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Jittery Talk at LAT Book Fest About Koch Bros. Bidding for LA Times…How CA Can Get Back Control of its Prisons….and More News

April 22nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


NY TIMES REPORTS KOCH BROTHERS MAY BE FRONT RUNNERS IN BIDDING TO BUY LA TIMES

On Sunday the USC Campus was gloriously packed with tens of thousands of Lit Lovers as the yearly LA Times Festival of Books entered its second event-jammed day.

However in the “green room” area where author/panelists and LA Times staffers gathered before and after their respective events, amid the upbeat book chatter there were grim conversations about the report by Amy Chozick in the NY Times that politically conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch may be the front runners among suitors to buy the LA Times.

The article suggested that the Koch brothers may have an edge on some of the other would-be buyers like, say, Austin Beutner, who only want to buy the Los Angeles Times and not the rest of the Tribune Corp’s stable of newspapers, whereas the Koches will reportedly bid on the whole shebang. This could be crucial, as the Tribune Corp would reportedly prefer to sell the whole bunch, not piecemeal, paper by paper.

In March the Hilel Aron of the LA Weekly broke the story that the Koch siblings were strongly rumored to be potential bidders.

Here’s a clip from the NY Times story:

Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. Koch Industries is among those interested, said several people with direct knowledge of the sale who spoke on the condition they not be named. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31 and has hired JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its print properties.

The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.

Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.

One person who attended the Aspen seminar who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the strategy as follows: “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”

“It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”

(BIG SNIP]

“So far, they haven’t seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about the role of the free press,” Ms. Mayer said in an e-mail, “but hopefully, if they become newspaper publishers, they’ll embrace it with a bit more enthusiasm.”

A Democratic political operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he admired how over decades the brothers have assembled a complex political infrastructure that supports their agenda. A media company seems like a logical next step.

This person said, “If they get some bad press that Darth Vader is buying Tribune, they don’t care.”

Alarming X a zillion.


CALIFORNIA WANTS ITS PRISONS BACK

The NY Times also reports on the issue of whether or not the State of California has done enough to justify taking the state’s prisons out of federal receivership. Near the end of the story, criminal Justice expert Barry Krisberg explains what he thinks it will take.

Here’s the relevant clip from Norimitsu Onishi’s story:

Barry Krisberg, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on California’s prisons who testified in the 2011 Supreme Court case, said it was unlikely the state would succeed in its appeals because of that 2011 ruling.

“He can’t win these cases,” Mr. Krisberg said, referring to the governor. “In my view, it’s nearly impossible to go to the same Supreme Court and within a year ask them the same question.”

Instead of looking only to realignment, Mr. Krisberg said, the state must consider the politically difficult option of shortening sentences for good behavior, a policy that previous governors have carried out without an increase in crime.

“If they were to restore good-time credits for the people who are doing everything we’re asking of them in prison, they could get these numbers,” he said, referring to the 137.5 percent goal.


CHIEF CHARLIE BECK GIVES “SOUTHLAND” APPEARANCE MONEY TO HOMEBOY INDUSTRY

This story is a small but sweet one. (And we could use sweet stories right now.)

TMZ reports:

Beck did a cameo for “Southland” recently … and got a check for more than a grand. The Chief could have spent the cash on scores of donuts … but decided there was a worthier cause — he’s donating the money to Homeboy Industries…..

Turns out Beck has another cause celeb … he and some of his boys in blue are lobbying for the return of “Southland” — which is currently on the bubble.

NOTE TO TMZ: We are grateful to you for nosing out this cool little story, but we could have done without the condescending donut cliché. (Just sayin’.)


DENNIS ZINE SAYS, IF ELECTED, CITY CONTROLLER HE WOULD AUDIT THE LAPD’S RISK MANAGEMENT SECTION TO FIND OUT WHY SO MANY OFFICERS ARE INVOLVED IN LAWSUITS (DOESN’T MENTION OWN SEX HARASSMENT LAWSUIT)

Here’s a clip from the story by the LA Times Catherine Saillant:

As he campaigns to become the city’s next controller, Councilman Dennis Zine said his first job in office would be to audit the Los Angeles Police Department’s risk management division to find out why so many officers are involved in lawsuits.

The city has spent as much as $50 million on legal settlements in recent years on cases it could have avoided if commanders did a better job supervising officers, says Zine, a former LAPD motorcycle officer who faces lawyer Ron Galperin in a May 21 runoff election.

What Zine doesn’t mention is a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a female officer claiming that as a police sergeant he made inappropriate sexual advances during a 1997 business trip to Canada. Zine said that the two were dating and that the officer made up or exaggerated her claims….

Whatever the situation with Zine’s own lawsuit, an audit of this nature never hurts, and needn’t be adversarial. In fact, we’d like to see one for the LASD as well.


PS: THE LAPD OFFICERS ACCUSED OF PERJURY WERE AQUITTED

This happened last week, but it bears mentioning. The Daily News’ Eric Hartley has the story. Here’s a clip:

A jury acquitted a Los Angeles police officer and a fired former officer Friday of charges they lied under oath about witnessing a drunken driver.

Lawyers for Craig Allen and Phil Walters admitted the two were wrong when they said they had seen a woman blow through two stop signs and pulled her over. In fact, other LAPD officers had stopped the woman, then called Allen and Walters to the scene to administer sobriety tests.

But the defense attorneys said the two officers made honest mistakes and had no reason to risk their careers by lying about a routine traffic stop.

“We’re all extremely relieved that this nightmare is over,” Walters’ lawyer, Joel Isaacson, said Friday afternoon. “Officer Walters had faith in the system, but it’s a scary situation to go through. ”

The two were charged with perjury and filing a false report, both felonies.

The LAPD fired Allen, now 40, before criminal charges were filed. His lawyer, Bill Seki, said Allen is “praying that he gets his job back” and will ask the department to reconsider the firing.

Walters, 58 and a 23-year veteran, still faces a departmental trial called a Board of Rights that could result in his being cleared, punished or fired. He has been relieved of his police powers and is not being paid, an LAPD spokesman said.

Here’s the back story (scroll to the bottom of the post).

Posted in CDCR, Charlie Beck, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Future of Journalism, Homeboy Industries, LAPD, LASD, Los Angeles Times, media, prison | 14 Comments »

Prop 8 Arguments: Is Gay Marriage Younger than Cell Phones? What About the Children? Should Post-Menopausal Women Be Allowed to Marry….and Other Pressing Questions (Plus a New Big LAPD Settlement)

March 27th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

PROP 8 CHALLENGER ATTORNEYS DAVID BOIES AND TED OLSON AFTER TUESDAY’S HEARING

It is still something of a miracle that Constitutional attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson—who fought against each other in Bush v. Gore—have been the lawyers who made this case against Proposition 8 possible.

Here’s their post hearing press conference.

Their clients, Sandy Stier, Kris Perry, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami spoke as well— along with Kris and Sandy’s sons. It is hard to understand how anyone could object to their marrying each other. Very, very hard.

Have a look.


Here, as promised, are a couple of the more intriguing essays and reports on Tuesday morning’s hearing on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.

DOMA—the Defense of Marriage Act case—is Wednesday.


WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? PROP 8 AND PROCREATION

Amy Davidson from the New Yorker focuses on the fertility issue—or whatever it was that Prop 8 attorney, Charles Cooper was nattering on about regarding fertility and marriage.

Here’s a clip:

This is what we’ve come down to: a lawyer arguing, before the Supreme Court, that a ban on same-sex marriage should be upheld in the interest of discouraging elderly heterosexual men from cheating on their similarly aged female partners with younger women who might get pregnant. At least, that is what Charles Cooper, the lawyer for the proponents of California’s Proposition 8, seemed to be saying in his very odd exchange with Justice Elena Kagan. She had pointed out, amid his talk of the “historic traditional procreative purposes” of marriage, that infertile couples have every right to marry.

JUSTICE KAGAN: If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the Government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?

MR. COOPER: Your Honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couples—both parties to the couple are infertile, and the traditional—

[Laughter.]

JUSTICE KAGAN: No, really, because if the couple—I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.

[Laughter.]

