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LAPD Wilshire Station Shooting, Debunking the “Superpredator,” Breaking the Cycle of Repeat Victimization…and More

April 8th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

GUNMAN OPENED FIRE IN LAPD WILSHIRE STATION, INJURED AN OFFICER

An LAPD officer was wounded in a shooting Monday night at the Wilshire station.

An unnamed gunman walked through the front doors and shot at two desk officers in the lobby. The officers returned fire and took down the gunman. One officer was shot seven times according to Chief Charlie Beck, but was saved by his vest and only sustained a shoulder wound. The gunman is in critical condition.

We’ll let you know as we know more. Our best wishes are with the officer and his family.

Jason Kandel, Andrew Blankstein and Beverly White have the story for NBC4. Here’s a clip:

A Los Angeles officer was shot and wounded by a gunman who walked into a police station lobby with “a complaint” and opened fire, officials said.

The officer, a seven-year veteran of the LAPD, was shot seven times – three times in the vest and four times in his extremities, officials said. He was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“He is in great spirits,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said outside the hospital. “Remarkable young man. Very, very lucky.”

The gunman was taken to the hospital in critical condition, Kato said.

The violence broke out at 8:30 p.m. at the LAPD’s West Traffic Division, which is housed in the Wilshire Division, in the Mid-City area of LA.


HISTORY OF THE “SUPERPREDATOR” OF THE 90′S

In the early 90′s a wave of teen violence prompted some criminologists and political scientists to forecast the emergence of a new breed of children—”superpredators”—impulsive kids without compassion who would commit innumerable violent crimes.

Their fear-mongering was perpetuated by many news sources and politicians, and prompted a string of reactionary and harmful juvenile justice laws across the country.

But instead of a horde of “superpredator” children, Department of Justice data showed that the teenage violent crime rate actually dropped a whopping two-thirds from 1994 to 2011.

As part of the RetroReport documentary series, the NY times has a video (above) and story by Clyde Haberman about the rise and fall of the “superpredator” mania and its repercussions. Here’s how it opens:

As the police and prosecutors in Brooklyn tell it, Kahton Anderson boarded a bus on March 20, a .357 revolver at his side. For whatever reason — some gang grudge, apparently — he pulled out the gun and fired at his intended target. Only his aim was rotten. The bullet struck and killed a passenger who was minding his own business several rows ahead: Angel Rojas, a working stiff holding down two jobs to feed his family of four.

Not surprisingly, the shooter was charged with second-degree murder. Not insignificantly, prosecutors said he would be tried as an adult. Kahton is all of 14.

That very young people sometimes commit dreadful crimes is no revelation. Nor is the fact that gang members are to blame for a disproportionate amount of youth violence in American cities. But it is worth noting that in Kahton’s situation, no one in authority or in the news media invoked a certain word from the past with galvanic potential. That word is “superpredator.”

Had this Brooklyn killing taken place 20 years ago, odds are that some people would have seized on it as more evidence that America was being overwhelmed by waves of “superpredators,” feral youths devoid of impulse control or remorse.

Their numbers were predicted as ready to explode cataclysmically. Social scientists like James A. Fox, a criminologist, warned of “a blood bath of violence” that could soon wash over the land. That fear, verging on panic, is the subject of this week’s segment of Retro Report, a series of video documentaries that examine major news stories from years ago and explore what has happened since.

What happened with the superpredator jeremiads is that they proved to be nonsense. They were based on a notion that there would be hordes upon hordes of depraved teenagers resorting to unspeakable brutality, not tethered by conscience. No one in the mid-1990s promoted this theory with greater zeal, or with broader acceptance, than John J. DiIulio Jr., then a political scientist at Princeton. Chaos was upon us, Mr. DiIulio proclaimed back then in scholarly articles and television interviews. The demographics, he said, were inexorable. Politicians from both major parties, though more so on the right, picked up the cry. Many news organizations pounced on these sensational predictions and ran with them like a punt returner finding daylight.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the apocalypse. Instead of exploding, violence by children sharply declined. Murders committed by those ages 10 to 17 fell by roughly two-thirds from 1994 to 2011, according to statistics kept by the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Mugged by reality, a chastened Mr. DiIulio has offered a mea culpa. “Demography,” he says, “is not fate.” The trouble with his superpredator forecast, he told Retro Report, is that “once it was out there, there was no reeling it in.”


