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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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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?


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”


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.


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.


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


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.)


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.


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.


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


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.)



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.



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.


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.”



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


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.

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.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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


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 »

Bernie, Bernie, BERNIE!!!!

November 7th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon


LA City Councilman, Bernard Parks
has many good qualities. He’s very well liked by the South LA communities he represents, and makes a real effort to regularly get out among the ordinary people who elected him. He’s supportive of the various jobs programs around the city that help at risk young men and women with barriers to employment, and speaks eloquently in those programs’ behalf.

Plus, the man has has great cheekbones. (Okay, not one of the main traits one commonly demands of one’s Councilperson, but darned handy when he’s doing those requisite photo ops.)

BUT….and it’s a big but—Ex-LAPD-Chief-turned-Councilman Parks
is near pathological in his behavior whenever the subject turns to LAPD’s present day Chief, Bill Bratton, or the Los Angeles Police Department, in general.

It’s as if Parks
—normally a reasonable, intelligent, charming, savvy guy—-keeps an evil twin locked in his basement, a sort of menacing Creature of the Dark that is magically released to terrorize the local populace, whenever someone utters the fateful letters: L. A. P. D.

This Bad Bernie doppelganger had its most recent outing
yesterday when Parks, who happens to be chairman of the Council’s budget committee, proposed that the money from city trash fee increases, that had been set aside to pay for hiring new LAPD Officers, be diverted to libraries and parks. Now I’m as much for supporting libraries and parks as the next person (actually, when it comes to libraries, probably more than the next person), but the rise in fees were sold specifically to Angelenos as a way to get more cops on the streets of a town that has one of the worst police-to-resident ratios of any big city in America.

The union—the Police Protective League-
–was quite right this morning when it labeled the Parks-proposed move a bait and switch on Los Angeles homeowners who are, after all, the ones paying the increased fees, so their say-so ought to carry the day.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has threatened to veto
any such proposal if the Council shows the bad sense to vote it through. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. (The issue is being discussed at the Council today.)

In the meantime, Bernie, seek therapy. I make that suggestion as a friend.

(Original, un-messed-with photo snatched from ViewImages.)

Posted in Antonio Villaraigosa, LAPD, law enforcement, Police, unions | 6 Comments »

MAY DAY: The LAPD Lays It All Out……Sort Of

October 10th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon


As I posted yesterday, the “Final Report on the MacArthur Park Incident”-
–also known as the May Day Melee report— was presented to the Police Commission Tuesday morning.

And, in your spare time, you too can download all 80 plus pages in PDF form from the LAPD website. The thing includes diagrams, training manual excerpts, and a minute-by-minute timeline of how matters went south—and it actually makes for pretty interesting reading (or skimming, if I am to be completely honest).

While some people present at MacArthur Park that day (and their lawyers) have already disagreed with certain perceptions put forth in the timeline, nearly all agree that the report is truly heartening for its detail and transparency.

From nearly day one, Bill Bratton and his command staff have displayed a willingness to issue in-depth mea culpas—a 180-degree change from the pre-Bratton years when the LAPD’s knee-jerk MO was to place blame anywhere BUT on the department’s shoulders—no matter how laughable the logic required to perform this pretzelling of responsibility.

Yet, again Tuesday Chief Bratton apologized
to both the rank and file and to the public—an act that most listening agreed is completely unheard of. “In 33 years,” said Police Union head, Tim Sands, “I’ve never seen it.”

The report was written in the same spirit
by Deputy Chief Michael Hillman, and LAPD Consent Decree head, Gerry Chaleff, and it lays out with unusual candor all the missteps made by those in command that ultimately resulted in the mayhem that left 40-some people injured and resulted in more than 100 lawsuits.

Among the problems cited are the following:

There were contradictory orders given….there was a failure to “issue a lawful dispersal order” to the crowd….there was an inexplicable okay of the use of force on the crowd… a lack of communication and “abrogation of responsibility” by incident commanders.

And then, even when things started to get really out of control,
none of the on-scene shot callers bothered to pass that information up the chain of command (a VERY big deal, according to Chief Bratton).

Moreover, the report doesn’t just list failures, it names names, calling out all those brass who blew it—something that is, in itself, unprecedented.

The seriousness with which the department intends to take the report
was heralded last spring when Bratton made swift changes at the top, yanking two of the men who take the much of the report’s heat. Former South Bureau Deputy Chief Caylor “Lee” Carter, and Commander Louis Gray were replaced by Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz, and Commander Andrew Smith.

Unfortunately, the report is far less complete
when it comes explaining the acts of the Metro guys (and/or women) who actually did all the whacking and “non-lethal” shooting of reporters and fleeing parents with children, which turned up in video form on YouTube for the viewing pleasure of millions.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bill Bratton, LAPD, Police | 24 Comments »

Baby Suzie and the Cop Confidentiality Factor

August 3rd, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

Suzie Pena’s wake

Just slightly over two years ago, an LAPD SWAT team
tried to rescue an 19-month-old little girl named Suzie Pena, who was with her drunk, drugged out dad in a car dealership while the dad shot (and shot back) at the cops.

After several hours of this, the SWAT team did an entry into the back gate of the dealership, crept through the dealership building itself, sent a “flash-bang” into the tiny interior office where the dad was holed up. They thought the flash-bang would stun him. It didn’t. He shot back. So they blew into the room firing, and killed the crazy, messed-up, murderous dad….and the little girl. She died in her father’s arms.

So now the little girl’s mother, Lorena Lopez, is suing the LAPD for her daughter’s wrongful death and negligence. (I wrote about this case for the Weekly, so in case you’re curious about the back story you can find it here…and here.)

As part of the suit, her attorney, Luis Carrillo
is asking for the internal police reports from the department’s investigation into the gun battle. Not surprisingly, the department doesn’t want to fork them over. The Deputy City Attorney, a woman named Kelly Kades, insists that the police officers’ statements are for internal use only and are protected by the right against self-incrimination.

It’s kind of an interesting dilemma. Kades says that, unlike in civilian employment, the department can make officers testify against their wills and so the info that results should be kept confidential.

According to the AP, Carrillo argued that “there is no danger of self-incrimination because the district attorney’s office said in 2006 that none of the 57 officers and supervisors involved in the standoff and shooting would face criminal charges.”

Carrillo says he only wants to compare
what the officers involved in the shooting told their supervisors with what they stated in their depositions given for this civil case.

On Tuesday, the judge, who clearly would prefer not to
touch this one, ruled that…..somebody else can decide it. He’s ordered the two side to make their respective pitches to an impartial referee who will then advise the judge was to whether he ought to release the documents or not.

Okay, attorneys and arm chair attorneys out there
, what do you think the referee will decide?

One thing I’d bet the ranch on:
if the cops have to fork over the internal info, the department is toast in terms of this lawsuit. (Not that there was any ill intent. The SWAT guys were devastated by by the outcome.)

They may be toast anyway
if Carrillo the attorney can, in any way, accurately reconstruct the way the tiny interior office looked after the shooting.

When I was reporting, I spent a long, long time in that office looking at the walls and at all those bullet holes. (The photo below only shows a small section.) And frankly I still can’t understand how those genuinely good officers could have gone into that little room, guns firing, and imagined the outcome would be any different than the tragic scene that resulted


Posted in Bill Bratton, Courts, crime and punishment, LAPD, Police | 12 Comments »

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