LA Drug Court Reboot, $100 Million on Homelessness, DOJ to Monitor Calexico’s Police Dept., and the Struggle to Free the InnocentApril 17th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
GIVING LA’S DRUG COURTS NEW LIFE BY OPENING THEM UP TO MORE SERIOUS DRUG OFFENDERS
A new proposal from the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office would expand the scope of the county’s half-empty drug courts to help people convicted of more serious drug-related crimes.
Before Proposition 47 reduced many low-level property and drug-related felonies to misdemeanors, drug courts were a place where people charged with certain drug crimes could avoid a felony conviction and time behind bars if they completed a rehabilitation process.
But these drug courts were intended for those who committed felony drug offenses. Because the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is one year, there is currently not as much incentive to apply for drug court, or to finish it out, once enrolled.
KPCC’s Rina Palta has more on the proposal and how it would work. Here’s a clip:
Treatment programs used for drug court participants have dropped from 85 percent full to about 65 percent full, Satriano said.
To turn the trend around, she said, the committee is considering a proposal to repurpose drug courts to service higher risk, higher need offenders who’s crimes are tied to their addictions. Things like theft and being a middle man in a drug deal could qualify, along with any non-violent, non-serious felony.
“We’re looking to broaden the eligibility to get into drug court, but at the same time, realizing that what we would also need to do is intensify the program,” said Mark Delgado, director of the county’s criminal justice coordinating committee.
He said the new program, if adopted, would involve three months of jail time for people accused of more serious crimes – as well as more rigorous drug treatment and testing requirements.
HOW MUCH LA CITY AGENCIES SPEND EACH YEAR INTERACTING WITH THE HOMELESS
Los Angeles spends more than $100 million on homelessness each year, an estimated $54-$87 million of which is spent on police interaction with the homeless, according to a report released Wednesday by City Administrative Officer Miguel A. Santana. And of the money spent on law enforcement contact with the homeless population, arrests cost $46-$80 million.
Santana included sixteen different city agencies and departments in his study. One problem, according to the report, is that the departments rely heavily on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 19-person Emergency Response Team which only receives $330,000 from the city and serves the whole county.
The LA Times’ Gale Holland has more on the report. Here’s a clip:
“There appears to be no consistent process across city departments for dealing with the homeless or with homeless encampments,” he said.
The report said it was not possible now “to get a full measure of the costs” of homelessness for the city, or to monitor the effects of changes in homelessness over time in L.A.
Responses by city departments are not designed to end homelessness by systematically connecting the homeless to assessment, services and housing, the report said.
In many departments, the report said, responses are ad hoc, designed to respond to a very specific challenge rather than working toward ending homelessness as a whole.
Santana recommended that the city increase funding for homeless outreach and case management, create a new homeless office and set up neighborhood hubs to support existing efforts to house and care for homeless people.
DOJ TO MONITOR AND MAKEOVER CALEXICO’S POLICE DEPARTMENT
The US Department of Justice announced this week that it will train and monitor Calexico, CA’s troubled police department. Last fall, the FBI launched an investigation into alleged officer misconduct. In October, the city fired its police chief and replaced him with former LAPD Assistant Chief Michael Bostic. The new chief said he quickly found that the investigations unit was not conducting any investigations, officers were not bothering to obtain search warrants, the department was spying on the City Council, and that department members were using assets seized from citizens to buy things like spy glasses.
Chief Bostic has asked the DOJ to step in and help him turn the Calexico Police Department around. The DOJ, via its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, will provide extensive training and will help build a community policing unit over the next three years.
KPBS’ Jean Guerrero has the story. Here’s a clip:
Bostic has fired six police officers since his arrival in Calexico last fall. He was appointed police chief as the FBI started its investigation.
Previously, Bostic was assistant police chief at the Los Angeles Police Department, where he led internal cleanups after police scandals such as the Rodney King beating. During his time there, the Department of Justice and US Attorney’s Office monitored the LAPD for seven years in response to a court order.
“In my mind it was a very beneficial process,” Bostic said. “So when I got to Calexico… I on my own called the DOJ and asked them to come in and assist me in rebuilding the police department.”
The Department of Justice will help the Calexico Police Department through its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, bringing in a group of police chief consultants from major U.S. cities to share their expertise.
The training will be focused on the proper handling of evidence, booking procedures and improving community outreach.
In January, NPR’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath talked with reporter Jill Replogle, who had been covering the FBI investigation, about the corruption allegations and about the city’s outspoken and proactive new chief, Michael Bostic. (He was so vocal, in fact, that the police union decided to sue him.)
JILL REPLOGLE: The new police chief, who started in October, says that when he got there, there was no real police work going on. He says the investigations unit didn’t have any investigations going on. He found internal investigations scattered all over the place – a safe, in desk drawers, in somebody’s car. He found that the department had used a lot of money from seized assets to buy spy equipment like spy glasses and, you know, lapel cameras, things like that. And then when they’re looking through the footage, they find that they’re spying on City Council members. They also found that they had bought a bunch of equipment to break into buildings and cars, but they have no search warrants for those searches.
RATH: Now, that new police chief, Michael Bostic, who took over in October after his predecessor was fired - some of the most damning public allegations have actually come from him. Here he is.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MICHAEL BOSTIC: They’re recording City Council members, and they’re using it for extortion. I can say that. That’s just true. That’s what they were doing.
RATH: Jill, it was an amazing moment. The police chief actually broke down and cried at one point he was so disturbed by the corruption allegations. And this guy’s a 34-year veteran of the LAPD.
WHY EVIDENCE OF A WRONGFUL CONVICTION DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN EXONERATION AND FREEDOM
The Marshall Project’s Andrew Cohen has a great longread about Davontae Sanford, a young man convicted of killing four people when he was fourteen. Despite an abundance of evidence pointing to Sanford’s innocence, including an air-tight confession by a hit-man, Sanford’s efforts toward exoneration have been blocked at nearly every turn, and he remains behind bars (and will likely stay there for years more). Cohen explores why exonerations are so hard-won. Here’s how it opens:
We know more every day about the ways wrongful convictions happen. An indigent defendant gets an incompetent attorney. Or prosecutors hide exculpatory information from the defense. Perhaps there is a false confession, coerced by sly detectives, or undue reliance on faulty eyewitness testimony or junk forensic science. Maybe a key witness turns out to be an unreliable informant, or the jury or judge is racially biased. Often, it is some combination of these factors that puts an innocent person behind bars, sometimes for life.
What gets far less notice, however, is how wrongful convictions stay that way, even after evidence of injustice appears to bubble to the surface. This is why the already well-chronicled saga of Davontae Sanford, a 14-year-old boy convicted of a 2007 quadruple murder in Michigan, is worth following closely again as it enters its latest and most bizarre phase.
Later today, Sanford’s lawyers will ask a Michigan judge to grant their client a new trial based on evidence and arguments that state judges and county prosecutors have never before addressed. The defense team essentially will be asking Michigan’s criminal justice system to finally make a choice between two confessions to the same crime; one by a boy whose story was contradicted by independent evidence, the other by a professional killer who accurately told the police where to find the murder weapon.