REDUCING REPEAT VICTIMIZATION IN CALIFORNIA

Many Californians who experience repeat victimizations do not take advantage of trauma services according to a new report by Heather Warnken of Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute of Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley (and commissioned by Californians for Safety and Justice). Prolonged and repeated victimization can have long-term, serious psychological consequences.

The report calls for things like increased access to trauma services in spaces that are not justice-system affiliated, and building trust between communities and law enforcement with officer training.

Here are the report’s key findings and recommendations:

The report led to the following key findings:

Many repeat victims do not access trauma services.

Repeat victims who utilized services often accessed them much later – often for reasons other than the original crime.

The failure or inability of a survivor to report a crime to law enforcement can jeopardize their ability to access services.

The collateral consequences to survivors grow without effective services and stability.

The report recommends:

Increasing state support for a diversity of trauma-recovery services, including more options in communities and at venues unaffiliated with the justice system;

Building trust with law enforcement through training and other methods to address the perceived “empathy divide;”

Allowing for multi-disciplinary, trauma-informed first-response teams; and

Promoting resource and referral counseling, and access to job-support, transitional housing and other longer-term resources necessary for stabilization.

KPPC’s Rina Palta has more on the report.


THE PROBLEM WITH PUNISHING INDIVIDUALS FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE FAILURES

Criminal justice errors are not uncommon: prosecutorial misconduct and coerced false confessions land innocent people behind bars, and preventable deaths and injuries can and do occur in jails and prisons.

Stephen Handelman, executive editor of the Crime Report, says that targeting and punishing the rogue prosecutor or the jail guard who neglected the medical needs of an inmate does not actually do anything to fix the system that allowed the error.

By using a system-based approach to prevent misdeeds—like medical field uses—real and lasting reform can occur. Here’s how it opens:

Who should be blamed when an innocent person goes to prison? Or when an inmate with un-addressed mental health problems commits suicide?

If you just looked at newspaper headlines, or listened to angry legislators or advocacy groups, the answers seem simple.

There’s usually some “bad apple” —an overzealous prosecutor or careless jail guard—to pin the blame on.

But the problem with simple answers is that they can be misleading.

Especially when catastrophic mistakes such as a lifetime spent in prison for a crime that you didn’t commit— or even comparatively minor injustices, such as an innocent suspect who pleads guilty for lack of a good attorney—seem to recur throughout our criminal justice system.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, by the end of 2013, 1,272 individuals were freed from prison after being found innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted.

Some believe this represents only a small percentage of those wrongfully behind bars today, since this figure is the result of painstaking work by the still-small “innocence movement” and relates mostly to serious criminal charges, such as murder.

Are they right? To what extent are our overloaded and resource-strained courts, prisons and jails evidence of flaws in the administration of justice rather than crime rates?

It’s entirely possible that system errors and oversights are “destroying tens of thousands of lives every year,” suggests Dr. Lucian Leape of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Leape admits he’s no criminal justice expert, but he’s worth listening to.

A few decades earlier, Dr. Leape discovered that mistakes in surgical and hospital care, which inadvertently killed thousands of patients annually, were preventable by addressing systemic flaws rather than by focusing on the actions of individual doctors or nurses.

For instance, putting two different types of medicines in packages that look almost identical could cause a hurried, stressed surgeon to reach for the wrong package, with disastrous results for a patient.

“We make mistakes because we’re human,” says Leape. “But punishing errors won’t work, especially when they’re unintended. You’ve got to quit trying to change (people) and change the system.”

