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ABC 7 to Report Sheriff Baca Acts as Pitchman for Health Supplement Company….and More

September 30th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

According to an upcoming report on ABC 7 (appearing Monday at 11 pm) Sheriff Lee Baca has been acting as a pitchman
for a health supplement company called Yor Health.

(NOTE: The videos that were posted here and here, suddenly vanished during the day on Monday after this story ran, and more reporters began inquiring. They showed Baca as a keynote speaker addressing thousands of Yor Life devotees and sales people at the company’s 2010 annual conference. ABC 7 also reports on Baca’s most recent go round at the company’s September 2013 sales conference earlier this month. Videos from that conference, that had been posted on Yor Health’s site, have also been blocked from public view.)

We understand that ABC 7 has been digging deeply into various aspects of the sheriff’s pitchman activities at Yor Health,—including the question of what if any financial arrangements may have been made in return for Baca’s hawking of the company’s products.

We suspect that the report will also look into the ethics of an elected official pitching for a profit making concern such as Yor Health.

We’ll link to the network’s online report after the segment with Marc Brown airs.

In the meantime, it is interesting to note that the Yor Life sales strategy is described by its founder Dennis Wong as “network marketing.”

Yet, according to other reports, like this one by Bradley Cooper for the NY Sun, Wong has displayed a liking for multilevel marketing and that, around ten years ago, Wong was charged by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly engaging in an illegal pyramid scheme. Wong and his partner settled with the FTC, and the settlement, among other strictures, “bars them from participating in any prohibited marketing scheme, including any business that operates as a pyramid scheme.”

While we’ve seen no indication that Wong and Yor Life’s business strategy is in any way illegal, complaints about the company’s multi-level marketing efforts have surfaced on various sites the web (such as this one and this one).

In any case, be sure to tune in at 11 pm for ABC 7′s full story on Sheriff Lee Baca as pitchman.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the broadcast, for those who didn’t get a chance to see it. Plus we have a fuller rundown in WLA’s Monday post by Taylor Walker.


In an alarming report released Monday by California Attorney General, Kamala Harris outlines a truancy crisis that is costing the state a fortune in funding, and creating a damaging achievement gap for many of the state’s children.

The AP’s Robert Jablon has more on the story. Here’s a clip:

California must act to reduce rampant truancy that saw an estimated 1 million elementary students absent in the last school year and may cost the state billions of dollars through increased crime and poverty, according to a study released Monday by the state attorney general’s office.

“The empty desks in our public elementary school classrooms come at a great cost to California,” the report said.

The report, scheduled for release at an anti-truancy symposium in Los Angeles, said children have unexcused absences from school for a number of reasons, including family issues, neighborhood safety concerns and bullying. It called for a sweeping battle against absenteeism that brings together parents, educators, lawmakers, law enforcement and community groups.

“The findings are stark. We are failing our children,” the report’s executive summary concluded….


There has been strong advocacy pro and con about the new gang injunction in Echo Park that has just received court approval.

The LA Times Hailey Branson-Potts has more on the story. Here’s a clip:

A Los Angeles County court last week granted a permanent injunction against six gangs in Echo Park and its surrounding neighborhoods, according to the city attorney’s office.

The injunction prohibits known members of the gangs from associating with each other in public, possessing firearms or narcotics, or possessing alcohol in public, officials said. It also prohibits gang members from possessing aerosol paint containers, felt-tip markers and other items that can be used to apply graffiti.

The gangs named in the injunction are the Big Top Locos, Crazys, Diamond Street Locos, Echo Park Locos, Frogtowns and Head Hunters.

“We’ve got to be tough on violent gang activity, and gang injunctions such as this one … are an important step,” Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.

The city has 45 other active gang injunctions, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The city’s lawyers filed the Echo Park injunction in June. It creates a 3.8-square-mile “safety zone” in Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Historic Filipinotown and portions of Silver Lake, court documents say.

The injunction — a civil suit that seeks a court ruling declaring a gang a public nuisance — also includes Echo Park Lake and Dodger Stadium


We didn’t want you to miss the LA Times editorial on the latest wrinkle in the state’s prison overcrowding crisis and what to do about it. Here’s a clip:

The three federal judges who have ordered California to dramatically reduce its prison population have now pushed back their deadline by 30 days. The delay is both less and more than it seems.

It’s less, because it’s nothing close to the three extra years that Gov. Jerry Brown said he would need to reduce overcrowding and to keep the number of inmates capped. Instead of facing a Dec. 31 compliance date, the governor and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now have until late January. That’s not enough time to reduce crowding by attrition, or even by assigning newly convicted felons to leased cells in and outside of California.

But it’s also more, or at least it could be. It’s a signal from the judges that they believe, perhaps for the first time since the reduction order was handed down four years ago, that California may be ready to devote considerable thought and resources to reducing the flow of felons into the system….

We agree. And may we step up to the plate.

Posted in CDCR, City Attorney, Civil Liberties, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, Gangs, LASD, prison, prison policy, Sheriff Lee Baca | 19 Comments »

Judge Says Force-feeding Striking Inmates OK…..Does LA Really Need Another Gang Injunction?….Muppets Go To Prison…Sheriff’s Challengers Gear Up

August 20th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Even if inmates have signed “Do not resuscitate” orders, prison officials now have permission to force-feed them if their conditions become too dire, ruled federal judge Thelton Henderson on Monday.

CDCR officials say that some of the strikers are being coerced into participating.

But advocates and attorneys working with the strikers deny coercion.

(For the record, based on our conversations with inmates, and family members of inmates, at the strike’s beginning, there was plenty of pressure for certain groups to participate. But, after the first week or so, the pressure seemed to vanish. Those who are participating now seem to be doing so of their own volition with an understanding of the consequences. Admittedly, ours is an unscientific survey. But this is what we’ve heard, without variation.)

Sharon Bernstein of Reuters has more. Here’s a clip:

Some 136 California inmates are currently taking part in a hunger strike that began July 8 in prisons statewide to demand an end to a policy of housing inmates believed to be associated with gangs in near-isolation for years. Some 69 of the striking inmates have refused food continuously since the strike began.

This is the second time prisoners have launched a hunger strike to protest the state’s practice of housing some inmates for years in its four Security Housing Units.

About 4,500 prisoners were housed in the units when the strike began, officials said. State officials say the units are needed to stem the influence of prison gangs – and in fact, administrators have repeatedly characterized the hunger strike as a power grab by gang leaders.

