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Compromise Bill to Limit Willful Defiance, Two Preschoolers Suspended 8 Times, LASD Missed the Mark on Metro Policing Objectives, and Former Foster Kids Struggle to Get Health Care

July 25th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

GOV BROWN HELPS AMEND BILL THAT WOULD LIMIT USE OF “WILLFUL DEFIANCE” FOR SUSPENSIONS, EXPULSIONS

Governor Jerry Brown and advocates have come to an agreement on a bill to eliminate “willful defiance” as grounds for expelling a student. A version of the bill with broader limits on “willful defiance”—a vague term for most anything that can pass as disruptive behavior—passed through legislature last year, but was vetoed by Brown.

This bill would also prohibit school staff from suspending young children (up to third grade) for willful defiance. The compromise bill will sunset at the end of 2018, so that Brown and legislators can reassess.

In the 2012-2013 school year, “willful defiance” accounted for 43% of suspensions and 5% of expulsions. And while black children make up 9% of the student body, they amassed 16% of “willful defiance” suspensions. Back in May 2013, the LAUSD banned suspensions for “willful defiance.” (Read about it here.)

Ed Source’s Susan Frey has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Under the new agreement, no student can be expelled for being willfully defiant or disruptive of school activities. That subjective category has come under fire because it has been disproportionately used statewide to discipline African-American students and, in some districts, Latino students. In addition, under the amended bill, administrators would no longer be able to suspend K-3 students and send them home for being willfully defiant.

The law will sunset on Dec. 31, 2018, when legislators will have a chance to revisit the issue.

“Advocates for change would very much like to go further,” Dickinson said, “but we realize the governor’s willingness to agree to take steps at all is a significant move.”

A bill that put more limits on the use of willful defiance passed the Assembly and Senate last year. But that bill was vetoed by the governor, who said he thought disciplinary decisions should be made by local administrators. Jim Evans, a spokesman for the governor, said Brown declined to comment because the legislation is pending.

[SNIP]

Laura Faer of Public Counsel, a public interest law firm based in Los Angeles, said her group sees this agreement as a first step forward. She said she appreciates that “the governor is willing to walk with us on this” and sees the sunset clause as an invitation for more dialogue that will eventually lead to the elimination of willful defiance as a reason to suspend or expel.

“Students, parents, teachers and community members around the state are working passionately for this change,” Faer said. “Nobody’s giving up, nobody’s going away.”

The revised bill will go before the state Senate in August.


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF THE RACIALLY DISPARATE SUSPENSION OF KIDS YOUNGER THAN NINE…

Author, motivational speaker, and cofounder of a nonprofit for those affected by fatherlessness, Tunette Powell, has an excellent story for the Washington Post about how her two generally well-behaved preschoolers have collected eight(!) suspensions between them.

Here’s how it opens:

I received a call from my sons’ school in March telling me that my oldest needed to be picked up early. He had been given a one-day suspension because he had thrown a chair. He did not hit anyone, but he could have, the school officials told me.

JJ was 4 at the time.

I agreed his behavior was inappropriate, but I was shocked that it resulted in a suspension.

For weeks, it seemed as if JJ was on the chopping block. He was suspended two more times, once for throwing another chair and then for spitting on a student who was bothering him at breakfast. Again, these are behaviors I found inappropriate, but I did not agree with suspension.

Still, I kept quiet. I knew my history. I was the bad preschooler.

I was expelled from preschool and went on to serve more suspensions than I can remember. But I do remember my teachers’ disparaging words. I remember being told I was bad and believing it. I remember just how long it took me to believe anything else about myself.

And even still, when my children were born, I promised myself that I would not let my negative school experiences affect them. I believed my experience was isolated. I searched for excuses. Maybe I was just a bad kid. Maybe it had something to do with my father’s incarceration, which forced my mother to raise me and my brothers alone.

So I punished JJ at home and ignored my concerns. Then, two months later, I was called to pick up my 3-year-old son, Joah. Joah had hit a staff member on the arm. After that incident, they deemed him a “danger to the staff.” Joah was suspended a total of five times. In 2014, my children have received eight suspensions.

