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$$ for Relatives Caring for Kids in the DCFS System, LASD Tightening Use-of-Force Policies & Putting Body Scanners in Jails….LAPD Commission Responds to Vehicle Camera Tampering….and Wolves

April 17th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

EDITORIAL: GIVE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO RELATIVES CARING FOR CHILDREN IN THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would funnel some CalWORKS money directly to relatives caring for children removed from their homes.

An LA Times editorial says this bill is a step in the right direction, but that more funding support should be given to grandparents and relatives caring for children in the DCFS system.

Here’s a clip, but go read the rest:

A little funding to allow a child to stay with relatives — $8,000 or so a year — is a drop in the bucket compared with the more than $100,000 a year it costs the public to maintain a child in a group home. And because children raised by family members have higher rates of graduation and lower rates of homelessness, drug abuse and arrest as adults, it’s smart policy to give grandparents and others living in retirement and on Social Security enough information and money on the front end to buy their young charges clothes and food and to pay for gas or bus fare to get to doctors and parent nights at school.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection wisely argued in its draft final report that funding and services for a child removed from his or her parents should be determined by the child’s needs, not by the status of the placement family. State lawmakers are considering a bill — AB 1882 — that would go part of the way toward helping to direct funding to relative caregivers, and it’s a good start. But so much more could be accomplished in Los Angeles County if the Board of Supervisors would make child welfare a priority across all county departments and not just at the Department of Children and Family Services.


LASD REVAMPING USE-OF-FORCE POLICIES, AND REPLACING JAIL PAT-DOWNS WITH BODY SCANNERS

LA County Sheriff’s Department officials are attempting to really solve the problem of excessive force by revising the department’s use-of-force policies. Deputies will be held accountable not only for their actions during a force incident, but also for any negligent actions that trigger the physical conflict.

The department will also launch a pilot program to replace pat downs and invasive cavity searches in county jails with body scanners, in an effort to relieve tension between inmates and deputies. To start, two scanners will be placed at the Inmate Reception Center downtown.

The LA Daily News’ Thomas Himes has the story. Here are some clips:

Under the new policy, investigators will consider how officers acted prior to an incident when determining whether they acted properly. Previously, they were just supposed to focus on the moment when force was used.

“It’s so dramatic, it’s like an about-face from how this county has been doing it,” Supervisor Gloria Molina said.

Under the ruling, force could be deemed unreasonable if the deputy acted negligently leading up to an force incident, attorney Richard Drooyan told supervisors.

Drooyan, who’s been tasked with monitoring the sheriff’s implementation of recommendations made by the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, said current department policies focus on the moment when force is used.

[SNIP]

The ruling may also increase the county’s potential liability from previous cases that are already headed toward litigation, prompting Molina to ask for a team of attorneys to review those cases again.

[SNIP]

…A major step forward in reducing jailhouse tensions will start testing Monday when the department puts a pair of body scanners to use at its Inmate Reception Center…

Once in place, [Assistant Sheriff Terri] McDonald said, the scanners will allow inmates to avoid physical searches, while more effectively keeping drugs and other contraband out of jails.

“It allows them in a more dignified way to be subjected to a search,” McDonald said.


LAPD COMMISSION NOT PLEASED WITH LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY REGARDING IN-CAR CAMERA TAMPERING

Last week, we pointed to a story about LAPD officers’ unauthorized dismantling of 80 in-car video cameras, and the subsequent failure of LAPD officials to investigate. (While it is no excuse, a story on the LAPD union’s blog provides some extra context.)

On Tuesday, LAPD officials, including Chief Charlie Beck, had to answer to the department’s civilian oversight commission regarding the lack of accountability and department transparency displayed in handling the issue.

KPCC’s Erika Aguilar has the story. Here’s a clip:

Commissioner Kathleen Kim was especially troubled by the lack of accountability.

“The inability to investigate is probably as troubling as the incident itself,” Kim said. “Because the ability to investigate serves as a deterrent for these kinds of things happening in the future.”

[SNIP]

An investigation into the missing antennas didn’t lead to any disciplinary action against individual officers or supervisors. LAPD commanders told the police commission Tuesday it would be difficult to single out misconduct among the 1,500 officers at the South Bureau. That’s because officers on different shifts share patrol cars and they are often transferred in and out of the bureau.

“For me personally I didn’t see the potential for an outcome of holding anybody accountable,” said deputy chief Robert Green, in charge of LAPD’s South Bureau.

Green said he put all his officers on notice: “to make sure that they understood the importance of digital in-car video, the importance of the perception of missing antennas and the fact that if an antenna or a part of the system was tampered with, it was considered very, very serious misconduct.”

With president Steve Soboroff absent Tuesday, police commissioners Paula Madison, Robert Saltzman and Kim took turns questioning three high-ranking LAPD officials, including Chief Beck. They asked why individuals were not held accountable for the tampering and why the department didn’t notify the police commission sooner of the problem.

Deputy Chief Stephen Jacobs took responsibility for not notifying the L.A. Police Commission’s inspector general of the problem, calling it as an oversight and not an intentional act.

“The simple answer is this: If the commission believes that it was not notified correctly, then the commission is right,” Beck said.


CALIFORNIA WOLF NEWS

On Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission considered placing the gray wolf on the endangered list, in anticipation of a future generation of the wolves in the state. (Back in the early 1900′s California wolves were killed off by hunters. When the Oregon gray wolf, OR-7, crossed the border in 2011, he was the first wild wolf in California since 1924.)

The commission opted to delay the decision for another 90 days in order to hear more public comment on the issue.

The AP’s Scott Smith has the story. Here’s how it opens:

While much of the country has relaxed rules on killing gray wolves, California will consider protecting the species after a lone wolf from Oregon raised hopes the animals would repopulate their historic habitat in the Golden State.

The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday postponed for three months a decision on whether to list the gray wolf as endangered. Commissioners heard impassioned arguments from environmentalists who want the wolves to again to roam the state and from cattle ranchers who fear for their herds.

“I think we made them blink,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity, which leads the push for protection. “I think they heard our arguments.”

State wildlife officials say they don’t support the listing because wolf packs haven’t roamed in California for nearly a century and there’s no scientific basis to consider them endangered.

Recent interest in protecting the species started in 2011, when one wolf from Oregon — called OR-7 — was tracked crossing into California. The endangered listing has been under review for the last year.

[SNIP]

Wildlife officials oppose the listing because wolves have been absent from California, so researchers have no way of measuring threats or the viability of the animal in the state, said Eric Loft, chief of wildlife programs for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Yet, the animal is iconic of the western landscape and California could easily become the home to functioning wolf packs within a decade, said Chuck Bonham, director of the wildlife agency.

The hearing was in Ventura. Hopefully the next will be in reasonable driving distance of certain wolf-loving Los Angeles residents.

