During an unusually somber interview with the late night host, who’s doing his best to shine a spotlight on racism after being called out for his unfortunate use of blackface during a Saturday Night Live sketch in 2000, Cheadle revealed that he didn’t really experience any problems with racism while growing up in Kansas City, Missouri until his family moved from a Black neighborhood into the suburbs.
That’s when the actor learned some hard lessons as he experienced bullying that was “definitely predicated on race.” While noting that he doesn’t remember ever seeing the cops when he lived in a Black neighborhood, they were present in the suburbs, and they were “not on Team Don.”
From there, Cheadle gave Fallon an education on policing in Los Angeles. After moving to LA to pursue acting, he said he was pulled over more times than he can count for “fitting the description,” and occasionally, these stops included having a gun pointed at his head.
“This is something that was happening over and over again,” Cheadle said. “I had good friends that were almost killed by the police for nothing.”
Cheadle then explained that this over-aggressive policing was the direct product of “Operation Hammer,” which ultimately led to the Rodney King riots. Under LAPD chief Daryl Gates, Operation Hammer basically gave cops the green light to use all manners of force that even seasoned officers have come to regret, especially when looking back at the infamous Dalton raid. That incident involved cops beating several innocent residents while smashing up apartments and writing “LAPD Rules” in graffiti. Via LA Times:
“The management failures were so obvious,” former LAPD Assistant Chief David Dotson said of the raid. “The department was preparing people as if they were going to war. A police officer’s job is not war; it’s solving complex problems on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day basis. That’s a difficult job, and it doesn’t require screaming at people, putting their faces down in the street like dogs.”
Operation Hammer was a dark piece of history for the LAPD, and hopefully, Cheadle highlighting it on The Tonight Show will bring awareness to just how deep the systemic problem of police brutality goes.