Just like before, I tried to find excuses. I looked at myself. What was I doing wrong? My children are living a comfortable life. My husband is an amazing father to JJ and Joah. At home, they have given us very few problems; the same goes for time with babysitters.

I blamed myself, my past. And I would have continued to blame myself had I not taken the boys to a birthday party for one of JJ’s classmates. At the party, the mothers congregated to talk about everyday parenting things, including preschool. As we talked, I admitted that JJ had been suspended three times. All of the mothers were shocked at the news.

“JJ?” one mother asked.

“My son threw something at a kid on purpose and the kid had to be rushed to the hospital,” another parent said. “All I got was a phone call.”

One after another, white mothers confessed the trouble their children had gotten into. Some of the behavior was similar to JJ’s; some was much worse.

Most startling: None of their children had been suspended.

Read on.


REPORT SAYS LASD FALLING SHORT OF CRIME REDUCTION GOALS ON METRO LINES

As Metro Transportation Authority officials are considering a new three year security contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept., a report on the previous MTA-LASD contract shows that the LASD fell short of Metro policing goals. For instance, while the department was supposed to reduce crime on the transit system by 8% each year of the contract, crime rose by 28% in 2012, and another 8.5% in 2013. From 2010 to 2013, aggravated assault and robberies jumped 75% and 43%, respectively.

The LA Times’ Laura Nelson has more on the report. Here’s a clip:

The report, written by an outside firm and commissioned by Metro officials, found other management and safety problems over the last five years of contracted Sheriff’s Department service that had cost the transit agency more than $365 million. The criticisms come as officials weigh awarding a three-year security contract expected to cost about $400 million.

“We can have more effective law enforcement than we have right now,” Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Chairman Eric Garcetti said. The audit “raises a lot of fair questions,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Department was tasked with reducing crime on the Metro system by 8% a year, but total reported assaults, robberies and other crimes increased 28% in 2012 and 8.5% in 2013, according to audit data. Over a four-year study period, aggravated assaults climbed 75% to 280 in 2013, while robberies increased 43% to 407, according to FBI statistics included in the study.

Violent crime statistics reported to the FBI were as much as 22% higher than figures the Sheriff’s Department reported to Metro, according to the audit. The difference, the audit said, is that federal statistics require that multiple victims of assault and theft be reported as separate crimes, while Metro does not. The figures reported to Metro and the FBI also do not include crimes handled by other local police agencies.


FORMER FOSTER KIDS HAVE TROUBLE SIGNING UP FOR HEALTH CARE

Former California foster kids are allowed to stay on Medi-Cal until they turn 26, but many young kids aging out of the system are finding themselves unable to sign up for healthcare through Covered California. Child welfare advocates say the Covered California website is unequipped to enroll former foster youth, and employees are not aware of the law allowing these young adults to retain health insurance past age 18.

KQED’s April Dembosky has the story. Here are some clips:

For most young people, The Affordable Care Act allows them to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26. But when California foster youth age out of the system between ages 18 and 21, they often have no one. So federal lawmakers added a special provision to the health law that allows these young adults to stay on Medicaid — called Medi-Cal in California — until age 26, regardless of their income.

“Former foster youth are extremely vulnerable,” says Jessica Haspel a policy associate at the advocacy nonprofit Children Now. She says any obstacles or delays to enrollment are especially problematic for foster youth. Many have special health needs stemming from a history of abuse or neglect and may rely on important medication for things like diabetes or anxiety. Studies show nearly one in three former foster youth exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder — which is itself about twice the rate of American war veterans.

[SNIP]

She says the Covered California website isn’t programmed properly to identify former foster youth. And call center employees aren’t educated about the new provision. As a result, some youth are being told they don’t qualify when they do, or they are put in a queue when they should be fast-tracked into coverage.

Posted in Foster Care, racial justice, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 17 Comments »

Sheriff’s Candidates Trade Barbs Over Deputy Cliques….& The LA Times Endorses McDonnell

April 30th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon

NOTE:
On Wednesday, the LA Times endorsed Jim McDonnell for LA County Sheriff.
. You’ll find the endorsement at the end of this post, so just scroll down if you can’t stand to wait.