But the state’s policy of housing prisoners for years in these units has been condemned by a number of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International. And at least one prisoner on the hunger strike has said that he is willing to die to make his point that the detentions are inhumane.


A new LA Times editorial doesn’t come right out and nix the idea of a new gang injunction for the Glendale Boulevard Corridor in Echo Park—an injunction that, if it is put into place, would be LA’s 46th. But the editorial board’s essay does diplomatically suggest that “more constructive ways of dealing with destructive behavior” would be better.

We agree.

As the Times points out, new City Attorney Mike Feuer is not rushing pell mell to embrace the injunction that was proposed by Feuer’s predecessor, Carmen Trutanich, during his final days in office. (Trutanich, if you’ll remember, was extremely fond of injunctions and even tried to gin up the notion of gang injunctions for taggers.)

And we are not saying that gang injunctions aren’t sometimes useful tools. They can be helpful in instituting a legal “time out” of sorts, when a community is in crisis. But when used carelessly or unnecessarily, their cost can greatly outweigh their benefits.

For all these reasons we, like the Times, are glad that our new city attorney is taking time to consider the cost/benefit ratio.

Here’s a clip from the editorial that lays out a few more of the issues. But read the whole thing.

Backers of an injunction in a “safe zone” in Echo Park known as the Glendale Boulevard Corridor argue that the injunction is needed to consolidate gains and to nip out the remaining problems, and to prevent the area’s relapse into chaos as imprisoned gang members complete their terms and return to their old neighborhood and, perhaps, their old ways. They argue that new City Atty. Mike Feuer is right to continue the court process, begun by his predecessor in the waning days of his term, to put an Echo Park gang injunction in place.

Critics point out that Echo Park is well past its gang emergency days and argue that an injunction, if it was ever appropriate, would be 15 years too late. Some assert that an injunction would serve to harass longtime residents, preventing, for example, two brothers who may have tenuous connections to a gang and haven’t been charged with any specific crime from sitting together on their own front steps.

In pursuing the injunction, Feuer has a more complete and more enlightened approach than did previous city attorneys. He seems to recognize that although they are intended to protect neighborhoods, gang injunctions also ensnare thousands of the city’s young men and their families in a cycle of failure. For example, in addition to barring two or more members of a designated street gang from gathering in public, and in addition to allowing city lawyers to seek civil penalties for illegal behavior (with evidence that can fall short of the strict criminal law standard of proof), injunctions flag people — often for life — as gang members and make it harder for most to get decent jobs with advancement opportunities or to seek higher education. And, some assert, they don’t do it all that accurately, occasionally including a person who fits a demographic profile or who may be friends with or related to gang members without being one.


This summer Sesame Street added a new Muppet named Alex who has a dad in prison.

It is an important addition. According to a 2010 Pew Report, 1 in 28 American children have an incarcerated parent. (Just 25 years ago, the number was 1-in-125.)

A 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that half of the mothers (52%) and fathers (54%) in state prison reported that they were the primary provider for their children before their incarceration.

With all this in mind, the Sesame Street folks designed the muppet Alex and his dilemma to give adults tools to help the children of prisoners to better cope with their feelings of loss, shame and grief over their parents’ absence.

Cara Tabachnick writes about the issue for The Crime Report. Here’s a clip:

Alex has blue hair, wears a big hoodie, and has a father in jail.

Say hello to Sesame Street’s newest Muppet.

The United States is frequently cited for having the world’s highest documented incarceration rate, with over two million inmates in federal and state prisons. But few people are aware that those numbers are matched by the children who inmates leave behind: more than 2.7 million youngsters have an incarcerated parent, according to a 2010 Pew Center study.

That number climbs even higher when you add the approximately 10 million children who have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives, the study says.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street and other media programming for children, has found a way to address the experiences of such kids, who otherwise have few ways to communicate feelings ranging from shame and embarrassment to defiance.

Alex the Muppet with a jailed father, doesn’t mince words.

“I don’t want people to know about my dad,” he says in a video produced by the workshop for the toolkit.

Together with experts in the correctional field, workshop staff members developed a tool kit, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration,” featuring a DVD, a guide for parents and caregivers, and a children’s storybook…


The newest challengers to Sheriff Lee Baca are off and running. In the last week, both Paul Tanaka and Bob Olmsted have been making the rounds of various media outlets and community groups. Here, for example, are links to the interviews each man did with KABC radio’s Doug McIntyre.

Go here for the Tanaka interview, which took place last Thursday. (Fast forward to 20:00 for the interview.)

Then McIntyre interviewed Bob Olmsted on Monday morning. (You can find it here. Fast forward to about 6:45 for the interview’s beginning.

McIntyre said that he would have LA County Sheriff candidates Lou Vince and Patrick Gomez in the future.

Tanaka was also on KABC Larry Elder’s show on Monday afternoon. (Irritatingly enough, to hear it Elder makes you pay for the podcast!)

Olmsted, however, is slated to be on Larry Elder’s show on Tuesday at 5:00 PM. (Obviously, you have to listen to it in real time, what with the pay-to-play, podcast situation and all.)

Lou Vince will be on at 5:14.

It should be noted the Olmsted now has a Facebook page, and Tanaka (or his surrogate) is now madly tweeting as is Lou Vince.

Posted in children and adolescents, City Attorney, Gangs, LASD, prison, Sheriff Lee Baca | 11 Comments »

More Shocking Asset Forfeiture Stories…LA City Attorney Addresses Wobbling Offenses…and Sheriff Baca & the LA Times Editorial

August 7th, 2013 by Taylor Walker


Tuesday, we posted a story about innocent people losing their homes through asset forfeiture in Philadelphia, but this controversial law enforcement tactic has become a problem all over the US, and perhaps most notably, in a tiny town called Tenaha, Texas.

In Tenaha, police officers reportedly regularly stopped out-of-town cars for minor traffic violations and proceeded to seize valuables, from gold necklaces to thousands of dollars, threatening alternatives like arrest, felony charges, and turning children in to Child Protective Services.

The New Yorker’s Sarah Stillman has a fascinating (and lengthy) piece on Tenaha’s story and the issue of asset forfeiture at large. Here are some clips:

On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with big Potential!”

They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.

He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.

No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.

Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.

The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)

The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.

“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.

Later, she learned that cash-for-freedom deals had become a point of pride for Tenaha, and that versions of the tactic were used across the country. “Be safe and keep up the good work,” the city marshal wrote to Washington, following a raft of complaints from out-of-town drivers who claimed that they had been stopped in Tenaha and stripped of cash, valuables, and, in at least one case, an infant child, without clear evidence of contraband.


