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Middle School Dropouts, Bill Passes to End Prison Sterilizations, Ferguson Protests…and More

August 21st, 2014 by Taylor Walker

CALIFORNIA HAS THOUSANDS OF FORGOTTEN MIDDLE SCHOOL DROPOUTS

More than 6,400 California middle-schoolers (7th and 8th graders) dropped out of school in the 2012-2013 year, more than 1,000 of which were LAUSD students. The number seems relatively low when compared with California’s more than 94,000 high school dropouts each year, so these younger kids are often overlooked and underserved. Most schools do not even have the resources to track them down once they stop showing up.

KPCC’s Sarah Butrymowicz takes a closer look at the issue in a story produced by the Hechinger Report. Here’s how it opens:

Devon Sanford’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was in the eighth grade. After barely finishing at Henry Clay Middle School in South Los Angeles, he never enrolled in high school. He spent what should have been his freshman year caring for his mother and waiting for police to show up asking why he wasn’t in school.

No one ever came.

“That was the crazy part,” he said. “Nobody called or nothing.”

Thousands of students in California public schools never make it to the ninth grade. According to state officials, 7th and 8th grade dropouts added up to more than 6,400 in the 2012-13 school year – more than 1,000 in the Los Angeles Unified School District alone.

Like Sanford, many of them just disappeared after middle school and never signed up for high school.

But their numbers are so tiny in comparison to California’s more than 94,000 high school dropouts each year that few school districts are paying attention to middle school dropouts.

One sign of the inattention: a 2009 state law mandating California education officials calculate a middle school dropout rate has gone largely ignored, although districts do publicly report the raw numbers.


CALIFORNIA BILL TO BLOCK STERILIZATION OF FEMALE INMATES MOVES ON TO GOVERNOR’S DESK FOR SIGNING

Last year, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that California prison doctors performed 148 unlawful (and ethically questionable) tubal ligations (or “tube-tying”) on female inmates in violation of state law, often without proper legal consent from the women, between 2006 and 2010.

On Tuesday, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill, SB 1135, that would prohibit prisoner sterilizations as a means of birth control, except in the event of a medical emergency or treating an illness.

The bill, now headed for the governor’s desk, would also require the CDCR to provide counseling to women receiving the procedure, as well as post data online about any sterilizations performed. The bill would also provide safeguards for those who might report future misconduct.

Gov. Jerry Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign (or not sign) the bill into law.

CIR’s Corey G. Johnson has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

The bill, passed unanimously today by the state Senate, would ban sterilizations for birth control purposes in all state prisons, county jails and other detention centers. Surgeries would be restricted to treating life-threatening medical emergencies and addressing physical ailments.

Women would receive extensive counseling, and correctional facilities performing such surgeries would be required to post data about the procedures online. The bill also protects whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting violations.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, pushed for the bill after The Center of Investigative Reporting found more than 130 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules from 2006 to 2010. Former inmates and prisoner advocates told CIR that prison medical staff pressured women, targeting inmates deemed likely to return to prison in the future.

“It’s clear that we need to do more to make sure that forced or coerced sterilizations never again occur in our jails and prisons,” Jackson said. “Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic human rights.”


WHAT MADE PROTESTS IN FERGUSON, MO, TURN INTO A WEEK OF VIOLENCE AND DISORDER

NBC’s Andrew Blankstein and Tom Winter have delved into why protests over Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, spiraled out of control, while nearby protests over an unconnected fatal shooting of a young black man did not turn violent. Here’s how it opens:

The fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri has led to angry protests and violent clashes with police that reached a fresh crescendo earlier this week. A second, unrelated fatal police shooting of a young black man just a few miles east on Tuesday, however, sparked protests, but no violence.

Why did events spiral out of control in Ferguson? Why did this little-known St. Louis suburb, with just 21,000 people, explode into more than a week of unrest? Part of the problem seems to have been a series of missteps by local authorities.

Experts from around the nation, including law enforcement officials, academics and civil rights attorneys, cite four factors: A poisoned relationship between a virtually all-white police force and a majority black city; heavy-handed police tactics both before and after the shooting — including a military-style response to the initial protests; and mixed messages from local authorities, some of whom attempted to focus attention on an alleged robbery by the dead teen, Michael Brown, instead of updating the public about the investigation into Brown’s death.

“Put that all together and you have a ready-made disaster,” L.A.-based civil rights attorney Connie Rice told NBC News.

The Police vs. the Public: Rice and others said most of the problems in Ferguson flowed from the almost non-existent connection between the city’s police and its residents. Detective Gabe Crocker, president of the St. Louis County Police Association, which represents many of the area’s officers, told NBC News he thought there had been early friction in Ferguson between police and protesters because there had been “no established lines of communication with community leaders.”

While two-thirds of Ferguson’s citizens are African-American, there are only three blacks on its 53-member police force. Where larger urban departments like the NYPD have used so-called “community-based policing” in recent years to build trust with a diverse public, Ferguson focused on old-fashioned top-down policing and revenue generation. That meant most contact with civilians involved traffic stops and writing tickets – an extraordinary number of tickets for traffic and other offenses. Jeff Smith, an assistant professor of politics at the New School in New York City and a former resident and legislator in St. Louis County, described Ferguson as “a constant, simmering state of tension and mistrust.” Smith said community policing could have reduced tensions, but that “it’s like (Ferguson) missed the whole phenomenon.”

[SNIP]

Changing the Subject: Two related moves last week appeared to defuse tensions. Missouri State Police took over command of the scene from the local cops, and designated Capt. Ron Johnson, an African-American who grew up near Ferguson, as the on-site commander and liaison with the community.

But then Ferguson Police Department Chief Thomas Jackson held a press conference and released documents and surveillance video — over Justice Department objections — allegedly showing that Michael Brown had robbed a convenience store a short time before he was fatally shot. Hours later, Jackson held another press conference to announce that the white officer accused of shooting Brown was unaware of Brown’s alleged involvement in the robbery when he shot him.

Eric Rose, a crisis management expert who advises police organizations across the country, called Jackson’s revelations “foolish,” saying they served “to further incite tensions.”

“The goal should have been to calm things down,” said Rose. “Releasing that information did not serve that purpose.” In high-profile cases, he said, “You never want to go public without truly knowing all the facts and you want to have a clear strategy. In this case, the stakes of being wrong could have meant riots. And that’s exactly what happened.”


CHILD WELFARE TRANSITION TEAM AND SUPERVISORS DIFFER ON HOW TO MOVE FORWARD

At the end of June, the LA County Board of Supervisors appointed a nine-member transition team to assist in the creation of a child welfare czar meant to oversee the implementation of child welfare reforms suggested by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection.

On Tuesday, in their first progress report to the Board of Supervisors, transition team members outlined qualifications the Office of Child Protection should have. Co-chairs Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and Mitchell Katz and team member Janet Teague also asked for an executive director to keep the group focused and moving forward on reforms until the czar can be put in place.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that the hiring of a child welfare czar was of higher importance than the hiring of an executive director, and that the BOS never approved staff for the transition team. Yaroslavsky also suggested that there might be a calculated delay on hiring a czar until he and Supe Gloria Molina are termed out of office in December.