Posted in DCFS, Foster Care, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LAPD, LAPPL, LASD, wolves | No Comments »

OC Supervisors Block Plan to Release and Monitor Low-Risk Felons…Officers Who Shot at Women in Dorner Hunt to Return to Work…California Judges May Be Prohibited from Boy Scout Affiliation

February 7th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

ORANGE COUNTY SUPES REJECT SHERIFF’S PLAN TO ELECTRONICALLY MONITOR SOME LOW-LEVEL FELONS

The Orange County Board of Supervisors shot down Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ plan to open up the county’s successful electronic monitoring system—which is already being used to monitor those serving time for misdemeanors—to include some inmates serving time for low-risk, non-violent felonies. By releasing certain low-level felons, Hutchens intended to prevent overcrowding in the OC jail system.

The LA Times’ Jill Cowan has the story. Here’s a clip:

“I understand they need to find an alternative to incarceration, and I appreciate the sheriff’s efforts,” Supervisor Janet Nguyen said Tuesday. “But I’m still uncomfortable allowing felons to be out on the street.”

The move came as the county, like many jurisdictions across the state, grapples with a ballooning jail population and scant resources to house inmates.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said her department has struggled to accommodate an influx of inmates from a variety of sources…

Hutchens said there are about 900 more inmates in Orange County’s system as a result of the realignment.

[SNIP]

This week, Hutchens said those home-monitoring programs have been successful, adding that inmates who are being monitored electronically are still technically in custody.

Assistant Sheriff Lee Trujillo told the board Tuesday that the only inmates who would have been eligible for electronic monitoring are “low-risk” felons — those who are nonviolent, with limited criminal records and just days remaining on their sentences.

(Our new LA Sheriff John Scott is on loan from the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept., and will be returning to his position as OC’s Undersheriff when our permanent LASD leader is elected.)


OFFICERS WHO MISTAKENLY SHOT AT TWO WOMEN DURING DORNER MANHUNT WILL RETURN TO THEIR JOBS

The eight officers who fired over 100 rounds at two women in a pickup truck during the Christopher Dorner manhunt last February will return to the field after they receive additional training, according to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

Both the civilian police commission and Chief Beck found that the shooting (which injured both women) violated department policy, but no disciplinary action will be taken against the officers involved.

The commission also found the department to be at fault in the incident. President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Tyler Izen, says the officers were “placed into a highly unreasonable and unusually difficult position.”

AP’s Tami Abdollah has the story. Here’s a clip:

“I have confidence in their abilities as LAPD officers to continue to do their jobs in the same capacity they had been assigned,” Beck said in a department message to officers obtained Wednesday night by The Associated Press. “In the end, we as an organization can learn from this incident and from the individuals involved.”

Both the chief and an independent commission found the 2013 shooting that injured two women violated department policy. The seven officers and one sergeant could have faced penalties including being fired.

Other discipline not outlined in the chief’s message could be handed down, police Lt. Andrew Neiman said, but department policy prevents him from discussing it.

Attorney Glen Jonas, who represented the two women who won a $4.2 million settlement from the city, said he was concerned by the chief’s decision not to terminate any of the eight officers.

“If either of the women had been killed, you can bet your bottom dollar somebody would be fired and maybe prosecuted,” Jonas said. “A stroke of luck, firing more than 100 rounds and missing, should not mean the discipline is lighter.”


CALIFORNIA MAY BAN JUDGES FROM BELONGING TO BOY SCOUTS DUE TO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST GAYS

The California Supreme Court’s ethics committee unanimously recommended the court forbid judges from affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America, based upon the Boy Scouts’ ban on LGBT leaders. California prohibits judges from being a part of organizations with discriminatory policies, but make an exception for non-profits like the Boy Scouts. The committee will take public comments on the issue until April 15. If the state Supreme Court decide’s to approve the ban, it will go into effect on August 1.

SF Gate’s Bob Egelko has the story. Here’s a clip:

If the court agrees, California will join 21 other states whose judicial ethics codes have antidiscrimination provisions that forbid judges from affiliating with the Boy Scouts.

Banning scout membership would “promote the integrity of the judiciary” and “enhance public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,” the ethics committee said Wednesday.

[SNIP]

The panel noted that 22 states, including California, prohibit judges from belonging to organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but only California exempts “nonprofit youth organizations” from that prohibition. The state’s high court, which sets judicial ethics standards, adopted that exemption in 1996 to accommodate judges affiliated with the Boy Scouts.

“Selecting one organization for special treatment is of special concern, especially in light of changes in the law in California and elsewhere prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” the committee said.

Posted in Board of Supervisors, jail, LAPD, LAPPL, LGBT, Orange County, Realignment | 2 Comments »

$5.9M LAPD Ticket Quota Settlement…Fed. Judge Orders Improved Care for CA’s Mentally Ill on Death Row…LA Social Worker Strike Ends…and More

December 11th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

LAPD TRAFFIC TICKET QUOTA LAWSUIT SETTLED FOR ALMOST $6M

On Tuesday, the LA City Council approved unanimously a $5.9M settlement to 11 LAPD officers who claimed they were forced by superiors (namely West Traffic Division Captain Nancy Lauer) to comply with a traffic ticket quota of 18 tickets per shift, 80% of which were to be for major violations. The officers further alleged that they were retaliated against when the failed to make the quota or raised objection to it.

The settlement brings the LAPD’s total for legal fees and payouts from quota suits to roughly $10M, with one more case pending, according to the LA Times’ Joel Rubin and Catherine Saillant. Here are some clips:

The ticket controversy has been a black eye for the Los Angeles Police Department. Ticket quotas are against state law. After the officers’ allegations were made public, LAPD officials met with police union representatives and signed a letter emphasizing that the department prohibits quotas.

Dennis Zine, a former City Council member and career LAPD motorcycle officer, said the settlement calls into question LAPD’s traffic division management. Zine is also incensed that Capt. Nancy Lauer, who ran the LAPD’s West Traffic Division at the time of the allegations, has been promoted.

“This whole thing clearly shows me that management did not do what they needed to do and taxpayers are footing the bill for that,’’ said Zine, who lost a bid for city controller in this year’s municipal elections.

[SNIP]

The lawsuits alleged that Lauer, who ran the division starting in 2006, required officers to write at least 18 traffic tickets each shift and demanded that 80% of the citations be for major violations.

Officers who failed to meet the alleged ticket minimums or raised concerns about them were reprimanded, denied overtime assignments, given undesirable work schedules, and subjected to other forms of harassment, according to the lawsuits. In a few instances, Lauer allegedly tried to kick officers out of the motorcycle unit, the lawsuits claim.

In a statement, Chief Charlie Beck defended the division’s practices. Management set “goals” to reduce traffic violations that resulted in serious injury and death, Beck said, but the jury in a separate 2009 case interpreted that as quotas, he said.

