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More LAPD Command Staff Changes

November 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


Below you’ll find the release that announces the latest round of musical chairs going on at the LAPD
, as Chief Charlie Beck continues with his reorganization.

Other than the very depressing site of seeing Sharon Papa’s name being snatched away from the role of Assistant Chief to the position of Assistant Commander in the Valley Bureau (likely meaning around a $60 K pay cut), there are no monster surprises.

Since this is all being closely watched, (by those of us who watch such things, anyway) certainly as time goes along there will be more opinions surfacing—both praise and otherwise.

Right now, however, most on the list are getting good reviews.

Here’s the official statement:

Chief Beck Names Three New Commanders and Continues Reorganization

Los Angeles: Today, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck announced that Captains Blake Chow, Bob Green and Mike Moriarty will each be promoted to the rank of Commander.

In addition to the new members of his leadership team,
Chief Beck revealed the next phase in his effort to reorganize the Police Department for efficiency and effectiveness. The following changes, subject to budgetary review and approval, will be effective January 3, 2010.

Office of Operations

• Commander Dave Doan will become the Assistant to the Director, Office of Operations.

• Captain Blake Chow will be promoted to the rank of Commander and will become the Assistant Commanding Officer, Operations- Central Bureau.

• Captain Bob Green will be promoted to the rank of Commander and will become the Assistant Commanding Officer, Operations- South Bureau.

• Commander Andrew Smith will become the Assistant Commanding Officer, Operations- West Bureau.

• Commander Sharon Papa will become an Assistant Commanding Officer, Operations- Valley Bureau.

• Commander Jorge Villegas will remain an Assistant Commanding Officer, Operations- Valley Bureau.

More after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD | Comments Off

ED BLUES: An LA Teacher Rejoices In & Grieves for His Students

November 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


(Posting will be daily, but somewhat light between now and Friday as it is the last week of classes at both USC and UC Irvine, which means I’m reading and making notes on around 5,748,675 pages of rough drafts for students’ final stories. (Yes, that is a slight exaggeration. But only slight. The good news is, at both schools, my students are working on some very cool stories.)


“Every day my heart gets broken,”
writes Dennis Danzinger, a former TV writer turned impassioned high school teacher.

The hurt starts before I step foot onto my campus. I live six blocks from my work site in a diverse, middle-class neighborhood called Mar Vista where two bedroom homes sell for $700,000 and the gentrified two-story jobs go for over a million.

On my walk to work, I observe the morning rush to school. Kids, in uniforms, hurry toward waiting cars to be whisked away to private schools.

And then, he writes, he crosses the boulevard where teenagers are being disgorged from school buses that have ferried them from elsewhere in the city to the LAUSD high school—Venice High, to be specific— where Danziger teaches English.

All are seniors. Most are smart. All are street smart. Many are shy. Most read and write below grade level. Of the 42 students on my Period 1 Expository Composition roster only three are applying to universities.

I read their personal essays which will be published this spring in an anthology of student writing thanks to a grant from PEN in the Classroom.

[Note: PEN USA's PEN in the Classroom program sends professional poets, novelists, screenwriters and journalists into classrooms—mostly in underserved and under-performing schools—for a 12-week-long creative writing residence.]

These are the stories my 17- and 18-year-old students
have shared with me under the tutelage of PEN mentor, Amy Friedman:

A 3-year-old watches from his front porch as his uncle shoots himself in the head.

A mother dumps her 15-year-old son at a police station and tells the cops they can have him.

A father goes downstairs and is shot by a car thief. He leaves behind three daughters.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Education, writers and writing | 4 Comments »

USC 28, UCLA 7: A Few Words About the Squabble

November 29th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Kevin Roderick has the summary. But I have a comment or two.

The Trojans dominated in a sloppy game by both sides, but what they’ll be talking about for days (at least) is this: USC throwing a touchdown bomb one play after taking a knee to signify it was playing out the clock. UCLA called a timeout after the knee, perhaps precipitating the USC pass. In any case, a demonstrative celebration followed on the USC sideline — then the entire Bruins team swarmed off the sideline, many going past midfield, to object. Coaches, cops and cooler minds intervened before anything felonious happened, but it looked dicey there for a few minutes.

Indeed. Very dicey.

Even the handshake between the coaches seemed a bit….tense.

But about that touchdown bomb: Pete Carroll clarified the matter immediately following the game. (Not that it should have needed clarifying.) Yes, the USC offense took a knee, at which point everything could have stopped. Game over. Run out the clock.