David Guillory [attorney for Boatright and Henderson] started his research by driving his cluttered red Volkswagen Jetta to the Shelby County courthouse, in Center, Texas, where he examined the ledgers that listed the past two years of the county’s legal cases. He wanted to see “any case styled ‘The State of Texas versus’ anything that sounds like a piece of property.” The clerk began hauling out one bulging accordion file after another.

“The eye-opening event was pulling those files,” Guillory told me. One of the first cases that caught his attention was titled State of Texas vs. One Gold Crucifix. The police had confiscated a simple gold cross that a woman wore around her neck after pulling her over for a minor traffic violation. No contraband was reported, no criminal charges were filed, and no traffic ticket was issued. That’s how it went in dozens more cases involving cash, cars, and jewelry. A number of files contained slips of paper of a sort he’d never seen before. These were roadside property waivers, improvised by the district attorney, which threatened criminal charges unless drivers agreed to hand over valuables.

Guillory eventually found the deal threatening to take Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson’s children unless the couple signed away their money to Shelby County. “It’s like they were memorializing the fact that they were abdicating their responsibility to fight crime,” Guillory said. “If you believe children are in sufficient danger that they should be removed from their parents—don’t trade that for money!” Usually, police and prosecutors are careful about how they broker such exchanges. But Shelby County officials were so brazen about their swap-meet approach to law enforcement, he says, “they put it in the damn document!”

Patterns began to emerge. Nearly all the targets had been pulled over for routine traffic stops. Many drove rental cars and came from out of state. None appeared to have been issued tickets. And the targets were disproportionately black or Latino. A finding of discrimination could bring judicial scrutiny. “It was a highway-piracy operation,” Guillory said, and, he thought, material for a class-action lawsuit.


Forfeiture in its modern form began with federal statutes enacted in the nineteen-seventies and aimed not at waitresses and janitors but at organized-crime bosses and drug lords. Law-enforcement officers were empowered to seize money and goods tied to the production of illegal drugs. Later amendments allowed the seizure of anything thought to have been purchased with tainted funds, whether or not it was connected to the commission of a crime. Even then, forfeiture remained an infrequent resort until 1984, when Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. It established a special fund that turned over proceeds from forfeitures to the law-enforcement agencies responsible for them. Local police who provided federal assistance were rewarded with a large percentage of the proceeds, through a program called Equitable Sharing. Soon states were crafting their own forfeiture laws.

Revenue gains were staggering. At the Justice Department, proceeds from forfeiture soared from twenty-seven million dollars in 1985 to five hundred and fifty-six million in 1993. (Last year, the department took in nearly $4.2 billion in forfeitures, a record.) The strategy helped reconcile President Reagan’s call for government action in fighting crime with his call to reduce public spending. In 1989, Attorney General Richard Thornburgh boasted, “It’s now possible for a drug dealer to serve time in a forfeiture-financed prison after being arrested by agents driving a forfeiture-provided automobile while working in a forfeiture-funded sting operation.”

(We urge you to go over to the New Yorker and read the rest.)


LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, in an attempt to save taxpayer dollars and make the system in the City Attorney’s office more efficient, revised filing guidelines so that 91 offenses that could be treated as either an infraction or a misdemeanor, known as “wobblers,” would be treated only as infractions.

The Associated Press’ Tami Abdollah has the story. Here’s a clip:

An internal LAPD memo dated July 25 that was sent to commanding officers detailed 91 violations that are now considered infractions instead of misdemeanors. That means the violations won’t appear in U.S. Department of Justice criminal records, and they no longer figure into department crime statistics tracking misdemeanors and felonies.

The memo was sent out in response to the city attorney’s office revision of its filing guidelines in May. The change is an effort to make the system more efficient and save taxpayer dollars, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the newly seated city attorney, Mike Feuer. Such offenses, which number in the thousands each year, were usually downgraded to infractions anyway upon review by the city attorney’s office, Wilcox said.

“These were already treated as infractions, it’s just flipping how they were reviewed so there is not another review process here,” Wilcox said. “They’d be written up as infractions by the police officer.”

The department said the changes create penalties that actually reflect reality, especially when budgets are tight. Misdemeanors, however, can bring a year-long sentence in jail, but it rarely happens.


Monday evening, KCRW’s Warren Olney, on his show Which Way, LA? hosted a discussion about issues raised by Sunday’s LAT editorial asking Sheriff Lee Baca not to run for reelection in 2014. Guests were Sandra Hernandez speaking for the LA Times editorial board, and LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The entire segment is worth listening to, but here’s Hernandez’s answer to Steve Whitmore’s list of the Sheriff’s accomplishments and his assertion that the Sheriff is doing all he can to implement reforms recommended by the jails commission:

“First of all, we’re glad that the county’s crime rate is down, and that the county isn’t bucking a national trend that’s been going on for a decade—we’re glad to see that. …Second of all…it’s great that he’s implementing these reforms, but these reforms were necessary only because these problems occurred on his watch.”

(Here’s WLA’s coverage of the LAT editorial.)


Then, Tuesday Morning, Sheriff Lee Baca responded to the Sunday LA Times editorial. In his letter, Sheriff Baca stated, among other things, his objections to and concerns about what he felt was the LA Times’ attempt to subvert the democratic process via their editorial:

I find it disconcerting that The Times has decided it should deprive voters of the right to select whomever they please as the next sheriff. Democracy is about giving voters choices, not denying them.

Posted in City Attorney, crime and punishment, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 16 Comments »

Marijuana Arrests by Race…..Mike Feuer Picks All Star Transition Team… and the DWP’s Brian D’Arcy Sends His Love

June 5th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

(click to enlarge)


Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog reviews the ACLU’s very comprehensive report on the black/whire marijuana arrest discrepancy.

The results are startling.

Overall, over the last decade, blacks and whites use marijuana at around the same rates, with blacks edging out whites by a few percentage points, except among the 18-25 year olds, where the ratio flips and young whites smoke a few percentage points more weed than young blacks.

It likely won’t be a surprise for most of you to find out that blacks are arrested for marijuana possession more often than whites, despite the similar usage numbers of the two racial groups.

But how much more often? Take a look.

The ACLU report (and the diagrams at WaPo) also looked at cities and counties that had the greatest descrepancy. (Yes, in LA County the ratio is out of whack, but it’s nothing when compared to, say, Cook County, IL or New York, NY, or Clark County, NV.

Click here to see the rest of WaPo’s startling charts and here for the underlying ACLU report.