DEPUTY CLIQUES AND CANDIDATE ABSENCES

About halfway through Monday night’s candidate’s debate featuring five of the seven men who hope to be elected Los Angeles County Sheriff on June 3 (or at least make it into the runoff) the discussion ramped up several notches in response to a question about what each man would do about the department’s notorious deputy cliques.

Jim Hellmold, Jim McDonnell, Bob Olmsted, Todd Rogers and Lou Vince were the five in attendance at the debate, which was organized by one of the LASD unions, the Professional Peace Officer’s Association or PPOA.

Pat Gomez did not attend the event for reasons that were not clear. But the most conspicuous absence was that of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka who said he had a scheduling conflict—although some PPOA members suggested that Tanaka might have simply chosen to skip this particular panel because he deduced that many of the event’s questions would not be friendly.

Indeed, what turned out to be the night’s most provocative question was the one about deputy cliques, which could arguably be seen as directed, at least in part, at the absent Tanaka.

It went as follows:

There has been a long history of accusations of deputy gangs and tattoo cliques within the Sheriff’s Department. The Lynwood Vikings were labeled by a judge to be a white supremacist gang that preyed on minorities, primarily blacks in the City of Lynwood, and more recently the 2000 and 3000 Boys at Men’s Central Jail were deputies accused of excessive force against inmates and even against each other. There are many other examples that have garnered negative attention in the media including the Jump Out Boys from the Sheriff’s elite gang unit, the Banditos from ELA station and the Regulators from Century station. What are your thoughts about these alleged deputy gangs and cliques? If elected Sheriff, will you put a stop to them? If so, how?

Retired LASD commander Bob Olmsted was up first. “They are not ‘alleged,‘” he said grimly. We’ve had them in the past and it’s intolerable.” With that, Olmsted held up a photo of a group of “3000 Boys,” one of the two deputy cliques that had reportedly caused problems at Men’s Central Jail. Each of the deputies in the photo was flashing a three-fingered sign.

As to whether the cliques deserved to be referred to as deputy “gangs,” Olmsted said. “When you have deputies that throw gang signs, call themselves ‘OGs,’ have [matching] tattoos, beat up other deputies…what would you call ‘em?”

If elected, Olmsted said he would deal with the cliques harshly, and that members could be fired.

“As sheriff I will not promote anybody who has a racist tattoo on his ankle,” he said. “To me that’s totally unacceptable.”


DIVISIONS IN THE RANKS

Todd Rogers (who, along with Hellmold, is one of two working assistant sheriffs in the race) also came down hard on deputy cliques. Like Olmsted, he said he did not view the groups as benign. “These cliques are divisive by their very nature,” he said, noting that some had suggested that the LASD’s clique tattoos were not any different than the military tattoos that men serving together often acquire.

“But if you’re in the military,” Rogers said, “anybody can get a tattoo, you don’t have to be sponsored, they don’t have numbers attached to ‘em.” [The tattoos of the Vikings, the Regulators and those of some of the other LASD cliques are sequentially numbered.] “They aren’t inclusive of one group, and exclusive of the rest of the deputies because they’re not ‘made’ people.’”

What Rogers thought was “really reprehensible,” he said, “is when our supervisors and our executives buy into that and perpetuate it by letting these people be promoted. We have a person commanding a station right now who has Viking tattoo, and a person running for sheriff who has a Viking tattoo on his ankle and refuses to renounce that.”

The candidate with the Viking tattoo is, of course, Paul Tanaka, who at other debates has admitted to the thing, which he acquired in the late 1980s. But he dismissed it as harmless and of no special importance.

LAPD detective Lou Vince, the next in line, was terse and to the point. “Deputy gangs and cliques are the opposite of what professional law enforcement should be,” he said.


CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

When the question came to Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, he was crisp and unequivocal. “Looking at gangs…” he said. “We absolutely have them. The 2000 Boys, the 3000 Boys, the Regulators, the Jump Out Boys, the Bandidos, the Vikings…. That’s not professional law enforcement. It’s either high school, or it’s gangs. Or it’s somewhere in between.

The LASD is the only identity that any of us should have. We should be focused on how we raise the professionalism and the image of the organization. We have core values. But do we mirror them? By having cliques and gang behavior, if we tolerate them, we don’t.