BUT then the fact that UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel called a time out instead signified that the Bruins intended to keep playing, likely using a couple more time outs to get the ball back.

So that is exactly what the Trojans did.
They kept playing. Matt Barkley, the baby quarterback, feinted, then threw a gorgeous 48-yard bomb to Damian Williams for a touchdown.

After this fall’s battering season, it is perhaps understandable that Carroll could not control his little kid delight at the play. (There was nothing over the top. He simply looked very, very cheery.)

The touchdown plus Carroll’s and his players’ undisguised good humor set off a fury on the Bruin’s bench, and the entire team surged on to the field with intentions that looked considerably less than friendly.

Eventually, the coaches and referees managed to shoo the potential brawlers back to their respective sides.

Yet the grumbling continues.

Interestingly, I don’t remember anyone shrieking at Stanford two weeks ago when they kept running up the score in the last few minutes. Instead everyone loudly blamed USC for having a lousy defense.

Now when the Trojans throw a touchdown in the last minute of the game ….it somehow is again their fault.


Okay, the weekend is nearly over so we shall soon be back to more serious issues.

But we aren’t there yet.

Posted in Life in general | 73 Comments »

Being Thankful….

November 26th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Like most of you, I’m thankful for many, many things. In relation to WitnessLA specifically, I’ll name two:

1. I’m thankful for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Other than my kid and those whom I love, I can’t think of much I’d die for. But I would die for the First Amendment .

2. I’m thankful for the dialogue each of you bring here. There are many ways to find community. However contentious, this is one of them. And I am thankful for it.

And you? What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the music.

xo: C.

PS: LAist has a great photo gallery of things that people are thankful for today. Love it! Thanks, Zach Behrens!

Posted in Life in general | 27 Comments »

LA City Council Says Yes to Medical Marijuana

November 25th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


After a meeting that lasted seveTuesday, the LA City Council decided to act sensibly by voting to allow retail dispensaries
to continue selling medical marijuana. According to John Hoeffel of the LA Times, the Los Angeles City Council is also strongly considering a draft ordinance that may cap the number of shops in the city between 70 and 200.

The CC did not not shy away from going head to head with LA’s city attorney, Carmen Trutanich, over the regulations and the interpretation of the law.

Here’s more from Hoeffel.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley had pressed the council to explicitly ban the sale of marijuana, saying that the state’s medical marijuana laws do not allow it and citing several recent court decisions to back up their argument.

The contentious issue snarled the council’s efforts to develop an ordinance, with members caught for months between their desire to provide access to marijuana for patients who need it and their reluctance to reject the advice of their own attorney.

But the council stripped out language that would bar sales and replaced it with a provision that would allow “cash contributions, reimbursements and compensations” for actual expenses, as long as they comply with state law. The law has been interpreted differently by medical marijuana advocates and law enforcement officials….

There’s more.

Sanity prevails.

PS: It is interesting to see where City Council member Dennis Zine was on the issue in this interview two and a half years ago, when the city was planning to settle on regulations immanently.

Posted in City Government, Medical Marijuana | 6 Comments »

Charlie Beck: The Shape of the New Command Staff

November 24th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


I’ve been madly editing and grading around a zillion pages of student papers (and will be doing so through next Friday), thus I’m a bit slow in posting the list of command staff that new Chief of Police Charlie Beck announced yesterday after noon.

The complete text of Beck’s announcement is at the end of the post. But Joel Rubin’s article in Tuesday’s LA Times gets to a lot of the issues that have the city’s police watchers talking.

Here are some clips [Bracketed italics are mine]:

Less than a week after taking over the Los Angeles Police Department, Chief Charlie Beck announced a shake-up in the department’s command staff, including the demotion of two of the LAPD’s highest-ranking officials and promotion of several others.

Beck, who was confirmed as chief by the City Council last Tuesday, promoted Deputy Chief Michel Moore to become one of the LAPD’s three assistant chiefs and assigned him to a newly created post in charge of Special Services…. [NOTE: THERE USED TO BE TWO Assistant Chiefs under Bratton.]

In his new post, Moore will oversee an array of specialized operations that, until now, have been run separately, including the agency’s Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau, the elite Metropolitan Division and the Detective Bureau.

To make room for Moore, Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell,
who for several years has been the second-highest-ranking person in the department, dropped one rank to deputy chief and will take on a new position as chief of detectives.