The New York Times’ Ian Urbina also reports well on the ACLU report. Here are some clips from Urbina’s story:

Black Americans were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates, according to new federal data.

This disparity had grown steadily from a decade before, and in some states, including Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were around eight times as likely to be arrested.

During the same period, public attitudes toward marijuana softened and a number of states decriminalized its use. But about half of all drug arrests in 2011 were on marijuana-related charges, roughly the same portion as in 2010.

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana have criticized the Obama administration for having vocally opposed state legalization efforts and for taking a more aggressive approach than the Bush administration in closing medical marijuana dispensaries and prosecuting their owners in some states, especially Montana and California.

Time to legalize, people!


On Tuesday, newly-elected City Attorney-to-be Mike Feuer announced his transition team. It’s a long, varied and very impressive list (which you can read in its entirety here: City Attorney-Elect Mike Feuer’s Transition Team)

Here are some quick examples of the kind of folks who’re on the team (three of whom were part of the Citizens Commission on Jails Violence):

Lourdes Baird, who served as U.S. District Court Judge and U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (and was on the Jails Commission).
Erwin Chemerinsky, who is the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law at University of California, Irvine School of Law and formerly served as Chair of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission.
Miriam Krinsky, The executive director of the Jails Commission, who is also a lecturer at the UCLA School of Public Policy and is the former President of the Los Angeles County Bar and former President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Stewart Kwoh, who is the founding President and Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and is a past President of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission.
Jorja Leap is a Professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and also serves as the Director of the UCLA Health and Social Justice Partnership; known for her research and writing focuses on gangs, community health and social justice
Carlos Moreno, (another Jails Commission member) who served as California Supreme Court Justice and Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney.
Ira Reiner, who served as Los Angeles City Attorney and Los Angeles County District Attorney.
Connie Rice, who co-founded the Advancement Project and was the Co-Director of the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
John Van de Kamp, who served as California Attorney General, Los Angeles County District Attorney and Federal Public Defender.


Interviews with utilities union guys aren’t usually part of our mission, but this one in which the stellar Patt Morrison corrals and questions DWP union powerbroker, Brian D’Arcy, is…. irresistible.

Here are two clips—one from the very beginning of the interview and one from the very end—to give you an idea of why you need to read the whole fabulous thing:

Sometimes L.A. politics seem like patty-cake, but when Brian D’Arcy gets in the game, the game gets serious. He’s a third-generation union man, and the union he heads, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, is the DWP’s biggest and a huge player at City Hall. In some quarters, the IBEW’s DWP contracts — worth as much as six figures — are a symbol of overweening union power. The political action committee he co-chairs and the IBEW supports, Working Californians, cobbled together the largest amount spent on behalf of Wendy Greuel’s mayoral bid, about $4 million. The IBEW isn’t crying “uncle.” D’Arcy has zest for the fray and one gear: forward.

First things first: John Shallman, Wendy Greuel’s campaign consultant, has said your union’s support became “damaging to the campaign.”

That doesn’t surprise me — the guy who’s directly responsible for the tone-deaf campaign she ran. What else would he say? The hit on her was, somehow, she was the DWP candidate. [Voters] merged the employer and the union. It could have been deflected. They never did, and they ran a crappy campaign. The larger message is that some people will do anything to get elected — the same people [Garcetti's camp] who wanted our endorsement all of a sudden turn it into a pejorative.

Why the antipathy toward public unions like yours?

If you sell the idea that if others are dragged down then somehow you are elevated — I find it offensive. Does it help somebody if my members make less? They are 22% of the [DWP] budget. DWP union workers could take zero [pay] and it isn’t going to fix the city budget. The right-wing apparatchik has decided workers are the enemy, and we represent them….

And our personal favorite of all the Q & A exchanges…

Did you really flip off LA Weekly writer Gene Maddaus from your office window?

[His expression says, "Of course."] My entire staff is out walking precincts, I’m here with the [staff] women downstairs, and he scared them. On most days I’d pick up my bat and walk downstairs and say, “Get out of here,” but that’s what he wanted. My assistant [told him], “You have to leave, this is not a public building.” He refused, like a jackass, so she called the police. I did flip him off — he was jumping up and down like my Labradoodle at the back door.

Posted in City Attorney, elections, Marijuana laws, race, racial justice | No Comments »

Trutanich Confronted by Warren Olney on WWLA….Youth Sexual Victimization in Prison & Jails….Twin Towers Has High Sex Assault Rate….and More

May 17th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Thursday night’s Which Way LA? with Warren Olney on KCRW featured City Attorney candidates Mike Feuer and incumbent Carmen Trutanich, with each man interviewed for half the show.

More than perhaps any other interviewer or debate moderator during this election season, Olney has consistently asked the most intelligent, probing and illuminating questions of all the candidates who have stepped behind his microphones.

Thursday’s show with the City Attorney candidates was no exception.

However, his segment with Trutanich was a standout, as the ever dignified Olney all but chased “Nuch” around the room (metaphorically speaking), after Trutantich repeated his nonsense about AB109 letting inmates out of prison early, accusing realignment and Mike Feuer of being responsible for putting the Northridge kidnapping suspect on the street so the man could snatch ten-year-old girls….and more.

As we’ve said here, there is a legitimate and important discussion to be had about reforming AB 109 and some of its companion statutes mandating parole and probation reform. But that would require understanding the law in the first place, which Trutanich does not appear to do, and then one would have to deal in…you know, facts.

In the meantime, a hearty thank you to Warren Olney for holding our city attorney’s feet to the factual fire.


A study released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) contained a number of disturbing statistics. But perhaps the most alarming stats have to do with the overall rates of sexual victimization for youth ages 16 and 17 in adult prisons (4.5%) and jails (4.7%), which were significantly higher than those for adults (4.0% in prisons, 3.2% in jails). The report also found that, among kids who reported being sexual victimized by staff, three quarters were victimized more than once, and nearly half said that staff used force or threat of force.

Yet those stats don’t tell the whole story, since kids are much fewer in numbers than adults in lock-up.

According to the highly respected Campaign for Youth Justice, research by BJS shows that 21% and 13% of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails in 2005 and 2006 respectively, were youth under the age of 18 (surprisingly high since only 1% of jail inmates are juveniles). Put another way, previous BJS research shows that youth in adult facilities were 13 to 21 times as likely to be sexually assaulted while in custody than their representation in the correctional population.