MR. COOPER: Your Honor, society’s—society’s interest in responsible procreation isn’t just with respect to the procreative capacities of the couple itself. The marital norm, which imposes the obligations of fidelity and monogamy, Your Honor, advances the interests in responsible procreation by making it more likely that neither party, including the fertile party to that…

His thought was interrupted by an exchange between the Justices, in which Scalia made a joke about Strom Thurmond—presumably referring to his marriage to a twenty-five-year-old when he was sixty-eight, and not to the daughter he fathered, at the age of twenty-two, with a woman whom it was, at the time, illegal for him to marry in his home state of South Carolina. And then, back to Cooper:

MR. COOPER: Very few men—very few men outlive their own fertility. So I just—

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Why, why, why did no one ask Mr. Cooper at this juncture if postmenopausal women should be forbidden to marry? Why??? A glorious opportunity, lost, LOST, I tell you!)

JUSTICE KAGAN: A couple where both people are over the age of 55—

MR. COOPER: I—

JUSTICE KAGAN: A couple where both people are over the age of 55.

MR. COOPER: And Your Honor, again, the marital norm which imposes upon that couple the obligation of fidelity…. It’s designed, Your Honor, to make it less likely that either party to that—to that marriage will engage in irresponsible procreative conduct outside of that marriage. Outside of that marriage.

Read on. Please, read on. (How can you resist? I mean, really???!)


ONLY SCALIA AND ALITO SEEMED TO CONTINUE TO BACK PROP 8, SAYS UCI LAW SCHOOL DEAN ERWIN CHEMERINSKY

Oh, may he be right! Maura Dolan at the LA Times has the story on Chemerinsky’s opining on the Supremes possible opining. (Plus some counter opining by Prop. 8 advocates.)

Here’s a clip:

One leading law professor said he saw little support on the U.S. Supreme Court for keeping Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at UC Irvine and a constitutional law professor, said a reading of the transcript showed that several justices were particularly concerned about standing, especially Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

If the court dismisses the appeal on standing, the ruling by a federal district judge would probably stand.

“There might be a majority to leave the district judge’s opinion in place,” Chemerinsky said. “On the other hand, it is also possible the court could reach the merits. Only two justices—Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia—seemed clearly supportive of Proposition 8.”

Gay marriage foes expressed confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court could uphold the state’s ban on same-sex unions after hearing arguments Tuesday.

“I think we are going to win this case,” Andy Pugno, lawyer for Proposition 8 campaign, said. “We definitely represented the winning case today and the justices asked good thoughtful questions and we were able to say everything that we wanted to get in front of the court today.”

Pugno, counsel for Protectmarriage.com, said he was unimpressed by the arguments in favor of lifting the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in California.

Chemerinsky thinks that both Kennedy and Roberts are swing votes, not just Kennedy. I tend to agree—both based on pre-hearing logic re: Roberts and his legacy, and based on Roberts’ behavior in Tuesday’s hearing. Let’s hope they both swing with the tide of history.


TRANSCRIPT AND AUDIO FOR TUESDAY’S HEARING….GRAND THEATER (WITH ENORMOUS AMOUNTS AT STAKE)

If you’d like the full transcript of Tuesday’s hearing plus the audio, NPR has it here.

Charles Cooper, who is attorney for Prop 8, was first up. Cooper is clearly an extremely capable attorney. But he sounded nervous in the beginning, thus was a little wordier than might be optimum and got continually interrupted by impatient and keyed up justices, both on the liberal and the conservative side of the matter.

But then Cooper and the justices all seemed to settle down and the exchanges became legally substantive—even if sometimes a bit odd (as with the procreation, women over 55 section excerpted in the New Yorker story above).

Here are a couple of the more interesting moments:

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Outside of the -­ outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a State using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens on them? Is there any other rational decision-making that the Government could make? Denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?

MR. COOPER: Your Honor, I cannot. I do not have any — anything to offer you in that regard. I think marriage is -­

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: All right. If that -­ if that is true, then why aren’t they a class? If they’re a class that makes any other discrimination improper, irrational, then why aren’t we treating them as a class for this one thing? Are you saying that the interest of marriage is so much more compelling than any other interest as they could have?

MR. COOPER: No, Your Honor, we certainly are not. We — we are saying the interest in marriage and the — and the State ‘s interest and society’s interest in what we have framed as responsible pro -­ procreation is — is vital, but at bottom, with respect to those interests, our submission is that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are simply not similarly situated.

But to come back to your precise question, I think, Justice Sotomayor, you’re probing into whether or not sexual orientation ought to be viewed as a quasi-suspect or suspect class, and our position is that it does not qualify under this Court’s standard and -­ and traditional tests for identifying suspectedness.

The — the class itself is — is quite amorphous. It defies consistent definition as — as the Plaintiffs’ own experts were — were quite vivid on. It — it does not — it — it does not qualify as an accident of birth, immutability in that — in that sense.

And then a classic moment in Scalia-osity in which the good justice musingly wondered why he should have to rule on a social issue that he alleged is “newer than cell phones.”

JUSTICE SCALIA: ….Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new. I think it was first adopted in The Netherlands in 2000. So there isn’t a lot of data about its effect. And it may turn out to be a — a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing, as the supporters of Proposition 8 apparently believe.

But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we — we are not — we do not have the ability to see the future….


AND IN OTHER NEWS – LAPD OFFICER IS GIVEN 1.2 MILLION IN RACIAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT

On Tuesday, the verdict came in for LAPD officer, Earl Wright, who described harrowing harassment by his supervisor and some other officers at the department’s Central division.

The LA Times Joel Rubin reported on the three day trial..

Here’s a clip:

…The testimony by officers during the trial showed Wright “willingly participated in some of the inappropriate behavior and banter,” said Lt. Andy Neiman, a spokesman for the department.

The jury, however, seemed to reject that notion.

In reaching their decision, jurors noted in written records that the LAPD’s procedures for handling harassment claims such as Wright’s were “ineffective,” Smith said.

Beck said in his written response that the department had learned lessons from the Wright case and “has used its experience from the allegations revealed in this case to more aggressively monitor workplace environments and investigate allegations of misconduct.”

Indeed, cop-on-cop accusations of harassment, retaliation and discrimination have bedeviled the LAPD for years, and cost tax payers tens of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements.

Wright’s verdict is the second seven-figure payout for the city in as many weeks. Last week, the City Council voted to approve a $1.25-million settlement with two lesbian officers who claimed they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their supervisor.

That’s nearly 3 million in harassment settlements in two weeks.

FOXLA News notes that Wright is still working for the LAPD—now at the department’s training division—and still loves his job.

Posted in Charlie Beck, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, LAPD, LGBT, Supreme Court | 2 Comments »

Baca Speaks to Editorial Board of LA News Group……LA Experts Assess Villaraigosa’s Public Safety Report Card…SCOTUS Hears Gay Marriage Next Week

March 22nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



BACA TALKS TO EDITORIAL BOARD OF LA NEWS GROUP AND GETS IMPROVED REVIEWS

The LA News Group includes such newspapers as the LA Daily News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Long Beach Press-Telegram and so on. Earlier this month, the group published a withering critique of Baca, all but calling for his ouster in 2014 when he is up for election.

But after a meeting with Baca this week, while not by any means offering the sheriff any reelection endorsements, the LA News Group’s editorial board was, at least, somewhat less determined to show him the door.

Here’s a clip from the editorial:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca mentioned two personal goals this week: Winning re-election next year and living to 100. In recent months the latter had seemed more likely than the former.
The dedicated runner’s physical fitness wasn’t in doubt, but his fitness for office was. After revelations about the unwarranted use of violence by sheriff’s deputies, Baca initially passed the blame to subordinates. A citizen’s commission probing jail violence cited a “failure of leadership. ”

By last fall, the question had become whether Baca, 70, should resign before scandal or voters forced him out.

But the Lee Baca who visited the Los Angeles News Group editorial board this week, to outline responses to the problems in the Sheriff’s Department, appeared as fully committed and as creative as ever in his approach to his huge job. It is still not clear that Baca deserves a fifth term, any more than it was clear before that he doesn’t. But it is clear that Baca will not be easily brushed aside in 2014.

The question now is whether Baca’s wide-ranging responses to the scandals makes up for his inability to prevent them.

The editorial also mentions that, in answer to questions about the exit of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Baca said he managed to “finess” Tanaka into leaving.

Here’s the clip:

…More-impressive responses are Baca’s admissions that much of the ACLU’s criticism is correct, and his actions to get to the systemic roots of issues instead of merely blaming underlings.

