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3 Police Officers Shot Dead in Baton Rouge, 3 Injured, 1 Suspect Dead – UPDATED

July 17th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


SHOOTING IN BATON ROUGE: WHAT WE KNOW:

*Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers are dead, three more are injured.

The single shooter has been identified as Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri. Originally, police believed there might be three shooters. But, as in Dallas, it was a single gunman. Long, 29, who was wearing body armor and carrying a rifle, killed three officers and wounded three others before he was shot and killed by police.

*Shooting took place at approximately 8:30 a.m. Sunday, at a B-Quick convenience store in Baton Rouge, LA, near police headquarters.

*Two of the dead are Baton Rouge police officers, one is an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy

*The names of the three officers killed are reported to be Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola.

The death of Jackson, who is black, was confirmed by his aunt earlier. “Today is not going too well,” she said.

*The incident comes less than two weeks after the shooting death of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers on July 5, sparking both local and national protests.

*On July 13, Alton Sterling’s 15-year old son pleaded for peace, begging the public to come together “as one united family,” with “no violence whatsoever.

*Sterling was buried on Friday, with no protests.


THREE GOOD MEN

Officer Montreal Jackson had been working long hours during the protests after Alton Sterling’s death. After one of his shifts, he expressed some of his feelings on Facebook.

“I’ve experienced so much in my short life and the past 3 days have tested me to the core,” he wrote. “I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

Jackson, who was on the force for a decade, was married with a four-month-old baby boy, still wrote with hope.

“Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer I got you.”

According to the Advocate Deputy Brad Garafola, 45,of the Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s department, was “working extra duty” at the B-Quik convenience store, his last shift before a vacation. His shift ended at 8 a.m., and his wife went to meet him. But she “ran into a sea of police cars.” Like the other two, Garafola leaves kids to whom he was devoted, a 21-year-old son who lives in Texas, a 15-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

Matthew Gerald, was former Marine who had joined the Baton Rouge PD a year ago. He is survived by a wife, a special ed teacher, and two children. Gerald was a former Black Hawk Crew Chief during his time in the Marines.

Of the three officers injured, one remains critical as of this writing.

Posted in law enforcement | 5 Comments »

Report by San Francisco’s Blue Ribbon Panel Finds SFPD is Controlled by Police Union That Obstructs Reform

July 15th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


A book-length report released on Monday by a special blue ribbon panel found that the San Francisco Police Department
was virtually run by its police union, resisted efforts by the panel to gather data, and contained a culture that actively threatened whistleblowers who attempted to flag wrong doing.

Officials at the union in question, the San Francisco Police Officers Association or POA, were not at all pleased by the report, and promptly launched an attack on San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who originally triggered the report’s existence.

Specifically, in May 2015, Gascón caused the creation of the “Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement,” after it came to light that fourteen members of the the San Francisco’s police department had exchanged a series of loathsome racist and homophobic text messages.

Although he now serves as district attorney, Gascón is very familiar with the challenges of policing. Prior to assuming the job as SF DA, he was the chief of the SFPD. And, before being appointed as San Francisco’s top cop, Gascón was hired to reform the then-troubled Mesa, Arizona, police department. Previous to Mesa, Gascón spent more than 20 years at the Los Angeles Police Department, where he last served as First Assistant Chief under Bill Bratton, which meant he ran the patrol side of the LAPD on a day to day basis during the period when that department was laboring under a federal consent decree and was still reeling from Rampart and related scandals.

He is also an attorney, and was the first cop in the nation to move laterally into the job of DA.

When Gascón created the Blue Ribbon Panel, as its website explains, the panel was specifically tasked with answering the questions raised by SF’s texting scandal—namely: Was the racial and homophobic bias demonstrated by the offensive texts a reflection of institutionalized bias within the SFPD and, if so, to what extent?

Once it was created the panel also took on two related goals:

First, the three judges who made up the panel were asked to review almost 4,000 police reports authored by the texting scandal cops to determine whether their bias affected their policing.

(According to the Blue Ribbon Panel’s website, this review is ongoing and is expected to be completed by fall 2016.)

And second, the panel’s law firm working groups were tasked with examining the extent to which bias was institutionalized within the SFPD’s policies and practices in general, and to “recommend solutions to address any bias or threat of bias they discovered.”

The results of this broader inquiry were released in a 239-page final report form on Monday. The release comes at a time when the city is still looking for a new chief of police and, as has been true elsewhere in the nation, public concern over officer shootings has grown increasingly heated.

(The report was released in an earlier, unfinished version this spring.)

The lenthy final report (which you can find here) includes 72 findings and 81 recommendations. It is critical of a number of department policies and, as mentioned earlier, points to the department’s union, the POA, as virtually running the department, and standing in the way of substantive reform.

“They are setting the tone in the department,” said one panel member, former Santa Clara County Judge, LaDoris Cordell.

And, while the panel members and the legal teams found evidence of bias, they also said they that the department’s lack of transparency, code of silence, and failure to keep reliable data made it impossible to do an accurate analysis of many of the issues they were mandated to explore.

The report also features many constructive recommendations, and makes a point of praising the fine and dedicated officers that make up the majority of the department.

Immediately after the report’s release, the POA president Martin Halloran, who had objected to the panel’s formation, denounced it and it’s report as a “Kangaroo Court,” set up by a DA with a bias against police, then equated the report’s release with the murder of police officers in Dallas:

“On Thursday, a sniper in Dallas took aim at police officers and murdered five in cold blood,” Halloran said in a written statement. “Today, George Gascón is taking aim at police officers in San Francisco with half-truths and distortions.”

The report is scheduled to be forwarded to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is conducting a review of the SFPD’s policies.

For more on the report and its findings, Alex Emslie at KQED has a good story that is worth your time.


POST SCRIPT: An interesting side note on the panel and the report is the fact that, one of the panel’s three judges is Dickran Tevrizian, a retired U.S. District Court Judge, who was also one of the seven members of LA’s Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, which delved into problems of inmate abuse by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies.)

Posted in law enforcement | 1 Comment »

Conversations After Dallas

July 12th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


DALLAS POLICE CHIEF DAVID BROWN SAYS WE ARE ASKING TOO MUCH OF OUR POLICE OFFICERS

David Brown, the Dallas police chief—with his painful past of three family members killed by violence, including a son—is the beating heart at the center of the public discussion. At least for the moment. And he’s wearing that mantle well, and humanely, even if with increasing fatigue.

On Monday, Brown confirmed that he and his family getting death threats following Thursday’s shooting.

He also said in a Monday press conference that the public expects too much of law enforcement. “We want to be superman and superwomen and we’re not. We don’t like to ask for help…. But that’s the number one thing we need…”

Washington Post reporters Brady Dennis, Mark Berman and Elahe Izadi have more on the story.

Here’s a clip:

DALLAS — The police chief here said Monday he feels that law enforcement officers across the country are being asked to take on too much, comments that came as his department was still investigating the mass shooting of Dallas police officers last week and protesters in other cities continued demonstrations against how officers use force.

Even as the Dallas police worked to sift through massive amounts of evidence from the shooting rampage that killed five officers — an effort that entails watching hundreds of hours of videos and conducting scores of interviews — David Brown, the Dallas police chief, said he believes officers in his city and nationwide are under too much strain.

“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said at a briefing Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

During his remarks Monday, Brown also offered a hint of the toll that overseeing the response to such a shooting was taking on him. Brown, who has lived through traumas including his son’s death following the young man’s fatal shooting of an officer, said he was “running on fumes.” The chief also said he and his family “received death threats almost immediately after the shooting.”

“We’re all on edge,” Brown said of police in Dallas. “And we’re being very careful.”

Brown said Monday that in addition to the five officers who were killed, nine others were injured due to the gunfire — two more than police had said before. A total of 13 officers used force against the gunman, Brown said, with 11 of them firing their guns and two of them using the explosive that killed the attacker.