This study tells us that youth face sexual victimization in adult institutions, but due to underreporting by youth in challenging adult facility conditions, we need more research to know more about this problem,” says Liz Ryan, President and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ). “Previous studies and the experiences of young people in the adult criminal justice system document that youth are at greatest risk of sexual victimization in adult jails and prisons, “The report underscores the urgency for U.S. Attorney General Holder and the nation’s governors to redouble their efforts to fully implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s (PREA) ( Youthful Inmate Standard by removing youth under 18 from adult jails and prisons.”

Amnesty International also noted that inmates who identify as LGBT in prisons and jails were at least 2.5 times more likely to be sexually victimized by staff than non-LGBT detainees.


In the study, as you might immagine, some prisions and jails had higher frequencies of sexual abuse than others. The report flagged 11 male prisons, 1 female prison, and 9 jails that it identified as high-rate facilities based on the prevalence of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in 2011-12.

LA’s Twin Towers Jail was one of those 9 Jails with the highest rates of sexual assaults, said the report. (SEE PAGES 11 & 12)


A new study released Thursday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation indicates that, under realignment, post-prison arrests are slightly down, while convictions remain static.

The study followed 37,448 lawbreakers for one year after their release from prison and compared those findings with statistics on 51,910 inmates released in the year immediately prior realignment.

The researchers found that post-Realignment offenders were arrested at a slightly lower rate than pre-Realignment offenders (62 percent pre-Realignment and 58.7 percent post-Realignment).

Key findings include:

* The number of post-Realignment offenders convicted of new crimes is nearly the same as the number of pre-Realignment offenders convicted of new crimes (21.3 percent pre-realignment and 22.5 percent post realignment).

* Post-Realignment offenders returned to prison at a significantly lower rate than pre-Realignment offenders, an intended effect of Realignment as most offenders are ineligible to return to prison on a parole violation. (42 percent pre-Realignment and 7.4 percent post-Realignment)

This last is due to the fact that, prior to realignment, parolees were being returned to prison on technical violations of their parole at a rapid clip. Whereas now, with many parolees, technical violations—things like staying out of their old neighborhoods, testing dirty, and so on—do not result in 9 mos more in prison.

There is additional fine grain stuff in the study itself, so click here, if you want delve deeper into the matter. A lot more study is needed, yet the bottom line take-away from this study is that those who have been shrieking that realignment is causing crime to run rife through the countryside, do not have facts on their side.


The Federal Consent Decrees finally is no more for the LAPD. The AP’s Tami Abdollah has the story. Here’s a clip:

A judge has officially ended more than a decade of federal oversight of the Los Angeles Police Department that was triggered by a corruption scandal involving abusive officers.
In two short sentences, U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess dismissed the final remnants of a consent decree on Wednesday, releasing the department from a transition agreement put in place in 2009 to ensure reforms that had been made were kept in place.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cheered the formal end to agreement at an afternoon news conference with Police Chief Charlie Beck. Villaraigosa said the department, which was once “an example of how not to police a city, is now a national model.”

Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the union was pleased the department was free of the federal monitoring.

“Now we can begin looking for efficiencies in LAPD processes while at the same time maintaining the transparency the public deserves,” he said. The union represents nearly 10,000 LAPD personnel.

The city was forced into the consent decree in 2001 under the threat of a federal lawsuit. The U.S. government alleged a pattern of civil rights violations committed by police officers that went back decades.

Now that it’s over, it bears remembering that, as odious as the thing was, the Consent Decree was a tool that Bill Bratton used effectively to begin to institute real reform in the department.

Posted in Child sexual abuse, children and adolescents, City Attorney, jail, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, prison, prison policy, Realignment, Youth at Risk | 1 Comment »

Gov. Brown Calls Out Trutanich on Realignment, LAUSD Bans Suspensions for “Willful Defiance”…and More

May 16th, 2013 by Taylor Walker


With just a few days until the May 21 general election, Gov. Jerry Brown has recorded a message to voters calling out City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for spreading misleading information about prison realignment. Trutanich, who is running a decidedly uphill battle for reelection was originally a supporter of realignment. Now, he has changed his tune, and is bashing opponent Mike Feuer for supporting it, inaccurately pronouncing realignment the “get-out-of-jail early law,” and more.

LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a mailer, Trutanich calls the plan “the get-out-of-jail early law.” The mailer describes Tobias Summers, the alleged Northridge kidnapper, as “one of Feuer’s get-out-of-jail free graduates.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has disputed that, saying that Summers was not released early.

Brown endorsed Trutanich in his failed D.A. campaign, but is now supporting Feuer for city attorney. In the robocall, Brown faults Trutanich for “misleading voters by suddenly attacking a public safety plan he once supported.”

We’d kind of like a city attorney who bothers to check his facts on legal matters, but that’s just us.


Tuesday, the LAUSD school board voted to ban suspensions for the catchall, “willful defiance,” in favor of alternative behavioral disciplines. L.A. is the first district in the state to take this large step toward school disciplinary reform.

The state bill on the same issue is making its way through the legislative process. According to Public Counsel spokesman Michael Soller, “AB 420 passed the Assembly Education Committee, and is headed for an appropriations vote on May 24 or 25. If it gets out of that committee, then it’s on to the Senate.”

WitnessLA will certainly be keeping an eye on it.

LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe has the story on LAUSD’s vote. Here’s a clip:

The packed board room erupted in cheers after the 5-2 vote to approve the proposal, which made L.A. Unified the first school district in the state to ban defiance as grounds for suspension. The action comes amid mounting national concern that removing students from school is imperiling their academic achievement and disproportionately harming minority students, particularly African Americans.

“Now we’ll have a better chance to stay in school and become something,” said Luis Quintero, 14, a student at Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles. He attended the board meeting, along with dozens of other students and community activists who have been pushing the proposal by board members Monica Garcia and Nury Martinez.

But the vote came after an impassioned discussion over whether the proposal would give a “free pass” to students and shield them from the consequences of misbehavior. Board members Marguerite LaMotte told students that they needed to pay for their mistakes, while Richard Vladovic said no student had the right to disrupt learning opportunities for classmates.

“I’m not going to give you permission to go crazy and think there are no consequences,” LaMotte said.


According to a new report from JAMA Pediatrics, four out of ten kids in the U.S. were exposed to physical violence in the last year. In addition, an alarming 13.7 percent of the 4,500 children surveyed reported repeated mistreatment from their caregivers.

The Examiner’s Sharon Gloger Friedman has the story. Here’s a clip:

…Survey results showed:

*Physical assault in the past year was reported by 41.2 percent of respondents.

