Sunday’s penultimate episode of Succession saw the Roy family go to Washington DC to testify before Congress about Tomellettes, human furniture, and decades of systemic corporate misogyny at the Waystar Royco, specifically Brighstar, the company's cruise line division . The show’s brand of pitch black humor felt especially cutting in this setting, calling to mind the bluster and pathos of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings in a way that was deeply uncomfortable. Oh yeah, I remembered, these people are terrible!
And while the fictional whistleblower’s claims of sexual harassment and assault in the Succession-verse mirror the many real-life charges coming to light in the #MeToo era, the show slipped in another subtle, but equally telling reference to humanity at its worst: the acronym NRPI. This was apparently Waystar’s official designation for incidents aboard its ships involving migrants or sex worker and stands for "No Real Person Involved."
The show’s acronym has its roots in the real-life turn of phrase, NHI, or No Human Involved, used by police officers to describe crimes involving victims of color, most often female sex workers and drug addicts. The use of this term was allegedly commonplace among LAPD officers in the seventies and eighties in a department rife with corruption, racism, and sexism.
It was within this environment that Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., a serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper, operated with near impunity for decades. He killed at least 10 women, many of them black sex workers. These women’s lives were further devalued by a police force that classified their deaths as NHI and, in some cases, never investigated their homicides.
Between 1985 and 1988, Franklin killed eight women in South Los Angeles. He shot his victims and disposed of their bodies in back alleys, concealed by trash. In 1988, Enietra Washington was shot in the chest by Franklin and survived. Officers never bothered to follow up on her attack and Franklin continued to kill for years. He’s believed to have taken a 14-year hiatus from his crimes, picking up again in 2002.
Franklin was finally arrested in 2010, with the aid of DNA evidence and press coverage that outed the LAPD's racist policies. He was charged with ten murders and one attempted murder. In 2016 he was sentenced to death.
In 2014, filmmaker Nick Broomfield made a documentary that was highly critical of the apathetic and biased investigation into Franklin's crimes, highlighting the usage of NHI as just one egregious example. His movie, Tales of the Grim Sleeper was shortlisted for an Academy Award.