The work of Leape and others led to the creation of the National Patient Safety Foundation, which established a template for detecting and correcting the often-overlooked errors in procedure or lapses in judgment that produce fatal results.

Leape’s estimate of the impact of criminal justice system errors is based on his own experience of the similarly complex and occasionally dysfunctional U.S. medical system. But we don’t have to accept his judgment alone.

Last weekend, some of the nation’s leading criminal justice players and scholars came to much the same conclusion during a two-day conference organized by the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

“If you limit yourself to going after the bad cop, the drunken sleepy lawyer, the corrupt judge, (you’re not affecting) the conditions that created them,” the conference was told by James Doyle, a Boston attorney who, as a recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ) fellow, helped spearhead a “systems approach” to correcting mistakes in justice.

Read on.


A QUICK RUNDOWN OF THE SHERIFF CANDIDATE DEBATE ON SUNDAY NIGHT

Sunday night, Los Angeles Sheriff candidates (minus Bob Olmsted) squared off in the latest debate. Sheriff hopefuls discussed deputy cliques and “bad behavior.”

The LA Times’ Cindy Chang has more on the debate. Here’s a clip:

Seeking to distance himself from the problems that led his former boss to resign, a candidate for Los Angeles County sheriff offered to roll up his pants and prove he does not have a tattoo.

Patrick Gomez’ offer at a debate in Pasadena on Sunday was followed by a challenge from the moderator to the other candidates — not necessarily to show skin but to say whether they had ever been members of a Sheriff’s Department clique.

Under former Sheriff Lee Baca, deputies allegedly formed cliques with names like “Grim Reaper” and “Regulators,” using tattoos to cement membership bonds. One clique, the “Jump Out Boys,” allegedly modified its tattoos to celebrate the shootings of suspects.

At Sunday’s debate, retired undersheriff Paul Tanaka admitted to having a tattoo from the Lynwood Vikings clique. When deputies first started acquiring ink in the 1980s, the tattoos were just that — tattoos, he said.

“Yes, I do have a tattoo. No, I never was part of a gang,” Tanaka said. “It did not become sinister until years later. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gotten a different tattoo.”

Todd Rogers, an assistant sheriff, said he was invited to join a clique and refused.

Deputies who were not members were “treated like second-class citizens,” said Rogers, who joined the department 29 years ago. “Anybody who denies it is living in fantasyland, and I don’t mean the one at Disneyland.”

The next debate will be tonight (Tuesday) at Loyola Marymount University. (More info here.)

Posted in criminal justice, juvenile justice, LAPD, LASD, psychology, Trauma, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Solitary Confinement on Capitol Hill, Death Row Letter…and More

June 20th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

SENATORS GET TO EXPERIENCE SOLITARY CONFINEMENT LIVING CONDITIONS ON CAPITOL HILL

Capitol Hill saw the first ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement Tuesday. To illustrate living conditions within the Secure Housing Units common to many federal and state prisons, a Senate Judiciary committee had a cell replica erected inside the hearing room.

NPR’s Carrie Johnson has the story. Here’s a clip:

At any given moment, about 15,000 men and women are living in solitary confinement in the federal prison system, housed in tiny cells not much larger than a king-sized bed.

“It is hard to describe in words what such a small space begins to look like, feel like and smell like when someone is required to live virtually their entire life in it,” says Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

But Tuesday, Haney, who has studied life inside prisons for three decades, had an opportunity to paint that picture. Haney and other advocates had gathered in Washington to testify about solitary confinement to members of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil and human-rights issues. Committee members say they want to explore the costs of long-term isolation in U.S. prisons.

To help illustrate living conditions in solitary, committee members asked the architect’s office in the U.S. Capitol to set up a replica of a cell — a tall white box with no windows — right inside the hearing room.

The replica provided the backdrop for what lawmakers called the first-ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement.

All Things Considered also explains how other states are getting rid of Supermax facilities and reducing the number of inmates in solitary. Check it out here.