*Assault-related injuries were reported by 10.1 percent of respondents.

*Nearly 11 percent of girls ages 14 to 17 reported sexual assault or abuse.

*Repeated maltreatment by a caregiver was reported by 13.7 percent of respondents; of that group 3.7 percent said they experienced physical abuse.

More than 13 percent of kids reported being physically bullied; one in three said they had been emotionally bullied.
According to Dr. Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist in Potomac, Md., these numbers may be low.

“I think, unfortunately, this [violence] is so endemic to our society, it’s overlooked. It is considered like a cold,” Brody, who often works with victims of childhood violence, and who is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, told HealthDay News.

Brody added that witnessing or experiencing violence as a child can result in rage, lack of security, feelings of powerlessness, nightmares and other psychological aftereffects that last long into adulthood.

Of particular concern are children and teens who suffer frequent exposures to violence. Survey results showed that nearly 15 percent of study participants had been exposed to violence six or more times in the past year and about five percent had been exposed to 10 or more violent acts.

A similar study by the National Survey of Children’s Health found that nearly 48 percent of US youth had experienced at least one major childhood trauma.

Jane Stevens expertly lays out the consequences of this exposure to violence and trauma on her blog, ACEs Too High. Here’s a clip:

Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NHCS). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data.

Even more concerning, nearly a third of U.S. youth age 12-17 have experienced two or more types of childhood adversity that are likely to affect their physical and mental health as adults. Across the 50 U.S. states, the percentages range from 23 percent for New Jersey to 44.4 percent for Arizona.

The data are clear, says Dr. Christina Bethell: If more prevention, trauma-healing and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile justice, mental health and medical systems are not changed to stop traumatizing already traumatized children, many of the nation’s children are likely to suffer chronic disease and mental illness. Not only will their lives be difficult, but the nation’s already high health care costs will soar even higher, she believes. Bethell is director of the National Maternal and Child Health Data Resource Center, part of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI). The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration, sponsors the survey.

Those numbers are already formidable, and they get much higher when looking at kids in the juvenile justice system.


And on a happier note, Kris Kristofferson will be performing a benefit concert for Homeboy Industries’ 25th anniversary, at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theater on June 23. (WitnessLA plans to be there.)

FishbowlLA’s Richard Horgan has more details on the concert.

Posted in children and adolescents, City Attorney, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, Homeboy Industries, LAUSD, prison, Realignment, Uncategorized, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 3 Comments »

Mayor…City Attorney…City Controller…School Board – Some Help in Deciding

March 1st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

WitnessLA isn’t offering any endorsements at the moment.
(Okay, maybe one little endorsement. But we’ll get to in a minute.)

Instead, we have linked to some of the more interesting and informative articles, interviews, mini-debates and what not that we thought you might find helpful as you make your decisions:


Obviously, everyone knows in general what the Mayor does, and the City Council Members, and the City Attorney. But, past the generalities, a great many of us don’t have a really firm grasp on the details of who has control over what in Los Angeles.

With this in mind, LA Magazine has put together a handy GUIDE TO POWER IN LA that explains…well….everything (or nearly so.)

We highly recommend taking a look.


KCET has a great Who’s Funding Whom Database, which you can find here.

And here’s a rundown about how to get the most out of the database.


Warren Olney interviews the top 5 mayoral hopefuls—and the interviews are particularly good. Here’s the link, but scroll down, for each interview.

And for individual takes on the candidates:
KPCC’s Frank Stoltze looks at Eric Garcetti and asks if the candidate is tough enough to do what needs to be done as mayor.

Gene Maddeus writes about Wendy Greuel, whom he portrays as a down-to-earth, no-nonsense fix-it woman—with strong union support, namely by the DWP’s powerful workers union, IBEW Local 18—whose backing some voters find worrisome.

UPDATE: Greuel moved to counter that fear on Thursday when she told the Daily News that there would be no DWP raises if LA has a deficit.

Dakota Smith at the Daily News looks at Jan Perry and wonders if she’s too beholden to business groups.

Similarly the LA Times’ Jim Newton wonders if Eric Garcetti is too beholden to the teachers’ union.

In terms of endorsements, the Daily News thinks Wendy Greuel is strong and gutsy enough to take on “stubborn interests”—the unions and others—who “would make L.A. proud as the first woman to lead the nation’s second most populous city.”

The Los Angeles Times goes for Eric Garcetti, whom it says is the candidate with the most potential to “rise to the occasion…” and “the power to inspire.” “He could be just what Los Angeles needs.”


While we aren’t endorsing anyone, we do have a strong anti-endorsement. Here it is: ABC—anybody but Carmen. Incumbent Carmen Trutanich has good points, but the negatives greatly outweigh the positives. We went into more detail when Mr. Trutanich ran for District Attorney.

If you’d like a good one-stop-shopping destination that allows you to get a broad strokes idea of the three main candidates—Mike Fuerer, Greg Smith, and Carmen Trutanich—we recommend the on air debate, again, with Warren Olney.

We think it is fascinatingly character revealing for all three of the candidates. For some in a good way. For others, not so much.


Once more we refer you to the on-air debate between the candidates with Warren Olney on Which Way LA?

As for sorting out the candidates for voting purposes: LA City Counsel member, Dennis Zine, is the best known and, as such, has a long list of endorsements from unions and elected officials. However persons like former City Controller Laura Chick—and the LA Times, the Daily News, La Opinion, the Daily Breeze and others—are going for Ron Galperin.

Not endorsing, just sayin’…


For years, the teachers’ unions have poured gobs of money into the coffers of certain school board candidates whom they could then count on to vote the unions’ direction on any reform issue that the union didn’t like. And true to form, the unions’ presence is being felt in this year’s race too.

But the school board races that are up for a vote in Tuesday’s election have featured a new and muscular funding stream. The money comes from what is collectively known as the school reform movement—a coalition that does not think reform can take place if board members are forever hogtied by unions who put their own interests ahead of those of LA’s kids, with year upon year of demonstrably disastrous results. As a consequence, the the national reform movement has come up with its own big bucks, with some of the money even coming from outside the state. (Not surprisingly, the latter fact has caused controversy.)

Here’s what Education Week has on the matter.

So whom does one vote for in light of all this competing campaign funding?

Well, here’s what the Daily News has to say on the subject.

And here is the LA Times’ list of School Board endorsements.

(You will note both papers’ LAUSD board endorsements are exactly the same.)