Supe Mark Ridley-Thomas urged the board to continue implementing the Blue Ribbon Commission’s other recommendations while the search for a czar continues.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

In its first report to the Board of Supervisors, transition team co-chairs Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and Mitchell Katz and team member Janet Teague presented the group’s work over the course of the past month. Those efforts have largely centered on clarifying the role and desired qualifications of the incoming director of the Office of Child Protection.

“The founding director of the Office of Child Protection will have the opportunity to forge a transformational process for the children of Los Angeles County and we hope you see it the same way,” Gilbert-Lurie said while addressing the Board of Supervisors at the August 19 meeting.

But the transition team remains hindered by confusion about its responsibilities beyond assisting in the search for a leader of the new office and questions about staffing support that team members say would help speed up the implementation of reforms suggested by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

“What bothers me is that we’re not seeing eye to eye on what’s the most important thing for us,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “The most important thing is getting the Office of Child Protection person hired. The search firm in my opinion is moving very slowly, too slowly, and is responding to too many people. It’s August 19 and we’re no closer to hiring, or even searching for the office of child protection than we were a month ago.”

Transition team member Gilbert-Lurie argued that the team needs additional resources and support in the form of an executive director to accelerate efforts at implementing further recommendations.

“You have herded a group with a wide range of talents—we have doctors, Ph.D.s, judges, lawyers,” Gilbert-Lurie said. “But we need someone whose eye is on the ball of moving this forward. We believe there’s a lot of information that could be helpful in working with department heads. [We could] leverage the best of what you have in the county if there is someone available to take our ideas and help implement them when we’re working in our day jobs. We don’t believe we have access to that sort of person with that executive experience right now on a full enough time basis.”

Posted in DCFS, Education, LA County Board of Supervisors, LAUSD, Police, prison, women's issues | 18 Comments »

Camp for Kids with Locked-up Dads, Police Militarization and Money, and Long-Term Health Effects of Having an Incarcerated Family Member

August 18th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

SUMMER CAMP TAKES KIDS TO SPEND TIME WITH INCARCERATED DADS

A unique summer camp program aims to bring kids and their incarcerated fathers—who are often housed far away from their kids, making visits difficult—together for a week of much-needed bonding time.

Dads have to have good behavior for one year, and take a parenting class to be eligible to participate in the “Hope House” summer camp program.

NPR’s Shereen Marisol Meraji spent a day with the boys and girls at their camp, and went with them to spend time with their fathers at the Western Correctional Institution in Maryland. The program, which is in Maryland and North Carolina, partners with California summer camps, as well.

Listen to the Weekend Edition episode to hear the kids tell their stories, but here is a clip from the accompanying text:

Carol Fennelly founded Hope House in 1998, after a Washington, D.C.-area prison was closed, sending thousands of inmates to far-flung institutions. That made it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for relatives to visit.

Today there are three Hope House camps: one in North Carolina and two in Maryland. Fennelly also partners with groups that run summer camps in New Hampshire, Texas and California.

Inmates usually find out about the program through word of mouth or prison social workers. Dads are eligible if they have clean conduct for a year and take a parenting class.


MONEY AND MILITARIZATION OF POLICE

The conflict between armor-clad cops and angry citizens in Ferguson, MO, this week has reawakened the conversation about militarization of police forces, the offender-funded justice system that has emerged along side it, and the mistrustful barrier these tactics put between citizens and the cops whose job it is to protect them.

The New Yorker’s Sarah Stillman says that the offender-funded criminal justice system is a less obvious element of police militarism that should not be overlooked. Things like unpaid traffic tickets, probation and incarceration fees, and court costs can land people in jail for their inability to pay, creating a modern day debtors prison. Here’s a clip:

The crisis of criminal-justice debt is just one of the many tributaries feeding the river of deep rage in Ferguson. But it’s an important one—both because it’s so ubiquitous and because it’s easily overlooked in the spectacular shadow of tanks and turrets. Earlier this year, I spent six months reporting on the rise of profiteering in American courts, which happens by way of the proliferation of fees and fines for very minor offenses—part of a growing movement toward what’s known as offender-funded justice. Private companies play an aggressive role in collecting these fees in certain states. (Often, this tactic is aimed at the poor with unpaid traffic tickets.) The reports from Ferguson raise questions about how militarization and economic coercion feed a shared anger.

Missouri was one of the first states to allow private probation companies, in the late nineteen-eighties, and it has since followed the national trend of allowing court fees and fines to mount rapidly. Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees. (Often, poverty means transience—not everyone who is sent a court summons receives it.) “Across the country, impoverished people are routinely jailed for court costs they’re unable to pay,” Alec Karakatsanis, a cofounder of Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil-rights organization that has begun challenging this practice in municipal courts, said. These kinds of fines snowball when defendants’ cases are turned over to for-profit probation companies for collection, since the companies charge their own “supervision” fees. What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampieren, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free. A recent state-by-state survey conducted by NPR showed that in at least forty-three states defendants can be billed for their own public defender, a service to which they have a Constitutional right; in at least forty-one states, inmates can be charged for room and board in jail and prison.

America’s militarized police forces now have some highly visible tools at their disposal, some of which have been in the spotlight this week: machine guns, night-vision equipment, military-style vehicles, and a seemingly endless amount of ammo. But the economic arm of police militarization is often far less visible, and offender-funded justice is part of this sub-arsenal. The fears that Cobb and Ahmed describe—court debts that lead to warrants and people who are afraid to leave their homes as a result—compound the force that can be wielded during raids or protests like those on the streets of Missouri. Debtors’ fears change their daily lives—can they go to the grocery story or drive a child to school without being detained? “It deters people who have legitimate problems from calling the police, and removes the police’s ability to do what they’re supposed to be doing—helping people in the community respond to emergencies,” Karakatsanis said. It erodes the community’s trust in and coöperation with law enforcement.


HAVING A LOCKED UP FAMILY MEMBER NEGATIVELY AFFECTS KIDS’ HEALTH INTO ADULTHOOD, SAYS NEW STUDY

Kids living with an incarcerated family member have a higher risk of poor health-related quality of life through adulthood, according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

Access to the full report is restricted to specific institutions, but here’s the abstract:

Background. Incarceration of a household member has been associated with adverse outcomes for child well-being. Methods. We assessed the association between childhood exposure to the incarceration of a household member and adult health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in the 2009/2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System controlling for age, race/ethnicity, education, and additional adverse childhood experiences. Results. Adults who lived in childhood with an incarcerated household member had higher risk of poor HRQOL compared with adults who had not… Conclusions. Living with an incarcerated household member during childhood is associated with higher risk of poor HRQOL during adulthood, suggesting that the collateral damages of incarceration for children are long-term.

Posted in families, Police, prison, Rehabilitation | 1 Comment »

SWAT Raid Study, Restraining and Isolating Students as Punishment, Settlement in Wrongful Death Suit Against LASD, and New Gay Marriage States

June 27th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

POLICE MILITARIZATION AND THE WAR ON DRUGS

The ACLU released a report this week detailing the extreme militarization of police forces in the US. According to the report—which compiled data on 800 SWAT raids by 20 local, state and federal agencies between 2011-2012—62% of raids were conducted in search of drugs. Only 7% of SWAT deployments were for hostage, barricade, or shooter situations (the original function of SWAT teams when they began at the LAPD).

Nearly 80% of deployments were to serve a search warrant, predominantly for drugs, something the ACLU says can and should almost always be done by regular officers—not a paramilitary team.