[This is a significant series of moves. For example, the new arrangement makes Moore the boss of McDonnell, among other people, which is a little weird. McDonnell has been a very highly regarded Assistant Chief of some sort or another for seven years. Now he goes a rung down to become a Deputy Chief of Detectives. But instead of reporting directly to the Chief of Police as Beck did when Bratton put him in the same position, he reports to Mike Moore, the guy who's been Deputy Chief in the Valley, and the other member of the threesome who were all vying for the department's top job. it's fine, I guess, but weird.

On the other hand, although I've not confirmed this with McDonnell, I've heard that he wanted a position in which he was commanding troops, in other words, something more on-the-ground rather than simply managerial, as that kind of post was the element that his already full CV has somewhat lacked. There are only a few possible jobs that would have allowed him this kind of troop command---one of them the Chief oF Detectives position. But nearly all those jobs required a drop down a rank to Deputy Chief.

Yes, I know this sounds like angels....pins...dancing. Or an irritatingly insider drama with more characters than a Russian novel. But, as with the formation of a presidential cabinet---albeit on a far smaller scale---in forming the LAPD command staff, it is exactly this kind of minutiae that could eventually matter.

In any case, out of Bratton's original 10th floor configuration, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger is about the only one left in place, as well he should have been. But the new arrangement significantly carves away at his power, which is likely not accidental. ]

In the most dramatic move, Beck demoted Assistant Chief Sharon Papa, who has run the Support Services Bureau, down two levels to the rank of commander….

Papa was replaced with Deputy Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, who is well-liked, was a Bratton favorite, and one of the people whom, all those betting on Beck’s inner circle command staff, had listed as a sure thing.

But Papa was very, very well-liked too, so….

Anyway, there’s more here.

And there will be more still to come.

ONE MORE NOTE: With rare exceptions, Bill Bratton surrounded himself with the strongest people available, not necessarily the ones who were his closest friends.

But of course Bratton was an outsider, thus he did not come to the department with close friendships.

In constrast, Charlie Beck has spent a lifetime at the LAPD and has, naturally, forged strong personal ties.

How those personal ties affect his ongoing and crucial shaping of the department’s command staff is something that many in the city are watching, and will continue to watch, with a great deal of interest.

Okay, here’s the actual Beck memo:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD | 5 Comments »

Arresting R*E*V*O*K

November 24th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

On Sunday, November 22, a store called 33rd Los Angeles had an event—a group art show— featuring nine nationally famous graffiti artists, one of whom was a 32 year-old star of the medium named Jason Williams, otherwise known as REVOK.

The store mainly retails high end graffiti supplies, including Montana paint, a graffiti-friendly brand made in Barcelona Spain.

Matt Stibbe, 33rd Los Angeles’s owner, says that, while there are certainly taggers
who buy at the store, his main clients are commercial artists and film and commercial production companies. These days graffiti art is used to sell almost anything.

And so is the work of REVOK. Here, for example, he was part of a three artist, six-city tour for Boost Mobile and Sprint.

“He’s just starting to really reap the rewards of his skill,” said Stibbe of Williams. “He’s part of an artists’ collective that has quite a few corporate clients and his work shows in galleries over the world. REVOK used to do a lot of street stuff. But, as far as I know, that’s pretty much in the past for him.”

Unfortunately, because of a little tagging-related tangle with the law last year out in Indio (not his first), Williams was on summary probation. And the terms of his probation were that he couldn’t have any spray paint nor could he have the artistic accoutrements that go with the paint—tips and so on.

(And there was also that recent unpleasantness in Australia. But it’s complicated, so let’s skip it for now.)

In any case, it may have seemed logical from a judge’s point of view, to forbid Williams the use of the tools with which he had broken the law, but it was also about as sensible—and achievable—as telling Kobe never to touch a basketball again or, maybe more aptly, telling a gifted hacker that he or she could never ever again touch a computer. Forbid all you like, but realistically, it just isn’t going to happen.

For reasons that are not terribly clear (something having to do with something unwise he may or may not have said on his twitter acount—the LA County sheriff’s deputies came looking for Williams on Sunday, I guess with the intention of searching him for tagger contraband as, due to the well-publicized event, they knew he’d be engaging in the activity forbidden to him, albeit by invitation in an otherwise legal commercial setting.

According to Stibbe, 15 or more cruisers circled the retail store’s vicinity on Pico Blvd. West of La Brea, for most of the day, occasionally stopping patrons to ask if they were REVOK, or if they knew where REVOK was.