“We do not agree with the original jury’s findings,” he said. “Unfortunately the large jury award in the earlier court case made settling this case the most prudent business decision.”

Lauer, who currently runs one of the department’s patrol divisions, said she instructed officers to ticket illegal driving but did not set quotas.

The LA Daily News’ Rick Orlov also covered this story. Here’s a clip of LA Police Protective League Prez Tyler Izen’s take on the settlement:

Los Angeles Police Protective League President Tyler Izen said he hopes the suit sends a message to the department.

“I hope this is the last time any of our officers have to settle a grievance in the court system,” Izen said. “I would like to see us get to a point where we can figure out a way to enforce the laws without us ending up in court.”


FEDERAL JUDGE RULES THAT CALIFORNIA’S MENTALLY ILL DEATH ROW INMATES NEED INPATIENT PSYCHIATRIC CARE

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that the CDCR is not providing adequate psychiatric treatment to California’s mentally ill death row inmates, and ordered state officials to come up with a solution. The ruling by US District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton (a member of that three-judge panel who ordered Gov. Jerry Brown’s compliance with a prison population reduction SCOTUS ruling) is a development in a federal case brought in 1991 against the state alleging rampant abuse of mentally ill prisoners. (Here is an October WLA post about recent hearings.)

The Associated Press’ Don Thompson has the story. Here’s a clip:

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ordered state officials to work with a court-appointed monitor to find solutions. Options include creating a specialized inpatient psychiatric facility at San Quentin State Prison, which houses condemned inmates.

State officials are not meeting their constitutional duty to provide condemned inmates with sufficient inpatient treatment, the Sacramento-based judge said in a 28-page ruling.

“The state is committed to providing quality medical and mental health care for all inmates,” Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in a statement. She said the state will work with the court’s special master to make sure that mentally ill inmates on death row receive proper care.

Michael Bien, an attorney who represents mentally ill inmates in the ongoing class-action lawsuit, called the ruling “a very significant victory.”

[SNIP]

Inmates’ attorneys would not object to creating a psychiatric unit at San Quentin to treat inmates awaiting execution, Bien said. That would keep the inmates close to their families and attorneys while saving the state the expense of building a high-security mental health unit at another prison, he said.


LA COUNTY DCFS STRIKE ENDS, BUT NOT BEFORE DEMONSTRATORS ARE ARRESTED

A six-day LA County social worker strike ended Tuesday after heated rallies and the arrests of seven protestors who refused to move from the middle of an intersection. (In case you missed the story this week: the striking DCFS workers were demanding smaller caseloads in order for DCFS workers to adequately serve LA’s “most vulnerable” kids.)

DiamondBar-Walnut Patch posted this story from City News Service. Here’s a clip:

Social workers who walked off the job Thursday were expected back at work Wednesday. The resumption of labor talks was bargained by a mediator brought in by the county, officials said.

“Today the county got the message loud and clear,” according to Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721. “When they saw the incredible solidarity of our members on the street, the supervisors knew they had to act. And now I’m hopeful that we can work through the mediator to reach a settlement with the county.”

Four women and three men taking part in a strike rally were arrested in downtown Los Angeles during a planned act of civil disobedience. Los Angeles police Officer Sara Faden said the seven refused to leave the area after being warned by police…

Child welfare workers with the Department of Child and Family Services are asking for lower caseloads, a demand the county says it’s willing to meet.

“What is a little frustrating is that the department’s commitment is absolute,” county CEO William Fujioka told the Board of Supervisors.

About 100 social workers have already been hired and will take on full caseloads next month. Another 150 are set to go through DCFS training in January and February, and the department will ask the board for additional hires shortly, Fujioka said.

The union wants 35 new hires every month until 595 new social workers are brought on board to be assured of a maximum caseload of 30 children per social worker, according to SEIU Local 721 spokesman Lowell Goodman.

Based on the hires already in the pipeline, DCFS Director Philip Browning has estimated that the average caseload would come down to 29 by January and as low as the mid-20s by August.


RECOMMENDED LONGREAD: LIFE FOR A HOMELESS CHILD IN A NEW YORK SHELTER

We didn’t want you to miss NY Times’ Andrea Elliot’s excellent five-part longread that, over the course of several months, follows an eleven-year-old named Dasani who shares a room in a crumbling Brooklyn shelter with her parents and seven younger siblings. Here’s how it opens:

She wakes to the sound of breathing. The smaller children lie tangled beside her, their chests rising and falling under winter coats and wool blankets. A few feet away, their mother and father sleep near the mop bucket they use as a toilet. Two other children share a mattress by the rotting wall where the mice live, opposite the baby, whose crib is warmed by a hair dryer perched on a milk crate.

Slipping out from her covers, the oldest girl sits at the window. On mornings like this, she can see all the way across Brooklyn to the Empire State Building, the first New York skyscraper to reach 100 floors. Her gaze always stops at that iconic temple of stone, its tip pointed celestially, its facade lit with promise.

“It makes me feel like there’s something going on out there,” says the 11-year-old girl, never one for patience. This child of New York is always running before she walks. She likes being first — the first to be born, the first to go to school, the first to make the honor roll.

Even her name, Dasani, speaks of a certain reach. The bottled water had come to Brooklyn’s bodegas just before she was born, catching the fancy of her mother, who could not afford such indulgences. It hinted at a different, upwardly mobile clientele, a set of newcomers who over the next decade would transform the borough.

Dasani’s own neighborhood, Fort Greene, is now one of gentrification’s gems. Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.

It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.

Nearly a quarter of Dasani’s childhood has unfolded at Auburn, where she shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and seven siblings. As they begin to stir on this frigid January day, Dasani sets about her chores.

Her mornings begin with Baby Lele, whom she changes, dresses and feeds, checking that the formula distributed by the shelter is not, once again, expired. She then wipes down the family’s small refrigerator, stuffed with lukewarm milk, Tropicana grape juice and containers of leftover Chinese. After tidying the dresser drawers she shares with a sister, Dasani rushes her younger siblings onto the school bus.

“I have a lot on my plate,” she says, taking inventory: The fork and spoon are her parents and the macaroni, her siblings — except for Baby Lele, who is a plump chicken breast.

“So that’s a lot on my plate — with some corn bread,” she says. “That’s a lot on my plate.”

Dasani guards her feelings closely, dispensing with anger through humor. Beneath it all is a child whose existence is defined by her siblings. Her small scrub-worn hands are always tying shoelaces or doling out peanut butter sandwiches, taking the ends of the loaf for herself. The bond is inescapable. In the presence of her brothers and sisters, Dasani has no peace. Without them, she is incomplete.

Homeless children across the country are living in very similar conditions—many without even a shelter to provide the most basic necessities. In LA County, two-thirds of the 7,400 homeless family members are children, in addition to 819 unaccompanied minors, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2013 homeless count.