LA RESIDENTS TALK ABOUT DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS HAD WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY ABOUT LAST WEEK’S SHOOTINGS—IN BATON ROUGE, ST. PAUL AND DALLAS

KPCC’s Larry Mantle decided not to have a guest on for his last segment on Monday so he could ask listeners to call in and talk about the conversations they’d been having about the complex and painful events of the past week.

It’s an interesting cross section of experiences and opinions. You can listen here.


THE FACT THAT CHIEF DAVID BROWN AND THE DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT WERE DOING SO MUCH RIGHT, INCREASES THE SORROW OVER THE ACTS OF A DISTURBED MASS MURDERER

Much has been written about the successful reform that Dallas Police Chief David Brown had been instituting in the last six years, but we like this version by the Washington Post’s Radley Balko. (We usually like Radley Balko.) Here’s a clip:

As I pointed out in today’s morning links, one particularly unfortunate aspect of the murder of five Dallas police officers Thursday night is that the city’s police department is a national model for community policing. Chief David Brown, who took office in 2010, has implemented a host of policies to improve the department’s relationship with the people it serves, often sticking out his own neck and reputation in the process. At risk of stating the obvious, no sane person would argue that these murders would have been okay if they had occurred in a city with a less community-oriented police department. Nor am I suggesting that the killer or killers represent any legitimate faction of the police reform or racial justice movements. But because Dallas is grieving right now, and the rest of us with it, it’s worth pointing out that in its police department, the city has much for which to be proud. Here are some of the areas where Brown and his administration have made changes:

Use of force

After a series of officer-involved shootings in late 2013, Brown overhauled the department’s lethal-force policies, including a requirement that officers undergo training every two months instead of every two years. The new policies won him a lot of public criticism from police groups and police advocates. He was even criticized by the Dallas Morning News, which accused him of being “reactive” and “moving too quickly.” Brown significantly expanded the data the department gathers on shootings by police, and has set up a team to regularly review that data to identify trends and potential problems. The Dallas PD’s lethal-force policy includes a statement that “protection of human life” is the agency’s primary goal, emphasizes that deadly force should be used with “great restraint,” only “as a last resort,” and requires officers to use all reasonable alternatives before resorting to lethal means. After an incident in which Dallas officers shot and killed a schizophrenic man, the department teamed with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to provide better training for intervening when someone is having a mental health crisis. Moreover, all of the data on the city’s officer-involved shootings is not only available to the public, there’s also a prominent link to the data on the department’s homepage. Brown also seems to understand the important distinction between the cop as warrior and the cop as guardian. And his top aides also seem to understand that when it comes to the harms caused by police militarization, imagery is as important as the gear and how it’s used.

Has it worked? It would appear so. After hitting a high in 2012, officer-involved shootings in the city dropped in each ensuing year. I don’t completely agree with everything Brown has done. In 2013, for example, Brown quietly introduced a policy that allows police officers to wait 72 hours before answering questions about a shooting. I find the research suggesting that a wait time improves an officer’s memory to be lacking. And I’ve seen too many incidents of cops corroborating on a narrative to believe that isn’t how such a wait time would primarily be utilized. But that’s one issue. On the whole, Brown’s record demonstrates that he takes officer-involved shootings very seriously and is implementing policies designed to reduce them — and at times has taken quite a bit of heat for it.

Accountability

Brown has fired more than 70 Dallas cops since taking office. But he doesn’t just fire bad cops, he also announces the firings — and the reasons for them — on social media…..


DALLAS TRAUMA SURGEON TALKS ABOUT HIS ANGUISH OVER NOT BEING TO SAVE SOME OF THE OFFICERS HE TREATED, ALONG WITH HIS PAIN AS A BLACK MAN

Dr. Brian H. Williams, trauma surgeon at Parkland Memorial Hospital, who was one of the primary doctors who treated the 12 officers shot by Micah Johnson in Dallas talked on Monday to press about his anguish at being unable to save some of the officers he treated, and the complex emotions he has experienced as a black man about such shootings as those seen recently in Baton Rouge and St. Paul.


A BLACK FORMER POLICE CHIEF TALKS ABOUT DALLAS, & MORE

The Atlantic’s Juleyka Lantigua-Williams interviews retired police chief Donald Grady II who, in his 36 years on the force, served as chief in Santa Fe, New Mexico, among other cities, and trained police forces abroad in managing racial and ethnic strife among the ranks and with civilians.

Here’s a snippet of what Grady talked about:

….rather than talk about things reasonably, logically, we have the police ratcheting up the rhetoric and we’ve got members of the community ratcheting up the rhetoric and that doesn’t resolve any issues at all. It bothers me any time we lose a citizen or we lose a police officer. We have to recognize that police officers are citizens too…”


THE NON-COP MOM VICTIM SHEILDED HER SONS FROM SHOOTER’S BULLETS IN DALLAS, THEN COPS CAME TO SHIELD HER

The LA Times’ Molly Hennessy Fisk has a portrait of one of the two civilian victims of the devastating mass shooting in Dallas. Shetamia Taylor and her sons told about their experiences at a press conference on Sunday, July 10, describing to reporters what happened the night when a gunman killed five police officers and wounded ten others including Taylor.

Here’s a clip:

When the shooting started at the Black Lives Matter protest here last week, Shetamia Taylor shouted at her four sons to run.

“They started running up the block and I was running behind them and I felt the bullet,” she said Sunday.

Taylor, 38, had been shot from behind, in her right calf. Still standing, she looked to a police officer ahead of her, a heavyset, balding white man.

Then he was shot, too.

“I saw him go down. When he got hit, he slumped over and he said ‘He has a gun, run!’ ” she said, recounting the incident from her wheelchair at Baylor Medical Center. She began to sob, covering her face.

It would take hours for Taylor to learn the fate of her sons – ages 12, 14, 15 and 18 – and of the dozen officers shot, five of them fatally, by 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson.

[SNIP]

She tried to raise her sons right, instructing them to treat police with respect, but also to call home if they were ever stopped. Taylor admired police but was increasingly disturbed by the growing tally of police shootings involving black men, and feared for her boys. It had been her idea to go to the protest, the family’s first, which she saw announced on Facebook.

After she was shot, Taylor managed to grab her 15-year-old son, Andrew Humphrey, and push him between a car and the curb, shielding him with her body.

“I was just laying on top of him,” she said. “If it was going to happen to one of my sons, it was going to happen to me first.”

She watched police stream up the block toward them — and the shooting. One of them shouted, “Is anybody hit?’”

Andrew yelled no, unaware that his mother was injured.

Taylor didn’t want to alarm him, and called out quietly to one of the officers, “Yes, sir, I’m hit in my leg!”

Police rushed over, most of them white officers, and jumped on top of Taylor and her son. “There was another one at our feet and another one over our head and several of them lying against a wall. And they just stayed there with us,” she said. “I had never seen anything like that before, the way they came around us and guarded us like that.”

Andrew was crying for police to move them, but they said it wasn’t safe.

As they lay on the concrete, pinned down by gunfire, Taylor saw another police officer get struck. She still doesn’t know if the two officers who were shot in front of her lived through the night.

“It was hundreds of rounds,” she said, “shots all around us.”


RAPPER RAISES $50K FOR LITTLE ROCK POLICE OFFICER

The whole thing began when rapper the Game and his oldest son, Harlan, were talking about what made a good cop in their estimation. After the conversation, Harlem began poking around on the web looking for unsung officers who he felt were engaged in the kind of excellent everyday policing they’d been talking about. Of the men and women in blue he found, he was particularly impressed with Little Rock police officer Tommy Norman, a white cop serving a predominantly black community in the Arkansas city.

On his web page, Norman wrote the that the following was his Mission:

“If you can just take two minutes out of the day to go out and make a difference, whether checking on your neighbor if they’re elderly, cutting someone’s grass, or hold the door for someone. It’s really just act of kindness and I think acts of kindness coming from a police officer means that much more to people because that’s not something you’re used to seeing.”

Now, the Game and Harlem are raising $50,000 for Norman through a GoFundMe campaign.