And in at least 36% (but as high as 65%) of drug search raids, no contraband was found.

SWAT raids also disproportionately affect minorities. Of the raids executed to serve a search warrant, 42% targeted African Americans, and 12% targeted Latinos.

Here’s a clip from the ACLU’s website:

There are an estimated 45,000 SWAT raids every year. That means this sort of violent, paramilitary raid is happening in about 124 homes every day – or more likely every night – not in an overseas combat zone, but here in American neighborhoods. The police, who are supposed to serve and protect communities, are instead waging war on the people who live in them.

Our new report, War at Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, takes a hard look at 800 of these raids – or at least what state and local law enforcement agencies are willing to tell us about them. We found that almost 80% of SWAT raids are to search homes, usually for drugs, and disproportionately, in communities of color. During these drug searches, at least 10 officers often piled into armored personnel carriers. They forced their way into people’s homes using military equipment like battering rams 60 percent of the time. And they were 14 times more likely to deploy flashbang grenades than during SWAT raids for other purposes.

Public support for the failed War on Drugs is at its lowest ever, and yet police are still using hyper-aggressive tactics and heavy artillery to fight it. This paramilitary approach to everyday policing brutalizes bystanders and ravages homes. We reviewed one case in which a young mother was shot and killed with her infant son in her arms. During another raid, a grandfather of 12 was killed while watching baseball in his pajamas. And we talked with a mother whose toddler was covered in burns, shot through with a hole that exposed his ribs, and placed into a medically induced coma after a flashbang grenade exploded in his crib. None of these people was the suspect. In many cases like these, officers did not find the suspect or any contraband in the home.

Even if they had found contraband, the idea of cops-cum-warriors would still be deeply troubling. Police can – and do – conduct searches and take suspects into custody without incident, without breaking into a home in the middle of the night, and without discharging their weapons. The fact is, very few policing situations actually require a full SWAT deployment or a tank. And simply having drugs in one’s home should not be a high-risk factor used to justify a paramilitary raid.

This militarization has occurred without oversight to speak of, and with minimal data-collection.

Here’s a clip from the report’s recommendations:

…State legislatures and municipalities should impose meaningful restraints on the use of SWAT. SWAT deployments should be limited to the kinds of scenarios for which these aggressive measures were originally intended – barricade, hostage, and active shooter situations. Rather than allowing for a SWAT deployment in any case that is deemed (for whatever reason the officers determine) to be “high risk,” the better practice would be for law enforcement agencies to have in place clear standards limiting SWAT deployments to scenarios that are truly “high risk.”

SWAT teams should never be deployed based solely on probable cause to believe drugs are present, even if they have a warrant to search a home. In addition, SWAT teams should not equate the suspected presence of drugs with a threat of violence. SWAT deployment for warrant service is appropriate only if the police can demonstrate, before deployment, that ordinary law enforcement officers cannot safely execute a warrant without facing an imminent threat of serious bodily harm. In making these determinations it is important to take into consideration the fact that use of a SWAT team can escalate rather than ameliorate potential violence; law enforcement should take appropriate precautions to avoid the use of SWAT whenever possible. In addition, all SWAT deployments, regardless of the underlying purpose, should be proportional—not all situations call for a SWAT deployment consisting of 20 heavily armed officers in an APC, and partial deployments should be encouraged when appropriate. Local police departments should develop their own internal policies calling for restraint and should avoid all training programs that encourage a “warrior” mindset.

Finally, the public has a right to know how the police are spending its tax dollars. The militarization of American policing has occurred with almost no oversight, and greater documentation, transparency, and accountability are urgently needed.

A requirement that SWAT officers wear body cameras would create a public record of SWAT deployments and serve as a check against unnecessarily aggressive tactics.

In his book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, Radley Balko
outlines the history of the over-militarization civilian police forces
and how disastrously unsafe it can be for citizens and law enforcement, particularly in smaller municipalities.


RAMPANT (AND LEGAL) PHYSICAL RESTRAINING AND ISOLATION OF KIDS WHO ACT OUT IN SCHOOL

ProPublica’s Heather Vogell turned an investigative spotlight on all-to-common and punitive use of physical restraint and isolation on kids in schools across the nation.

In 2012, schools recorded 163,000 instances of physical restraint. Straps or handcuffs were used 7,600 of those times. And kids were placed in isolation rooms or “scream rooms” around 104,000 times.

At least 20 kids died between 1989 and 2009 allegedly due to being restrained or locked in isolation at school.

(Vogell’s story is co-published with NPR.) Here’s a clip:

Restraining and secluding students for any reason remains perfectly legal under federal law. And despite a near-consensus that the tactics should be used rarely, new data suggests some schools still routinely rely on them to control children.

The practices—which have included pinning uncooperative children facedown on the floor, locking them in dark closets and tying them up with straps, handcuffs, bungee cords or even duct tape—were used more than 267,000 times nationwide in the 2012 school year, a ProPublica analysis of new federal data shows. Three-quarters of the students restrained had physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities.

Children have gotten head injuries, bloody noses, broken bones and worse while being restrained or tied down—in one Iowa case, to a lunch table. A 13-year-old Georgia boy hanged himself after school officials gave him a rope to keep up his pants before shutting him alone in a room.

At least 20 children nationwide have reportedly died while being restrained or isolated over the course of two decades, the Government Accountability Office found in 2009.

“It’s hard to believe this kind of treatment is going on in America,” says parent and advocate Phyllis Musumeci. A decade ago, her autistic son was restrained 89 times over 14 months at his school in Florida. “It’s a disgrace.”

The federal data shows schools recorded 163,000 instances in which students were restrained in just one school year. In most cases, staff members physically held them down. But in 7,600 reports, students were put in “mechanical” restraints such as straps or handcuffs. (Arrests were not included in the data.) Schools said they placed children in what are sometimes called “scream rooms” roughly 104,000 times.

Those figures almost certainly understate what’s really happening. Advocates and government officials say underreporting is rampant. Fewer than one-third of the nation’s school districts reported using restraints or seclusions even once during the school year.

Schools that used restraints or seclusions at all did so an average of 18 times in the 2012 school year, the data shows. But hundreds of schools used them far more often—reporting dozens, and even hundreds, of instances.

[SNIP]

More than four years ago, federal lawmakers began a campaign to restrict restraints and seclusions in public schools, except during emergencies. Despite a thick stack of alarming reports, the legislation has gone nowhere.

Opponents of the legislation say policy decisions about the practices are best left to state and local leaders. The federal government’s role, they say, should be limited to simply making sure districts have enough money to train staff to prevent and handle bad behavior.

But states and districts have shown they won’t create enough safeguards on their own, say advocates and other supporters of the legislation. Despite years of public concern about the practices, schools in most states can still restrain kids even when imminent danger doesn’t exist.

This February, timed with the re-introduction of legislation to limit the practices, Senate staffers released a report concluding that dangerous use of restraints and seclusion is “widespread” in public schools. Neither practice, the report said, benefits students therapeutically or academically.

“In fact, use of either seclusion or restraints in non-emergency situations poses significant physical and psychological danger to students,” it warned.

ProPublica also has a podcast on this issue that’s worth listening to.


FAMILY OF UNARMED MAN KILLED BY LASD DEPUTY TO SETTLE WITH COUNTY FOR $1.5M

A settlement of $1.5 million will be awarded to the family of 22-year-old Arturo Cabrales, who was fatally shot while unarmed by LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Paez.

