The “Masonic Fraternal Police Department”… “Smart on Juvenile Justice” Initiative…Preventing Forensic Failures…LAPD Chief “Concerned” About Venice Shooting…and MoreMay 7th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
CA ATTORNEY GENERAL KAMALA HARRIS’ AIDE AND OTHERS ACCUSED OF OPERATING BOGUS POLICE DEPARTMENT
Three people, including an aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Brandon Kiel, were arrested late last week after allegedly promoting their unsanctioned “Masonic Fraternal Police Department,” and claiming to be police officers.
Kiel and the two others accused, David Henry and Tonette Hayes have been charged with multiple counts of impersonating a police officer, among other charges.
Witnesses said Henry introduced himself around Santa Clarita as a “police chief.” The group also apparently introduced itself to law enforcement agencies across the state, and claimed to be connected to Knights Templar.
The LA Times’ Joseph Serna, Javier Panzar, and Matt Hamilton have the story. Here’s how it opens:
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Roosevelt Johnson thought it was odd when three people — two of them dressed in police uniforms he didn’t recognize — strolled into the Santa Clarita station in February.
One man introduced himself as chief of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department and told Johnson this was a courtesy call to let him know the agency was setting up shop in the area.
They met for 45 minutes, Johnson said, but he was left confused and suspicious — so much so that he immediately ordered deputies to pull station surveillance video so they would have images of the visitors. He also assigned detectives to check them out.
“It was an odd meeting,” the captain recalled. “It just raised my suspicion level.”
This week, the three people were charged with impersonating police officers. They are David Henry, who told Johnson he was the police chief, Tonette Hayes and Brandon Kiel, an aide to state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris.
It turns out Henry, Hayes and Kiel had allegedly introduced themselves to police agencies across the state, though it is unclear why. A website claiming to represent their force cites connections to the Knights Templars that they say go back 3,000 years. The site also said that the department had jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico.
“When asked what is the difference between the Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other police departments, the answer is simple for us. We were here first!” the website said.
Los Angeles County prosecutors said the whole effort was a ruse, though for what purpose remains unclear. The investigation is continuing.
SOLUTIONS TO CRIME LAB MISDEEDS
The Washington Post’s Radley Balko breaks down some interesting reasons why forensic lab misconduct and mistakes occur, and what to do about these problems. Here’s a clip:
Crime lab analysts are supposed to be neutral parties interested only in getting the science right. But the system is often structured in a way that makes them part of the prosecution’s “team.” In fact in many jurisdictions, crime labs actually get paid per conviction, not per analysis — about as clear a perversion of objectivity as one can imagine. Of course, the pressures and incentives needn’t be that explicit. For example, just knowing extraneous details about a case can produce cognitive bias, even in as accepted a field as DNA analysis.
There are two fundamental things that need to be done to reform the field of forensics. The first is to purge the courts of specialties that have no basis in science. With the fields that are left, we have to turn these incentives around, so that the performance of crime lab technicians is measured only on whether or not they perform accurate analyses.
Unfortunately, there has been very little discussion of the incentive problem among the various federal agencies charged with looking into reform. Possibly moving crime labs out from under offices of state attorney general or state police organizations is about as far as the suggestions go. They need to go further. Over at Reason, Roger Koppl, a professor of finance in Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management and a faculty fellow in the school’s Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute, has some concrete suggestions.
Cross-lab redundancy. A jurisdiction should contain several competing forensic labs. Some evidence should be chosen at random for multiple testing at other labs. This creates checks and balances.
Independence. Put crime labs under the department of health, not the cops….
Read the rest.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INITIATIVE TO MOVE STATES AWAY FROM LOCKING KIDS UP, AND TOWARD COMMUNITY-BASED ALTERNATIVES
President Barack Obama is seeking $30 million in the 2016 juvenile justice budget for the “Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative,” which would focus on reducing states’ reliance on juvenile detention, and replacing it with community-based treatment and programs that improve public safety, reduce recidivism, and save money.
President Obama has already funded a successful pilot version in which three states, Georgia, Hawaii, and Kentucky, received $200,000 each to shift away from locking kids up.
Other municipalities and states are making similar efforts.
In California, most incarcerated kids are housed in county detention facilities, but many more need to be receiving care at the community level.
The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange’s Gary Gately has more on the initiative. Here are some clips:
“The Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative will drive nationwide system reform, guiding states toward a developmentally informed approach that maximizes cost savings and strategically reinvests those savings into efforts that improve outcomes for youth,” said Robert Listenbee, administrator of the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in an emailed statement.
Congress has yet to approve the requested funding, though the Obama administration has funded a pilot of the program, rolled out last year in Georgia, Hawaii and Kentucky, working with private foundations and the Washington-based nonprofit Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project.
The states, each of which received $200,000, worked to divert youths from the juvenile justice system, provide community-based alternatives, decrease correctional spending and improve public safety.
“It was clear the status quo was not working,” says a Pew video that points out the initiative has begun achieving many of its chief goals.
Juvenile justice advocates embraced the Obama administration’s request to take Smart on Juvenile Justice nationwide.
