically and write you a ticket. This supposedly “official” police garage doesn’t seem to have enough of a connection to the police to verify identity and vehicle ownership in-house. I guess the “official” part means a partnership in pimping Americans’ pockets. First they asked me if I had proof of insurance, which I had in the car. A driver escorted me upstairs and as I approached, I noticed that my car was unlocked. I asked the driver if they broke into the car and he said he didn’t know. We went back down and I presented the insurance and registration.
Keep in mind that my car had been towed and I had just noticed that someone broke into it so I wasn’t being the easiest person to deal with. I made it a point to meticulously read every document they gave me and have them to explain anything that wasn’t clear. I asked them if they entered the vehicle and the attendant said “yes.” They tried to have me sign, without reading, a paper that said I had already received my car and there was no damage or property missing; I had not even inspected the car at that point so I asked to be escorted up again for a closer look.
Throughout this whole process I had been recording with my Iphone and a second camera. I went up a second time and checked around the interior and exterior for damage. Everything looked ok. Then I checked my center console for the $75 dollars cash I had left there and, surely enough, it was missing. I finished inspecting and returned to the office to complain. When I informed the guy at the window, the manager, John Marich, the office manager, got up from his desk deep in the back of the office and came to deal with me. He told me to come to the gate so we could go inspect it together but when he noticed I was filming he insisted that I stop because it was “against the rules.” I asked if that was the impound company’s policy or the city’s and reminded him that they were serving the public and that conducting public business in private is generally prohibited. I also asked why Hollywood Tow wouldn’t post a sign notifying the public of such a rule; I figured he was doing like many cops and using his authority to enforce unwritten rules. When I asked him his last name he told me that he would not release my car unless I stopped filming and walked away. I went back to the counter and Michael changed his reasoning to he was protecting other customers’ privacy, even though there was no one else at the counter when he first told me to stop. After a little more back and forth, I turned my IPhone off but left my other camera running.
I told Michael the money was missing and now that he thought I wasn’t recording, he tried to pull a fast one on me often used by racists. Knowing black people disposition to law enforcement, many white people know they can gain leverage on a black person by simply calling the cops. This became a viral phenomenon recently with several widely known incidents like “Barbeque Becky,” “Permit Patty,” “Corner Store Caroline” and such. John says to me, “ok. We’re going to file a police report.” Any black person who’s had multiple negative run-ins with police would be foolish not to weigh the consequential nature of police encounters versus the prospect of getting their money back in this situation. In my legally inept years I would have simply let this State sanctioned robbery go but I’m no longer scared of police (unless they’re pursuing me, of course) and even have police friends I often debate about police policies. Michael kept insisting we’d have to file a police report, trying to discourage me with a possible encounter with the law enforcement. He even upped his passive threat by mentioning I’d have to “testify” (presumably in court) to what denominations of money I had. When I didn’t flinch he backpedaled by giving me an internal complaint form. I ridiculed him about backpedaling and asked him what happened to the police report. He tried to pretend he never mentioned it and told me I “wasn’t paying attention” and I had to file a police report on my own. I filled out the complaint got my car and left. Here’s a video of my encounter with “Jivin” John Marich:
One more thing I’d like to mention; as a testament to this official police garage’s obnoxiousness, they have “Service Excellence Program On The Spot Recognition” forms at their front window yet complaint forms are by request. What an absurd gesture to act as if people whose cars they’ve taken away would complement them enough to need forms readily available. This is an obnoxious slap in the face to citizens and an indication that they feel their “official” status places them above the taxpayers they seemingly unknowingly serve.
I immediately went to the Hollywood police station and filed a report, which thus far and to my knowledge, they’ve completely ignored. Last I checked, breaking into and stealing from a car was a crime. Sadly, it appears the Los Angeles Police Department feels it is a crime if “official” police garage employees do it; perhaps this is what the “official” part means; so much for deterring crime.
Stay tuned for part 2, where I begin my fight to keep the fruits of my own labor; the money I’ve already worked for.