One was Baca’s move to “finesse” Undersheriff Paul Tanaka into announcing his retirement – and then to essentially eliminate the position. Baca thinks this removes a barrier to communication between him and assistant sheriffs.

The insistence on using the word “finesse” to describe his ouster of Tanaka is classic Baca….

In other words, the retirement announcement was not about the undersheriff’s sudden urge to play more golf, after all.

For LASD watchers, it’s essential to read the whole editorial.


ASSESSING OUTGOING MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA’S PUBLIC SAFETY REPORT CARD

KPCC’s Frank Stolze talks to a list of LA experts about how Mayor Antonio Villagraigosa should be rated as a public safety mayor.

The reviews are generally good, but qualified with the admonition that Antonio was also the beneficiary of some very good luck.

Villaraigosa’s largest stroke of good fortune was his inheritance of Bill Bratton as LAPD’s chief after James Hahn arguably lost the mayoral election to Antonio because he fired Bernard Parks, “a beloved figure in the black community. Hahn lost his once bedrock support among African-Americans.”

(It should be noted that Parks had come to be roundly loathed by the rank and file, who felt that, as chief, he punished them for small infractions while letting his friends do what they pleased. He also alienated the press, members of the DA’s office, and most of city hall for his obstructive handling of the Rampart investigation.)

But while Villaraigosa may not get credit for bringing Bratton to LA, Stoltze reports he does get credit for working very well with him.

Here’s a clip:

In a sense, Villaraigosa lucked out.

“I think he was the beneficiary of the very tough decision that Jim Hahn made,” said UCLA Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology Jorja Leap, who studies crime in L.A. “I don’t think Jim Hahn is given enough credit.”

Villaraigosa embraced Bratton, who receives a lot of credit for turning the LAPD around and delivering the dramatic drops in crime by introducing new technology and cooperating more with federal agencies. The mayor also deserves praise for working with the chief to repair long-frayed police-community relations, said Alex Alonso, who monitors gangs and policing on his StreetGangs.com website.

“Chief Bratton and Villaraigosa showed up at churches, showed up at community meetings,” Alonso said. “That’s definitely a plus. Going to the ghettto.”

Villaraigosa also is praised, reports Stoltze, for embracing non-law-enforcement-centric strategies for crime reduction.

While she’d like to see more funding for the GRYD program (it receives about $25 million annually), Kayle Shilling of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater L.A. said she’s glad Villaraigosa embraced the gang strategy along with more police — even if it was four years into his administration.

“There are a lot of different approaches in Los Angeles and I think it just takes folks a little while to get up to speed,” Shilling said. “I think he’s landed in a good place.”

Villaraigosa can hardly take sole credit for the historic crime drop that began before he took office. Community groups — some led by former gang members — are more involved than ever in reducing violence.

“You have a lot of other things going on outside of City Hall and outside of government,” said Alonso of StreetGangs.com. “You have nonprofit organizations, you have a lot of gang intervention workers. The mindset is changing within South L.A.”

But with Villaraigosa’s help, the mindset on how to tackle crime has changed at City Hall, too.

Read and listen to the rest of Frank Stoltze’s report here.


AND JUST A REMINDER….NEXT WEEK THE U.S. SUPREME COURT WILL HEAR THE TWO GAY MARRIAGE CASES

We’ll be linking to what we see to be the best of the commentary. So buckle-up and hang on.

Here, for example, is an explanatory story from Michael Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers.

And here’s an interesting blog post by Amy Davidson in the New Yorker about the non-Prop 8 case, that of Edie Windsor. As she writes, Davidson helpfully links to some of the best essays on the two cases.

Posted in Antonio Villaraigosa, Bill Bratton, Charlie Beck, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, Los Angeles Mayor, Sheriff Lee Baca | 16 Comments »

Charlie Beck Says LAPD Doing Anonymous Officer Surveys, LA Cop Files Suit Charging Racism, New LASD Assistant Sheriff Does Interviews….and More

March 21st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


LAPD Chief Charlie Beck did a couple of back-to-back interviews this week
—with KPCC’s Larry Mantle on Wednesday and on Tuesday with KNX1070′s Ed Mertz.

In both instances, the chief said that the department is going to conduct anonymous survey of more than 500 of its officers about issues of racism, discipline, and a list of related issues, the idea being to find out what officers think and experience that they may not be willing to come forward to say.

On Larry Mantle’s show Beck and Mantle also had an interesting exchange about whether or not the chief would ever endorse one local candidate over the other. The answer was NO—”Unless I believed that person was dangerous to the city.” Even then, Beck suggested, he would likely say something behind the scenes, not as a public statement.

This is, of course, quite different than the point of view Sheriff Lee Baca has taken. (In the past, Baca has endorsed candidates for City attorney and for LA’s District Attorney, among others.)


MEANWHILE, LAPD OFFICER EARL WRIGHT FILES RACIAL HARASSMENT SUIT AGAINST LAPD

FoxLA reports on a lawsuit brought by Earl Wright, an LAPD officer alleging racial harassment on the job at LAPD’s Central station, as recently as 2010. (The lawsuit was filed in April 2012, but is just now coming to court.)

Here’s the complaint if you wish to read it. If true, it describes a climate of ongoing racial harassment—with liberal references to watermelon and the n-word. According to the complaint, the harassment was not limited to Wright, but states he observed an Asian American officer being similarly harassed, and also a female colleague, who was allegedly sexually harassed then pressed not to report it. In many cases, the incidents were allegedly caused by same officer who, according to the complaint, supervisors declined to reprimand.

Anyway, read it yourself and see what you think.


NEW LASD ASSISTANT CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD TO BE ON WHICH WAY LA?

The LASD’s new Assistant Chief in charge of custody is scheduled to appear on Warren Olney’s Which Way LA? today Thursday. She is also expected to be interviewed by Patt Morrison for the LA Times in the next day or so.

Here’s the link to the Terri McDonald interview.


CA CONSERVATIVE LAWMAKERS INTRODUCED THEIR PACKET OF REALIGNMENT BILLS ON TUESDAY

The threatened cluster of counter-Realignment bills were introduced into committee on Tuesday. The idea of increasing penalties for those who take off or disable their GPS bracelets (introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu) is one that we think has merit, if written correctly.

As for the rest….we’ll be keeping an eye on them. Public hysteria plus shoddy reporting, like we have too often seen on this topic, usually makes for bad laws.

Don Thompson of the AP has more details on this story.


AND SPEAKING OF LEGISLATION….CONGRESSMAN BOBBY SCOTT WILL BE INTRODUCING THE YOUTH PROMISE ACT TODAY, THURSDAY

We’ve been fans of the Youth Promise Act
for a long time. But although it has, in the past, gathered lots of sponsors, it has not gotten very far in terms of passage. But times are changing. Here’s some info on the bill from Scott’s site:

Under the Youth PROMISE (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) Act (H.R. 2721), communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges will be able to develop a comprehensive response to youth violence through a coordinated prevention and intervention response. Representatives from local law enforcement, the school system, court services, social services, health and mental health providers, foster care providers, other community and faith-based organizations will form a council to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies. The plans can be funded up to four years. The act also enhances state and local law enforcement efforts regarding youth and gang violence.

Nothing in the Youth PROMISE Act eliminates any of the current tough on crime laws, and while it is understood that law enforcement will still continue to enforce those laws, research tells us that no matter how tough we are on the people we prosecute today, unless we are addressing the underlying root causes of criminal activity, nothing will change.

Aside from reducing crime and providing better results in the lives of our youth, many of the programs funded under the Youth PROMISE Act will save more money than they cost. The State of Pennsylvania implemented a process very similar to the one provided for in the Youth PROMISE Act in 100 communities across the state. The state found that it saved, on average, $5 for every $1 spent during the study period…

Posted in Charlie Beck, Civil Rights, LAPD, LASD, Sentencing, Sheriff Lee Baca | No Comments »

Prison Recidivism? There’s an App for That…. and More

March 15th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



CAN SMART PHONE TECHNOLOGY IMPROVE AMERICA’S INCARCERATION POLICY?

Prison Recidivism? There’s an app for that! Or, at least, there could be soon.

Among the many tech-entrepreneurs and innovators who gathered at SXSW in Austin, Texas for sessions, presentations, and pitches at the Next-Big-Thing-packed interactive media conference that is one of SXSW’s most popular features, a presentation by a tech thinktank focused on how prisons can use digital technology to reduce recidivism, was one of those that stood out.