According to Rolling Stone’s Daniel Kreps whose story . called attention to Game and Harlem’s efforts in officer Norman’s behalf, the “money raised by the GoFundMe will help Norman better contribute to the community he polices, including ‘purchasing and delivering items such as snacks, drinks, and toys for him to keep his trunk stocked for the kids.’”

The Game launched the fundraising effort after he and Snoop Dog and others led a peaceful march to the LAPD headquarters on Friday, and then joined Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti for a press conference.

Posted in Civil Rights, law enforcement | 29 Comments »

Tragedy in Dallas: Five Dallas Police Officers Dead, Seven Others Wounded in Shooting at Protest

July 7th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



UPDATE: THE LONER WHO CAUSED SUCH DAMAGE

Although originally, officials—and observers-–believed there were as many as four shooters lethally targeting police officers, it appears that all the damage and heartache of Thursday night in Dallas was caused by one disturbed, angry and very well-armed person.

The New York Times has more.



CHAOS AND DEATH

At an otherwise peaceful protest in downtown Dallas Thursday night, following two controversial police involved shootings—in St. Paul, Minnesota and in Baton Rouge, LA—an estimated two snipers and two additional shooters, one known to be on the ground, suddenly opened fire at police at around 9 p.m., Dallas time.

Five Dallas police officers were killed and seven others wounded in a ghastly attempt to target police specifically. Among the dead officers were four members of the Dallas Police Department and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said that suspects were working together to kill as many officers as possible, with two snipers firing from elevated positions.

Yet another suspect or suspects were confirmed to be working on the ground. One Dallas man saw a suspect dressed in body armor shoot an officer at point blank range. The frightened bystander recorded the shooting on video.


THREE SUSPECTS IN CUSTODY, ONE DEAD

Three suspects are in custody as of Friday morning, and a fourth, who had exchanged gunfire and words with police from inside the parking garage of a downtown building, is now dead. The dead man is believed to be the shooter captured on video reportedly killing a police officer.

Although the captured suspects, which reportedly include one woman, have been uncommunicative, Chief Brown said that the attacker cornered in the standoff told authorities “he was upset about the recent police shootings” and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

The cornered suspect, was blown up by a bomb robot sent in by police. He did not kill himself as had been earlier reported, according to Chief Brown.


DEAD SHOOTER IDENTIFIED US ARMY RESERVIST MICAH XAVIER JOHNSON

The LA Times has identified the Dallas shooter who was killed in a standoff with police as Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, a former Army reservist with no criminal record. Johnson lives near to Dallas, with relatives in Mesquite, Texas, authorities told the Times.

He has no known ties to extremist groups, or the like.

The U.S. Army has confirmed to several publications that Johnson served in the Army Reserves from March 2009 to April 2015, and received several awards after a tour of Afghanistan, from November 2013 to July 2014. His military occupational specialty was carpentry and masonry.

Two civilians, one man and one woman, were also injured in the course of Thursday night’s devastating shooting attack.

Later on Friday morning Chief Brown confirmed that Micah Johnson was the dead gunman.


FORMERLY THE MOST HATED MAN IN AMERICA

On Thursday night, the brother of an individual whose photo had been widely distributed as a “person of interest,” came forward to say that his brother did indeed have a rifle when he was marching, “exercising his second amendment rights,” but that the gun was not loaded. When the firing began, Mark Hughes gave his gun to a police officer, said Corey Hughes of his brother, to avoid giving “the wrong impression.” Mark Hughes, the missing brother, turned himself in around 9:30 PST on Thursday night, once he realized his face was plastered all over the media.

Mark Hughes and his brother Cory say they are now getting death threats. “We came for a peaceful protest, and we were helping police direct traffic” once the shooting started, said Cory Hughes. “And my brother was named as an armed ‘suspect,’ not a person of interest, but a suspect. I know everyone is hurting because of the dead police officers. But we don’t feel safe.”

Cory Hughes says he worries because the announcement naming his brother as a suspect was so widely distributed, yet there was no announcement clearing him. “My brother’s photo was plastered all over the world. for a while, he was the most hated man in America. There are extremists out there. We don’t know what they’re going to do.”


HEARTBROKEN

President Obama, who was out of the country at a NATO summit meeting in Warsaw, Poland, called the attack “vicious, calculated and despicable.”

“I believe I speak for every single American when I say we are horrified over these events,” said the president.

“Justice will be done,” Obama promised.

“We’re hurting,” said Dallas police chief Brown, in a press conference Friday morning. “Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heartbroken.”


NOTE ONE: In light of this news, we are delaying publication of our other planned stories. Those delayed stories will appear later Friday or, most likely, Monday morning.

NOTE TWO: This story has been updated multiple times, and continues to be updated

Posted in law enforcement | 34 Comments »

The Oakland PD Sex Scandal Gets Even Weirder…and LA Foster Kids Housed Too Long at Temp Shelters

June 17th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHOCKING OAKLAND POLICE SEX SCANDAL, MAYOR SACKS INTERIM PD CHIEF

On Wednesday, amid a major Oakland Police Department scandal involving 14 OPD officers and the alleged sexual exploitation of a minor, Mayor Libby Schaaf removed interim Chief Ben Fairow from office—just six days after the former chief resigned.

Mayor Schaaf said she received new information earlier in the week that convinced her to oust Fairow. Because of law enforcement personnel privacy laws, Mayor Schaaf did not reveal precisely why she removed Fairow. “I own the mistake I made,” Schaaf said. “The important thing is I’m trying to fix it and fix it quickly.”

If you’ve missed the Oakland sex scandal story elsewhere, here are the basics:

Last week, a teen who calls herself Celeste Guap told a television station that she had sex with more than a dozen OPD officers, three of whom she reportedly had sex with while she was 17—in 2014.

Guap only named one officer, Brendan O’Brien, who committed suicide last year. The young woman, whose mother works for the OPD as a dispatcher—says the officers kept her safe while she worked the streets, and kept her informed about undercover stings. In exchange, Guap says, she had sex with them.

Following O’Brien’s suicide, the OPD (quietly) launched investigations into sexual misconduct within the department. Two officers have resigned, and three more are on paid leave. The scandal isn’t contained within the OPD either: Guap says she had sex with officers from other departments, including San Francisco, Richmond, and Alameda.

Guap says many of the cops knew she was underage, and evencalled her “juve.”

DA inspector Rick Orozco was also placed on administrative leave, after Guap said she had an online friendship with the inspector (then a OPD captain) while she was still a minor. Guap says that at one point Orozco told her, “I would love your taco!”

Guap also says she talked with former OPD Chief Sean Whent’s wife, Julia, via Facebook last year, and that the woman knew she was “dating an officer.” Whent resigned last week.

Brendan O’Brien fatally shot himself on September 25, 2015. A year earlier, on June 16, 2014, O’Brien’s wife, Irma Huerta Lopez, died in the same apartment. According to the coroner’s report obtained by the East Bay Express, Huerta Lopez’s death was ruled a suicide, but both Huerta Lopez’s and O’Brien’s coroner’s reports call Lopez’s death suspicious. Lopez’s family believes O’Brien killed his wife, and that the OPD did not thoroughly investigate the death. In his suicide note, O’Brien reportedly wrote that he had been battling PTSD from his time as a marine, and due to the scrutiny from the OPD and Huerta Lopez’s family after her death. O’Brien’s note said he had been drinking a lot off duty and on duty.

Before the scandal broke, the OPD seemed to be getting closer to ending 13 years of federal oversight (which came about because of misconduct within the department).

On March 23, US District Judge Thelton Henderson pulled the plug on the OPD’s problematic internal investigation. Detectives violated procedures while investigating the sexual misconduct case, according to Henderson. The judge ordered Robert Warshaw, the court-appointed independent monitor to conduct the investigation, moving forward.

The new acting OPD chief Paul Figueroa is sort of an interim-interim, installed Wednesday for the very short term, until Schaaf can find an interim chief to serve while she searches for a permanent chief from outside the department.

The East Bay Express’s Darwin Bond Graham and Ali Winston have the full story, which at 5 pages is quite the longread, but well worth your time. Here’s how it opens:

Celeste Guap was only seventeen in February of last year when a pimp chased her down International Boulevard. She spotted an Oakland police car and approached for help. That’s when she met officer Brendan O’Brien.