Eventually deputies succeeded in finding the actual REVOK around two-blocks away from 33rd Los Angeles. The officers searched him and found that Williams was carrying—quelle horreur—spray tips.

In short order, Williams was cuffed and arrested. Subsequently, sheriff’s deputies searched Williams’ home and found “hundreds of spray cans,” LASD spokesman, Steve Whitmore told me.

(All involved were quite naturally shocked at this discovery.)


At Williams’ house, Sheriffs also found a phony LAPD badge and a real detour sign. All the graffiti-related stuff was, at most, misdemeanor material. “But the DETOUR sign got him a receiving stolen goods charge,” said Whitmore. “That’s a felony.”

Whitmore could not confirm or dismiss Stibbe’s claim that 15 plus cars full of deputies had been involved in the take down of the tip-packing, sign-hoarding Williams.

But we did have a very nice, wide-ranging philosophical discussion about the sometimes fuzzy line between costly vandalism and real graffiti art—a line that REVOK has blurred with glorious skill and abandon over the years.

Williams’ bail was set at $30,000. By the time that Whitmore and I talked Monday afternoon, he said he thought that REVOK had been bailed out.

Jason Williams booking photo courtesy of the LA County Sheriff’s Department

Posted in crime and punishment | 14 Comments »

Sunday, Monday Hits, Picks & Must Reads

November 23rd, 2009 by Celeste Fremon



I’m bored out of my mind with the New Conventional Wisdom that persists in opining that the Internets have killed storytelling…..narrative writing….long form journalism…. or what have you, when research and practical observation repeatedly tells us otherwise.

We are a storytelling species.

I bring this up because of a the wonderful tale in the December issue of Wired Magazine that is justifiably getting lots of attention this past weekend. It is a terrific example of immersion journalism that is web-centric, interactive—plus it is engaging storytelling with a well constructed narrative.

It’s called VANISH: Finding Evan Ratliff.
It is about what happened when Wired writer Evan Ratliff tried to disappear without a trace in this brave, new non-private world.

Do read it.

Photo by Joe Pugliese for Wired


The LA Times’ Maura Dolan tells a heart-piercing first person tale
of her teenage son’s two friends, one of whom died at a Memorial day weekend party featuring too much alcohol. The other friend was the one who gave the booze party while his parents were out of town.


As the LA City Council heads toward an actual, no-kidding vote on the issue of regulating marijuana dispensaries, the LA Times’ John Hoeffel asks how many retail pot outlets is too many.


Two things worth reading during the media’s recent sheep-like Sarah Palin news storm.

1. Matt Tabbai’s take on Palin as a WWE Star

Rolling Stone’s Matt Tabbai has become one of the most consistently interesting journalists in America right now. Is he the nicest? Probably not. He seems to have an ego approaching the size of that new floating city thingy, the Oasis of the Seas. And he swears a lot. But he’s also dogged and extremely insightful at noting and characterizing patterns.

Warning to those conservatives who are Palin fans. If you read this, be forewarned that Tabbai obviously doesn’t like Palin. But read it anyway. It’s the analysis that matters, not Tabbai’s personal feelings about Sarah.

2. Carl Hiaasen’s faux fact check of Palin’s book.

It’s old, but it’s still really, really funny.


I am not in the least expert on China but the Atlantic’s Jim Fallows is. And he (and some others whom he quotes) explains the media’s latest vexing example of pack journalism—or horse race journalism as NYU’s Jay Rosen began describing it nearly two years ago in the midst of the presidential primary. This particular instance has to do with Obama’s trip to Asia, and Fallows explains that much of the American reporting on the trip is…well… incorrect. Unfortunately, wrong or not, by next week, the POV Fallow’s describes will likely become the accepted reality of the situation.

Here are a couple of clips from Fallows’ essay:

[Here Fallows quotes Howard French:]

Howard French goes on to say that these assumptions were flat wrong. He offers many explanations, including this: “I find that the Washington reporters tend to be typically the most subject to this instant scorekeeping. This is part of the game of Washington reporting. They’re at the bleeding edge of this phenomenon that I think is distressing in terms of the approach of the press to serious questions. Everything is shot through this prism of short-term political calculation as opposed to thinking seriously about stuff. You can’t be an expert on every question, and so you’re part of the Washington press corps and if you’re really good and really diligent, you’re going to be expert maybe in a few things and one of those things might not be China.”

[Finally, he concludes with this.]