The public radio show, “The Takeaway” has the story. Here’s a clip:

The consulting firm, Deloitte, and its think-tank, GovLab, led a discussion on alternatives to the brick-and-mortar prisons low-level criminals are sent to. Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC radio’s New Tech City said two consultants from Deloitte suggested the U.S. keep low-level criminals out of prison, using smart phone technology.

Kara Shuler, senior consultant for Deloitte, suggested “virtual incarcerations,” where nonviolent, low-level offenders are taken out of prison cells with support and monitoring that keeps both the community and the offender safe.

Nonviolent, low-level offenders cost as much as other prisoners, or more, because spending time in prison can put them at risk for committing worse crime in the future. In New Jersey, it costs more to keep someone in prison for a year than it would to send them to Princeton University, Zomorodi said.

The SXSW panelist told the story of an inmante named Frank, who was charged with marijuana possession.

Rather than give Frank a prison sentence, he could be virtually incarcerated, receiving badges or points via a smart phone for accomplishments like keeping a job and making it to his counseling sessions, Zomorodi said.

When a court determines a low-level criminal is a good candidate for the smart phone program, they would be equipped with an ankle-monitoring device to track them with GPS, and given a locked smartphone with specific apps related to their needs, Shuler said.

“Frank’s app might be Breathalyze, an app that detects the eye movements in the camera on your phone,” she said.

A key to the success of such a program, said its proponents, is choosing appropriate candidates for it.


NEWSPAPER WOMEN SHOT DURING DORMER NIGHTMARE GET THEIR TRUCK (OR AT LEAST $$ TO BUY IT)

In case you didn’t see that there was, thankfully, a resolution to Wednesday’s crazy situation in which the newspaper women, whose truck was shot up by the Los Angeles Police Department during the search for Christopher Dorner, couldn’t take the replacement truck that the LAPD wanted to give them, unless they paid a bunch of income taxes on said vehicle. The solution? The LAPD is giving the women $40,000 in cash, and the women can buy their own truck, no taxes involved.

KPCC’s Erika Aguilar with Mike Roe have the rest of the story.


FOR SCOTUS CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, GAY RIGHTS MAY BE HIS DEFINING MOMENT

Jess Brevin of The Wall Street Journal has an intriguing story about the complexities Chief Justice John Roberts is facing as he and the court move toward hearing the gay marriage cases late in March. (If you’re not a WSJ subscriber, you can get past the paywall for this particular article through Google News.)

Here’s a clip:

Chief Justice John Roberts preserved one of President Barack Obama’s main legacies—and helped forge his own—by largely upholding the president’s health-care law last year. Now, the two leaders’ places in history are entwined again, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear two gay-marriage cases later this month.

After years of equivocation, Mr. Obama in recent months has planted himself firmly in favor of gay marriage, and his administration is now asking the court to strike down separate federal and state laws withholding marriage rights from same-sex couples. “American attitudes have evolved, just like mine have, pretty substantially and fairly quickly, and I think that’s a good thing,” Mr. Obama recently told ABC News. In 2012, for the first time, a slight majority of Americans favored same-sex marriage, according to data from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, with young people especially supportive.

[BIG SNIP]

Chief Justice Roberts doubtless knows “that history is going in a certain direction,” even if he isn’t persuaded that the Constitution requires invalidation of laws denying recognition to gay marriages, said Richard Pildes, a law professor at New York University. If that leads him to side against Mr. Obama’s position, it could place the chief justice in “a tragic kind of position—knowing how a decision they believe is correct today is going to look bad 15 years down the road.”

As is customary, Chief Justice Roberts had no comment regarding pending cases, his office said.

Supreme Court history is littered with rulings that were later viewed as retrograde, if not obviously in error. In 1944, the court upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans—leading to a congressional apology in 1988. And in 2003, the court overturned its own 1986 decision that had permitted criminal punishment for gay sex. That 2003 opinion, by Justice Anthony Kennedy, flatly declared that the prior decision “was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today.

But history’s direction can confound expectations. At the time of the high court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion appeared to be gaining broader support. Four decades later, the procedure’s morality remains fiercely disputed, and some—including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who favors abortion rights—suggest the court’s intervention triggered a backlash against wider acceptance of abortion rights….

There’s more, so read on.

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD, prison policy, Probation, Reentry | No Comments »

Sheriff on “Black Belt TV”… The Conservative Case Against More Prisons…Realignment…and Predictive Policing

March 11th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

EDITOR’S NOTE: THERE’S NOT REALLY ANY NEWSWORTHY REASON FOR POSTING THE VIDEO ABOVE OF SHERIFF LEE BACA ON BLACK BELT TV. WE JUST KINDA LIKED IT.)


THE CONSERVATIVE CASE AGAINST MORE PRISONS

The latest issue of The American Conservative has an interesting article by Vikrant Reddy and Marc Levin about how it is conservatives who are leading the charge against lowering America’s prison populations.

Leading the charge might be an overstatement. But conservative groups are having an important and measurable effect on policy, where all but the most liberal of democrats are lagging behind.

The reform of 3-Strikes in California simply would not have passed had it not been for the help of some of the conservatives from the Right on Crime movement.

Plus Right on Crime and related conservative groups like Prison Fellowship Ministries are pushing for reforms of disastrous zero tolerance policies in schools, and in the realm of juvenile justice.

In any case, here are a couple of clips from TAC’s story.

Since the 1980s, the United States has built prisons at a furious pace, and America now has the highest incarceration rate in the developed world. 716 out of every 100,000 Americans are behind bars. By comparison, in England and Wales, only 149 out of every 100,000 people are incarcerated. In Australia—famously founded as a prison colony—the number is 130. In Canada, the number is 114.

Prisons, of course, are necessary. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne observed that “The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil… as the site of a prison.” As long as there are people, there will be conflict and crime, and there will be prisons. Prisons, however, are not a source of pride. An unusually high number of prison cells signals a society with too much crime, too much punishment, or both.

There are other ways to hold offenders—particularly nonviolent ones—accountable. These alternatives when properly implemented can lead to greater public safety and increase the likelihood that victims of crime will receive restitution. The alternatives are also less costly. Prisons are expensive (in some states, the cost of incarcerating an inmate for one year approaches $60,000), and just as policymakers should scrutinize government expenditures on social programs and demand accountability, they should do the same when it comes to prison spending. None of this means making excuses for criminal behavior; it simply means “thinking outside the cell” when it comes to punishment and accountability.

[SNIP]

Between 1992 and 2011, the U.S. prison population increased by nearly 73 percent. To the extent that the recent rise in incarceration incapacitated violent offenders, it was valuable. For nonviolent offenders who are not career criminals, however, incarceration can be counterproductive. As is sometimes said, prisons are graduate schools for crime. This is more than apparent in numerous states where recidivism rates exceed 60 percent.

Unnecessary incarceration of nonviolent, low-level offenders also destroys families. Mitch Pearlstein at Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment has pointed out that incarcerated men “are less attractive marriage partners, not just because they may be incarcerated, but because rap sheets are not conducive to good-paying, family-supporting jobs.” It is common sense that neighborhoods suffering from high incarceration rates also suffer a plague of single-parent homes and troubled children.

This, in turn, leads to dysfunctional communities that are mistrustful of law enforcement. Most American children are taught that they may always ask the police for help. In some American neighborhoods, however, children are taught never to engage with the police.

For this—high recidivism rates, ravaged families, and maladjusted neighborhoods—Americans pay dearly. In 2011, Americans spent over $63 billion on corrections, a 300 percent increase since 1980. Prisons are the second-fastest growing component of state budgets, trailing only Medicaid….

Read more here.


YES, THERE HAVE BEEN SOME ANECDOTAL PROBLEMS WITH REALIGNMENT, BUT THE PROBLEMS WE’D HAVE HAD WITHOUT COULD HAVE BEEN FAR WORSE

I realize we’re starting to get boring on this topic. But a refreshingly sane editorial in the Ventura County Star, gave us an opportunity to harp on this issue that has been dreadfully reported by many journalists around the state (with some notable exceptions, like the LA Times, which has been great).

Here’s a clip from the VC Star Op Ed by Thomas Elias:

As crime statistics for 2012 gradually filter in from around the state, gripes about the 15-month-old prison realignment program have begun rising in newspaper headlines and talk show airwaves.

