C.R.U.S.H. (Part II)

Five months ago, two black homicide detectives got fed up with the police department's inaction on black-on-black murders. Thus was born the Crime Response Unit To Stop Homicide (CRUSH): Six cops with the grit and guile to tackle the toughest cases in t

Finding witnesses and suspects and turning snitches occupy most of CRUSH's time. In between those duties, however, a more elemental form of police work takes place. Part of the unit's job, perhaps its most important job, is to establish a presence in the neighborhoods it patrols. That presence has to be both authoritative and intimate. After all, they're fighting uphill against decades of neglect. Balancing the cold exercise of police power with people skills is CRUSH's finest and most unique talent.

That's what makes the creation of the unit so notable. Normally, homicide investigations are handled solely by inspectors, longtimers who've come up through the ranks and made the grade. But by the time cops get to the Inspectors Bureau, CRUSH members say, they are too often burned out, unwilling or unable to do the kind of constant, street-level police work that's required in the southeast sector.

Fielding the CRUSH team based on raw merit -- desire, heart, and street savvy -- and not seniority was necessary to reintegrate the department into the ghetto. "They are the vanguard," Hendrix says.

To be sure, the CRUSH members aren't doing inspectors' jobs: taking the point on cases and coordinating with district attorneys. Rather, they're doing the job inspectors should be: beating the streets, developing contacts, rattling cages.

The value of CRUSH is easy to see riding with the unit.
Out in Double Rock, everyone knows Mac. "Say hey, Mac." "What's up, man." All commonly heard phrases when riding with the old man of the unit. The same is true all over the southeast sector. Mac, a freckled Irish Catholic, knows these streets better than anyone. Killers and kids alike all know the man. And by all appearances, they like and respect him.

"Everyone off the streets in 10 minutes," Mac yells from his window on the worst stretch of street in Double Rock. All the hoods just laugh, waving at the 18-year veteran.

A dangerous-looking group of juvenile gangsters tries to stare Mac and Pot down from across the street. Mac just slows the car and starts chatting them up. They don't answer, still fronting on the smiling officers. "Hey, we'll get to know each other," Mac says to the crew before taking off.

A ramshackle Corvette approaches. "Man, you all over the place," a guys says out the window.

Pulling around the cul-de-sac, Mac sees a bank robber he busted several times in the '70s. "Keep moving, Mac," says the former robber, known for his penchant for jumping on counters and firing his gun. "We too old for you now."

"Who's that with you?" Mac asks of a young man in huge sneakers.
"That's my son," the bank robber says.
Developing relationships like this is critical to cracking cases. But a wide gap has developed in policing, disconnecting the Inspectors Bureau and the streets. That's the gap that CRUSH is filling for the homicide unit.

Leaving the Hall of Justice one day, Mac looks up to the windows of the different units and says, "One thing I'd do if I were mayor is get all these cops out of this building and put 'em on the streets."

He supports his critique with an anecdote. A few months ago, while he was walking into the Hall of Justice after hours, a lieutenant who had 11 years of service stopped Mac and asked him who he was and what he was doing. "Here's a guy who's probably been behind a desk most of his 11 years," Mac says.

nother day begins with a call from a snitch. The informant tells Mac that "G-Dog," a member of the "Don't Give a Fuck" (DGF) gang that operates out of Geneva Towers, has a .45 automatic in his house in Sunnydale. G-Dog is on parole and has a search condition attached.

The connection between DGF and a .45 automatic intrigues Mac because a few months ago a local hood named Deshawn Newt was killed by a DGF member with a .45. Mac recently got into a foot chase with the DGF member suspected of popping Newt. But the .45 Mac confiscated didn't match the bullets that killed Newt.

So naturally, CRUSH wants to know if G-Dog's .45 did the job.
The team meets outside G-Dog's house. Edwards and Bolte take positions in the back yard to prevent G-Dog from making a getaway. Nash and a state parole officer, Rob Heagy, go in the front. G-Dog's uncle, a ponderous belly hanging out from his purple T-shirt, stalls Nash and Heagy, asking questions about the search condition. Nash patiently explains the law.

The stalling is probably intended to give someone upstairs time to hide G-Dog's 9mm Luger, his box of bullets, and his 15 rocks of crack. But it doesn't work. The team finds the booty within minutes of tearing into G-Dog's room. "He's going to jail for a year 'cause of the bullets alone," Heagy says.

Nash walks around the two-story apartment and shakes his head. Garbage is strewn everywhere. The stairs and the hallway are packed with random piles of dirty laundry, boxes, stereo equipment, and children's toys. A bleary-eyed woman comes out of her room and makes a pass at Nash. "It's a shame, Lord Jesus, how people are living these days," Nash says, imitating a preacher.

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