Paez allegedly forcibly entered Cabrales’ property, after telling Cabrales that he didn’t need a warrant. Cabrales turned and ran, at which point the deputy allegedly shot him six times in the back and the side.

The suit accuses Paez and his partner Julio Martinez of trying to cover up the incident by planting a firearm in a neighbor’s yard and filing false police reports claiming Cabrales pointed a gun at the officers before throwing it over a fence.

Paez and Martinez were both fired in February 2013 after being charged with planting guns at a marijuana dispensary in order to falsely arrest two men. The ex-deputies face more than seven years each behind bars, if convicted.

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

The suit alleged that Paez and other deputies involved in the shooting were associated with the Regulators, a deputy clique operating out of the Century station. The suit blamed former Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka for giving tacit support to such cliques. Tanaka is a candidate for sheriff in the November election.

Paez is no longer with the department. In April, he and another deputy, Julio Martinez, were charged with conspiracy and perjury for allegedly planting guns at a medical marijuana dispensary to justify an arrest. Those charges are still pending. Paez and Martinez were both terminated in February 2013.

Ellis contends the two cases add up to a pattern of false reports and planted evidence. In the shooting case, the lawsuit alleged that Cabrales was standing inside the gate of his home, near the Jordan Downs housing project, when he saw four deputies harassing his uncle.

Paez, one of the deputies, began talking to Cabrales and tried to enter his property. Cabrales objected that the deputies did not have a warrant, at which point Paez answered in “foul, offensive and intimidating language,” saying that he did not need a warrant. Paez forcibly entered the gate, and Cabrales turned and ran. Paez then opened fire, according to the suit. Ellis said Cabrales was hit twice in the size and four times in the back.

Read on.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: GAY MARRIAGE ARRIVES IN INDIANA AND UTAH

On Wednesday, just a day short of the anniversary of the Defense of Marriage Act’s abolishment, federal courts struck down gay marriage bans in both Indiana and Utah. The states have joined the list of (now) 21 states that boast marriage equality. (Congratulations, Utahans and Hoosiers!)

Reuters has more on the decisions.

Posted in ACLU, LGBT, Police, War on Drugs, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 20 Comments »

Supes May Vote on LASD Oversight Commission & Questionable Electronic Monitoring Contract….A Glitch in 3-Strikes Reform…Police & Sheriffs Given Leftover Iraq War Trucks…An LASD Detective & a Steamy Cold Case

November 26th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



SUPES COULD VOTE TUESDAY ON LASD OVERSIGHT COMMISSION….& THE CONTRACT TO HIRE THE SAME ELECTRONIC MONITORING FIRM THAT ORANGE COUNTY FIRED

The LA County Supervisors may vote on Tuesday about whether they should create a civilian commission to oversee the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department.

(And on the subject of oversight, no word yet on the whether an Inspector General has been hired to oversee the sheriff’s department, although we do know there were candidates interviewed earlier this month.)

Oh, and also back on the agenda is that iffy contract to rehire the same company for electronic monitoring that Orange County fired for incompetence.

More on all this when we have it.


SOME 3-STRIKERS HOPING FOR RELEASE AFTER THE LAW WAS REFORMED, HAVE FOUND THAT CERTAIN “NON-VIOLENT” THIRD STRIKES, ARE CONSIDERED “VIOLENT” AFTER ALL (IT’S COMPLICATED.)

The LA Times Jack Leonard has the story. Here’s a clip:

After nearly two decades behind bars, Mark Anthony White saw a chance for freedom last year when California voters softened the state’s tough three-strikes law.

Within weeks of the election, White asked a judge to reduce his 25-years-to-life sentence under the ballot measure, which allows most inmates serving life terms for relatively minor third strikes to seek more lenient sentences.

White would have walked free if his request had been granted. But a San Diego County judge refused to reduce White’s sentence. The judge ruled that the 54-year-old prisoner’s last crime, being a felon in possession of a firearm, made him ineligible for a lighter punishment.

A year after state voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 36, judges around the state are handing down conflicting decisions on whether prisoners given life terms for gun possession can qualify for shorter sentences.

The ballot measure specifically excluded prisoners whose third strikes were either violent or serious, or who during the commission of their last crime were armed with a firearm or deadly weapon.
Whether someone convicted of simply possessing a firearm was in fact armed during the commission of a crime is a more complicated legal question than it might appear.


18-TON LEFTOVER IRAQ WAR MILITARY ARMOURED TRUCKS COMING TO A POLICE AND/OR SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT NEAR YOU

They’re humungous, they’re distressingly tippy, they’re “intimidating,” and they’re free. But are they needed?

(When Radley Balko wrote about the militarization of America’s police forces in his book The Rise of the Warrior Cop, this is the kind of thing he meant.)

The AP has the story. Here’s a clip:

Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

The hulking vehicles, built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.

For police and sheriff’s departments, which have scooped up 165 of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPS, since they became available this summer, the price and the ability to deliver shock and awe while serving warrants or dealing with hostage standoffs was just too good to pass up.

“It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, among five county sheriff’s departments and three other police agencies in New York that have taken delivery of an MRAP.


AN LAPD COLD CASE REVISITED—WITH MUCH HOPE….AND AN AMBIGUOUS CONCLUSION

Twenty-two years ago, Sheriff’s Department investigators thought that they likely had their man in the case of the murder of a married LAPD officer’s girlfriend (who was the wife of another LAPD cop). But they could make no arrest.

Twenty-two years later, a new sheriff’s detective opened the cold case.

The LA Times’ Joel Rubin has the melancholy and intriguing interactive story.

Here’s a clip. (But you have to read the whole thing to find out what happens!)

She was both a sister and wife of Los Angeles cops, and worked as a clerk for Police Chief Daryl Gates. Nixon was one of the LAPD’s rising stars, on his way to taking over a coveted position as the chief’s official spokesman.

Their affair began on a spring day in 1985 when they checked into a Holiday Inn. Browne left her husband a few weeks later.

For three years they met regularly, often at her house during the day. At night, he’d go home to his wife in Pasadena.

Then, one morning, Browne was found beaten and strangled on her bathroom floor.

The crime scene was outside the Los Angeles city limits, so it fell to the L.A. County sheriff’s department to investigate. Detectives looked at Nixon as a suspect, but they gave up on the case without filing charges. Nixon, who over the years has maintained his innocence, worked another decade before retiring and moving to Oregon.

Twenty-two years after the killing, in 2010, Robert Taylor, a cold case investigator in the sheriff’s office, reopened the file.

Read on.


Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, Police, Sentencing | No Comments »

Rialto Police’s Success with Body Cameras, LASD Racial Profiling Allegations in Long Beach, , and The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die

August 23rd, 2013 by Taylor Walker

RIALTO POLICE SHOW HOW EFFECTIVE BODY CAMS CAN BE

The city of Rialto, CA has seen complaints against officers drop almost 90 percent, and officer use of force by nearly 60 percent, since an officer camera program was implemented in February 2012.

The NY Times’ Ian Lovett has the story. Here’s a clip:

Rialto has become the poster city for this high-tech measure intended to police the police since a federal judge last week applauded its officer camera program in the ruling that declared New York’s stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional. Rialto is one of the few places where the impact of the cameras has been studied systematically.

In the first year after the cameras were introduced here in February 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent over the same period.