“He saved me,” Guap said of the lanky ex-Marine, who joined the Oakland Police Department in 2013 after graduating from the 166th police academy.

Rather than detaining Guap as a victim of human trafficking and turning her over to guardians, she said O’Brien released her. “We flirted a little,” she recalled, adding that she told O’Brien her mother was a dispatcher in the department.

Two weeks later, Guap saw O’Brien on patrol again in East Oakland. He and his partner were making an arrest near a taco truck. She struck up a conversation and they exchanged numbers. Shortly afterward, O’Brien and the girl began “dating” — a word Guap used to describe their relationship.

Guap said she had sex with the Oakland police officer numerous times while she was a minor.

The OPD and other East Bay law-enforcement agencies have positioned themselves as national leaders in the fight against human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children. But O’Brien and other East Bay cops betrayed this reputation with their exploitation of Guap. Officers trafficked her among their ranks and used the minor for sex for half a year.

The scandal is unprecedented: According to multiple sources close to the department and the city of Oakland, and documents obtained by the Express, at least fourteen Oakland police officers, three Richmond police, four Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, and a federal officer took advantage of the teenager. (The Express is not publishing her real name because she was a minor when her abuse began.)

Three Oakland police officers committed statutory rape of Guap when she was under-age. By the state’s legal definition, they engaged in human trafficking. The victim says every law-enforcement agent who had sex with her knew she was a sex worker.


LA STRUGGLING TO STOP HOUSING FOSTER KIDS BEYOND TIME LIMIT AT TEMP SHELTERS

As part of a settlement in a lawsuit challenging “overstays” of foster children at two problematic Welcome Centers meant only to hold kids for one day after they are removed from their families, the LA County Department of Children and Family Services moved kids to four private temporary group homes with 72-hour stay limits.

The Youth Welcome Center and the Children’s Welcome Center—where kids were meant to stay for less than 24 hours, but instead became a sort of purgatory for hard-to-place kids—were closed back in February. Unfortunately, because of a severe lack of available foster families, kids are staying too long at the new emergency shelters. And at one point, when the shelters were full, children were moved back into the closed Welcome Centers.

Before it was shut down, the Youth Welcome Center, in particular, had become mired in controversy, with kids getting into brawls, staff complaining about not enough bathrooms for children’s needs and privacy, as well as rumors about younger residents being recruited for sex trafficking by older residents at the center.

At the state level, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will overhaul counties’ child welfare placement systems, by eliminating traditional group homes, and focusing on long-term placements with foster families. The changes are slated to go into effect by January 2017. But what will happen to LA County’s high-needs foster children when the long-term group homes vanish? In a story for WitnessLA, USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism students Sara Tiano & Brittany Reid explored the issue in a story for WitnessLA.

Come 2017, the current controversial group home model will be thrown out in favor of short-term residential treatment centers (STRTCs) which will have to meet much higher standards of care than today’s group homes. Kids placed in the STRTCs will stay a maximum of six months while receiving specialized therapeutic treatment for mental health and other needs. A certain number of those (STRTCs) will be geared toward helping kids involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Elizabeth Green has more on the complicated issue. Here’s a clip:

In 2014, roughly 7 percent of youth overstayed at the Youth Welcome Center, and 16 percent overstayed at the Children’s Welcome Center. At the new transitional shelters, there were 646 entries in March and April, and about 18 percent of those, or 118, were there for more than 72 hours, Montiel said.

Montiel stressed that comparing overstay rates between the two systems is comparing apples and oranges because now the definition of an overstay has changed. In addition to the new 72-hour limit, children are now staying at the facilities during the day while their social workers look for an appropriate foster home. Before, a youth may have left the Welcome Center for the day and the clock would have restarted upon their return.

But Montiel said the hardest-to-place children are still the ones most likely to stay past the new 72-hour limit.

“It remains difficult to find sufficient homes for those babies and infants, for those sibling groups, and for those teenagers that have challenges remaining in a stable home,” Montiel said. “And those difficulties are not going to change overnight.”

Even with the longer window of time, the overstay rate reinforces the need for more foster homes in which to place these children. Dr. Astrid Heger, a clinical pediatrician who helped create the two welcome centers, is familiar with the challenges of working with hard-to-place children. Her clinic continues to provide medical screenings to children during off-hours before they are taken to a placement.

“Overstays aren’t a result of 24 hours or 72 hours, they’re a result of not having enough places to put kids downstream,” Heger said.

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Why Wasn’t SB 1286, the Police Transparency Bill, Allowed to Go Through the Legislative Process?

June 3rd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



Late last week, SB 1286, a bill that would have allowed greater public access
to certain peace officer disciplinary records, was deep-sixed via a technical move in the state senate’s appropriations committee without any kind of discussion, or an up-or-down vote.

This is a pity. Whether one favored or opposed this particular bill, the topic of law enforcement transparency is an important issue in which there is strong interest, and both sides of the argument would have benefited if SB 1286 had gone more fully through the legislative process, complete with testimony, lively discussion, the possibility of amendments—and a public vote.

But that’s not what occurred.

If you’re not familiar with SB 1286, the broad strokes are as follows:

If it had passed in its present form, Californians would have full access to records of investigations and discipline in police shootings and other serious uses of force by police, and also in cases where law enforcement agencies have formally determined that their officers have violated the rights of members of the public.

In addition, Californians who file complaints alleging misconduct would be informed as to how the department responded. If the complaint was rejected, they would be told why. If it is sustained, they would be told what corrective action is to be taken.

On top of that, civilian oversight bodies and local governments would have access to the law enforcement records they need to carry out their duties. At the same time, those bodies would be required to keep confidential records to which they have access.

To protect the safety and privacy of officers, courts would be empowered to withhold records if there is a risk or danger to an officer or to someone else, or if disclosure would be an unwarranted invasion of officers’ privacy.


STATES THAT ALLOW PUBLIC ACCESS, STATES THAT DON’T, AND STATES THAT SORTA DO

In 27 states police discipline records are either entirely public or are public, but with some restrictions.

In the rest of the 23 states—California included—law enforcement’s disciplinary records are mostly, or entirely confidential.

With some of those states that favor confidentiality, like California and New York, the laws preventing public access to records are particularly stringent, and even when an officer has been subject to severe discipline for misconduct, like a lengthy suspension, or termination, the public has no right to know.

In our state, the only exception to that rule is a legal request known as a Pitchess motion, which may be used to attempt to obtain a small portion of a police officer’s confidential personnel records if a judge deems the damage of not forking over those records for evidentiary use in a civil or criminal proceeding, to be greater than any possible consequences that disclosure might bring about.

(WNYC Public Radio investigated the laws in each state and, using their handy info graphics, you too can check out which states restrict or allow what.)

In contrast, Texas generally allows police disciplinary records to be made public. Yet, in certain areas of the state, local codes provide tighter rules. Even in those regions, however, the public may access files pertaining to disciplinary actions where the officer received at least a suspension or loss of pay (providing the discipline was in writing).

In still other states, like Washington, Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, Florida and Alabama, police disciplinary records are available to the public virtually across the board, unless an active disciplinary investigation is underway, or if the information will compromise an officer’s personal privacy or safety.


THE ISSUES OF PRIVACY & SAFETY

When in February of this year, California state senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), together with a bi-partisan list of co-authors, introduced SB 1286, it was not clear whether on not the controversial bill had a chance of passing, but many advocates felt it did indeed have a shot and, failing that, the believed that some version of the proposed legislation will likely pass in the next year or two. After all, in addition to law enforcement reform advocates it had gathered the vocal support of San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascon, and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

The bill was strongly opposed by police unions and other law enforcement organizations, along with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, led by Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Rusty Hicks, who sent a letter to Senator Leno announcing the group’s opposition to the bill, which he said would strip peace officers of privacy in their personnel records.

“The thing that we heard is that it was about officer safety, and officer privacy,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the ACLU of California. (The ACLU was another of the bill’s sponsors.) “But the bill specifically protected officer safety and officer privacy.”

