Convicted serial killer Lonnie Franklin’s death sentence Wednesday was welcome news to the families of his murder victims looking for closure, but for Nick Broomfield, director of the HBO documentary about Franklin “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” the story is far from over. Though Franklin has been brought to justice for a series of murders dating back to 1985, the systemic problems that prevented him from being caught for 25 years remain today, according to Broomfield.
“Somebody could probably do exactly what Lonnie Franklin did again today, because nothing significant has changed in terms of the police’s attitude,” Broomfield said. “I feel the story is really just beginning.” During the year and a half of shooting for his 2014 documentary, Broomfield encountered a police force in South Central Los Angeles that he said did not prioritize finding Franklin, who earned his nickname due to a 14 year gap between his murders, between 1988 and 2002.
“The community and the police have such an appalling relationship that is still in place today,” Broomfield said, adding that educated mothers in the area tell their children not to call police in the event of an emergency, for fear of potentially being arrested themselves on trumpted-up charges. “Kids are told that from a very young age, and for good reason.”
One of the reasons Broomfield feels police incompetence is to blame for the delay in apprehending Franklin has to do with the response he got from L.A.P.D. officers himself when he asked them why they didn’t actively pursue a serial killer they knew was operating in the area. “They said, ‘We didn’t want to tip him off that we knew about him,'” Broomfield said.
When Margaret Prescod, founder of the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders asked for increased police efforts, the L.A.P.D. essentially dismissed her concerns, according to Broomfield. “She was told, ‘Why do you care? It’s just prostitutes,” he said.
Despite the fact that Broomfield doesn’t think police attitudes in the area have changed, he is hopeful that a broader debate about policing habits will eventually help improve the way crimes are investigated in inner city areas like South Central L.A. “It doesn’t have to be a vengeful thing against the police,” he said. “It’s genuinely just about getting more efficient, well-working communities.”