We’re all familiar with one “crisis of the press,” the business collapse. This is a different kind of crisis, though it makes the business crisis worse: the distortion of reality by compressing every complex issue into the narrative of the DC-based “horse race.” As you can tell, this really bothers me.

I traveled with the presidential press corps briefly once during the Carter administration, when I was young and wildly inexperienced. Yet because I was an outsider, I could see what the others seemed not to see: And that was the fact that the reporters who were daily defining the national dialogue talked to no one but themselves and a small cadre of government insiders from both parties. I also noted that they rarely, if ever, questioned an insidious kind of group think that made their reporting fact laden, and seemingly informed and connected, but often weirdly wrong. At the time, I found this vision frightening.

I still do.


Steve Lopez’s Sunday column was about a Santa Monica doctor who got his head slightly banged up playing some weekend soccer in the park, needed a few stitches, went to a local emergency room—-and came away with a bill that flabbergasted him (and remember, the guy himself is a doctor). There was, for example, the $350 tetnus shot that the doc knew for a fact cost $27. It got way worse from there. Read it.

Posted in media, Must Reads, National politics, Social Justice Shorts | 17 Comments »

Charlie Beck’s 1st Staff Meeting: It’s All About the Accessories

November 20th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


So ….when you are a brand new chief of police how do you gain the respect
and professional devotion of your newly acquired troops?

What unmistakable signal can you give that will communicate to your officers that you have their best interests in mind?

One method is to give all the cops a gift-–something they really, really want.

Newly-sworn Chief of Police Charlie Beck had his first official staff meeting at the LAPD’s recently completed headquarters on Wednesday. Everyone from captain’s rank and above was asked to attend.

Most of the meeting reportedly fell into the realm of what was expected. Beck talked about how he respected all the other contenders for chief, how crime and community patrol are his priorities and how he is going to push resources away from centralization and out to the divisions. His vision is to “make what Bratton started our destiny.” In other words, he will keep crime down, keep the counter terrorism bureau healthy, and will further transform the LAPD culture from the roots up while honoring what was started with the federal consent decree.

He will also be doing some reorganization in January, he said, and asked for input from those in the room.

And then he gave everyone a gift.

He told the officers that, when in uniform, cops would no longer have to wear ties with their long-sleeved dress shirts.

Everyone was thrilled.

“The big news for the rank and file,” one insider told me in an email. “New rule -long sleeve shirts with no ties ………hooray!”


One of the first chiefs to recognize the importance of giving department members
this sort of psychological cadeau was Daryl Gates who told his troops that, except on formal occasions, officers no longer had to wear the traditional LAPD billed hat when on the job.

Gates told Patt Morrison that the hat business (and the fact that he made it the fashion for LAPD brass to wear plain blue uniforms, even for dress, instead of the gold braid covered parade get-ups that had previously been required) was something he was ” really proud of…”

When I was assistant chief in operations,” he said,” I’d roll up on a call and I’d see these officers run back to the car and put their hats on: Hats are part of the uniform. These poor officers were diverting their attention from the incident because they’re concerned about not wearing their hats. So when I became chief, I said the hats go.”


Willie Williams, who was quite unpopular with the rank and file, cemented the cops’ antipathy for him with what one might call an anti gift. I’ve had any number of officers tell me about their irritation regarding Williams’ insistence that they make a large, very un-So-Cal, and rather expensive jacket, a required part of their sartorial accouterments. (Cops groused to me privately that they were convinced Williams only chose the coat because it better covered his formidable girth.)


“What Gates and now Beck did may sound small,” said one of my department sources, “but it’s actually a big deal, because it says to the officers, ‘I get it. I get what you deal with, day to day. I get what’s important to you.’” All of which goes a long way in winning loyalty.

Good move, Chief Beck. Sometimes it really is all about the accessories (metaphorically speaking).

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD | 23 Comments »

UC Regents Hiking, Students Protesting, Cops Dispersing

November 19th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

The UC Board of Regents has evidently taken a break in its meeting, which was disrupted by a group of angrily chanting students. At this, the frustrated UCLA police cleared the room of spectators and declared the protest in general unlawful.

The UC Board of Regents is set to decide today whether to approve a proposed whopping 32 percent tuition hike, bringing the cost of a UC education to a minimum of ten grand a year.

UPDATE: They passed it, as we knew they would.

Here’s the news about the day on campus that Kevin Roderick of LA Observed (who also works at UCLA) has been shepherding.

Okay, now I’m going to go back to grading papers—for my UC Irvine students, who will be among the recipients of such a hike.

Posted in Education | 48 Comments »

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