And, Bibring said, “opponents have never pointed to a single instance where officers were harmed or where there was a threat of harm because of records being released.

“So it’s not really really about safety. It’s a worry about public scrutiny,” he said. “But the thing is, People mistrust decisions that are made behind closed doors Courts are open. The legislative process is open.” But we can know nothing, he said, about “when a police officer takes a civilian’s life.

“And without the facts, people react to the withholding of information. They don’t like it.”

Bibring also stressed that, “it’s only serious uses of force and actual findings of misconduct,” that would be disclosed under the proposed legislation. “So the bill, even if it had passed, would have left police with significant more confidentially that any other public employee.” Yet, he said, a change in the law would go a long way in improving public trust of their police.

George Hofstetter, the head of ALADS, the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s deputies’ union, disagreed.

“If allowing the wholesale invasion of police personnel files would lead to increased trust or accountability in law enforcement,” he wrote, “surely the proponents could cite an example. They note that twenty three states allow the type of access they seek to impose in California—yet there isn’t a single study which shows the level of trust in peace officers or accountability of law enforcement is any greater than in California.”

All points that could have come into hearing testimony for the bill. But instead, senate appropriations committee chair, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles), simply unilaterally spiked SB 1286 by failing to call it to a vote.

In doing so he did the rest of us a disservice.

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The Blue Curtain….How Prosecutors Accused of Misconduct Become Judges…LA City Attorney on Prop. 47…and More

April 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

THE HOTLY CONTESTED ISSUE OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO LAW ENFORCEMENT RECORDS

In this week’s LA Weekly, reporter Gene Maddaus writes about the culture of secrecy surrounding police records, what information the public has the right to know, and the negative impact lack of law enforcement transparency has on community trust.

Maddaus talks with Mark Arner, a San Diego Union-Tribune journalist reporting on local law enforcement officers’ “dirty laundry,” who came up against opposition from police attorneys, as well as WitnessLA’s editor, Celeste Fremon, the LA Police Protective League’s Kristi Eckard, and former LA Times reporter, Robert Faturechi, among others.

A bill by CA Senator Mark Leno would increase public access to officers’ personnel files in instances of serious uses of force and alleged misconduct, but has come up against serious opposition from police unions.

Here’s a clip from Maddaus’ story:

In the year and a half since Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, a national movement has spread to demand greater police accountability. A spate of incidents — most of them shootings, many captured on video — has drawn attention to police abuses across the country.

Los Angeles is used to thinking of itself as a model of police reform. But L.A. hasn’t exactly dodged controversial police shootings. Black Lives Matter activists have called for the resignation of Chief Charlie Beck over the shooting of Ezell Ford, an unarmed and mentally ill man who was killed in South L.A.

Still, L.A. has not had a recent incident of police misconduct that captured national headlines. That may be a sign that the LAPD has reformed itself. Or it could be that it is very difficult to get police records in California.

Last May, LAPD officer Clifford Proctor shot and killed Brendon Glenn, a homeless man who was panhandling outside a bar in Venice. Glenn was shot in the back. A surveillance camera captured the shooting, and it was disturbing enough for Beck to recommend that charges be filed against the officer. But the department has refused to release the video, which has kept the Glenn shooting a local story.

In the Ford case, Beck found that the two officers acted according to department policy. The Police Commission overruled him, but the consequence of that decision is unknown. The department may have disciplined them — or not.

“We don’t know what actually happened,” says Melina Abdullah, one of the leaders of the L.A. chapter of Black Lives Matter. “That has been a huge issue for us.”

“This obsession with secrecy does not make for a healthy relationship between law enforcement and the communities they police,” says Celeste Fremon, editor of the Witness L.A. blog and a former L.A. Weekly contributor, who is writing a book about brutality in the Sheriff’s Department. “If we saw the department’s rationale, then maybe we’d agree with it and maybe we wouldn’t, but we’d at least know what they were thinking. But the attitude is, ‘That’s for us to know and you to find out. Trust us.’ It infantilizes the public.”

On issues such as climate change and the minimum wage, California is on the cutting edge of progressive politics. But the state ranks near the bottom when it comes to providing access to police records. Conservative, law-and-order states like Florida and Texas allow almost unfettered access to records relating to police discipline, while liberal states like California and New York, where law enforcement unions are most powerful, have made them off-limits.

“All of this has been done to protect the job security and reputation of rank-and-file police officers,” says Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.

(Further reading: we at WLA have written about this issue before—here and here.)


THE PATH FROM MISBEHAVING PROSECUTOR TO THE JUDICIAL BENCH

Two prosecutors tied to a string of jailhouse informant-related misconduct scandals plaguing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office—Michael Murray and Larry Yellin—are currently running for Superior Court judgeships. And if elected, they wouldn’t be the first prosecutors accused of misdeeds to win a seat on the bench.

As part of a recent investigation, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered 120 wrongful convictions due to prosecutorial misconduct in Massachusetts over the last 30 years. And seven prosecutors with histories of misconduct moved on to higher positions, including judgeships.

One scholar studying prosecutorial misconduct at Yale, Laura Fernandez, called the idea of misbehaving prosecutors becoming judges “deeply disturbing.”

The Marshall Project’s Beth Schwartzapfel has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

“The idea that an individual responsible for such serious misconduct could effectively stroll into the office of judge is deeply disturbing,” says Laura Fernandez, a Yale research scholar who studies prosecutorial misconduct. No one has yet faced charges related to the scandal, but one deputy district attorney resigned and four sheriff’s deputies refused to testify in a related hearing, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. “More troubling still, this appears to be the tip of the iceberg,” John Van de Kamp, a former state attorney general, and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California-Irvine, wrote last year in a letter to the Justice Department, requesting A FEDERAL INQUIRY1. “Compelling evidence of pervasive police and prosecutorial misconduct in Orange County…has caused us grave concern.”

The judicial election is June 7.

At the heart of the scandal is a database the Orange County Sheriff’s office uses to track the placement of informers in the jail. Use of jailhouse informers is constitutional, as long as the informer happens to hear the defendant talk, unprompted. But the Supreme Court said informers can’t elicit information from someone who already has a lawyer — that would too closely resemble an interrogation. What’s more, any deals brokered with informants, and any information that might undermine the informants’ credibility — say, that they were informants in other cases, or that they have lied on the stand in the past — must be turned over to the defense.

The database first came to light when Orange County Public defender Scott Sanders combed through thousands of pages of records and pieced it together. Sanders was representing confessed mass murderer Scott Dekraai, whom DAs targeted with the scheme. Documents and subsequent hearings revealed that it wasn’t just Dekraai—the DA’s office had been violating these constitutional prohibitions for years. In a searing ruling issued last March, Orange County Superior Court judge Thomas Goethals removed the entire county DA’s office — all 250 attorneys — from Dekraai’s case, the highest-profile murder case the county has ever seen, ruling that the DA had proved himself incapable of achieving “compliance with his constitutional…obligations in this case.”

[SNIP]

Now, armed with new revelations from the database and its fallout, defense lawyers have begun to unravel other cases in which jailhouse informers may have been used illegally against their clients. A handful of these cases raise questions about Murray and Yellin.

Read on.


LOS ANGELES CITY ATTORNEY MIKE FEUER DISCUSSES THE INADEQUACIES OF PROP. 47

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer said that voter-approved Pop. 47 has not fulfilled all of its promises.

Prop. 47, which went into effect in November of 2014, reduced six non-serious felonies to misdemeanors, and was supposed to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. That money was supposed to get pumped into community-based rehabilitation and other services targeting recidivism.

But a report from California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that Governor Jerry Brown’s budget under-counted the dollar amount Proposition 47 saved the state by about $100 million. And Prop. 47 has taken much of the punch out of alternative courts’ rehabilitation strategies, says Feuer.

LA Downtown News’ Eddie Kim has the story. Here’s a clip:

“Almost no one has gotten anything close to meaningful drug rehabilitation, and we’ve prosecuted thousands of these cases,” Feuer said Monday at a luncheon at the Downtown Palm hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum. “The system is broken at every level.”