Posted in CDCR, Charlie Beck, DCFS, Death Penalty, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Foster Care, Homelessness, LAPD, LAPPL, Mental Illness, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Mentally Ill Packed into LA County Jails, Oversight Sought for CA Developmental Centers…and More

July 18th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

THE ISSUE OF LOCKING AWAY MENTALLY ILL IN LA COUNTY JAILS

LA Times’ Steve Lopez paid a visit Monday to LA County’s Twin Towers jail where 3,200 mentally ill inmates are housed—1,300 of whom are overflowing into the jail’s general population because there isn’t enough segregated space in which to place them. Lopez notes that the majority cycle back through the system after being released because the resources to help them on the outside are so limited. Lopez questions whether the new jail plans being considered by the LA County Board of Supervisors address the real issue, or if we will just see more of the same problems, but in a shiny, state-of-the-art building.

Here are some clips from Lopez’s LA Times story:

If you routinely hear voices, hallucinate, sink into suicidal depression or suffer inescapable torment, Los Angeles has a place for you.

The county jail.

On Monday, the jail held 3,200 inmates diagnosed with a mental illness and accused of a crime. Most have not been to trial, many have waited months for their day in court, and the majority have cycled through at least once before. There’s no longer enough room to house them all in segregated areas, so 1,000 mentally ill men and 300 women are housed with the general population.

[SNIP]

Clearly, locking these men up over and over again isn’t working, and it isn’t cheap. But it’s what the system has been doing for years in Los Angeles County and in jails and prisons across the country.

Therapists know it. Judges know it, because they see the same offenders churn through their courtrooms, many of them for drug possession and minor offenses in which the underlying cause is often a mental illness. And jailers surely know it, though the problem is not of their making or of any other single agency’s.

“We’re on the same page here,” sheriff’s Cmdr. David Fender said Monday when I met with him and mental health officials at the jail. “The entire leadership” of the Sheriff’s Department “believes we’ve got to do something about this.”

No doubt, so what’s the plan?

The county Board of Supervisors is pushing ahead, after years of delay, with plans to update jail facilities in hopes of fending off possible federal intervention following myriad reports of inmate abuse and deplorable conditions. Earlier this year, the supes hired a consultant to make proposals for demolishing the dungeon-like Men’s Central Jail, building a new facility in its place and updating other detention centers. At Tuesday’s board meeting, five proposals were aired, including construction of a jail devoted entirely to inmates with medical and mental health problems.

But would that be a new direction, or the same failed strategy in a new and improved building? Even when inmates get counseling and meds in jail, the majority of them leave with no long-term recovery plan or supervision on the outside, so guess where they end up.

(By the way, you can chat with Steve Lopez live today, July 18th, at 9:00a.m. about his tour of Twin Towers.)


STATE ADVOCATES PUSH FOR INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT OF FACILITIES FOR DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED

Advocates for the developmentally disabled rallied Wednesday at the capitol requesting Gov. Brown declare a state of emergency within California’s care facilities for the developmentally disabled. He is urged to appoint an Czar to provide independent oversight after a report was released last week revealing deficiencies in investigations of patient abuse, among other issues.

AP’s Laura Olson has the story. Here’s a small clip:

Advocates for Californians with developmental disabilities are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint an independent official to improve safety at state-run care facilities.

Dozens gathered at the state capitol Wednesday urging the governor to shut down four residential centers run by the Department of Development Services. In a letter delivered to the governor’s office, advocates say a new safety official is needed to ensure residents are safe from abuse.


LA POLICE UNION SAYS WORKPLACE MEDIATION PROGRAM IS A GREAT IDEA

The Los Angeles Police Protective League—the LAPD’s union—has thrown their support behind a mediation program recommended in a recent audit from the LAPD Inspector General. The program was devised by the LAPD, city attorneys and LAPPL officials to address workplace conflict at the source and reduce the excessive amount of money flowing out of the department due to officer lawsuits, but it has yet to be implemented. (Let’s hope that it happens soon, and maybe the LASD will follow suit.)

Here’s a clip from the LAPPL’s announcement:

We urge the Police Commission to act swiftly to give final approval to the program called for in the Inspector General’s audit that would utilize independent lawyers with expertise in employment litigation to serve as mediators chosen from a mutually agreeable panel. The mediators would be given authority to remedy workplace conflicts to both parties’ satisfaction.

Without such a system in place, many LAPD officers find themselves in untenable workplace situations where their only viable option is to file a civil case against the Department. They cannot simply file a personnel complaint against a supervisor because too often that leads to the officer being labeled a troublemaker when he/she goes through the internal review system. Far too many officers have seen the tables turned on them and become victims of the system, often leading to substantially increased civil payouts.

Posted in LA County Jail, LAPD, LAPPL, Mental Illness | 1 Comment »

DEVASTATING: 19 Firefighters Killed Sunday Night in AZ Wildfire…and Other News

July 1st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



As many of you may have heard by now, 19 firefighters were killed Sunday
night battling an out-of-control wildfire, located about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.

The 19 were members of a team of highly-trained wildland firefighters known as the Prescott Granite Mountain Hot Shots (pictured above), one of the elite Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHC) that are deployed as needed to major wildland fires throughout the nation.

The deaths of the Prescott hot shots is the second worst such incident in U.S. history, and the worst firefighting loss of life since 1933.

When firefighters or police officers are killed, it tears a particular kind of hole in the community—both locally and in the larger community. Thus, while WLA doesn’t genrally report on wildfires, in this case….attention must be paid.

Here is what LAPD Chief Charlie Beck tweeted at around 10 pm Sunday night:

Feeling incredible shock and grief over the deaths of the 19 firefighters killed in Yarnell,Az wildfires. Please pray 4 their families.CB

Yes.



AND IN OTHER NEWS…

OFFICER LAWSUITS AGAINST THE DEPARTMENT DEMONSTRATE NEED FOR CHANGES AND REFORMS SAYS LAPD’S INSPECTOR GENERAL

The LAPD’s Inspector General, Alex Bustamante, issued a sharply-worded report that critiqued the department’s failure to institute reforms to reduce the number of officers suing department—and collecting big $$ payouts—as a result of various claims of ill-treatment at the hands of the LAPD.

Here’s a small snip from the LA Times’ Joel Rubin’s story on the matter:


Alex Bustamante, the inspector general, calculated that the city has paid $31 million over the last five years to resolve employment-related cases in which members of the LAPD contended they were victims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation or other misconduct. That was almost one-third of the $110 million paid in all LAPD lawsuits, including those involving allegations of excessive force and traffic accidents, the report found.

In a set of recommendations, Bustamante called on the department to implement a mediation program devised by the LAPD, city attorneys and officials from the union representing rank-and-file police officers.

The Los Angeles Police Comission will discuss Bustamante’s report on Tuesday.