And while Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg railed against the federal court, which ordered New York to arm some of its own police officers with cameras, the Rialto Police Department believes it stands as an example of how effective the cameras can be. Starting Sept. 1, all 66 uniformed officers here will be wearing a camera during every shift.

William A. Farrar, the Rialto police chief, believes the cameras may offer more benefits than merely reduced complaints against his force: the department is now trying to determine whether having video evidence in court has also led to more convictions.

But even without additional data, Chief Farrar has invested in cameras for the whole force.

“When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” Chief Farrar said. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”


LONG BEACH GROUPS SAY LA DEPUTY TARGETED UNDOCUMENTED DRIVERS

Community organizations in Long Beach rallied Wednesday, calling for an investigation into an LASD transit deputy’s alleged racial profiling and illegal vehicle impounding.

The deputy allegedly targeted Latino drivers, impounding the vehicles of undocumented immigrants and those with out-of-state licenses. One woman said the deputy told her that he would continue to do so until the immigrants “went back to their country.”

The Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Beatriz Valenzuela has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Long Beach community groups are pushing for a complete investigation into allegations a Los Angeles County sheriff’s transit deputy once stationed in Long Beach racially profiled motorists, illegally impounding vehicles and targeting a person who filed a complaint against him.

“We had a meeting with (Sheriff Lee) Baca back on March 2, but we haven’t seen any resolution to the issue,” said Laura Merryfield of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, one of the groups that organized a rally Wednesday over the issue.

A report by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild called the unidentified deputy’s alleged actions a “serious abuse of police power” that included racial profiling and denial of due process rights.

The report alleges the deputy violated the law by impounding vehicles of drivers with out-of-state or out-of-country licenses, by denying impound hearings, conducting legally flawed impound hearings and by failing to release vehicles to licensed drivers — in one case, the registered owner of one of the vehicles. It is illegal to drive without a license, but generally vehicles are not impounded unless a licensed driver is unavailable to take the wheel or the driver’s license has been revoked or suspended.


LASD DEPUTY AND JAIL EMPLOYEE CHARGED WITH COVERING UP INMATE ABUSE

Former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Karin Cring and a custody assistant at Twin Towers, Jayson Ellis, were arrested Wednesday and charged with filing a false police report regarding another deputy’s alleged 2010 assault on an inmate.

The LA Times’ Richard Winton has more on the arrests and the alleged abuse of inmate Derek Griscavage. Here’s a clip:

Karin Cring, a former deputy now living in Switzerland, was taken into custody Wednesday after authorities received information that she was at a residence in Covina.

Sheriff’s investigators also arrested custody assistant Jayson Ellis, who has been on paid leave since July 2012 in connection with the investigation. Both were ordered held on $20,000 bail; Cring and Ellis were released on bail Wednesday evening, jail records show.

They have been charged with falsely reporting an incident in which authorities alleged that another deputy, Jermaine Jackson, assaulted an inmate using “a deadly weapon” — his feet.

Jackson was charged last year with causing great bodily injury, assault by a public officer and filing a false report in connection with that incident and another incident at the Compton courthouse lockup in 2009. He is awaiting trial.

Ellis, who has worked for the department since 2006, has been on paid leave, but after his arrest Wednesday, his status was shifted to unpaid leave, Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

These arrests bring up a great many questions. For one thing, why were Cring and Ellis not arrested until now, when the reported assault was in 2010?  Similarly, why was custody assistant Ellis put on paid leave a full year ago, in 2012?
 
More as we find out more.


NEW LONGFORM NONFICTION RECOMMENDED READ: THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE

This month, a new journalism project called The Big Roundtable, has published a remarkable story titled The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. The narrative, which chronicles Christina Martinez’s fight for her life after she was savagely beaten, stabbed, and left for dead in Turnbull Canyon, is by award-winning former LA Times reporter, Erika Hayasaki, now an assistant professor in the Literary Journalism program at UC Irvine, and the author of the upcoming The Death Class: A True Story About Life (January 2014).

The Big Round Table is a publishing platform that exclusively features longform nonfiction—in other words, the kind of dynamic nonfiction storytelling that is now frequently ignored by the mainstream media. TBRT received its initial funding via a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $19,000 (the goal was $5,000).

Okay, here’s a clip from The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die:

If her father were alive, Christina Martinez knew, he would not approve of her riding in this car, through these unfamiliar neighborhoods, with these three men. She looked out the window. The green Mitsubishi made its way down Beverly Boulevard, but not in Hollywood. Here the street stretched through the Los Angeles outskirts of Montebello and Pico Rivera, past the East L.A. sheriff’s station, past billboards in Spanish scrawled with graffiti, past check-cashing shops, liquor stores, taco stands, and men wearing long sleeves to cover their tattoos. This was a warm Tuesday in August 2009, and the moon was bright.

Christina, who was 20, called the men in the Eclipse her friends, but they were hardly more than acquaintances. She had hung out with them a few times, and they knew her boyfriend, Kilo, whom she had been dating for two months. She had spent much of this evening with Kilo at the home of his cousin, in Bellflower, north of Long Beach. The three men had stopped by, but mostly stayed outside.

When it came time to go, Kilo stayed behind. The men offered to give Christina a ride home. She accepted, because rides were not easy to come by, and because she’d accepted rides from the driver before. Christina and her son, Alexander, only a year old, lived with her mother, farther north in Lennox, next to Los Angeles International Airport. To the west was the beach. On the way, the men said, they might walk on the sand and smoke a little weed.

Christina was small, not even five feet tall. Even with the front seat pushed all the way back, she fit comfortably in the back, behind the driver. She wore shorts, Kilo’s black T-shirt, and Etnies, size 5 ½, with pink E’s on the sides. She had dark hair, freckles, arched eyebrows, piercings beneath her bottom lip, and a star tattooed on her right shoulder. She carried a white backpack with cow designs, along with a small red bag with a turtle print. Inside were her makeup, Social Security Card, zebra-printed sunglasses, and a marijuana pipe.

The Mitsubishi turned east. Christina realized: They were headed away from the beach. They stopped for gas, some cigarettes, and two Arizona iced teas. Then they headed east again.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

No one answered. Lil Wayne spewed from the stereo.

Christina felt a twinge of uncertainty, but she let it pass. Maybe the men had another stop to make before turning west toward the ocean.

[BIG SNIP]

Now Christina could see that they were headed toward the hills southeast of Los Angeles. Mike was sweating, driving 50 miles per hour through 30 mph zones in Whittier, past Spanish-style apartment buildings, pick-up trucks and older cars, and homes shielded from the sidewalks by sculpted trees. He drove through an intersection near the mouth of Turnbull Canyon. The road narrowed and wove into dirt hills on the left, past tree branches on the right that hung over the street like claws.

Mike cocked his head. He had an indecipherable tattoo, partly inked-over, on his neck.

“I’m going to have to tie your hands,” he said.

“What?” she said.

“Tie her hands,” Mike told Eddie.

Christina looked at Eddie, confused. Suddenly, Eddie was holding a rope…

(For the rest, go here.)

If you like the story, you can donate money to fund the author’s future pieces.

Here’s a little bit more about the Big Roundtable’s format (but if you go over to their “About” page, there’s a great little explanatory video):

The Big Roundtable is a digital publishing platform that aims to connect passionate nonfiction writers with readers who will support their work. We do this through experimental methods of gathering, selecting, editing, and distributing ambitious narrative stories, and, eventually, researching the reading and sharing behavior around those stories. And by convening forums—online and in person—where writers can learn and connect for mutual support.