Feuer told the audience of approximately 70 people that he understood why such reform was necessary. As a state assemblyman during the recession, he observed then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger siphoning rehabilitation funds away from state prisons. Feuer became City Attorney in 2013.

Feuer said arrests for the felonies-turned-misdemeanors have plummeted “by more than 50%.” Those who are arrested show up for court less frequently, and people who are convicted typically receive a sentence that is shorter than the minimum length for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to hold someone in a local jail, he added.

“So how do you incentivize someone to go through rehab when the consequence of a conviction is no jail time?” he asked. “Which then feeds into the lack of interest of police and sheriffs in arresting in the first place.”

Despite the shortfalls, Feuer said Prop. 47 has yielded some positives. He pointed to unprecedented collaboration and discussion with judges, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, county supervisors and others.


PULITZERS AND MORE FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE-RELATED JOURNALISM

Here are some not-to-be-missed 2016 Pulitzer prize-winners on the 100th annual awarding of the prize:

http://www.pulitzer.org/winners/t-christian-miller-propublica-and-ken-armstrong-marshall-project

- ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller and The Marshall Project’s Ken Armstrong for “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.”

(For more on this incredible story, we recommend listening to “Anatomy of Doubt,” the accompanying episode of This American Life.)

- Sun Newspaper’s John Hackworth for powerful editorials following Florida corrections officers’ deadly assault on an inmate.

- The Los Angeles Times’ staff members for their reporting on breaking news after the San Bernardino terrorist attacks.

- The Washington Post staff for its eye-opening database detailing when and why law enforcement officers use deadly force.

KPCC has won a different award—an Edward R. Murrow award in the Investigative Reporting category—for it’s “Officer Involved” series on LA County law enforcement shootings.

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AG Kamala Harris’ Law Enforcement Transparency Bill…LA County’s New Education Leader…and a Botched Raid

March 23rd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

FASTER AND EASIER PUBLIC ACCESS TO LAW ENFORCEMENT SHOOTINGS AND OTHER CRIMINAL JUSTICE NUMBERS UNDER AG KAMALA HARRIS’ NEW BILL

On Monday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and state Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) announced a bill that would modernize and speed up the way law enforcement data—like officer-involved shooting statistics—is reported and shared with the public in the name of law enforcement transparency.

“Data and technology have the power to dramatically increase transparency and accountability in our criminal justice system,” Attorney General Harris said. “This legislation will bring criminal justice data reporting into the 21st Century.”

Last September, AG Harris launched the OpenJustice website to bring transparency to the state’s criminal justice system by publishing crime and policing statistics. The website shows city, county, and state crime and arrest rates, deaths during arrest, deaths in custody, and the number of law enforcement officers killed or assaulted. Users can view data on interactive maps and graphs, and sort data groups by race, gender, and age.

Harris and Irwin’s bill, the OpenJustice Data Act, would require law enforcement agencies to start reporting data to the California DOJ electronically, rather than on paper, making frequent updates to the published data possible.

“Right now we are sitting on mountains of valuable criminal justice data that local law enforcement work hard to provide in the public interest,” Assemblymember Irwin said. We need to make sure that this information is available to the public and that we are using it effectively.”


LA COUNTY SUPES HIRE FORMER HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT TO HEAD THE OFFICE OF EDUCATION

The LA County Board of Supervisors has selected Dr. Debra Duardo, a former high school dropout, to lead the LA County Office of Education.

Besides overseeing the finances of LA’s school districts, the Office of Education provides schooling to the county’s locked-up kids, as well as disabled students.

Duardo knows first-hand the barriers to education that rise up, particularly for poor and minority kids. Duardo dropped out after her first week of ninth grade to work full time. Soon after, she eloped and had a baby. The birth of Duardo’s son, who was born with Spina Bifida, lit a fire under her to complete her high school education and work toward a college diploma. As a single, working mother, it took Duardo ten years of classes to finish high school and obtain her Associate’s Degree. (Listen Duardo tell her story in the video above.)

“Dr. Duardo is an expert administrator with years of experience in trauma-informed education systems,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “She will bring her outstanding leadership on dropout prevention strategies, restorative justice and special needs education – and she will put students first.”

Duardo currently holds the position of Los Angeles Unified School District’s executive director of Student Health and Human Services.

The LA Times’ Howard Blume has more on the appointment and LA County’s new head of the Office of Education. Here’s a clip:

“Because of her role at L.A. Unified, Debra is uniquely qualified to run the Los Angeles County Office of Education,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “I’m thrilled.”

The county’s education office also manages the payroll for nearly all of the county’s dozens of smaller school systems. In a watchdog role it also provides an early warning system about districts that face insolvency.

But the county’s own programs, including services to the disabled, also have come under scrutiny. This has contributed to a decline in revenue. In 2011-12, the education office’s special education programs received almost $84 million in state tax revenue. The estimate for 2014-15 was $38 million, according to a recent outside review.

In 2012-13, the county programs employed 772 teachers. Two years later, that number was down to 408.

“There have been some real complaints from school distrcts about the quality of programs we put together,” Kuehl said. “Some districts have already pulled out.”

Kuehl added that there also have been shortcomings in classes for juvenile offenders, but said that a new, successful pilot program showed promise and needed to be expanded. Other county-managed operations, such as a huge Head Start effort for preschoolers, are performing better, she said.


JUDGE DENIES LA COUNTY’S REQUEST TO DISMISS MISTAKEN LASD RAID CASE

US District Judge Otis Wright denied a petition from LA County to dismiss a civil case brought by a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement official whose house was mistakenly raided by LA County Sheriff’s Department members.

LASD officers out of the Malibu/Lost Hills Station raided ICE official Raymond Kovacic’s Westlake Village home in 2013. Two deputies on patrol, Jonathan Boden and Christopher Redenbaugh, said they heard a loud crash, and saw someone inside Kovacic’s house who appeared to be holding a flashlight and robbing the place. (Kovacic and his son had friend spending the night.) The deputies called for backup—helicopter included.

Mistaking Kovacic and his 17-year-old son, Jared, for suspects, officers ordered the federal agent, who was in his house slippers, onto his knees with their guns drawn. Jared, who had come outside in his boxer shorts, said an officer pointed a gun at his head from less than a foot away. Not listening to Kovacic’s attempts to identify himself, officers reportedly handcuffed father, son, and several house guests while the home was searched.

After the bizarre raid was over, Kovacic asked for a copy of the incident report. A sergeant allegedly replied, “Oh well, that’s easy. I’ll tell you right now there won’t be one.”

Raymond and Jared Kovacic filed a lawsuit alleging officers violated their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and unreasonable use of force, among other complaints. Judge Wright has allowed the charges to move forward with the exception of one claim against LA County for inadequate LASD training.

Courthouse News Service’s Jon Chown has the story. Here’s a clip:

The officers went to investigate and when they approached the front of the Kovacic home, they saw a person inside holding a flashlight who looked like he was robbing the place. They called for backup and soon more police arrived and a helicopter was overhead.

All the noise startled Raymond Kovacic, so he put on shorts and slippers, grabbed his wallet and ID and went outside to see what was going on. He turned on his porch lights and opened his door to officers with their weapons drawn, ordering him on his knees. He was handcuffed and taken to a patrol car while we tried to show them his wallet and tell them he owned the house.

Jared, then 17, opened the door, wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt, to see what was going on and he was detained. Jared says one officer was pointing a gun at his head from “not even a foot away,” while half a dozen others had their guns trained on him.

“We got you Fred,” the officers allegedly told Jared while he cuffed him. When Jared told them he was not Fred, one replied, “Well, if you’re not Fred, then where’s your sister?”

Three guests were then handcuffed and then the residents were told a dog would be sent in to get the other guest, who police were told was a heavy sleeper, if he did not come out himself. The officers finally went into the home and conducted a sweep before finally realizing that their mistake.