A LETTER FROM DEATH ROW INMATE

Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan sent letters to death row inmates with upcoming execution dates. Brett Hartmann, an inmate scheduled to be executed Nov. 13th, wrote back and shared his thoughts on life on death row–from food and health care to criminal justice and the death penalty. Here’s a clip:

People change, after 15 years you are no longer executing the same person that committed the crime. A fair sentence for murder? Personally I believe if you have not done at least some time in prison and experienced the hell that prison is you should not get to say what is an appropriate sentence for anything. We claim we are a nation of second chances yet we hate giving them! I would say 20-30 years, let a person have a chance to make up for their mistakes no matter how horrible, but I would put on also that if while in prison the person shows by his conduct in prison that he has not changed then you would go to a civil commitment to keep them in to protect society.

I would be against the DP in all cases, a respect for life is a respect in all aspects. Look at Manson, one of the most hated men next to Hitler, he has been locked away, he shows no remorse and might pose a threat if released so the Parole Board keeps him locked away. I believe execution just is not the answer, as humans we are prone to mistakes and execution is a mistake you cannot undo.


EL MONTE SCHIZOPHRENIC MAN DEAD AFTER FIGHT WITH POLICE

A schizophrenic man died after an altercation with police in which officers used a baton, taser, and choke hold to subdue him. Twitter users are saying that the incident may be the next Kelly Thomas-like case, but the details of the confrontation are still a bit hazy. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. has taken over the investigation.

ABC’s Robert Holguin has the story. Here are some clips:

Denise Le says her brother got into an argument with her father last Thursday night, so she called police. But she says the argument was over by the time police arrived.

“I thought police came just to talk to Quah,” Denise Le said. “I really regret calling 911 for help. It turned out to be (the) murder of my brother.

The Le family says the two El Monte police officers who responded to the call began to attack Khoa Ahn Le. By the time officers got him to the driveway in handcuffs, his family says he was unconscious. He was transported to a local hospital, where he later died.

[SNIP]

The sheriff’s department says Le fought with the officers and resisted arrest. “Mr. Le continued fighting and one officer struck Mr. Le one time in the torso area with a flashlight. But Mr. Le continued to fight,” said sheriff’s Lt. Holly Francisco in a statement. “Another officer struck him three times with a baton in the torso, ankle and knee.”

Posted in Courts, crime and punishment, criminal justice, Death Penalty, law enforcement, psychology | 3 Comments »

Bruce Lisker Will Not Be Retried: DA Drops Charges

September 21st, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

bruce-lisker-and-cameras

In a fascinating and welcome turnaround,
the LA District Attorney’s office has dropped charges against Bruce Lisker, the man who was recently released from prison after spending 24 years in prison due to what many believe was a wrongful conviction. Lisker is 44-years old.

When he was 17, Lisker was convicted of the beating and stabbing death of his mother, Dorka Lisker, whose body was discovered in a bloody scene at the Lisker’s Sherman Oaks home. Bruce Lisker was tried and convicted as an adult, and sentenced to life in prison in 1985.

Early last month, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips overturned Lisker’s conviction stating that Lisker was convicted on “false evidence” and that his attorney (who is now a court commissioner) did not adequately represent him.

But although Lisker was released, the DA’s office strongly hinted they would go ahead with a new trial.

Initial doubts about the case had come to light when an LAPD Internal Affairs sergeant named Jim Gavin responded to an ethics complaint about the main officer on the Lisker case, Det. Andrew Monsue. The more Gavin looked into things, the more he began to believe that what he was looking at was no simple misstatement by an officer, but a rush to judgment in a murder investigation that might have the wrong person in prison.

However, his bosses at IA, then headed by Michael Berkow, thought Gavin was overstepping his bounds and told him to cease and desist.

He mostly did so—but handed over some of what he’d found to Lisker’s lawyer.