The inspiration for the Big Roundtable came from the Algonquin Round Table, a group of New York City writers who called themselves “The Vicious Circle” and who’d meet at the Algonquin Hotel in the early 20th century. They were vicious; we are not.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD, Los Angeles writers, Police, race | 18 Comments »

South LA Community Meeting on LAPD & Dorner…Paul Tanaka Running & Not Running for Gardena Mayor…and Facts Vs. Fears on Realignment

February 25th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Last Wednesday night, a gathering of South LA community members met with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
and several members of his command staff to discuss the concerns, angers, old wounds and fears relating to the Los Angeles Police Department that the situation with Christopher Dorner had brought to the surface. The meeting was moderated by Skipp Townsend, head of 2nd Call, a non-profit that helps parolees, at risk youth and others turn their lives around.

When notice of the meeting went out, community organizers used Facebook to urge attendance: “Get involved or don’t complain,” they said.

LA Times columnist Sandy Banks was at the event and wrote an unusually sane and thoughtful story on the myriad complex emotions that swirl in the wake of the Dorner nightmare, many of which were talked about last Wednesday night.

Here are some clips from Banks’ story:

I expected fireworks in South Los Angeles this week, when LAPD Chief Charlie Beck showed up at a community meeting to talk about Christopher Dorner, the ex-cop turned killer whose manifesto cast the department in an ugly light, resurrecting decades of buried wrongs.

The crowd at the Vermont Avenue community center was small, about 100 people. But the line to speak stretched from the stage to the back of the room. Some came for answers, some just to vent.

There were stories of ugly street stops and police harassment. Half a dozen people — black, white and Latino — said they’d had family members injured or killed by cops. An old man carried a poster of Dorner. A young man told Beck that the LAPD’s legacy runs so deep, “babies cry when they see your uniform.”

They had read Dorner’s manifesto, which blamed his firing from the LAPD on racists, liars and cowards. There were nods all around when one man declared, “I don’t defend what Dorner did, but like many in the community, I believe what he said.”

But no voices were raised, no insults hurled. Nearly everyone prefaced their comments to Beck with some version of “thank you for coming.”

[BIG SNIP]

A lot has been made of the ways the LAPD has changed since Rodney King and Rampart. The institution is more accountable, with video cameras in patrol cars and officers equipped with microphones. And the ethnic makeup now reflects the city’s demographics: 43% of officers are Latino, 35% white, 12% black, and 9% Asian American. Twenty percent are women.

Still, it’s unrealistic to believe that the LAPD has cleared its ranks of bullies and bigots.

Beck acknowledged that in South L.A. this week. “You will never have a perfect department,” he said. “We hire from the human race and we hire the best people we can, and sometimes they make mistakes.”

Some officers can be redeemed through discipline and training, but those with a “malignant heart” have to be let go, Beck said.

But how do you see into an officer’s heart and who determines its darkness? And how does an officer wind up fired for reporting misconduct?

[BIG SNIP]

Clearly, given his actions later, his was a “malignant heart.” Dorner was unfit to be a police officer.

But the account of his termination is troubling enough that it makes me wonder if the process was used to seek truth or simply to root out a troublemaker.

It looks like a Catch-22: Officers are subject to discipline for not reporting misconduct. But if you make the claim and it doesn’t stick, you can be fired because your bosses doubt you.

That’s a message with the potential to punish a whistle-blower. It seems to validate the “no snitching”

[BIG SNIP]

I can’t imagine how painful it must be for the LAPD’s rank and file to absorb this blow to the family. I understand the rumbling among officers who feel that giving any credence to Dorner’s claims risks turning a maniacal killer into some sort of martyr.

But I’ve also heard from officers who feel shamefully relieved that Dorner expressed publicly the frustrations some have been carrying privately for years.

Read the rest.


LASD UNDERSHERIFF IS RUNNING & NOT RUNNING, CAMPAIGNING BUT NOT CAMPAIGNING FOR MAYOR OF GARDENA

For the last few months, LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who also happens to be the mayor of Gardena, has been not running for a third term as mayor, although he didn’t manage to make the not-running decision until he’d already put his name on the ballot.

More recently, he has modified his stance and now says that he isn’t going to campaign, and doesn’t want to run, but will be happy to accept the job as mayor if people really, really, really want him so much that they can’t help but elect him.

(There are two other candidates. One who is on the ballot as well as Tanaka. Another is a write in who didn’t sign up originally because he thought Tanaka was running.)

A few days ago, Tanaka reiterated this message that he is not campaigning to Daily Breeze reporter Sandy Mazza. And then he went on to list for Mazza all the reasons one might want to vote for him. To wit:

Tanaka’s main argument for re-election is his record. Since he first captured the mayor’s seat in 2005, the city has added about 35 police officers, balanced its budget, put away $10 million in a rainy day fund, and negotiated an affordable repayment for a crippling $26 million debt racked up from two failed city initiatives in the 1990s.

“My record speaks for itself,” Tanaka said. “The decision for people to make is, `Do you like what you’ve seen in the last eight years?’ We’ve erased the deficit, gotten back in the black, and increased our surplus.”

Also, although Tanaka isn’t running or campaigning, his good friends at the Gardena Police Department are raising money and campaigning for him, according to Mazza.

WitnessLA has reported extensively on Tanaka’s longstanding habit of soliciting/accepting campaign contributions for his mayoral campaigns from Los Angeles Sheriff’s department members whose careers he has had the power to affect. These revelations have, in turn, been a cause for concern and criticism by the members of the LA County Board of Supervisors, the Citizens Committee on Jail Violence, and finally—indirectly—by Sheriff Baca.

And then there is the LA Times’ recent story about an odd incident in which the sheriff’s department, namely Tanaka, used the Gardena PD to surreptitiously ship a bunch of bullet proof vests to Cambodia.

So, what does all this have to do with the Gardena mayor’s race? Oh, who knows. Likely nothing. It is simply that, as the undersheriff has demonstrated himself to be a man who often has a purpose for his actions other than what is publicly stated, it hard not to wonder what all this running/not running business is really about.


CRIME CONTINUES TO DROP IN LOS ANGELES AND MOST CALIFORNIA COUNTIES, EVEN THOUGH CRITICS INSIST THAT THAT REALIGNMENT IS CAUSING A RISE IN CRIME

On Sunday, the San Jose Mercury News ran an op ed that compares some of the realignment fears with facts.

Here are a couple of clips:

There are two major complaints: One is that crime rose as realignment cut the inmate populace by more than 24,000. The other is that some criminals are being released earlier than before the program began in October 2011, in part because local jails in a few counties are overcrowded.

A typical gripe comes from Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the state’s largest police union. “Our members are terribly concerned that we are allowing people out of prisons who are likely to recommit crimes and victimize the people of our city,” he said in a telephone interview.

He claimed probation departments have lost track of some former prisoners, but could offer no specific examples. “All I have is anecdotal information,” he conceded.

It turns out that only one of those big gripes has any proven merit: In a few counties, Fresno being a prime example, prisoners are often released after serving minimal jail time. But sheriffs and the state Department of Corrections insist the releases never involve violent or sexual criminals and that ex-convicts get the same level of parole and probation supervision they did before.