According to Wright’s ruling, what was said and done during the exchange are in dispute. After being released, a sergeant allegedly told Raymond Kovacic that they were only responding to a security alarm. When Kovacic told him he didn’t have one, the sergeant changed his story and said they’d heard a loud crash.

Deputy Redenbaugh claimed that one of the house guests told him that he had accidentally slammed a sliding glass door and had been using his cellphone to pack his bags to leave without waking the other guests.

Raymond Kovacic said the sergeant told him, “Look, these are two of my best guys. They’re a little zealous, but they’re really good. I’d hate to see anything happen to them.” When Raymond asked for copy of the incident report the sergeant supposedly said, “Oh well, that’s easy. I’ll tell you right now there won’t be one.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated on March 23, at 1:30 p.m., at which time we made a correction. Mr. Kovacic and his son live in Westlake Village, although Kovacic works in Ventura County. The new version reflects that correction.

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LASD Deputy Union Says Jail Supervisors Misunderstand Force Policy….2 LA Sheriff’s Deputies Fight to Save Shot Baby Girl….NYPD Officer Sues to Reform His Department

February 22nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



ARE SOME LA COUNTY JAIL SUPERVISORS WRONGLY OVER-REPORTING USES OF FORCE? DEPUTIES’ UNION SAYS YES

According to a newly released statement by the board of directors of ALADS, the union that represents Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, many “frontline supervisors” in the county’s jail system do not adequately understand the department’s use of force policy, so are requiring use of force reports in cases where neither common sense nor LASD policy necessitates them. These purportedly unnecessary reports, wrote the board, serve only to falsely inflate force statistics and to make deputies jumpy about performing their duties lest they be viewed as “heavy handed.”

It is widely agreed that LA County’s chronically-troubled jails have measurably improved since the Southern California ACLU brought its massive class action lawsuit in January 2012 alleging widespread brutality in the jail system, and then in September of that same year, the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence issued its scathing report, documenting a “troubling culture in Custody, which has produced both on duty and off duty aggressive misconduct.”

However, when organizations as large as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department attempt fundamental reform, it is not uncommon for even the best intended efforts to be less than perfectly calibrated, thus sometimes causing new problems to be created while trying to correct old problems.

Admittedly, WitnessLA has not deeply investigated this issue, but we have heard plenty of credible anecdotal accounts from our sources that generally support what the ALADS board outlines with its statement.

Here’s a clip:

As the Department undergoes federal oversight of the jail system, a pattern has emerged of frontline supervisors in the jail incorrectly requiring “use of force” reports in cases where both common sense and Sheriff’s Department rules do not require such a report. The concept of a use of force should not be confusing. However, with an 111-page policy and supervisors who do not fully understand the force policies, this can typically lead to confusion and misinterpretation. Whatever the motivation of these supervisors, be it a failure to understand the department’s policies on use of force or a reflexive “CYA” reaction to the jail oversight, it must be addressed by Department leadership.

The problem persists that Sergeants do not fully understand the use force policy, and thus the Department is forced to either under report or over report incidents of force. The perception of the public then becomes one in which there is officer brutality occurring in the jail, when in reality deputies are just doing their job in a very dangerous environment. What makes this worse is when supervisors misinterpret department policies.

For example, is it considered a “use of force” when a deputy helps a jail inmate to his feet after the inmate had fallen? Department policy and common sense say “no”-yet recently; a jail supervisor insisted that a force report be written in that instance! If an inmate falls on their own and a deputy witnessed the fall and then comes to the inmate’s aide, a force report should not be required. In short, it appears anything and everything is being considered “force” and resulting in some Department’s management’s insistence a force report be generated.

Use of force policies must either be changed to be clearer, or there must be extra training provided so supervisors can better understand it.

The disturbing trend of requiring deputies to file a use of force report when not required both forces the line deputies into a “no win” situation, where they are in constant fear they will lose their jobs over a “new policy” that does not exist in writing, or being forced to ignore the actual current written policy that does not require such reports.

According to ALADS, LASD higher ups are aware of the problem, and concerned that the issue is artificially driving up use of force numbers..

As a solution, ALADS suggests additional training for custody supervisors and clarification of the language of the department’s written use of force policy so it is more user friendly.


TWO SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES FIGHT TO SAVE 1-YEAR OLD AUTUMN, SHOT IN COMPTON GANG SHOOTING

Gang violence has been generally down for the last decade in Los Angeles. Yet there was a spike in homicides last year, and even “down” doesn’t mean nonexistent. Gang shootings still blow far too many holes that can never be mended in LA County lives, families and communities.

When such a shooting does occur, it is, of course, Los Angeles police officers and sheriff’s deputies who usually arrive at the scene of the tragedy first, and hear the anguished screams of the family members affected.

The LA Times’ Cindy Chang writes of one such shooting that took place in Compton earlier this month. Two Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies, one a training officer, one newly transferred from custody to patrol, were first on the scene and—concerned that paramedics might not arrive in time—they frantically raced to the hospital with a baby girl named Autumn who had just celebrated her first birthday, but who had minutes before been shot in the head when a gangster drove up and blasted at the converted garage where she lived. It is believed that the shooter may have been aiming at her father.

Here’s a clip from Chang’s story:

The father cradled his 1-year-old daughter in his arms, screaming: “My baby’s been shot! My baby’s been shot!”

The little girl had a grievous head wound. She was ominously still, not moving or crying.

The sheriff’s deputies didn’t know how far behind the paramedics were. They decided to take her to the hospital themselves.

The father got in the back seat of the patrol car with his baby.

“We’re gonna get you there. We’re gonna get you there,” Deputy Ricardo Eguia repeated during the high-speed ride as the father sobbed.

On a night shift patrolling Compton, just about anything can happen. In six years on the city’s streets as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, Eguia has seen blood on the sidewalk and heard the anguished wails of family members all too many times.

But even here, gang violence reaching into a baby’s crib is not routine. The deaths of children stick with Eguia, from the toddler killed by a falling television to the baby girl named Autumn Johnson who lay motionless during the frantic journey to the hospital last Tuesday.

Autumn had recently celebrated her first birthday with cake and Minnie Mouse balloons. She was sleeping in her crib when a man stepped out of a blue Chevrolet Impala and began shooting at the converted garage where she lived. A single bullet struck her in the head.

Her father, 24-year-old Darrell Johnson, was an admitted gang member and may have been the intended target, according to investigators.

Homicide Capt. Steve Katz said Wednesday that the investigation was moving forward but he could release no new information. Authorities are offering a $75,000 reward for information leading to the identification, capture and conviction of the shooter.

“You start contemplating a lot of things because the child had nothing to do with anything,” Eguia said. “They’re sleeping in the crib, and now they’re not. Sometimes you don’t know what to make of it. Is it fair? Is it not fair? You don’t understand why those things happen.”


A YOUNG BLACK POLICE OFFICER HOPED TO CHANGE THE NYPD FROM THE INSIDE, NOW HE’S PART OF A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly stated that there are no longer any kind of arrest quotas in the New York Police Department, that he wants a focus on “quality arrests” not quantity. Judging from Bratton’s work in Los Angeles, the commissioner likely means it.

However, over the last two years, a once-idealistic 30-year-old NYPD officer named Edwin Raymond, has recorded his meetings with almost a dozen department supervisors up and down the chain of command in what he says is an attempt to show that the practice of pushing for arrest quotas isn’t dead at all. Only the rhetoric used to press for higher arrest numbers has changed.

In August 2015, Raymond and 11 other NYPD officers filed a class-action suit on behalf of the department’s minority officers, with the non-disappearance of the quota system front and center in their legal complaint.

“In Raymond’s mind, quota-based policing lies at the root of almost everything racially discriminatory about policing in New York,” writes Saki Knafo in an excellent longread about Raymond in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. “Yet the department has repeatedly told the public that quotas don’t exist.”

Here are some clips from Knafo’s story about Officer Raymond, his efforts to be a good cop in the face of pressure to produce higher arrest numbers, and the lawsuit that has resulted:

…The suit accuses the department of violating multiple laws and statutes, including a 2010 state ban against quotas, and the 14th Amendment, which outlaws racial discrimination. It asks for damages and an injunction against the practice. Although plaintiffs in other cases have provided courts with evidence suggesting the department uses quotas, this is the first time anyone has sued the department for violating the 2010 state ban against the practice.

