The e-mail comments pouring into the LAPD, says Smith, were rife with vitriol and "reprehensible things about the police."
What is going on here? After all, much has changed at the LAPD since the 1991 videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King triggered the deepest examination of police racism and brutality in US history – in Los Angeles and other cities across the country.
The list of reforms would grow for years: cultural sensitivity training, community policing, overhauls of officer recruitment and training, new videotaping protections, and citizen oversight boards.
"There have been major strides in improving police departments across the country in the past 30 years," says sociologist Ronald Weitzer at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "You'll still find pockets [of corruption] – New Orleans is still quite problematic – but there's clearly progress."