The Daily News goes on to explain how it selected its three choices and why it thinks this school board election is of real importance:

What’s at stake is more than just three faces on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. The result could either confirm the slow move toward innovation and reform in the nation’s second-largest school district. Or it could reverse the course, destroying the few steps the district has taken in recent years to shake up the old, failing education structure.

For that reason, these races have attracted an astonishing amount of money – $4 million so far – as the unions and reform groups battle it out. How this election goes next week could well decide the fate of education reform in the city, state and nation.

That’s why we are strongly encouraging voters in the three districts - 2, 4, and 6 – to go to the polls and strike a victory for the students by choosing these three people:

Monica Garcia in District 2…Kate Anderson in District 4…Monica Ratcliff in District 6

We agree—most particularly about the choice of Kate Anderson. And, we don’t think the Daily News is overstating its case when it talks about how important this election is to LA’s educational future, and probably to the state’s.

So, yes, that’s an endorsement.

(Oh, and one more thing: Vote NO on Measure A.

NOTE: For more on LA’s schools, and education issues—including Tuesday’s board race—-start reading the lively, smart, and very tuned in LA School report.


Posted in City Attorney, City Budget, City Controller, Education, elections, LA city government, LAUSD | 2 Comments »

Jackie Lacey: “The Voters are saying the D.A.’s office is not for sale.”

June 7th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


LA Now got these thoughts from Jackie Lacey on Wednesday morning, once her victory was confirmed.

“The voters are saying the D.A.’s office is not for sale, it’s not like any other political office,” said Lacey, who took 32% of the votes and in November’s runoff will face fellow prosecutor Alan Jackson, who won nearly 24% of the votes. The two candidates led the votes in a surprising upset over L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, who raised $1.5 million for the race and secured high-profile endorsements.

“It’s a great country when the person who raises the most money doesn’t win,” she said.

Lacey said she was concerned and intimidated “for a minute” at Trutanich’s endorsements, particularly when Gov. Jerry Brown backed the city attorney. “That was an interesting decision,” she said. She said her campaign then chose to move forward and put “one foot in front of the other.”

She said she would be scrambling to get endorsements from Brown, Sheriff Lee Baca and labor.

“We are making calls as we speak,” she said. “Given what I’ve read about the sheriff’s plans in the jails, and what the governor intends to do, we need to work as a team and we need to start today.”

Had she faced Trutanich in the runoff, Lacey said the campaign could have taken a turn for the nasty and that there could have been “blood on the walls…..”

Lacey said this to The Wave in a Wednesday interview:

“I believe that the next D.A., who I believe will be myself, needs to be courageous and look at repositioning the justice system. There’s a better way to keep the community safe. We need to get people into rehab and mental health programs, and solve this problem forever, rather than have them going in and out of jail.”


Frank Stoltze of KPCC was at Trutanich’s would be victory party on Tuesday night and posted a…very intriguing story about everyone’s reactions after it became clear that Jackie Lacey had zoomed past Trutanich in votes, and worse, he wouldn’t be in the runoff at all.

Here’s a clip:

….By 1 a.m., the candidate everyone thought was unbeatable — the one who’d outspent his opponents three to one – was beginning to explain his loss.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more vitriolic, negative campaign against anyone,” Trutanich said.

Trutanich complained of attacks by his opponents that distorted his record. His political consultant John Shallman echoed the sentiment.

“They had a pretty nice trap set when Trutanich got in the race,” Shallman said.

But many would argue that the trap was set by Trutanich himself when he pledged three years ago to serve out his term as city attorney before running for another office. Opponents called him a liar, and the campaign offered varying explanations for the switch. Trutanich called the pledge a “gimmick.” Shallman labeled it “silly and political.”

Some voters seemed unconvinced.

Trutanich also blamed the media, especially talk radio hosts who he said regularly attacked him. Shallman said he counted 42 negative news articles. He defended Trutanich’s decision to limit media interviews and debate appearances.

“I don’t know that there’s anything he could have done with the tidal wave of negativity,” Shallman said.

The LA Weekly’s Gene Maddeus was also at the non-victory party and had these nuggets.

Speaking to a dwindling group of supporters after 1 a.m., Trutanich did not concede, but blamed the media for a “major league onslaught” against his candidacy.

“Barack Obama is getting hammered right now,” Trutanich said. “I think the negative campaign against me is worse.”


“….”I don’t know what we did wrong in terms of running the city of L.A.,” Trutanich told the crowd. “There’s absolutely no corruption in the city of Los Angeles, as far as the city attorney’s office goes. They hit me on street artists. I still think of it as graffiti. Obviously the marijuana crowd came out… We’ve done everything properly. There’s no shame in what we’ve done. Negative campaigns work.”

So-o-o-ooo….let me get this straight: Carmen Trutanich lost this election because of the mean media, the tagger backlash, and the weed-lovers political machine.

Okay. Got it.

Lacey will face LA prosecutor Alan Jackson in November’s runoff race..

Trutanich told the LA Times that he will seek a second term as City Attorney. Assemblyman Mike Fuerer and others plan to run for the office as well. Feurer has already raised $345,000 toward the election, which will take place in November.

Photo by Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Posted in City Attorney, District Attorney, elections | 7 Comments »

LAPD’s New Impound Policy Will Be Approved Tues: So is it Legal?

February 14th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

Chief of Police Charlie Beck’s proposed changes to the LAPD’s automobile impound policy will be voted on by the Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday. It is pretty much preordained that the change will pass through the commission without a hitch.

While the new policy is all but a done deal, what remains open to question— according to critics of the change—is whether or not the proposed new interpretation of the LAPD’s policy is legal. City attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office has told the chief, that the change is not only permissible under the law, it is more correct than the old procedure.

However, according to a statement released Monday afternoon by the LAPPL (the LAPD union) California’s Legislative Counsel says it’s not legal. (The Legislative Counsel is what CA lawmakers and others use to sort out such matters.)

(And, indeed, that’s what the letter from William Chan, Deputy Legislative Counsel, says.)

For those of who have somehow missed this controversy, here’s the deal. Last Spring LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that the department was changing its rules for impounding cars of unlicensed drivers at sobriety checkpoints.

The old policy requires that the cops impound a car for 30 days if it is being driven by an unlicensed driver, whether the driver has been drinking or not. For years immigrant rights advocates have rightly pointed out that the policy cuts unfairly against undocumented immigrants, who often need cars to go to work and take their kids to school, but are prohibited from getting a driver’s license under California law. (Thank you, Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

Bothered by the fact that the impound procedures scooped up and penalized so many otherwise-law abiding undocumented residents, Chief Beck made a change that allows the unlicensed driver to call a licensed driver to pick up the car, as long as driver A has ID and car insurance. The unlicensed driver also cannot have caused an accident, or have prior conviction for the same offense. Otherwise the full 30 days kicks in.