There are two major complaints: One is that crime rose as realignment cut the inmate populace by more than 24,000.

The other is that some criminals are being released earlier than before the program began in October 2011, in part because local jails in a few counties are overcrowded.

A typical gripe comes from Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the state’s largest police union. “Our members are terribly concerned that we are allowing people out of prisons who are likely to recommit crimes and victimize the people of our city,” he said in a telephone interview.

He claimed probation departments have lost track of some former prisoners, but could offer no specific examples. “All I have is anecdotal information,” he conceded.

It turns out that only one of those big gripes has any proven merit…

Read the rest here.


SOME FINE-TUNING OF REALIGNMENT LIKELY TO COME BEFORE THE STATE LEGISLATURE

California legislators are introducing a cluster of bills, each of which would fine tune some part of the realignment structure put into place by California’s massive AB109.

The Capital View reports:

Democratic Assembly members Susan Talamantes Eggman, of Stockton, and Ken Cooley, of Rancho Cordova, introduced Assembly Bill 601 to allow parole violators to be returned to state prison for up to one year.

AB 2, authored by Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, would return sex offenders who violate their parole back to prison “to serve any sentence ordered for that violation.”

Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, earlier proposed Senate Bill 57, which would make removal of a GPS monitoring device an additional crime requiring a prison sentence of 16 months, two years or three years

WitnessLA agrees that some fine tuning and closing of certain loopholes is needed, but the devil will be in the details. What we do not want to see is an emotional rush to return to the bad old days that produced overcrowded prisons with little or no positive effect on public safety.


PREDICTIVE POLICING: THE PROS AND CONS OF USING ALGORITHMS TO DRIVE PROACTIVE COP WORK

The LAPD has been running a pilot program of a strategy called predictive policing that uses a combination of updated crime statistics, technology and algorithms to predict areas ripe for crime so that police can be ready and move in to prevent crime and/or make arrests in the moment rather than trying to solve the crimes afterward.

The program, known as PredPro, has reportedly been used so successfully in the LAPD;s Foothill Division that now other places like Santa Cruz and, more recently Seattle have signed up as a way to police smarter in an era of budget cutting.

An intriguing article in the Gardian by columnist/author Evgany Morzov cautions that, while the program seems very promising now, targeting crime before it happens can be a mighty slippery slope.

Here’s a clip from the close of his story:

The promise of predictive policing might be real, but so are its dangers. The solutionist impulse needs to be restrained. Police need to subject their algorithms to external scrutiny and address their biases. Social networking sites need to establish clear standards for how much predictive self-policing they’ll actually do and how far they will go in profiling their users and sharing this data with police. While Facebook might be more effective than police in predicting crime, it cannot be allowed to take on these policing functions without also adhering to the same rules and regulations that spell out what police can and cannot do in a democracy. We cannot circumvent legal procedures and subvert democratic norms in the name of efficiency alone.

And, of course, it bears remembering that it was those Masters of the Algorithmic Universe—the Wall Street genius “quants”—who, to a great degree brought us the 2008. So, yeah, full speed ahead, but with ethics intact, and a good hold on common sense and caution.

Posted in Charlie Beck, crime and punishment, criminal justice, juvenile justice, LAPD, LASD, Realignment, Right on Crime, School to Prison Pipeline, Sentencing, Sheriff Lee Baca | 2 Comments »

South LA Community Meeting on LAPD & Dorner…Paul Tanaka Running & Not Running for Gardena Mayor…and Facts Vs. Fears on Realignment

February 25th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Last Wednesday night, a gathering of South LA community members met with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
and several members of his command staff to discuss the concerns, angers, old wounds and fears relating to the Los Angeles Police Department that the situation with Christopher Dorner had brought to the surface. The meeting was moderated by Skipp Townsend, head of 2nd Call, a non-profit that helps parolees, at risk youth and others turn their lives around.

When notice of the meeting went out, community organizers used Facebook to urge attendance: “Get involved or don’t complain,” they said.

LA Times columnist Sandy Banks was at the event and wrote an unusually sane and thoughtful story on the myriad complex emotions that swirl in the wake of the Dorner nightmare, many of which were talked about last Wednesday night.

Here are some clips from Banks’ story:

I expected fireworks in South Los Angeles this week, when LAPD Chief Charlie Beck showed up at a community meeting to talk about Christopher Dorner, the ex-cop turned killer whose manifesto cast the department in an ugly light, resurrecting decades of buried wrongs.

The crowd at the Vermont Avenue community center was small, about 100 people. But the line to speak stretched from the stage to the back of the room. Some came for answers, some just to vent.

There were stories of ugly street stops and police harassment. Half a dozen people — black, white and Latino — said they’d had family members injured or killed by cops. An old man carried a poster of Dorner. A young man told Beck that the LAPD’s legacy runs so deep, “babies cry when they see your uniform.”

They had read Dorner’s manifesto, which blamed his firing from the LAPD on racists, liars and cowards. There were nods all around when one man declared, “I don’t defend what Dorner did, but like many in the community, I believe what he said.”

But no voices were raised, no insults hurled. Nearly everyone prefaced their comments to Beck with some version of “thank you for coming.”

[BIG SNIP]

A lot has been made of the ways the LAPD has changed since Rodney King and Rampart. The institution is more accountable, with video cameras in patrol cars and officers equipped with microphones. And the ethnic makeup now reflects the city’s demographics: 43% of officers are Latino, 35% white, 12% black, and 9% Asian American. Twenty percent are women.

Still, it’s unrealistic to believe that the LAPD has cleared its ranks of bullies and bigots.

Beck acknowledged that in South L.A. this week. “You will never have a perfect department,” he said. “We hire from the human race and we hire the best people we can, and sometimes they make mistakes.”

Some officers can be redeemed through discipline and training, but those with a “malignant heart” have to be let go, Beck said.

But how do you see into an officer’s heart and who determines its darkness? And how does an officer wind up fired for reporting misconduct?

[BIG SNIP]

Clearly, given his actions later, his was a “malignant heart.” Dorner was unfit to be a police officer.

But the account of his termination is troubling enough that it makes me wonder if the process was used to seek truth or simply to root out a troublemaker.

It looks like a Catch-22: Officers are subject to discipline for not reporting misconduct. But if you make the claim and it doesn’t stick, you can be fired because your bosses doubt you.

That’s a message with the potential to punish a whistle-blower. It seems to validate the “no snitching”

[BIG SNIP]

I can’t imagine how painful it must be for the LAPD’s rank and file to absorb this blow to the family. I understand the rumbling among officers who feel that giving any credence to Dorner’s claims risks turning a maniacal killer into some sort of martyr.

But I’ve also heard from officers who feel shamefully relieved that Dorner expressed publicly the frustrations some have been carrying privately for years.

Read the rest.


LASD UNDERSHERIFF IS RUNNING & NOT RUNNING, CAMPAIGNING BUT NOT CAMPAIGNING FOR MAYOR OF GARDENA

For the last few months, LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who also happens to be the mayor of Gardena, has been not running for a third term as mayor, although he didn’t manage to make the not-running decision until he’d already put his name on the ballot.

More recently, he has modified his stance and now says that he isn’t going to campaign, and doesn’t want to run, but will be happy to accept the job as mayor if people really, really, really want him so much that they can’t help but elect him.

(There are two other candidates. One who is on the ballot as well as Tanaka. Another is a write in who didn’t sign up originally because he thought Tanaka was running.)

A few days ago, Tanaka reiterated this message that he is not campaigning to Daily Breeze reporter Sandy Mazza. And then he went on to list for Mazza all the reasons one might want to vote for him. To wit:

Tanaka’s main argument for re-election is his record. Since he first captured the mayor’s seat in 2005, the city has added about 35 police officers, balanced its budget, put away $10 million in a rainy day fund, and negotiated an affordable repayment for a crippling $26 million debt racked up from two failed city initiatives in the 1990s.

“My record speaks for itself,” Tanaka said. “The decision for people to make is, `Do you like what you’ve seen in the last eight years?’ We’ve erased the deficit, gotten back in the black, and increased our surplus.”

Also, although Tanaka isn’t running or campaigning, his good friends at the Gardena Police Department are raising money and campaigning for him, according to Mazza.