As for crime being up? Well, in LA violent crime isdown for the 10th year in a row, as the essay points notes:

….dropping 8.2 percent to a total of 18,293, with significant decreases in robbery and aggravated assault. There were 152 gang-related homicides — the fewest in more than 10 years.

But property crime was up slightly in L.A., by 0.2 percent, with Police Chief Charles Beck attributing the uptick to a 30 percent increase in cellphone thefts. Beck said some of the small increase in property crime might be due to realignment.

In surrounding Los Angeles County, homicides were at 166, the lowest number since 1970,

Murders are up in Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco—which could be due to realignment.

Or not.

“Taken together, those three cities lost more than 850 police officers to budget cuts in the past three years, which may help explain some of their homicide increase.

The other dozen reporting cities in the region had 24 percent fewer murders during that period, and, overall, Bay Area slayings remain well below historic highs.

Let us hope that sometime in the next year we will have the results of some kind of study that involves serious numbers crunching and analysis to tell us—from a fact-based, rather than fear-based perspective—exactly how AB109 has affected the state and counties.

Joan Petersilia’s team at Stanford University is, we know, working on study. But it seems to be a slow process.


Photo/Najee Ali

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD, Police, race, racial justice, Realignment | 8 Comments »

Which LA Police Departments Will Get the $7 Million in Realignment Funds? (And What’s the Deal with Gardena?)

January 24th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



LA POLICE DEPARTMENTS TO GET $$ TO HELP WITH ADDED BUDGET BURDENS CAUSED BY REALIGNMENT

When California’s prison realignment kicked in on Oct 1, 2011, nearly $400 million was allocated to LA County to offset the added costs. One of the two main recipients of the money has been the LA County Probation Department, which oversees the post-prison probation of many former inmates who, in the past, would have been on state parole. The other main recipient, is the LA County Sheriff’ Department, which has had the considerable added expense of jailing thousands of extra lawbreakers who, pre-realignment would have served their sentences in state prison.

Yet the various police forces in and around LA County have been complaining loudly for more than a year that, while their budgets aren’t hit as hard as those of Probation and the LASD, they too have substantial added costs.

For instance, in 2011, the Los Angeles Police Department moved 150 police officers out of street patrol duty to help probation officers who, unlike state parole officers, do not carry weapons, and thus often rely on local police to help with house visits and other forms of probation enforcement.

With all this in mind, last year, the state legislature voted to allocate $20 million in grants for California’s city police departments, an amount that was tentatively upped to $24 million last week according to the California Board of State And Community Corrections, which voted to distribute the money to each county according to a formula based on the various counties’ relative needs. (The extra $4 is still pending the approval of the state legislature, which has ’till mid February to act on the matter.)


GARDENA? SERIOUSLY, GARDENA?!

Los Angeles County is set to get nearly $7 million of the $24 million, which is to be divided among the county’s various city police forces.

However, until the money is divvied up, one city in each county is given “fiduciary responsibility” for the cash and then will “allocate the funds based on the collective decision of local law enforcement.”

According to documents obtained by WLA, most California counties logically chose their largest city to administrate the grant funds. For example, Alameda County chose Oakland, San Francisco County chose San Francisco, Kern chose Bakersfield, San Diego chose San Diego….and so on.

That is why it was something of a surprise to find that LA County—which has within it the city that receives, far and away, the most parolees and probationers returning from prison of any other municipality in the state—did not choose Los Angeles to manage the grant, although surely LA would have been the obvious option. Nor did it choose Long Beach, which might be the fallback position. Instead, LA County’s administrative city is…..Gardena.

Now, no doubt there is perfectly good reason that the 6-square mile city of Gardena was selected. We weren’t able to find anyone before press time who could tell us who exactly made the decision, although since Sheriff Lee Baca is on the 12-member board for State And Community Corrections, one assumes he at least had something to do with it. After all, his Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, along with being the main person who oversees the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s budget, is also the mayor of Gardena.


WILL THE LASD CONTRACT CITIES WANT THEIR CUT?

It will be interesting to see how the allocation of $7 million plays out, as the various police agencies make their bid for a piece of what is, in reality, a very limited pie.

One would normally assume that the Los Angeles Police Department would get the lion’s share of the money, for obvious reasons, with Long Beach and possibly Burbank running at a distant 2nd and 3rd place.

However, here’s the thing: according to the rules of the grant, in addition to city police departments being eligible for a share of the grant money, county sheriff’s departments that contract to police incorporated cities within their counties (in addition to the unincorporated areas that are their core responsibility) can also put themselves in the running for the new grant dollars. The LASD has contracts to police 42 cities within LA County. Taken cumulatively, one could make the case that the LASD should get a very large piece of the $7 million funding pie—despite the fact that, as mentioned above, they’ve already received a a good share of the nearly $400 million allocated to the county in the last 2 fiscal years.


AND WHAT ABOUT THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT’S RECENT BUDGET TROUBLES?

Added to the ever-more-interesting mix, right now the Sheriff is facing large cash flow woes to the degree that, as of this week, is rumored to be running substantially over his $2.8 billion budget.

In fact, at the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting, Baca announced that he was going to have to cut patrols in the unincorporated areas of the county, in order to manage his cash flow, which was “hemorrhaging,” he said, in part due to runaway overtime. (It seems that the LASD’s overtime costs have doubled between the past fiscal year and this one, jumping by more than $30 million.)

Things got so heated at the meeting over the LASD budget issues, that the Supervisors ordered a forensic audit of the department’s budget, to find out where all the money is going.

Moreover, one of the issues that came up in the meeting is that the LASD is providing the contract cities with services that it is not charging them for.

All this is to say that, it would not be any kind of shock to hear the sheriff make a hardball pitch for some of those nice new realignment funds.

So does any of the above have to do with the otherwise unlikely choice of the City of Gardena to administer the police department grant funds?

Oh, who knows?!

But, it is at least a matter worth watching.


Posted in Charlie Beck, LA County Board of Supervisors, LAPD, LASD, Police, Probation, Realignment, Sheriff Lee Baca | 5 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts

April 14th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


WHAT IS BERNIE PARKS THINKING???

City Council Member Bernard Parks thinks that the new LAPD Headquarters ought to be named once again for William H. Parker, the guy who was Los Angeles police chief for 16 years and, in the eyes of many, the father of modern policing.

Last week, Parks introduced a motion at the City Council regarding his Parker Center sequel and got it passed out of committee. (Tony Cardenas was the only other committee member present and he voted YES too.)

The name would be fine were it not for the pesky fact that Parker was something of a notorious racist. True, he cleaned up the graft in the LAPD. In doing so, he turned the department into a paramilitary organization, urged police to set themselves apart from the community. He also coined the term “thin blue line,” implying that all that stood between the citizenry and chaos was the police. Parker’s strategies, as Bill Bratton has said, came at the expense of the city’s minority communities.

Commenter/blogger Jasmyn Cannick writes, “As much community relations work that today’s L.A.P.D. is doing to turn around its very tattered image, it makes no sense to want to hold onto the name of one if its most notoriously racist leaders.”

(She has posted a very good video on the issue, which I’ve embedded above).

LAPD Chief Bratton is not for keeping the name of Parker Center either. Nor is police commission member, John Mack—and a long list of other critics of the idea.

