School Districts Misreporting Restraining Kids, Prop 47 Funding, Obama’s Law Enforcement $$$, and Jim McDonnellDecember 3rd, 2014 by Taylor Walker
LA, NY, AND CHICAGO TELL THE DEPT. OF EDUCATION KIDS AREN’T RESTRAINED IN THEIR SCHOOLS…BUT IT DOES HAPPEN
It is required that every school district in the US reports how many times kids were restrained in school to the Department of Education. The requirement came about after a 2009 government report revealed that these restraints—mostly of kids with disabilities—resulted in tons of unnecessary injuries (and even deaths).
ProPublica’s Annie Waldman analyzed the data, and found that two-thirds of school districts said there were no instances of kids being restrained or held in isolation rooms. Big districts like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago fell into this category.
LA Unified School District said there were no restraints, but does tally “behavior emergency interventions,” which can involve pinning down a child.
Here’s a clip from Waldman’s story:
The Department of Education declined to say whether they have penalized any districts for failing to report.
But underreporting appears to be rampant. Our analysis found that more than two-thirds of all school systems reported zero instances of restraining a student or isolating them in so-called “seclusion” rooms.
Many districts are not taking the reporting process seriously, said Claudia Center, a senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I think there needs to be a real cultural shift on restraints,” Center said. “It has been a really common practice in schools for decades. If [schools] had to write down how many times they actually do it, they would have to change what they’re doing.”
A spokesman for the federal Department of Education said if school districts fail to collect data on restraints, the government works with them to construct a plan to improve and could ultimately compel them to report by suspending federal aid until they do.
Huffman, the spokeswoman from Chicago’s public school system, said federal officials haven’t contacted school officials there about their missing data.
Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry, said that although the district reported zero instances of restraints, it keeps its own tally of incidents involving disabled children. Advocates say such actions, which are called “behavioral emergency inventions,” often come in the form of restraints. The Los Angeles Unified School District reported 103 interventions during the 2012 school year.
FUNDING THE CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE FOR INCOMING PROP 47 MISDEMEANOR CASES
Because Prop 47 downgraded a number of low-level felonies to misdemeanors, the City Attorney’s Office anticipates an influx of 13,500 new misdemeanor cases per year. (Before Prop 47, these cases would have been handled by the District Attorney’s Office.)
City Attorney Mike Feuer asked the city for $510,482 to hire more attorneys and staff to deal with the workload, as well as about $875,000 more per year, moving forward.
An LA Times editorial makes a really compelling argument in favor of City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approving that money request. Here’s a clip (but definitely read the whole thing, as it clarifies a number of things about Prop 47):
Many observers brush off misdemeanor convictions as unimportant because shorter sentences are too often not served at all due to jail crowding. But that’s part of what Proposition 47 is meant to fix. Thousands of inmates who formerly would have served multiyear terms in state prison are now serving that time in county jail cells because of the 2011 realignment law. Some of those will now see their sentences shortened, freeing up cells to allow each inmate to serve closer to his or her full sentence, while also relieving crowding in state prisons.
There is a discussion to be had about whether possession of some drugs should even be a misdemeanor, rather than an infraction such as marijuana possession, or even a crime at all — but Proposition 47 was not that discussion.
In the meantime, if misdemeanors — especially property crimes — are to be dealt with effectively, city attorneys in Los Angeles and elsewhere must have the resources to prosecute them. The crimes will continue to be committed and the police will continue to make their arrests. Prosecutors must continue to prosecute if the ballot measure is to work as intended.
Proposition 47 is expected to produce substantial savings, and some critics argued that a portion of that should go to cities to pay for exactly the kind of thing Feuer is seeking. It doesn’t. Lacey’s office will be relieved of part of its caseload, so it is arguable that the district attorney ought to relinquish funding to the city. Don’t hold your breath.
But the city may well realize savings from Proposition 47 too. That’s because misdemeanors require far less post-arrest time from police officers, who won’t have to wait at courthouses for hours, often on overtime, in order to testify at preliminary hearings.
Will that savings prove illusory, or will it be real and enough over the years to cover the city attorney’s new costs? Los Angeles residents and taxpayers deserve to know….
$263M FROM PRES. OBAMA FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES’ BODY CAMERAS, TRAINING, AND MORE
On Monday, President Barack Obama announced a plan to provide $263 million in funding to work toward improving relations between law enforcement agencies and communities. That figure includes $75 million for 50,000 body cameras for officers. Obama will also increase oversight of how local police departments use military equipment they receive through federal programs.
The Washington Times’ Dave Boyer has the story. Here’s a clip:
The president is also asking his administration to draft an executive order creating a new task force that will examine “how to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust,” a White House official said. The panel will be led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson.
The $263 million for cameras and training would be used by the federal government to match up to 50 percent spending by state and local police departments on body-worn cameras and storage for the equipment. The White House estimates that aspect of the program, which would cost $75 million, would help fund the purchase of 50,000 body-worn cameras.
The remainder of the money would be used to underwrite police training and outreach programs targeted at building better trust between law enforcement and their communities.
Helping pay for body-worn cameras is a step in the right direction, but the real test will be whether local law enforcement agencies are willing to use the devices.
The National Journal’s Dustin Volz has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:
…It’s not just about money. A number of local police departments remain hesitant—if not downright skeptical—about body cameras, despite growing public demand and research that suggests positive benefits.
“At this juncture, it doesn’t change anything,” said Mike Puetz, a spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida, when asked about Obama’s funding pledge. “From our perspective, and I think for most agencies, we’re looking at the technology and looking at how it works in the real world regardless of who pays the bill.”
THE REFORM CHALLENGES FACING JIM MCDONNELL AS HE TAKES THE HELM OF THE LASD
LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero has an interesting story about the uphill battle newly sworn-in LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell faces to bring about real reform in the scandal-plagued department. Here’s a clip:
-Reforming the jails. The sheriff’s department runs the largest jail system in the country. One of the biggest problems with the system has been the department’s program of putting first-day rookies on lockup duty for two years before allowing them to hit the streets.
It can seed hatred and violence in budding cops.
McDonnell has said that’s one of the things he’ll change. But it will take some time. He’ll have to recruit people who actually want to work in jails, a different breed of officer.
Nonetheless, Bobb says, “The department on the custody side cannot wait much longer to have the reform.”
There are also widespread calls to reduce or even eliminate the time the some mentally ill inmates spend behind bars. They’re better treated in medical settings, the argument goes, and keeping them out of lockup could save taxpayers a lot of cash.
-Cracking down on beatdowns. Both inside and outside the jail system, the department’s way of dealing with cops accused of excessive force leaves much to be desired.
Eliasburg of the ACLU says that when it comes to “formal reviews of use of force, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
“Deputies should be made to know that if force is used it will be carefully reviewed and there will be consequences,” he said.