Gavin also began talking to LA Times reporters Matt Lait and Scott Glover who wrote an excellent 2005 account of the murder investigation and subsequent conviction that raised a great many troubling questions about Lisker’s guilt.

Since that time, Jim Gavin, who essentially acted as a whistleblower, calling attention to what he believed might be a grave miscarriage of justice, appears to have been marginalized by some sectors of the LAPD, a department where he still serves.

As to why the DA decided not to proceed, DA spokesperson Sandi Gibbons, stated that, while “…we remain confident in Mr. Lisker’s original conviction of the second-degree murder of his mother, Dorka…” the prosecution was unable to go to trial due to the fact that much of the original physical evidence had been “destroyed” (not comforting to know, whatever one believes about the Lisker case) and some of the witnesses had died.

“Given these factors and policy considerations, we cannot proceed to trial. ”

In other words, Gibbons said when we talked, although the prosecutors’ view of the case has not changed, the state of the available admissible evidence assuredly has.

This is obviously great news for Bruce Lisker, and in the view of many, very good news for justice in general.


After his release, amid TV cameras Bruce Lisker thanks private investigator Paul Ingles, one of those who worked on his case: the above photo and other photos from that day by Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, District Attorney, Presidential race, psychology | 12 Comments »

1 in 7 American Teenagers Think They’ll Die Young

June 30th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

istockphoto-american-teenagers

In a brand new study published in the July issue of Pediatrics,
University of Minnesota pediatrics expert, Dr. Iris Wagman Borowsky, found that almost 15 percent of American teens believe they will die before age 35.

Dr. Borowsky also found that the adolescents who were the least hopeful that they would survive past 35, were the most likely to engage in risky behavior.

Those of us who have worked around at-risk kids have long noted that a hopeless kid is the one who is most likely to act out in dangerous ways. But seeing quantified the sheer numbers of American teenagers who believe that they will die young cannot help but shock us.

Dr. Borowsky arrived at her conclusions after she and her team analyzed reams of data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, in which the attitudes and behaviors of 20,594 adolescents in 7th through 12th grade, were tracked over a three year period.

One of the reasons the study is important is that it topples a common fallacy that most kids engage in risk-taking behavior because of their naive belief that nothing bad will happen. The reality, Borowsky found, is actually quite the opposite—and far more complex.

“While conventional wisdom says that teens engage in risky behaviors because they feel invulnerable to harm [italics are mine], this study suggests that in some cases, teens take risks because they overestimate their vulnerability, specifically their risk of dying,” Borowsky said. “These youth may take risks because they feel hopeless and figure that not much is at stake.”

Nearly 25 percent of youth living in households that receive public assistance and more than 29 percent of American-Indian, 26 percent of African-American, 21 percent of Hispanic, and 15 percent of Asian youth reported believing they would die young—compared to just 10 percent of their Caucasian peers.

“Our findings reinforce the importance of instilling a sense of hope and optimism in youth,” Borowsky said. “Strong connections with parents, families, and schools, as well as positive media messages, are likely important factors in developing an optimistic outlook for young people.”

No kidding.

Borowsky noted specifically that the kids who believed they would die young were more prone to drug use or to acquire STDs.

Yet, this same model applies when we look at the likelihood of joining or staying in gangs.

In and around the gang world, the least hopeful kids are always the most deeply involved and the most dangerous—either to themselves or others.

“Hey, you gotta die sometime.…..” I’ve heard kids say right before they go do something life-theateningly stupid. These were the same kids who told me how they had already planned what they were going to wear to their own funerals.

It is for the above reasons that programs like “Scared Straight” and the ever more draconian juvenile laws that are aimed at getting young gang members or gang wannabes to “think twice”—are so entirely ineffective.

These strategies work wonderfully for the kids who don’t need them—the hopeful kids.

But if we want to help the kids who are the most at risk (and it seems according to Borokwsky and company, there are a great many of them) we need to find much more effective methods for infusing them with hope.

Posted in children and adolescents, juvenile justice, psychology | 12 Comments »