And while we’re on the topic, it would be good to know what percentage of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department payouts are to settle with department members.

It should also be noted that, in his report, Bustamante said that, in the last 5 years, the LAPD has paid out $110 million in lawsuits, 31 million of which is cops suing the department.

The Sheriff’s department has, by contrast, paid out over $100 million-in three years.

So how much of that 100 million plus is paid to settle with LASD department members who are suing their department?

Has anyone called for reforms to help cut those numbers down?


SUPREME COURT JUSTICE KENNEDY TOSSES OUT PETITION TO STOP GAY MARRIAGES.

On Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy turned down requests from Prop. 8 supporters to put a stop to gay marriages in California until they could appeal to SCOTUS to rethink it’s ruling.

Kennedy said, Uh, no.

NPR’s Mark Memmott has the story. Here’s a clip:

On Thursday, the court (with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion), ruled 5-4 that the proponents who came forward to defend Prop 8 after it was struck down by a lower court did not have the proper standing to bring the case to the High Court. So, in effect, the lower court ruling was allowed to stand.

The ruling has brought hundreds of same-sex couples to courthouses and city halls across California. As we wrote Saturday, it’s “wedding weekend in San Francisco” and other places.

This weekend, Kennedy (to whom appeals of decisions from California are directed) was asked to put a stop to the weddings. Prop 8′s supporters, as our colleagues at KQED reported, argued that because they have 25 days in which to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling, the marriages should be on hold for at least that long.

Kennedy disagreed. So, the marriages can continue.


TRAVIS COUNTY, TX, EXPERIMENT COULD SET THE STAGE FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM ACROSS THE STATE

Travis County, Texas, (which includes Austin within its borders) has decided that it can do a better job in helping its law breaking kids turn their lives around, by making use of intensive therapy and other rehabilitative programs.

Brandi Grisson writing for the Texas Tribune has the story. Here’s a clip:

“…We will no longer commit kids to the state,” said Jeanne Meurer, a Travis County senior district judge. “We will take care of all of our kids.”

This year, legislators approved a law to allow the county to commit juvenile offenders to local detention facilities instead of sending them to large institutions operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. If the Travis County model is successful, it could set the stage for the next steps in reforming the juvenile justice system — sharply reducing the size of the agency and the number of detention centers.

“Travis County’s experience doing this will tell us what’s possible,” said Michele Deitch, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert on jail conditions.

Since Texas deals with many of the same complex youth populations in its facilities as does California, what Travis does should be worth watching.

Posted in Charlie Beck, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Fire, juvenile justice, LAPD, LAPPL, LASD, LGBT, Life in general, Supreme Court | 8 Comments »

OC Sheriff Faces Cancer Diagnosis, Riordan Pension Reform Nixed, and Green Dot Finalist for Major Fed Grant

November 27th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

OC SHERIFF HUTCHENS SAYS BREAST CANCER WON’T STOP HER

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens held a press conference Monday afternoon to publicly address her recent breast cancer diagnosis, and to say that she doesn’t intend to let her health affect her ability to perform her duties as sheriff. (We at WLA are sending wishes for Sheriff Hutchen’s full recovery.)

The OC Register’s Salvador Hernandez has the story. Here’s a clip:

“I will be fully engaged,” Hutchens said during a news conference Monday, accompanied by members of her command staff. “And I plan to run for a second term in 2014.”

Hutchens voice cracked as she described details of her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, but said she is intent in being involved in the day-to-day operations of the department.

“I think the best thing for this is to keep your normal schedule as much as possible and keep engaged,” she said.

A resident of Dana Point, Hutchens, 57, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer Nov. 9, about six months after a mammogram had shown no signs of a cyst. The discovery came as a surprise, she said, especially because there is no history of cancer in her family.

“I’m very optimistic about it,” she said. “I really believe it was caught early.”

Hutchens notified employees in the department in a memo Nov. 19, in anticipation that treatment could change her appearance, her schedule and raise questions about her health, she said.

But there will be no change to the department’s command.

“I’m going to be in charge,” she said. “If at any time I felt I could not carry on my duties, I would make other arrangements. That’s not going to be the case.”

By the way, there’s a video of Sheriff Hutchen’s news conference beneath the body of the story, so be sure to go over to the OC Register.


RIORDAN’s PENSION PLAN GOES UP IN FLAMES

It was announced Monday that former LA Mayor Richard Riordan would drop his controversial city employee pension reform, an intended ballot measure for the May 2013 election.

The LA Times’ David Zahniser and Kate Linthicum have the story. Here’s a clip:

Tyler Izen, president of the Police Protective League, said he was not surprised by the collapse of the signature drive backed by Riordan. Izen said the pension proposal, which had been planned for the May ballot, never received the proper financial analysis in the weeks before Riordan began his push to get 300,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.

“The plan proposed by Riordan to close the defined benefit pension system as a way of saving money was both simplistic and costly … for the taxpayers,” Izen said in a statement.

Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents civilian city workers, released a statement from sanitation worker Simboa Wright, who said Riordan and his allies had failed because L.A. voters value the work of city employees.

“City residents weren’t about to let a bunch of billionaires rewrite city policies,” Wright said. “As city workers have been saying for a long time, Riordan’s half-baked plan wasn’t thought out. It died because it was bad for city workers and the city they serve.”


GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOLS BEAT OUT LAUSD IN QUEST FOR FEDERAL EDUCATION GRANT

The Los Angeles charter group Green Dot Public Schools has advanced as a finalist for a $30 million Dept. of Education grant. LAUSD had also applied for the grant, but was unable to get the support of their teachers union—a requirement for school districts to be in the running.

It is a rather amazing turn of events that Green Dot has made the cut, in that the applications were primarily to have been open to full school districts. But evidently (and happily) Green Dot’s presentation was a strong one.

The LA Times’ Howard Blume has the story. Here’s a clip:

Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 18 charter schools, remains in the running for a “Race to the Top” grant, the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday. If successful, Green Dot could receive $30 million over a four-year period.

In the application process, districts were supposed to set out a plan to “personalize education for students and provide school leaders and teachers with key tools that support them to meet students’ needs,” according to the Education Department.

But the devil for L.A. Unified was in the details. Participation by the teachers union was required and United Teachers Los Angeles would not sign on, citing concerns that Race to the Top could commit the school system to long-term spending not covered by the grant. Union leaders in L.A. and elsewhere also were concerned such a grant could commit them to the use of student test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation.


KIDS ON SCHOOL DISCIPLINE: ZERO-TOLERANCE AND RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

The Fresno Bee and kNOw Youth Media partnered to produce a series of first-hand accounts of kids affected by “zero-tolerance” school policies, and alternately, kids who have benefited from restorative justice in the education system.

