Connie Rice: Conscience Of The City In Power Concedes Nothing, civil rights attorney Connie Rice describes brokering peace between the Los Angeles Police Department and minority populations.
NPR logo

Connie Rice: Conscience Of The City

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Connie Rice: Conscience Of The City

Connie Rice: Conscience Of The City

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


There's a new memoir out, highlighting major changes in the Los Angeles Police Department. The first thing we should tell you about this book is it was not written by a cop. It's called "Power Concedes Nothing," and it's written by civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who spent the last 20 years suing the L.A.PD.

You want to know what the police thought of her book. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates will tell you.

KAREN GRISBY BATES, BYLINE: For two decades, civil rights lawyer Connie Rice was a thorn in the side of the Los Angeles Police Department. Actually, make that backside.

CONNIE RICE: I woke up every day, trying to figure out a new way to sue the L.A.PD and the L.A. County Sheriff's, because they were such a negative, and humiliating, and emasculating force in the black and brown communities.


BATES: So it's a little psychedelic to see her here, in the belly of the LAPD's gleaming new police building, where the police chief is hosting a book party for her. And cops - active, retired, uniformed and plainclothes - are lining up for her to sign copies of her new book, "Power Concedes Nothing."

The book is Rice's account of how she and the department came to terms with each other in an effort to make L.A. safer and saner for all of its citizens.

CHIEF CHARLIE BECK: Richard, how are you?

RICHARD: How are you? And Happy New Year.

BECK: Happy New Year.

BATES: As he welcomed everyone to Rice's party, Chief Charlie Beck admitted Rice and the LAPD had not always been friends. But he said their relationship has evolved into a solid partnership. The new police headquarters, with its open courtyards and big glass walls, is far friendlier than the old one. Beck told the crowd it's reflective of Rice's urging that the LAPD make itself more approachable to the community.

BECK: This is, in part, a house that Connie built.


BATES: There was a lot of chuckling over the irony: This prim, steely woman, with her perpetually raised eyebrow, has spent so much time suing her hosts in the past. But somewhere along the way, Connie Rice and the LAPD became friends.

RICE: I'm so biased at this point, that I've completely lost all my impartiality. And Chief Bratton has achieved his goal. I can no longer sue the Los Angeles Police Department.


RICE: But to tell you the truth, I don't want to. I don't need to.

BATES: When she began working at the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1991, Rice ran into the old LAPD; the lean, mean policing machine Chief William Parker made famous in the '50s, and his hand-picked protégé Daryl Gates made infamous in the '80s and '90s.

RICE: It was a very good paramilitary, intimidation, policing culture - but it was also racist.

BATES: Case in point: The 1992 riots, sparked when four LAPD officers were acquitted of viciously beating black driver Rodney King. Rice believes the riots were a reaction to this kind of suppressive policing.

Here, KNBC reports the chaos.



BATES: Phillip and Anna Rice raised Connie and her brothers Norman and Phillip Jr. throughout the U.S. and abroad. Colonel Phillip Rice was one of the few black career officers in the United States Air Force. Anna supervised hours of homework and instilled proper behavior. The Rice parents, like a lot of their black middle-class peers, were rigorously preparing their children to excel in a world that often believed black excellence was an oxymoron.

RICE: It's not the Tiger Mom to Tiger Parent kind of thing. You're swathed in love, you're cherished, the love is unconditional but the expectations are also unconditional.


BATES: Those values run in the family. Connie's cousin, Condoleezza Rice, remembers being raised the same way.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We were just expected to succeed and we were expected to work hard. And I remember my parents and their friends all had a saying: You have to be twice as good. And it was just said as a matter of fact, not debate.

BATES: The cousins are about the same age, with the same quick minds and brisk speech. But the former Secretary of State says there is one major difference between them.

RICE: I'm not really, actually, quite as driven as Connie.


BATES: That's debatable, but Connie Rice is driven. Work seems to be her recreation. And she is relentless about bringing the LAPD and the communities it polices closer together for the entire city's benefit.

RICE: Part of the story of this book is that incredible journey of how we worked with the sued LAPD, and then worked with them, to get them to understand their interests were at a change. Their future in L.A. meant that they had to have the backing of these minority communities.

BATES: Both Rice and Police Chief Charlie Beck believed how the city was policed had to be changed. Beck and his predecessor, William Bratton, gradually replaced the old paramilitary hard-liners with new commanders who had a more expansive view of what policing entailed. He says Rice worked hard to get key gang leaders to consider that the new method might save the youngest people in their communities, and keep their mothers, wives and girlfriends safe.

BECK: They want a police department that's fair. And they want a police department that's effective. And just being one or the other is not enough, you have to be both. And Connie has helped us to be seen as a police department that is fair.

BATES: Most of the time. It's not perfect. There are still police community confrontations, but there seems to be more willingness to listen, on both sides.


BATES: Back down at the book party, Rice is working on other things that need fixing, even as she continues to sign books.

RICE: The MTA case, the 209 race, all that stuff...

BATES: And it's clear that while tonight was a celebration of Connie Rice and her book, it was also a celebration of the LAPD. It's a coming-out party, of sorts, for the department's rebirth as a 21st century institution. And it's an acknowledgement that Rice, who Beck often calls the city's moral compass, has been critical to that effort.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

GREENE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.