Critics of the policy point out that unlicensed drivers are significantly more likely to be involved in fatal crashes and more likely to drive drunk and other reckless behaviors than are validly-licensed drivers.

Of course, all this would be a moot point if undocumented folks were allowed to get drivers’ licenses— then only the unlicensed scofflaws, who are so statistically dangerous, would be at risk of impounds. But, hell, why be practical? (I’m talking to you, California state legislature.)

Okay, back to the question raised in the beginning: is the change legal or not?

Beck makes it clear he has accepted the opinion of City Attorney Trutanich, whose reading of the law centers around the fact that there are two dueling sections in the CA Vehicle code, one of which mandates a 30-day impound, (that costs the poor car owner about $1,300 or more in fees)—while the other Vehicle Code Section allows a car to be released the next day, with proper documentation, (at an approximate cost of $250). Beck explains that he is perfectly within the law when ordering his officers to enforce the second, less onerous section, rather than the first.

The Legislative Analyst says, to the contrary, that the local cops can’t pick and choose between the two Vehicle Code sections; that the one that specifies the mandatory 30-day rule for those who have never had a California DL, legally holds sway. (If you’re not put to sleep by all this and are curious, you can look it up here. The relevant opinion is in the last full paragraph at the bottom of page 6.)

Beck counters that a number of court decisions back his and the City Attorney’s reading of the matter:

Commonly referred to as the Community Caretaking Doctrine, the courts have determined that the decision to impound any vehicle should be based on the totality of circumstances and must be reasonable and in the furtherance of public safety. Statutory authority alone is not sufficient to deprive someone of their vehicle.

In any case the commission votes today and, barring any force majeure, the chief’s proposal will pass.

UPDATE: Blogger Ron Kaye has found an interesting twist on the City Attorney’s opinion on the impound issue. It seems that civil rights attorneys in a federal lawsuit filed in behalf of undocumented immigrants who had their cars impounded for 30 days, argued that the cops had no right to do all this impounding, and to back up their claim, they cited the aforementioned Community Caretaking Doctrine. [See Above], Mr. Trutanich’s office countered that, according to previous decisions upheld by the 9th Circuit the police could absolutely impound the cars of drivers who never had a license, that the Community Caretaking Doctrine did not apply.

So which is it?


The sheriff’s department’s insistence that all deputies have to work the jails for their first years out of the LASD academy has long been a source of criticism for reformers, yet the department has resisted change. Now, it seems that, Sheriff Baca is embracing the notion of a two-track career system—parole OR custody, with custody duty offering a fast track to promotion.

Ari Bloomekatz and Robert Faturechi have the story for the LA Times.


Rick Orlov of the Daily News/Contra Costa Times has lots of the details.

School Board prez, Monica Garcia, approved the move.


On Monday, in response to a growing upset from its devoted customers, Apple announced that it had asked an independent inspecting entity to assess conditions at Foxconn and the other main factories where our shiny new i-things are made.

The outcry has been building for a while, but many believe the turning point was the January 6, 2012, brilliant and devastating broadcast by NPR’s This American Life about the Foxconn plant.

By the end of last month, the NY Times followed up with its own affecting report on the awful conditions. But it was the amazing Mike Daisy’s adaptation for TAL of his one-man show on the topic, combined with the TAL staff’s own follow-up—from which there was no going back—especially when, a few days later, there were horrifying reports of a threatened mass suicide among Foxconn workers.

You really are missing something if you don’t listen to the podcast.

May Apple’s audit genuinely stimulate change.

Posted in City Attorney, immigration, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | No Comments »

LA City Attorney’s Reaction to Latest Budget Cuts Concerns LAPD Detectives

January 25th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

In LA’s most recent round of budget cuts last week,
the mayor’s office, the city council and the office of city attorney Carmen Trutanich, all had another $1 million cut from their respective bottom lines.

As one might imagine, no one is very happy about this newest bout of fiscal slashing.

However, Mr. Trutanich has responded to the cut with a move that critics say is designed to throw a retaliatory punch at the mayor and the city council at the expense of the needs of the city and its police force.

Specifically, Trutanich has abruptly shut down all the CA’s branch offices citywide—most notably in Van Nuys, Hollywood and San Pedro. This means that LAPD detectives from, say, the department’s various Valley and Harbor divisions, who would normally file misdemeanor criminal cases at those city attorney satellites with comparative efficiency, will have to spend hours driving to and from downtown instead— longer in rush hour traffic. To make matters worse, the detectives worry, the downtown offices will likely be plagued by a processing pile up due to the sudden centralization. Thus cops will have to add waiting time to their new extra driving time.

City Attorney Trutanich told Eric Leonard of KFI radio on Monday that, indeed, “downtown is now where all filing takes place.

“Somebody has to say – you know what - we’ve cut enough out of public safety,” Trutanich added. “It makes no sense to have 10,000 police officers and not be able to complete a prosecution.”

But many of the detectives who will be the most affected by Monday’s district office shuttering strategy believe that other less harmful cuts could be made and worry that Trutanich is simply using the move to play hard ball with the city council—at the expense of public safety.

While the city attorney makes his political point, they say, a large swath of LA’s already overstretched police force is going to have to spend precious hours driving and waiting, waiting and driving—when that same time could and should be spent….you know… policing.

There are assuredly more rounds to go in this fight. So stay tuned.

NOTE #1: I began reporting this story late in the day, thus by the time I tried to call the city attorney’s office for comment, it was exactly 6:01 pm. I knew I would likely not find Mr. Trutanich’s public information officer still at work, but I assumed that—as is the policy with most other PIOs for public figures and government agencies—the city attorney’s guy would have a cell-phone number or some other after hours form of contact to accommodate reporters on deadline. Alas, he did not.


Try KCET’s SoCal Connected, which goes live at 6 pm.

The show’s anchor Val Zavala will be joined by panelists Larry Elder, Patt Morrison, and SoCal Connected correspondent Brian Rooney—a good line up.

The live broadcast will also stream in real-time at Viewers are invited to offer feedback online during the broadcast at KCET’s FaceBook page, plus Twitter posts will air throughout the coverage.

Sounds good to me.

Posted in City Attorney, City Budget, LAPD | 5 Comments »

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