Here’s fourteen-year-old Jane Carretero’s story:

My name is Jane Carretero and I am 14 years old. Towards the beginning of my 8th grade school year at Fort Miller I started doing drugs, and my mom found out about it.

One day, she and I got into a huge fight and she found a bottle of marijuana in my backpack. It was a difficult choice for her to make, but she ended up calling the police. They ended up taking me in for that.

After three days at juvenile hall, it finally hit me. I remember falling on my knees and I started crying for my mom, and I was like, “Why did I have to mess up so badly?”

When I went back to school, I had fallen behind a lot. A lot of people thought that I snitched them out. Some people even thought that I had gotten pregnant, and a lot of girls wanted to fight me, because they thought I was saying things about them.

The teacher started yelling at everyone, and he turned to me. I said, “You’re yelling at us for no reason.” Then the teacher said, “Don’t talk back to me. I know kids like you. You’re messed up in life, and you’re going to mess up when you’re older, too. You’re going to go off to high school thinking you’re all cool and pretty like that, thinking you’re all hard. And you’re going to get beat up one day by a girl better than you,” he told me.

Posted in Education, Green Dot, LAPD, LAPPL, LAUSD | 1 Comment »

The Conservative War on Prisons, The LAPPL Challenges Riordan to a Debate….and Petraeus (Sure. Why not?)

November 14th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon



CONSERVATIVES GO TO WAR AGAINST PRISONS

In brilliant, must read article for Washington Monthly, reporters David Dagan and Steven M. Teles explain how “Right-wing operatives have decided that prisons are a lot like schools: hugely expensive, inefficient, and in need of root-and-branch reform.”

“Is this,” the authors ask, “how progress will happen in a hyper-polarized world?”

Well, perhaps so. Dagan and Teles do a good job of analyzing how government-drowning antitax activists like Grover Norquist are coming together with evangelicals and formerly tough-on-crime conservative advocates—and, in some cases, even (gasp) liberals—to take some solid steps in the direction of real criminal justice reform, with more potentially on the horizon.

Moreover, it is reform that liberal criminal justice advocates have been unable to accomplish on their own, nevermind that facts, common sense and a host of research was on their side.

Here’s how the story opens:

American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.

Now that crime and the fear of victimization are down, we might expect Republicans to take a victory lap, casting safer streets as a vindication of their hard line. Instead, more and more conservatives are clambering down from the prison ramparts. Take Newt Gingrich, who made a promise of more incarceration an item of his 1994 Contract with America. Seventeen years later, he had changed his tune. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich wrote in 2011. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”

None of Gingrich’s rivals in the vicious Republican presidential primary exploited these statements. If anything, his position is approaching party orthodoxy. The 2012 Republican platform declares, “Prisons should do more than punish; they should attempt to rehabilitate and institute proven prisoner reentry systems to reduce recidivism and future victimization.” What’s more, a rogue’s gallery of conservative crime warriors have joined Gingrich’s call for Americans to rethink their incarceration reflex. They include Ed Meese, Asa Hutchinson, William Bennett—even the now-infamous American Legislative Exchange Council. Most importantly, more than a dozen states have launched serious criminal justice reform efforts in recent years, with conservatives often in the lead.

Skeptics might conclude that conservatives are only rethinking criminal justice because lockups have become too expensive. But whether prison costs too much depends on what you think of incarceration’s benefits. Change is coming to criminal justice because an alliance of evangelicals and libertarians have put those benefits on trial. Discovering that the nation’s prison growth is morally objectionable by their own, conservative standards, they are beginning to attack it—and may succeed where liberals, working the issue on their own, have, so far, failed….

Read the rest.


LAPD UNION CHALLENGES DICK RIORDAN TO A DEBATE OVER HIS CONTROVERSIAL PENSION REFORM

Last month, former LA Mayor Richard Riordan proposed a ballot measure for the May 2013 election that would change the pension structure for all city employees, including police and firefighters. Without such reform, Riordan says, the city will soon face a cashflow nightmare.

As the LA Weekly’s Hillel Aron described it in his story on the topic:

The Riordan plan does three key things: forces people to contribute far more cash to their own retirement plans; places all future city hires — but not current employees — into a 401(k)-style system mimicking the private sector; and freezes automatic pension increases (now tied to salary increases) if the pension fund investments aren’t doing well.

Naturally the city’s labor unions are dead against the proposed measure, and they have some very valid points—which they fear are being drowned out by the former mayor’s appearances on local talk radio.

And so, on Tuesday afternoon, LAPPL president Tyler Izen challenged Riordan to a debate—-or rather a series of debates—on the pros and cons of the would-be ballot measure, which must have all its signatures gathered by December 7. Here’s a clip from the union’s statement:

“I am challenging Richard Riordan to three debates between now and December 7 because he has yet to offer any independent analysis that supports his wild claims. Riordan has chosen to hide behind carefully orchestrated radio talk show appearances where no challenging or insightful questions are asked, appearances before groups where he knows his ideas won’t be challenged, and well-crafted media releases that lack any pretense of substance,” said Izen.

We hope Riordan accepts.

Certainly some kind of pension reform is needed, but it must be the right plan, not merely something that Dick Riordan jams through because he can, and because it sounds good to a fed-up, and recession-worn public. (By the way, Joe Matthews writes for NBC “5 reasons” that Riordan’s plan won’t work.)


PETRAEUS SCANDAL ROUND UP – WLA STYLE:

Hey, we’re riveted too. So, with that in mind, three quickie stories you might not have seen yet:

1. FRIENDLY FIRE IN THE SPYING SECTOR

The New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe writes about what happens when the “Surveillance State takes friendly fire.

2. GOV’T REQUESTS FOR DATA GO UP, POST SCANDAL, SEZ GOOGLE

Over at Wired Magazine’s Threat Level blog, the Threatistas note that post-Petraeus scandal Google has released stats showing an uptick in government requests for data.

3. HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE INVOLVED

Back to the New Yorker again, Andy Borowitz helpfully explains how you can tell whether or not you are involved in the Petraeus scandal. (In case you’re concerned.) For instance, according to Borowitz, these are some questions that a CIA Public Information Officer recommends that you ask yourself:

“Have you ever met David Petraeus? Have you ever received and/or sent shirtless photos of an F.B.I. agent? Have you ever exchanged e-mails with Jill Kelley? Under five thousand pages of e-mails and you’re probably O.K., but anywhere between ten thousand and fifteen thousand pages of e-mails could potentially mean you’re involved in some way….”

Posted in LAFD, LAPD, LAPPL, prison policy, Propositions, Right on Crime | No Comments »

Youth Justice Round-up: Infographics, SF Juvies Reject Outdoor Exercise, Growing Up in Prison…and More

October 5th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

NEW TROUBLING JUVENILE JUSTICE INFOGRAPHIC

Despite recent juvenile justice victories—SB9, and the Supreme Court’s ruling against mandatory life-without-parole for juvies—there is still a long road ahead for youth advocates. Campaign for Youth Justice has created an excellent infographic illustrating the harsh reality of kids in the adult justice system.