“If you look at the data for what kids are locked up for in the ‘deep end’ of the system, there’s a lot that shows that these kids don’t need to be incarcerated,” said Liz Ryan, president and CEO of the Washington-based nonprofit Youth First! Initiative, which seeks to dramatically reduce incarceration in state facilities while increasing community-based alternatives.
“You see the stats for kids with misdemeanors, you see kids in for probation violations, you see drug violations,” Ryan said. “We’re overusing the most expensive option for kids when we really don’t need to be doing that. It’s a waste. It’s a waste of money; it’s also harming children: The human cost is huge, and when we look at the fact that kids being sent through the juvenile justice system are far more likely to be incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system, we really have to ask why are we putting so many kids in locked facilities?”
LAPD CHIEF CHARLIE BECK CONCERNED BY OFFICER SHOOTING OF UNARMED MAN IN VENICE
On Tuesday evening in Venice, an LAPD officer shot and killed Brendon Glenn, a 29-year-old homeless man who was unarmed.
After reviewing video of the incident, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he was concerned by the shooting, and that he did not see “extraordinary circumstances” that would be necessary to justify shooting an unarmed man.
KTLA’s Tracy Bloom, Mark Mester, Melissa Pamer, and Courtney Friel have the story. Here’s a clip:
The man, described as a transient, had been involved in an altercation with a bouncer at a nearby bar prior to police being called, LAPD Detective Meghan Aguilar initially said Wednesday morning. Police were called with a report of a man “disturbing the peace” and “harassing passersby,” she said.
Officers spoke with the man, who then walked away toward the boardwalk, Beck said. Soon after, officers saw the man approach an individual and start a fight, the chief said.
“The officers attempted to detain the suspect, and an altercation occurred between the two officers and the suspect. During that physical altercation, an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Beck said.
Officers called for a rescue ambulance and began to perform CPR; city firefighters responded and took the man to a hospital, where he died, according to the chief.
A friend who knew Glenn said he didn’t deserve his fate.
“Whatever reason that they had to shoot him, I don’t think it was justified because he wasn’t a confrontational human being by any means,” local resident Henry Geller said. “He was definitely like a peacemaker.”
Glenn was a regular the Teen Project’s the P.A.D., a Venice support center for homeless youth, according to Timothy Pardue, who runs the center. Glenn, who had recently moved to the area from New York, had come to a support group meeting on Tuesday night, Pardue said.
“He was crying and he was even saying he wanted his mom, and he just said his mom didn’t want him back home,” Pardue said. “He struggled with a lot of things.”
Craig Lally, President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, objected to the police chief sharing an opinion on “an incident that is in early stages of investigation…without having all of the facts.”
MEANWHILE IN SAN DIEGO…
In 2012, San Diego police officer Jonathan McCarthy shot an unarmed man, Victor Ortega, at the end of a chase on foot, after responding to a 911 call from Ortega’s wife after a dispute.
McCarthy said Ortega reached for the officer’s weapon in an alley, but there were inconsistencies in McCarthy’s storyline. Expressing doubts at the particulars of McCarthy’s story, U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns denied San Diego’s request to throw out a federal lawsuit filed by Ortega’s wife, Shakina.
The city appealed Judge Burns’ ruling, and filed a brief last week insisting that the inconsistencies were irrelevant, and that McCarthy should not be denied qualified immunity, as he had probable cause to fear for his life.
Kelly Davis has the story for Voice of San Diego. Here’s how it opens:
The alleyway where Victor Ortega died, the one that cuts up the middle of Court 84 of the Mesa Village apartments in Mira Mesa, is a little more than 3 feet wide. Enclosed by a high stucco wall on one side and a fence on the other, it’s a cramped space. It’s where, on the morning of June 4, 2012, San Diego police officer Jonathan McCarthy shot and killed the 31-year-old unarmed father of two after Ortega allegedly grabbed for the officer’s gun.
Townhouses surround the alley, but there were no witnesses to Ortega’s death. Two residents told investigators they saw, from their window, McCarthy and Ortega engaged in a struggle, but turned away seconds before shots were fired. Several other people reported hearing Ortega say a stunned “Are you kidding me?” and “I’ll sue you” moments before gunfire.
McCarthy, who had spent just two years on the force before the incident, told police investigators that he feared for his life before he shot Ortega. Based on the officer’s version of events, prosecutors said Ortega’s killing was justified.
But police reports, depositions, interview transcripts and other evidence disclosed in a federal lawsuit filed two years ago by Ortega’s widow reveal inconsistencies in McCarthy’s account of what happened in the alleyway immediately before Ortega’s death. U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns, who is presiding over the case, recently expressed doubt that it would be possible for McCarthy to have done everything he said he did during his altercation with Ortega.
In denying the city’s request to throw out the lawsuit, the judge ruled that McCarthy’s story has enough holes that a jury needs to sort out what happened.
“Plaintiffs,” Burns wrote, “have submitted evidence that would give a reasonable jury pause.”
Ortega was killed almost three years ago, but his case shares some of the same characteristics as other disputed police shootings that have recently inflamed communities across the country. A police officer pursued an unarmed criminal suspect. A struggle ensued with conflicting evidence about what occurred. And the suspect ended up dead.
In Ortega’s case, everything began with a call to 911.