WitnessLA has reported extensively on Tanaka’s longstanding habit of soliciting/accepting campaign contributions for his mayoral campaigns from Los Angeles Sheriff’s department members whose careers he has had the power to affect. These revelations have, in turn, been a cause for concern and criticism by the members of the LA County Board of Supervisors, the Citizens Committee on Jail Violence, and finally—indirectly—by Sheriff Baca.

And then there is the LA Times’ recent story about an odd incident in which the sheriff’s department, namely Tanaka, used the Gardena PD to surreptitiously ship a bunch of bullet proof vests to Cambodia.

So, what does all this have to do with the Gardena mayor’s race? Oh, who knows. Likely nothing. It is simply that, as the undersheriff has demonstrated himself to be a man who often has a purpose for his actions other than what is publicly stated, it hard not to wonder what all this running/not running business is really about.


CRIME CONTINUES TO DROP IN LOS ANGELES AND MOST CALIFORNIA COUNTIES, EVEN THOUGH CRITICS INSIST THAT THAT REALIGNMENT IS CAUSING A RISE IN CRIME

On Sunday, the San Jose Mercury News ran an op ed that compares some of the realignment fears with facts.

Here are a couple of clips:

There are two major complaints: One is that crime rose as realignment cut the inmate populace by more than 24,000. The other is that some criminals are being released earlier than before the program began in October 2011, in part because local jails in a few counties are overcrowded.

A typical gripe comes from Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the state’s largest police union. “Our members are terribly concerned that we are allowing people out of prisons who are likely to recommit crimes and victimize the people of our city,” he said in a telephone interview.

He claimed probation departments have lost track of some former prisoners, but could offer no specific examples. “All I have is anecdotal information,” he conceded.

It turns out that only one of those big gripes has any proven merit: In a few counties, Fresno being a prime example, prisoners are often released after serving minimal jail time. But sheriffs and the state Department of Corrections insist the releases never involve violent or sexual criminals and that ex-convicts get the same level of parole and probation supervision they did before.

As for crime being up? Well, in LA violent crime isdown for the 10th year in a row, as the essay points notes:

….dropping 8.2 percent to a total of 18,293, with significant decreases in robbery and aggravated assault. There were 152 gang-related homicides — the fewest in more than 10 years.

But property crime was up slightly in L.A., by 0.2 percent, with Police Chief Charles Beck attributing the uptick to a 30 percent increase in cellphone thefts. Beck said some of the small increase in property crime might be due to realignment.

In surrounding Los Angeles County, homicides were at 166, the lowest number since 1970,

Murders are up in Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco—which could be due to realignment.

Or not.

“Taken together, those three cities lost more than 850 police officers to budget cuts in the past three years, which may help explain some of their homicide increase.

The other dozen reporting cities in the region had 24 percent fewer murders during that period, and, overall, Bay Area slayings remain well below historic highs.

Let us hope that sometime in the next year we will have the results of some kind of study that involves serious numbers crunching and analysis to tell us—from a fact-based, rather than fear-based perspective—exactly how AB109 has affected the state and counties.

Joan Petersilia’s team at Stanford University is, we know, working on study. But it seems to be a slow process.


Photo/Najee Ali

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD, Police, race, racial justice, Realignment | 8 Comments »

Chief Charlie Beck to Hold Press Conference About Dorner Case…and More

February 19th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


BECK PRESS CONFERENCE TUESDAY MORNING

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck is holding a press conference Tuesday at 9 am to “provide an update to the Christopher Dorner case and on the reopening of the investigation.”

Along with Beck, LAPD Captain Phil Tingirides plus his wife, Sergeant Emada Tingirides, will “address the media with their experience as protected employees during the Dorner manhunt.”

To refresh your memory, Captain Tingirides sat on the Board of Rights panel that recommended Dorner’s dismissal and was one of the dozen department members whose families were threatened most specifically in the “manifesto” that has been attributed to Christopher Dorner. (There were upwards of 50 officers and their families who were considered at risk, but with some, the risk assessment was considered to be much higher. Tingirides was one of those at the high risk end.)

Interestingly, Tingirides, who is white, is married to an LAPD officer (Emada Tingirides) who is black—a fact that one imagines was not lost on those planning the press conference, given the intense and painful conversations about the LAPD and racism that the whole Dorner matter has brought back to the surface. (Emada Tingirides worked at the department’s Harbor division with Dorner.)

In any case, it is a good thing that Beck is having press conference at this juncture. (I understand there was a contingent inside the department advising him against it.) Now let us see what comes of this morning’s discussion.

It is also encouraging to note that the chief and other command staff members have made a point of scheduling upcoming open meetings in South LA to hear what community members have to say about about the department, and what they want to see changed.

NOTE: While we wait for the outcome of the press conference, here’s this morning’s interview between Phil and Emada Tingirides and CBS’s John Miller, who was one of the highest ranking civilians at the LAPD under Bill Bratton. We learn, among other things, that some of the South LA’s gang members and former gang members offered to act as a protection detail for the Tangirides couple and their six kids, when the Dorner threat was announced. (Tangirides kindly but firmly turned the homeboys down.)

UPDATE: I’m snowed under with another project, thus I want to refer you to reports from the press conference by: KPCC.…. The LA Times The Daily News.


LAPD LIEUTENANT (& FORMER IA INVESTIGATOR) SAYS DEPARTMENT SHOULD ABOLISH INTERNAL AFFAIRS, AND THAT COPS SHOULD NOT BE INVESTIGATING COPS IF THEY WANT TO GAIN THE TRUST OF THE COMMUNITY

In an Op Ed for the Washington Post, LAPD Lieutenant Sunil Dutta, who worked for LAPD’s Internal Affairs (among other postings), says it’s time to have civilians—not cops—investigate the police. And he explains why he thinks this is right for both the community and for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Here are some clips:

….The department’s problems aren’t all in the past, either: In November, a jury awarded former officer Pedro Torres $2.8 million after finding that officials retaliated when he verified claims about an allegedly racist supervisor. During the past decade, 17 officers have won million-dollar-plus verdicts in lawsuits claiming harassment, discrimination and retaliation. African American officers, including some supervisors I’ve spoken with, say in private that they don’t feel like they are part of the system and don’t trust it.

[BIG SNIP]

I worked as an internal affairs investigator in the LAPD for about three years. When I visited police divisions to look into complaints against officers, I was usually greeted by the same question: “Who are you going to burn today?” Officers often believed that internal affairs was out to get them on flimsy charges.

At the same time, when I interviewed community members who had filed complaints against officers, I was disappointed to learn that, despite my reassurances and best efforts to conduct impartial inquiries, many complainants believed that a fair investigation was simply not possible. Nor do misconduct investigations satisfy a skeptical public. If an officer is exonerated, the community often believes that malfeasance is being covered up.

Police serve the community — any concerns about their integrity must be transparently, expeditiously and judiciously resolved. Relying on cops to police cops is neither efficient nor confidence-inspiring.

The solution? Abolish internal affairs units and outsource their work to external civilian agencies.

Police have slowly started to incorporate civilian oversight in their misconduct investigations. For example, the LAPD’s office of inspector general has oversight over the department’s internal discipline. Yet, while the inspector general’s staff receives copies of every personnel complaint filed and tracks and audits selected cases, it does not have the authority to impose discipline. Nor do most civilian review boards, which are not empowered to conduct independent investigations. This leads detractors to say that such boards are ineffectual.

Police have long resisted external oversight….

Anyway, read on.

And for more on Sunil Dutta, who is quite an interesting guy (whose writing has appeared in the past here at WLA), I refer you to Wikipedia.


CAPT. BILL MURPHY, HEAD OF THE LAPD’S DORNER PROTECTION DETAIL, TALKS TO HIGHLAND PARK PATCH

Ajay Singh of the Highland Park Patch, snagged a Q&A with Captain Bill Murphy, the LAPD Northeast Division commander who ended up being in charge of providing police protection to officers and their families targeted by Christopher Dorner.

In this interview with Capt. Murphy we learn such things as the fact that the department briefly considered temporarily relocating the threatened families to a military base, but quickly realized the impracticality—what with kids and schools and…”they had pets and what not.”

There are lots of other interesting nuggets of that nature.

Oddly what Singh did not appear to ask Murphy is about the matter of shooting the two newspaper delivery women.

I’ve interviewed Bill Murphy many times in the past and have always found him to be a straight shooter unafraid of treating the press like grown ups, and who, when he can’t talk about something says so, and why, without any kind of dodging.