The Chicago Bureau’s Lorraine Ma has the story. Here’s a clip:

Almost five years ago, Missourian Tracy McClard’s 17-year-old son, Jonathan, was tried, convicted and sentenced as an adult for a shooting that seriously wounded the victim. While incarcerated in an adult prison, Tracy McClard said, her son suffered from abuse, depression, and ultimately took his own life.

McClard, who said she believes all kids deserve a second chance, created the National Youth Justice Awareness month where non-profits, community organizations and families would gather to raise awareness about how youth are treated in the adult system.

In October – which McClard is hoping will turn into a nationally recognized month to assist juvenile offenders – there will be various events to mark the effort. There will be, among other things, service days, 5K walks and film screenings across 20 states in the country to generate support and, backers hope, give speed to recent gains made by juvenile advocates.

Just this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled it was not legal to sentence juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole in homicide cases. That built on earlier decisions where life without parole was ruled out in non-homicide cases and where death was taken off the books for all juveniles no matter the charge.

The rulings were widely seen as a nod to the notion that children’s minds are not developed to the extent that adults’ are, and that imposing some adult sanctions on youngsters, even in the most heinous of cases, was cruel punishment.


MAJORITY OF KIDS IN SF JUVIE SYSTEM AVOID OUTDOOR EXERCISE

Surprisingly two-thirds of kids in San Francisco’s Juvenile Justice Center don’t enjoy spending time exercising outdoors according to an anonymous survey conducted by the SF Youth Commission, although an hour per day is the state minimum. Advocates were perplexed and concerned by the results, which they suggested may point to a larger problem of depression and other emotional issues.

The Bay Citizen’s Trey Bundy has the story. Here’s a clip:

Of the survey’s 53 respondents, only 10 said they participated in outdoor exercise every day. When they did participate, nearly a third reported spending less than an hour outside.

The survey comes after months of debate between the San Francisco Youth Commission – which conducted the poll – and the Department of Juvenile Probation over whether detainees get enough fresh air, sunlight and exercise to satisfy state regulations. By law, detainees are entitled to one hour of outdoor “large-muscle” exercise each day.

“It’s pretty clear that young people are not getting their hour a day outdoors,” said commission director Mario Yedidia after reviewing the survey results. “The culture of the institution seems like it’s not really encouraging of outdoor exercise.

Despite the survey’s findings, Chief of Juvenile Probation William Siffermann has insisted for months that the hall is in compliance with all state regulations. “Some kids don’t want to go outside,” he said at one point, “and I can’t force them out there.”

[SNIP]

Youth commissioners said that the lack of interest in outdoor recreation indicated in the new survey results took them by surprise.

“The results were not what we were expecting, but they speak to the gravity of the situation,” said Paul Monge-Rodriguez, a 23-year-old youth commissioner. “Kids at this age should want nothing more than to go outside and engage with their peers.”

The results demonstrated the hall’s need for more recreational programs, he added.

“There’s a limited number of recreational activities to fulfill the state’s large-muscle exercise requirements,” he said. “The survey shows there’s a lot of basketball, but it’s like being offered the same one meal every day, and people get sick of the lack of variety and lose interest.”


COMING OF AGE…BEHIND BARS

Richman Em was sentenced to 50-years-to-life at age 15 after a fellow gang member shot a man during a car theft. Now Em is 21, and at the request of Youth Radio, has written a letter about the direction his life has taken, and what it has been like to grow up behind bars.

Youth Radio has Em’s story. Here’s a clip:

Richman Em was 15 years old when he was sentenced to 50 years-to-life in prison. According to testimony during his trial, Em’s friends decided to steal a car at a carwash while Em stopped in to use the bathroom. When Em returned and his friends told him of the plan, he allegedly responded, “It’s on you if you want to do it.” But he was wrong — because Em was in a gang whose members were about to commit a violent felony, what happened next affected him too.

Em watched as his friends approached the driver of the car, demanded keys and money, then shot. Em didn’t fire a bullet, but he was still convicted of “felony murder,” a legal provision that in California means a person can be charged with first-degree murder even when the act itself is committed by an accomplice.

Today Em is 21 and housed at the California State Prison in Corcoran. Youth Radio reached out to him as part of our coverage of the national legal battle over long juvenile sentences.

Here’s a clip from Richman Em’s response:

The neighborhood I resided in and the school I was attending in the 9th grade was fraught with gang activities and slight racism. I was oppressed by Hispanic kids often based on my ethnicity. Because Asian and Hispanic gangs were rivals. So I began to acquaint with people who I felt had my best interest at heart. But then so much came with that and I began to feel stuck and obligated. My world would begin its downward spiral from there.

Hanging with these people, later on they would forcefully urge me to be a part of them. I would later down the line find out I had a son on the way. So I switched schools and stop going around my current peers, but they would catch up with me and told me if I stoped (sic) coming around, then it was going to be “onsight” with me. Meaning physical altercation every time I crossed paths with them. So I gradually went back. So my mom had a plan to ship me off out of state with relatives, but it became too late.

The memories that stick out to me as a teen (are) being a kid lost of his true identity. Not knowing anyone to confide in, who’ll understand the impasse I was in. Always having to look over my back walking home from school. (They) stick out to me because they (were in) a period in my life being a kid and fearing the future. It was (an) everyday internal struggle.

My feeling at the time of the robbery was a combination of fear, powerless, and disbelief. It wasn’t something I consented to, or anticipated. So when it occurred a shocking fear ran through my body.

[SNIP]

Also I want people to know that we are more capable of change (than) what people think. So “to life” imparted to a kid is a heartwrenching dilemma. Being separated from family, and a life of normalcy forever. That hardship really changes a person. It’s not a slap on the wrist, our reality become(s) one with these concrete (walls) and to feel that “this is it,” “this is my whole life,” I only lived 15 yrs. (B)asically, it’s an indescribable pain.


UNLIKELY OPPONENTS OF PROP 34

And having nothing to do with youth justice, The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL, the LAPD union), which is against Prop 34, has found a quirky well of fellow opponents among certain death row inmates. The prisoners’ reasoning is that if Prop 34 passes and the death penalty disappears, those condemned to death would lose access to guaranteed state-funded habeas corpus lawyers.

The LAPPL blog has the rest. Here’s a clip:

Now an attorney who has represented a number of death row inmates explains in a San Francisco Chronicle story how convoluted legal procedures surrounding capital punishment in California have caused most of the death row inmates to oppose Prop. 34 as well.

A recent survey by the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley found that 42 percent of likely voters would repeal the death penalty while 45 percent would retain death as a punishment. Thirteen percent of likely voters are still undecided, giving interest groups on both sides of the measure incentive to press their cases through Election Day.

