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Sheriff to Admonish Deputy 10/02/2003
Sheriff to Admonish Deputy for
Role in Anti-Armenian TV Show

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

During his appearance on an Armenian TV program in Glendale last Sunday, Los
Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca said that he would write a letter of
admonition to Reserve Deputy David Port for writing the script of an
anti-Armenian episode of the TV show, Dragnet.

In an earlier column, I had reported that the ABC and USA networks had
broadcast twice in recent months a vicious episode of Dragnet in which
Armenians in general, not just the depicted criminals, were called savages,
gangsters, and many other very offensive names.

When Sheriff Baca was informed of the racist nature of the script written by
Deputy Port and asked what action he would take against him, the Sheriff's
office said on August 20: "the matter is being reviewed by Sheriff
Department's attorneys." On September 11, his office advised that the review
would be completed within two weeks.

On Sept. 28, while Sheriff Baca was fielding questions from viewers on the
Armenian TV Call-in show, ABC TV Live with Vrej Agajanian, I asked Sheriff
Baca why he had not yet made a public comment on the Dragnet episode and the
offensive script written by Deputy Port?

Sheriff Baca responded: "Thank you for making that point. This is a public
program, so this is a response now, that I can give publicly. I am very
disappointed that the Reserve Deputy chose to use his reserve status as part
of his resume to promote this Dragnet series and I think that it is not only
disappointing, it is against the Sheriff's Department's core values to have
such blatant types of discrimination expressed. Obviously, our lawyers are
looking at this in the County and it's a matter of breaching freedom of
speech. This is a democratic nation and therefore people will say things
that are harmful. It is offensive to people, as it is to me and the Armenian
American community, but it is not against the law. It doesn't necessarily
mean that the Sheriff's Department is in any way condoning what this person
says. And, he certainly did not do it with my permission. So, I will look
with some sense of concern from the stand-point that his particular studio
and his supporters for that series need to hear loud and clear from all of
us, and I am preparing a letter to him with my attorney's advice, because if
I overstep myself, then it becomes an infringement on his rights. So, what
we have to do is see this for what it truly is. It's an entertainment
program. There is no basis of fact for it, and the method in which he wrote
it, I thought it was rather vicious. This is the way he was saying - because
I read the script - he was saying, 'the Armenian Mafia,' not talking about
the Mafia in a sense that there are crime figures who happen to be of
Armenian descent. He was saying the ARMENIAN people are this way,
generalizing to the point where he stirred up a very large controversy and
my friend Kirk Kerkorian and his Chairman of the MGM Studios are very
offended. We talked about this amongst ourselves. I received many letters
from my friends in the Armenian American community. But, for me to hold a
press conference that no one would come to, is not the answer either. I have
to deal with this formally. I have to send a letter of admonition to the
writer [Reserve Deputy Port]. At the same time, I have to answer publicly
like I am doing now."

While Sheriff Baca's remarks are appreciated, one would hope that he would
give the matter further thought when he is ready to issue a formal
statement. Even though all citizens enjoy the right to express themselves
freely, the Sheriff has to be concerned with the appropriateness of
employing a law enforcement officer who apparently holds racist views.
Racial discrimination against any ethnic group shoul d not be tolerated under
the guise of freedom of speech.

The Armenian community awaits the Sheriff's and his attorneys' more
considered judgment.
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