So I wondered at the oversight.

In any case, the interview is still quite worth reading.


LA DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE AND ALTERNATE PUBLIC DEFENDER OPEN INVESTIGATION INTO PASADENA COPS AFTER JUDGE DECLARES MISTRIAL IN A MURDER CASE AND…LOTS, LOTS MORE

Okay, this ongoing story about members of the Pasadena Police Department’s homicide squad is the brewing police misconduct scandal that seems to be getting lost amid...well….everything else. But it’s been hitting the press intermittently since last summer, with Pasadena Star-News’s Brian Charles taking the lead in the reporting.

Now the LA DA’s office has taken action, as has the alternate public attorney’s office, after Judge Larry Fidler declared a mistrial in a murder case, and evidently admonished Detective William Broghamer and Officer Kevin Okamoto for their “egregious” conduct during an 2007 homicide investigation.

Charles reports:

A defense attorney for one of the defendants in that case said the county’s twin investigations will likely expose deep rooted corruption.

“They shouldn’t have a homicide department,” Attorney Andrew Stein said Thursday. “The department needs to be cleaned out from the top-down. I don’t understand how anyone could allow this culture to exist.”

So what exactly have Detectives Broghamer and Okamoto and another of their colleagues, a Detective Keith Gomez, been accused of doing?

Here’s another clip from Charles’ story:

Earlier this month [Pasadena PD Chief] Sanchez placed Okamoto on paid leave after [Judge] Fidler said the officer hid exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys. Broghamer was placed on desk duty after the same judge admonished him for his conduct during an interrogation in which he threatened to take a witnesses’ child away from her if she didn’t recant earlier statements.

Under duress, the woman changed her testimony; Okamoto signed paperwork authorizing the woman to receive $6,450 in taxpayer dollars for “relocation expenses.”

[SNIP]

Okamoto, Broghamer and Detective Keith Gomez have been the subject of complaints filed by attorneys, witnesses, jurors and suspects. Allegations of kidnapping, assaults, death threats, soliciting of bribes, evidence suppression and malfeasance are contained within the complaints.

You might want to read that last sentence again.

To further elucidate, here are some links to stories that give windows into a few of the jaw-dropping accusations against the three detectives:

Here for example, is the story about the three detectives allegedly kidnapping and beating a witness who wouldn’t say what they wanted him to say regarding a case they were investigating.

And….here’s the story in which a criminologist reports that he was asked by Detective Okamoto to withhold evidence from the defense and “mislead” the defense attorney.

And…here’s the thing about Detective Okamoto allegedly forcing a female witness to change her testimony about a murder defendant, using a whole series of convincing threats and a quid pro quo-ish set up that looks an awful lot like a bribe.

We’ll check in on this story in the future, so stay tuned.


JUDGE WHO STRUCK DOWN CALIFORNIA’S GAY MARRIAGE BAN SPEAKS OUT

As the prospect of the Prop 8 case being argued before SCOTUS a little over a month away, Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News writes about his intriguing interview with former San Francisco Federal Judge Vaughn Walker who originally heard the Prop 8 legal challenge.

Here’s a clip:

On a May day in 2009, Vaughn Walker was going through one of his weekly routines as a federal judge, reviewing a stack of new lawsuits assigned to his San Francisco chambers, when one case caught his eye: Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

At the time, Walker had no inkling that history might rest in those pages, that one of the most important legal collisions in the nation over same-sex marriage might hang in the balance. In fact, at first, all Walker noticed was then-Gov. Schwarzenegger’s name.
But it did not take long for the veteran chief judge, himself quietly but openly in a longtime gay relationship with a doctor, to realize that he had inherited the legal challenge to Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The silver-haired judge with the iconoclast’s reputation would be center stage in the gay marriage controversy.

“That’s when I had the —-’Oh (my)’ moment,” Walker told this newspaper during an interview last week, recalling that he was already mulling retirement when the lawsuit landed on his desk.
The case temporarily took retirement off the table for Walker. And now the Proposition 8 showdown has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on March 26 and, to some extent, review Walker’s handiwork before ruling by June. Walker, after conducting an unprecedented trial, in 2010 declared the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, saying the law had no social justification and singled out same-sex couples for discrimination.

A federal appeals court agreed with Walker, although it took a much narrower approach in invalidating Proposition 8. Still, Walker’s role has shaped the nearly four-year legal battle over same-sex marriage rights in California.

Read on. It’s good stuff.

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD, race, race and class, racial justice | 14 Comments »

LAPD Chief Beck’s Plans To Reopen the Dorner Dismissal Case Should Be the 1st Step. More Concrete Steps Must Follow

February 10th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


As most of you have doubtless heard by now,
in an interview with CBS’s Pat Harvey on Saturday, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said that he would reopen the case that led to Dormer’s termination.

(You also I’m sure know that a $1 million reward is being offered for information leading the capture and conviction of Dorner.)

Reopening Dorner’s case is an important move. Despite vast improvement, the toxic elements of the bad old days of the LAPD still linger in cracks and corners of the department, and sometimes that toxicity leaks outside those cracks and corners. Once upon a time in the Los Angeles Police Department, those who reported other officers for wrongdoing were quickly marginalized, racism ran deep in too many quarters–both the overt and the simply careless variety—and an us versus them, siege mentality that lent itself to brutality, evidence planting, and the criminalization of whole communities, ruled too much of the day.

Through the imposition of a federal consent decree, and the work of two chiefs determined to transform the malignant sides of the department culture, along with the less recognized efforts of the city’s many good and decent cops—both supervisors and rank and file—the LAPD began the slow process of change.

As of now, the Los Angeles Police Department has come a very long way, both in terms of its own reform, and in the way it is viewed by the communities it serves, in particular the minority communities who were most on the receiving end of the brutality and racism that ran deep and wide through the department during its worst years.

But to think the job is over, is to be dreaming. For all Dorner’s monstrous (alleged) actions and his unimaginably ghastly threats, amid his vengeful ragings there are many statements that ring grimly and dishearteningly true.

Therefore it is good to hear Chief Beck make it clear that, amid the nightmarish threat that officers and their families are facing, he doesn’t want to lose the gains in community relationships that the strides that the last decade have brought—while not for a moment insisting that everything has been fixed in the Los Angeles Police Department. The department is “better but not perfect,” he said. And, so, he’s reopening the Dorner case.

“I am aware of the ghosts of the LAPD’s past, and one of my biggest concerns is that they will be resurrected by Dorner’s allegations of racism,” Beck said in a statement.

Beck’s concern is appropriate. Yet the concern needs to be broadened to include the present, not just the past. The destructive spirits of the LAPD’s bad old days, while their power is greatly lessened, are not gone. Let us all be honest about that fact.

With this in mind, reopening the Dorner case should be the first step of many for the department, not the sole step.

I think Chief Beck is leaning that direction. “We will also investigate any allegations made in his manifesto which were not included in his original complaint,” the chief wrote in his statement. But he must be backed in this endeavor by the union, by the political forces in the city, and by the men and woman of the force itself.

It should, for example, sober everyone that some LAPD officers, because of their fear that Dorner was in the area and might threaten the officer they were guarding, appeared to give themselves permission, without a scintilla of actual provocation, to light up a suspicious-seeming truck containing two newspaper delivery women—nevermind that the women’s truck did not match the make or color or the plate number of Dorner’s vehicle. We desperately want our officers to be safe from the man who is stalking them. But, their safety cannot ever be bought at the cost of the safety of the residents of the communities they have taken an oath to protect and serve.

The details of the second appellate ruling against Dorner tend, on first bounce, to suggest that he was wrong in accusing his training officer of kicking a homeless man that Dorner and his boss were apprehending, but as a law enforcement friend pointed out in a conversation about the matter Saturday night, “You know how that goes. Those outcomes can be cooked. We’ve all see it happen.” Yep, we have. And courts are notoriously reluctant to decide against police officers.

So, a thank you to Chief Charlie Beck for opening the investigation. And please, LAPD, make very, very sure that the reexamination is right and good and true. As your chief said, you are not reopening the issue to appease an alleged multiple murderer; you’re reopening it to reassure Los Angeles residents that you no longer punish whistleblowers, and that racism no longer calls the shots—either overtly or subtly—in the LAPD. And that you will not put up with officers who believe they have the right to abuse and dehumanize anyone they designate as “the bad guys.”