Black and Latino officers have long contributed rare voices of dissent within a department that remains predominantly white at its highest levels. Raymond has cultivated a friendship with Eric Adams, a former police captain and the current Brooklyn borough president, who founded, during his time on the force, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an organization that advocates for law-enforcement professionals of color. Adams has had a hand in several recent policing reforms. As a state senator, he sponsored the bill that led, in 2010, to the New York ban against quotas for stops, summonses and arrests. Then, in 2013, he joined several current and former minority officers in testifying against the department in the landmark stop-and-frisk case Floyd v. City of New York, which culminated with a federal judge’s ruling that the department had stopped and searched hundreds of thousands of minority New Yorkers in ways that violated their civil rights.

Between 2011 and 2013, the publicity surrounding the case prompted the department to all but abandon the tactic — the number of annual stops fell by more than two-thirds over two years — but, according to Raymond and others, the pressure to arrest people for minor offenses has not let up. ‘‘Every time I read the paper, I thought, Why do they think the problem is stop-and-frisk?’’ Raymond says. ‘‘Although stop-and-frisk is unlawful, and it’s annoying, you’re not going to not get a job because you’ve been stopped and frisked,’’ he says. ‘‘You’re going to get denied a job because you have a record.’’

The lawsuit claims that commanders now use euphemisms to sidestep the quota ban, pressuring officers to ‘‘be more proactive’’ or to ‘‘get more activity’’ instead of explicitly ordering them to bring in, say, one arrest and 10 tickets by the end of the month. ‘‘It’s as if the ban doesn’t exist,’’ Raymond says. Other cops agree. At a Dunkin’ Donuts in Ozone Park, Queens, a black officer who is not involved in the lawsuit (and who, fearing retribution, requested anonymity) spoke at length about the inconsistency between the department’s words and actions, her anger building as she spoke, the tea cooling in her cup, until she concluded, bluntly, ‘‘It’s like they’re talking out of their ass and their mouth at the same time.’’

Raymond began recording his meetings with supervisors when he suddenly started getting low performance reviews for what he believed was his resistance to quotas, when even those same supervisors admitted he was otherwise doing a good job.

‘‘He does these honorable things,’’ said Willie Lucas, one of the other black officers who worked in Raymond’s district. ‘‘The first time I worked with him, we were doing patrol out in the East New York area. There was a mother, she may have been a teenager, and she was in some kind of distress, crying and really upset. Her baby may have been around 3 or 4 months old. I remember him going to talk to her and help her out. He was willing to ride with her to the Bronx, all the way out of his jurisdiction.’’

Raymond didn’t shy away from confrontation when it was necessary. While he was still at the academy, the department awarded him a badge of honor for breaking up a street fight during one of his lunch breaks, grabbing a metal pipe from one of the brawlers and pinning him to the ground. ‘‘When it’s time to get busy, I get busy,’’ he says. He says he typically stopped about three people a day, mostly for little things like holding the doors at a station. But usually he let them go with a warning. He worried about how an arrest could follow a kid through life.

Raymond realized that his supervisors didn’t approve of his approach. Some of them came right out and told him he was dragging down the district’s overall arrest rate, and said they had been taking heat from their own bosses as a result. In the summer of 2010, a commander stuck him with the weekend shift at Coney Island, the sort of unwanted job that cops call a ‘‘punitive post.’’ Other undesirable assignments followed: sitting around with psychotic prisoners in psychiatric emergency rooms, standing at ‘‘fixed posts’’ on specific parts of subway platforms with orders not to move, staring at video feeds of the tunnels from the confines of an airless booth called ‘‘the box.’’ As the pressures intensified over the next few years, Raymond decided he needed to do something to protect himself — even though it could also put him at greater risk. Convinced that his supervisors were punishing him unlawfully, and fearing for his reputation, he started to record his conversations….

It’s a worthwhile story to read in total, so read on.

Posted in law enforcement | 16 Comments »

How Has Jim McDonnell Done in His First Year as LA County Sheriff?

January 11th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



How has Sheriff Jim McDonnell done in his first year since he was sworn into office on December 1, 2014?

WitnessLA will be looking the question in a few weeks, but the LA Times has taken their own look in an editorial on Sunday.

In their report card, the Times made two main points:

The first had to do with whether or not McDonnell has adequately “de-Tanakafied” the department. The Times felt that he’d made a great deal of progress in that endeavor, writing that the sheriff has spent a year quietly overhauling the organization chart to remove those “most closely associated” with the discredited former undersheriff.

Critics feel that McDonnell hasn’t gone nearly far enough with de-Tanakization. (But, as we have seen very recently, removing people simply because they have an association with someone you don’t like can lead to large lawsuits, so such cleaning projects can be tricky.)

Yet, the Times points to the fact that McDonnell was a member of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence and, while the CCJV was mandated only to look at problems in the jails, the problems they saw in custody pointed to more fundamental problems that affected the department as a whole, and that started at the very top. In its final report, the commission stopped just short of saying that Sheriff Lee Baca had to go. But, with the then undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, the commissioners pulled no punches at all. They wrote:

The troubling role of Undersheriff Tanaka cannot be ignored. Not only did he fail to identify and correct problems in the jails, he exacerbated them. The commission learned about his ill-advised statements and decisions from a wide array of witnesses and sources. Over the course of several years, the Undersheriff encouraged deputies to push the legal boundaries of law enforcement activities and created an environment that discouraged accountability for misconduct. His repeated statements that deputies should work in an undefined “grey” area contributed to a perception by some deputies that they could use excessive force in the jails and that their aggressive behavior would not result in discipline. The Undersheriff also made numerous statements disparaging the Internal Affairs Bureau (“IAB”) and the disciplinary process — remarks that undermined the authority of IAB and the ability of Department supervisors to control or remediate inappropriate deputy behavior….

Campaign contributions accepted by Tanaka from many Department employees furthered perceptions of patronage and favoritism in promotion and assignment decisions.

And so on.

In other words, when he came into office, McDonnell was very clear about the deleterious effect that Mr. Tanaka—-who has been federally indicted and will go to trial in March—has had on the department over which he had so much control.

The Times writes:

“The organization has a different tone,” McDonnell said recently, and that new tone was exemplified last year by the resignation of Assistant Sheriff Michael Rothans, following a Times report that he had purchased a stolen car that deputies had seized from a suspected gang member. Rothans had been a trusted part of McDonnell’s effort to reboot the department, but he violated policy, and he was out.

Where the editorial board is less sure is in the arena of “whether McDonnell’s reform vision is limited to a thorough de-Tanakafication of the department, or if instead it will embrace the sweeping and overdue reinvention of the criminal justice system now under discussion and underway to some degree around the nation.”

In other words, is McDonnell a true reformer?

The Times, right now, has mixed feelings on that question. They write:

There are some discouraging signals on that front. We are dismayed at McDonnell’s hostile reaction to Proposition 47, the landmark California ballot measure that decreases penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes. The sheriff acknowledges that instead of arresting suspects on misdemeanor charges, his deputies are often not arresting them at all. Yet he blames an uptick in crime not on his department’s practices, but on the ballot measure.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl did not mention McDonnell by name at a board hearing on Proposition 47 last fall, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that she was talking at least partly about him when she noted that there was no evidence to support claims that the measure is increasing crime.

“I would really encourage those spreading this disinformation to reconsider and be more responsible,” Kuehl said.

However, in noting an emerging—albeit still polite–struggle for power between the sheriff and the board of supervisors, the Times’ board is not prepared, for the moment anyway, to root against the sheriff.

They write:

The question should instead be who, or what, will bring Los Angeles County a Sheriff’s Department that protects safety on the streets and in the jails, constantly improves standards and performance and holds itself accountable for failures. It has been only a year, and McDonnell still deserves a bit of patience. For now.

Posted in Jim McDonnell, law enforcement | 18 Comments »

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