“I agree with Bill Bratton,” said Father Greg Boyle. “[We should call it] Police Administration Bldg.”

(NOTE TO CITY COUNCIL: Do not, I repeat, do not, open this up for a citywide vote or we’ll end up naming the new headquarters after Stephen Colbert.)

******************************************************************************************************

INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY—UNLESS YOU’RE AN IMMIGRANT

The AP has an excellent story on the people whose rights—and lives—are being trampled by the immigration system—even when they are in the US legally or, as with some of the cases, US citizens.

Here’s a clip:

The American judicial system deems everyone innocent until proven guilty and guarantees a fair hearing with a lawyer – but not when it comes to immigration. Then there are far fewer rights. And as the system comes under pressure from a flood of new cases, the strain is showing.

One result is that U.S. citizens arrested as illegal immigrants
or deportable residents cannot count on the legal system as a safety net. The odds are stacked against them. On the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, The Associated Press has documented more than 55 such cases since 2000, and immigration lawyers count hundreds more.

I am aware of several such cases-–one in particular in which a man I know spent over a year in lock-up while he fought to get the immigration court to believe that he was an American citizen. (His father was a citizen meaning he is too.) He was finally released a couple of weeks ago.

*******************************************************************************************************

LAUSD’S CORTINES PULLS 1900 ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS OFF THE FIRING LIST

On Monday, LAUSD Sup Ray Cortines said that 1900 out of the 3500 teachers slated for layoffs, will not have to be given the boot. All 1900 are elementary school teachers.

Also, yesterday, Mayor Antonio Villaraisgosa pushed for shaving teacher salaries and some work “furloughs” in place of the layoffs.

According to the City News Service, Antonio said that “…laying off more than 3,000 teachers is not an acceptable option. These extraordinary circumstances demand an approach of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice. I’m asking everyone to come together, pitch in and be a small part of a bigger solution.”

If every employee took a 3 percent pay cut this year,
about 2,280 school-based jobs could be saved, said AV.

The mayor is right. But there is only one teensy weensy problem with that plan: The district cannot simply unilaterally make those pay cuts. The union will have to go along with it and so far the union has said, Fat chance! Don’t even think about it, bud! (Or words to that effect.)

Today the LAUSD board will have to vote on what to do about the remaining teacher layoffs.

*******************************************************************************************************
SHOOTING IN FRONT OF LOCKE HIGH

Just before 8 a.m. on Monday morning
, a guy walked up and shot a 17-year-old Locke High School student in the chest right in front of the school He survived after he walked into the school to get help. Police are searching for the shooter.

Locke is the Green Dot conversion school.

As the press showed up on the scene,
Green Dot’s Steve Barr, looked grim. The campus is a safe, calm place, he said. But “we can’t control what goes on outside the school.”

*******************************************************************************************************

R.I.P. JUDITH KRUG……GLORIOUS WARRIOR QUEEN FOR FREE SPEECH

You have likely never heard of her, but the American Library Association’s Judith Krug, who has just died of cancer, was a remarkable woman who, for forty years, fought righteously and ferociously for Americans’ freedom to read.

She was the director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and the executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, the First Amendment legal defense arm of the ALA.

She was the founder Banned Books Week, which brought to the attention of US readers what works of literature were being banned and challenged—both present and past.

She led the charge to have section 215 of the US Patriot Act repealed-
–a statute she believe invaded a reader’s privacy intolerably.

Her life’s passion was doing anything and everything
she could to protect the Constitutional rights of citizens granted under the First Amendment.

It was a battle she fought hard and well.


She modeled a commitment to the principles of intellectual freedom
for an entire generation of librarians.

She will be sorely missed.

Posted in immigration, LAPD, LAUSD, Police, Social Justice Shorts | 13 Comments »

The Will to Solve the Problem?

January 23rd, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

ijj-2.gif

All day Tuesday some of the main players in the realm of
LA criminal justice got together at the Davidson Center at USC and talked with each other and the audience about what a successful 21st Century criminal justice system ought to look like. Among those present were LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, LA civil rights attorney Connie Rice, gang intervention specialist, Bo Taylor, Urban League president Blair Taylor, author and former California state senator Tom Hayden, LA gang czar Jeff Carr…and lots more.
The discussions were moderated by journalist/author Joe Domanick and bounced around between such subjects as gangs and gang violence, California prisons, the LA County jail and the broken parole system.
ijj-conference-1.gif

I’ll blog about the high points later.
But the conversations were remarkable for their lack of defensiveness or grandstanding. Everyone seemed to have showed up with the willingness to genuinely talk about solutions—and how the ideas discussed this week could get beyond talk to actual implementation.

Here’s some of what Victor Merina, Senior Fellow at the the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, wrote about the conference:

For Connie Rice, an attorney and architect of Los Angeles City’s landmark anti-gang report, reforming the criminal justice system is critical in dealing with an “endemic epidemic” of violence on community streets.

For Sheriff Lee Baca, who oversees the country’s largest jail system,
a criminal justice system overtaxed by mental health issues among those incarcerated has worsened a staggering problem.

For Darren “Bo” Taylor, a former gang member
who now works with at-risk youth as founder of Unity One, the everyday violence in communities of color is simply “a crisis. It’s an emergency.”

And Blair H. Taylor, president and CEO
of the Los Angeles Urban League, puts it even more dramatically, calling the need to curb community violence today’s paramount issue. “It’s a problem, I believe, bigger than any problem in the 21st Century,” said Taylor, “bigger than global warming, bigger than terrorism.”
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Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, law enforcement, parole policy, Police, prison policy | 5 Comments »

Bernie V. Antonio – The COP Hiring Fight Heats Up

November 8th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

the-mayor-and-the-chief-2.gif

A showdown is brewing…

On one side we have Antonio Villaraigosa, who made a promise last year that he would put 1000 more police officers on the streets of LA, and he would find the money to do so by raising the city’s trash fees. Now that the fee hike is raking in around $150 million in new revenue, AV is ready to make good on his promise, and hire more cops.

On the other side we have former LAPD Chief, Bernard Parks
who, during Tuesday’s fit of ABB mania (anything to Bash Bratton) said that the city is badly over budget, and the LAPD is over budget too—ergo sum, nearly all that trash money ought to go into the general fund, not into the hiring of cops. In addition, Parks (whom the Daily News has taken to calling Bitter Bernie) is pushing for a cap to any cop hiring—money or no money—and he’s persuaded half the City Council to side with him.

The mayor’s response Wednesday afternoon was to say in so many words that he was willing to take this one to the wall. “The council is going to cap police hiring over my dead body,” snarled Villaraigosa.

Certainly, Antonio likes the drop in crime that’s occurred on his and Bratton’s watch and has no intention of giving it up. He also wants to keep his popular police chief happy. AND he wants credit for keeping last year’s promise of getting 1000 more cops on the street with the help of the trash fees.

So far the smart money’s on Antonio to win this one. But there are still a lot of balls in the air….so stay tuned.

By the way, the LA Times is so busy covering the WGA strike
that it’s failing to report on the fight that’s ratcheting up at city hall. But the Daily News’ Rick Orlov is doing it up right. Check this story and this, and this one, for lots more of the details.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing: On Wednesday, Parks also introduced a non-binding resolution to ban the use of the N-word in Los Angeles.

Posted in City Government, LAPD, law enforcement, Police | 15 Comments »

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