And, if by chance, Dorner happened to be right in the accusation that, in part, led to his termination, please have the courage to say so.

It is very painful to admit that a man who is suspected of creating so much grief and havoc— a man who wishes to create far more grief and havoc—has made some righteous points that demand our attention. But that happens to be the case.


MORE THAN 50 OFFICERS AND FAMILIES UNDER PROTECTION

The full Beck interview is above, and it’s interesting to watch. Chief Beck looks more strained than I’ve ever seen him, understandably so.

The part of his interview below gives an idea why (if we didn’t know already):

Beck: Look I have over 50 families—-50 families—of Los Angeles police officers that have protective details living with them right now, because we’re so concerned about their safety because they are specific targets of Dorner, because he’s stated that in his manifesto. And he has demonstrated through the murders of Monica and her fiance that he is serious about what he’s said in that manifesto. Now imagine having to go through you daily existence like that knowing that your family is the target of a trained assassin like Dorner. Now, imagine the way that would affect you and way you go about your day to da You know, all of us, including me, when we become police officers, we know there’s risk. And we’re willing to accept those risks. But we’re not willing to accept those risks for our kids. And our wives. and our husbands. We don’t expect them to shoulder the burdon of our profession.

Beck’s official statement can be accessed here.

The chief is a very good man in profoundly difficult situation. We are rooting for him.


NOTE: the NY Times has an interesting article on Beck’s decision to open Dorner’s case.

AND THE LA TIMES’ Jack Leonard, Joel Rubin and Andrew Blankstein have a must read story on Dorner’s case and how Dorner’s perceived credibility, more than the facts, may have decided it.

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD, Lists, race, racial justice | 8 Comments »

The LASD Moves to Fire 7 “Jump Out Boys”….No More Posturing About Realignment Please…..Close to a Ruling on Banning Pot Dispensaries….and More

February 7th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


FIRING THE JUMP OUT BOYS

According to LASD spokesman, Steve Whitmore, the Sheriff’s Department intends to fire seven members of the newest deputy gang-like clique to become notorious, the so-called Jump Out Boys—a move that perhaps was in part stimulated by the grand jury action on the department’s deputy gangs.

The members of the Jump out boys are part of OSS—Operation Safe Streets—the gang investigation unit within the department.

Evidently there were two particular qualities that distinguished this deputy gang from the department’s other deputy gangs (like the Regulators, the 2000 Boys, the 3000 Boys, the Grim Reapers, the Vikings and so on). One is the fact that it’s members had the bad sense to write and print out a Jump Out Boys pamphlet laying out the mission and rules of said clique.

The other is that reportedly after a clique-member engages in a deputy-involved-shooting, he (or, one presumes, she) is entitled to have smoke coming from the gun in his Jump Out Boys tattoo. (The Jump Out Boys insignia—and tattoo design— is a skull holding a large revolver with the two playing cards behind it, one half of the famous aces-and-eights “dead man’s hand.”)

The LA Times Robert Faturechi broke the story about the Jump Out Boy’s existence, last year, and he has more on the matter of this firing. Here’s a clip:

The seven worked on an elite gang-enforcement team that patrols neighborhoods where violence is high. The team makes a priority of taking guns off the street, officials said.

The Sheriff’s Department has a long history of secret cliques with members of the groups having reached high-ranking positions within the agency. Sheriff officials have sought to crack down on the groups, fearing that they tarnished the department’s reputation and encouraged unethical conduct.

In the case of the Jump Out Boys, sheriff’s investigators did not uncover any criminal behavior. But, sources said, the group clashed with department policies and image.

Their tattoos, for instance, depicted an oversize skull with a wide, toothy grimace and glowing red eyes. A bandanna with the unit’s acronym is wrapped around the skull. A bony hand clasps a revolver. Smoke would be tattooed over the gun’s barrel for members who were involved in at least one shooting, officials said….


COULD WE STOP POSTURING ABOUT REALIGNMENT AND USE DATA-DRIVEN ANALYSIS TO LOOK AT CRIME AND RECIDIVISM INSTEAD?

With all else that’s been going on this week, we don’t want you to miss this excellent unsigned LA Times editorial (which happens to be written by my extremely smart friend, Robert Green). It analyses the findings of two reports—one of which we wrote about last month, released by the Council for State Governments Justice Center, which talked about who was getting arrested within a given period in LA County. Then last week there was another important study by the Vera Institute, which looks at mental illness, drug addition and incarceration in California.

Here’s a quick clip from Rob’s essay about what the two reports together suggest:

On Monday, in a separate study, the Vera Institute of Justice reported that a large proportion of county jail inmates from two study areas — Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles — preparing to reenter society have drug or mental health problems.

More research is needed, but the figures from both the Council for State Governments and the Vera Institute suggest that many people who wind up in jail or prison got into trouble at least in part because of clinical conditions, and that many of them come out with the same problems they had when they went in.

If public resources are to be spent effectively, California must cut its recidivism rate, and to do that, it must use data to slice through the posturing of those in politics and law enforcement who claim to “know,” without facts or figures, what people, policies or laws to blame for crime. If drug and mental health problems play a large role in landing people behind bars, it stands to reason that focusing more on diagnosis and treatment could save taxpayers money, reduce the criminal burden on neighborhoods and, by the way, address some of the misery and hopelessness of those caught in the revolving jailhouse door.


CRIMINAL JUSTICE ADVOCATES TAKE A CRITICAL LOOKS AT THE CDCR’S NEW CHIEF

While new CDCR head, Jeffery Beard, is generally viewed with optimism by most prison watchers, criminal justice reformers say there are also areas of concern. George Lavender for The East Bay Express has the story.

(I didn’t clip it as it lists a bunch of pros and cons, thus it’s better to look at the whole thing.)


CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT LOOKS READY TO OKAY LOCAL BANS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA CLINICS

Law.com has the latest on this story. Here’s a clip of Scott Graham’s wonderfully blow-by-blow account:

Medical marijuana dispensaries are in danger of getting zoned out.

The California Supreme Court strongly hinted Tuesday that municipalities have the right to ban dispensaries via local zoning laws.

Tackling an issue that has vexed state appellate courts, the justices indicated that state laws blessing marijuana cooperatives shield them only from criminal prosecution under California law, and do not interfere with municipalities’ traditional power to regulate them as a local business.

An attorney for a cooperative argued that the city of Riverside has abused that power by adopting an ordinance that bans pot dispensaries anywhere in the city. “If you were to allow these dispensaries to be banned county by county, city by city, that would be the exact opposite of what the Legislature intended” when enacting the state’s Medical Marijuana Program in 2003, said J. David Nick.

But the justices sounded largely unmoved by Nick’s appeals to legislative purpose. “The purposes by themselves are not operative,” said Justice Goodwin Liu. They “don’t require or prohibit anybody from doing anything.”

“Don’t we start with a presumption that the ordinance is valid?” asked Justice Ming Chin.

“Why do we even have to indulge in a presumption?” asked Liu.

Nick argued in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Welfare Center that California’s 1996 medical marijuana initiative and the 2003 legislative amendments establish the right to operate dispensaries in at least one location in a city. The goals of the 2003 legislation included enhancing “access of patients and caregivers to medical marijuana through collective, cooperative cultivation projects” and shielded such projects “from state criminal sanctions” under various specified laws. Those laws include Health & Safety Code §11570, a public nuisance law directed at drug houses.

Nick says in his briefs that jurisdictions all over the state, including San Jose, the city of Los Angeles and Sacramento County, are pursuing ordinances similar to Riverside’s, putting state marijuana laws “in a complete state of chaos.”


YES, WE’VE BEEN FOLLOWING THE SCARY AND TRAGIC STORY OF FIRED LAPD OFFICER CHRISTOPHER DORMER WHO HAS REVENGE-KILLED TWO PEOPLE AND IS THREATENING TO KILL MORE.

Here’s the Daily Breeze’s version of the painfully scary story of a very disturbed and very dangerous former LAPD officer who, as I type, is still at large.

Better yet, read the Wednesday night coverage by LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero, who live-blogged the unfolding of the story of Christopher Jordan Dormer, the disgraced and dangerous former LAPD cop on a tragic revenge rampage.

Posted in CDCR, Charlie Beck, crime and punishment, Gangs, LAPD, LASD, Marijuana laws, Medical Marijuana, Realignment | 16 Comments »

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