If Prop. 34 were to pass – and it is our fervent desire that it not – current death row inmates would have their sentences reduced to life. In the process, they would lose access to state-funded lawyers for habeas corpus. Habeas corpus allows inmates to challenge their convictions or sentence for reasons outside the trial record – typically, incompetent legal representation, misconduct by a judge or juror, or newly discovered evidence.

Therein lies the reason some death row inmates are urging would vote against Prop. 34 – had they not lost the right to vote when they were convicted.


Impressive infographic courtesy of Campaign for Youth Justice’s Jason Killinger.

Posted in Death Penalty, juvenile justice, LAPPL | No Comments »

The LAPD Union Reads WLA & Changes its Tune on SB9—At Least a Little

August 23rd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


No. The LAPPL leadership isn’t suddenly clasping SB 9—the Juvie LWOP reform bill
—warmly to its collective bosom.

But, in response to our post yesterday, it has removed the biggest errors from its pitch to members and others, to contact Governor Jerry Brown and urge him to veto the legislation in question.

We appreciate the union’s willingness to make the correction and to do it so quickly.

IN CASE YOU’RE UNAWARE OF THE KERFUFFLE, TO RECAP:

Tuesday night, the union sent around an email to its members and friends hectoring them to urge Jerry to veto SB 9, the bill that would give some people sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed when they were teenagers, at least the slim possibility of one day getting to leave prison before they die.

Inmates who had committed certain kinds of particularly horrific murders—those involving torture or the killing of a peace officer, firefighter or public official—would be excluded from even the possibility of eventual parole, no matter how remorseful and rehabilitated the inmate, or how steller his or her behavior in prison over the decades.

However, when the LAPPL powers-that-be sent out their initial pitch against the bill on Tuesday night, their big selling point was the notion that SB 9 would result in the release of cop killers. They even detailed the particularly vicious shooting of a detective by someone they insisted that SB 9 would set free.

Of course, the bill allows for no such thing. If anything, it strengthens the certainty that no kid killers of police officers will ever be released for any reason.

WitnessLA called them out on this (and some of their other statements) in a story Wednesday morning.

We felt the issue was important. On one hand, we didn’t think Jerry would veto the bill. But we do know he is very mindful of his relationships with the state’s public safety unions. Thus we would hate to have had him get a flood of anti-SB 9 emails—based on a lie.

And so we were heartened when, on Wednesday mid-morning we heard that, having read our story (and likely noted that LA Observed and others linked to it), the LAPPL got upset at the news of its mistakes.

As a consequence, we heard, there was a flurry of unhappy phone calls, et al, in and around the union’s offices. Finally it was decided; they’d remove the statements in question from their online pitch.

There is some overheated prose remaining, plus some arguable inaccuracies here and there. And the union still opposes the bill.

But they are now doing so far more honestly.

And that’s always a good thing.


Photo of Sutter Brown courtesy of Sutter Brown

Posted in juvenile justice, LAPD, LAPPL, LWOP Kids | 2 Comments »

LAPD Union Uses False Claims to Urge Brown Not to Sign the Juvie LWOP Bill

August 22nd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


On Tuesday evening the LAPPL—the LAPD’s Union
—sent around a falsehood-ridden statement urging its more than 9,900 members to contact Governor Jerry Brown and ask him to veto the recently passed SB 9, the bill that, if enacted into law, will mean that some of those who were given life sentences without the possibility of parole when they were juveniles as young as 14-years-old, will now be able to eventually apply to have a court review their sentences, which may or may not result in the possibility of one day being paroled.

In other words, the union didn’t just oppose the legislation in their message (a stance with which we would vehemently disagree, but could at least understand), they lied shamelessly about why their members ought to actively try to get the governor to veto it.

The biggest and baddest lie is trumpeted in the sample letter the union proposed that LAPD members send to Brown where they wrote that, if the bill was signed into law, dangerous cop killers could be let out.

This bill will allow murderers (juveniles at the time they committed their crimes and sentenced to life without parole) who killed police officers to ask the court for a resentence.

In their cheerleading message that went out Tuesday night, the LAPPL even went even further and named a specific inmate who had murdered a police officer as a potential parolee under the bill:

People like Jimmy Siackasorn, a dangerous felon who was sentenced to life in prison for the 2007 murder of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Detective Vu Nguyen

The above would naturally concern cops and their families—if it were in any way true.

But it isn’t. Not a word of it.

SB 9 specifically excludes anyone who either tortured their victims or killed a peace officer or a firefighter. Those people stay locked up. Period. Full stop. No exceptions.

But why bother with pesky facts when inflammatory exaggerations and outright falsities work so much better?

(You can read the wording for yourself in the most recently amended version of the bill here.)

LAPPL’s letter to its members also says:

All of these criminals were convicted of first-degree murder, or multiple murders, with special circumstances.

No, that isn’t true either.

As Human Rights Watch has pointed out, approximately 45 percent of youth offenders serving life without parole were convicted of murder but were not the ones to actually commit the murder. Yet kids can be convicted and sentenced to life-without-parole under California’s felony murder statute, which holds someone responsible for a murder that occurs as part of a felony, even the kid didn’t plan or expect a murder to occur.

That means that the tragically foolish fifteen-year-old who stayed in the car while a 21-year-old homeboy jumped out and ran down the street and shot someone, can go away for life too.

Nationally, 59 percent of juveniles sentenced to life without parole are first-time offenders—without a single crime on a juvenile court record.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

This is so very wearisome and infuriating.

Here’s what Byron Williams of the Oakland Tribune wrote about SB 9 last summer, after it had been once again defeated by exactly this kind of fear-mongering and illogic.

Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was hardly an apologist for heinous crimes committed by youth. It merely would have given offenders sentenced as minors to life without parole a chance to request a parole hearing.

Beyond the cacophony, fear and emotion that drive so much of the state’s reactionary public policy, SB9 would have returned a small measure of sanity to the corrections system.

Supported by child advocates, mental-health professionals and civil-rights groups, the legislation would have provided an opportunity, after many years of incarceration, for review and resentencing for youths sentenced to life without parole.

It called for specific criteria and an intense, three-part review process that would result in the possibility of a lesser sentence for those offenders who have matured and proven themselves to have changed.

Moreover, it would have curbed the alarming trend of the state locking up minors and throwing away the key.

California is second only to Pennsylvania as the state with the most youth serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.

The governor’s a very, very smart guy. Let us just hope that he doesn’t fall for the union’s mendacious attempt to bully him into rejecting a law that is composed out of decency and common sense.

If he capitulates to the LAPPL’s irrational wishes—which benefit exactly nobody, not cops, and not public safety—our collective decency will be diminished.

Posted in juvenile justice, LAPD, LAPPL, LWOP Kids, Sentencing | No Comments »

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