“The whole idea of having to ‘earn your ink’ by being brutal to an inmate within the custody environment,” That’s criminal behavior,” McDonnell said.

“I look at the subculture that’s created by tolerating this behavior…and it’s unacceptable. It leads to poor morale, and deviant behavior. There’s one organization and that’s the LASD. If we’re professionals, let’s act like professionals, and hold ourselves and each other to the highest standard…”


IT’S THE CONDUCT, NOT THE TATTOO

Jim Hellmold, the other LASD assistant sheriff running, was the only one on the stage who did not portray the deputy cliques as harmful.

In fact, Hellmold dismissed the notion that special tattoos or cliques were important at all.

“I’m not going to tell you old wives tales about being offered a tattoo,” he said, in a slap at Rogers who, at some point in the discussion mentioned that, as a young deputy, he’d been asked to join the infamous Regulators by a more senior deputy and, when he declined, the would-be sponsor refused to have anything more to do with him.

“We’ve made our sheriff’s department look like a bunch of gangsters and thugs to the general public,” Hellmold said, seeming curiously to imply that the fault is in the portrayal of the cliques, not in the cliques themselves.

“To me it’s about the conduct,” said Hellmold. “And I have zero tolerance for misconduct.” He explained that he knew deputies who had been shot in the line of duty “who have a tattoo. And I’ve fired deputies who did not have a tattoo.” Hellmold did stipulate that if deputies had tattoos they should not be visible. (For the record, even the worst of the LASD deputy clique tattoos are generally worn on the ankle and like areas, that not visible in work clothing.)

Later in the discussion, Hellmold switched gears, turned to McDonnell, and began making rapidfire references to the LAPD’s bad old days in the late 1990′s when the Rampart division’s gang unit was revealed to be running amok and had its own ominous-looking tattoos.

The LAPD had a group called “Shootin’ Newton,” he said. “But that didn’t meant they were all killers.”

McDonnell, whose demeanor had mostly been genial toward his fellow candidates, began to look steely. “‘Shootin’ Newton’ is not a gang,” he said. “It’s a station nickname, and it’s not professional.

Well, had McDonnell ever worn a Shootin’ Newton t-shirt?

Another laser stare look. “No. I didn’t and I never would have.”

There were more questions about what McDonnell had personally done to get rid of the LAPDs tattoo-wearing Rampart clique.

In fact, the LAPD went so far as to disband all the department’s gang units, which were known as CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums.) And, likely, more relevantly, McDonnell had been second in command under Bill Bratton when Bratton was rebooting the LAPD in order to rid it of its corrosive culture, which included the arrogant, dice-shaving, non-Constitutional policing that the Rampart CRASH elements represented.

At still another point the conversation, Rogers signaled to the moderator that he wanted to reply to Hellmold as well. He had not been talking about old wives tales, he said. “I’m talking about deputies who were ostracized when they go to the command post by the shot callers at those stations.

Olmsted broke in again and held up a photo of the Jump Out Boys tattoo which features a skull and the so-called dead man’s hand, Aces and eights, which is similar to the Rampart CRASH tattoo.). “That’s the corporate culture that we’re talking about. And it’s not acceptable,” he said. “When the public sees us with these kind of tattoos it’s unacceptable.”

And so it went. There were other lively moments in the night. But it was this segment that provided the best theater and possibly some of the best insight.



AND NOW FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES ENDORSEMENT

The LA Times editorial board has endorsed Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell for Los Angeles County Sheriff. But the board’s endorsement is not just an explanation of why the board members believe that McDonnell is the right man for the moment, it is also a commentary on the state of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and how the latter necessitates the selection of the former.

Here are two clips from the heart of the endorsement essay. But be sure to read the whole thing. It is too important to merely skim.

The pivotal question before voters is whether they believe the department is emerging from a chaotic but limited period in which professional standards broke down, and that with Sheriff Lee Baca’s departure and the continuing implementation of reforms urged by a citizens commission, it is now well on its way to recovery; or if instead it is continuing on a decades-long path that promotes cliques, secrecy and abuse, and needs a sweeping and dramatic change in culture.

If it’s the former situation, as some of the candidates argue, all that is needed is the right candidate from the right departmental faction to complete a sweep of troublemakers and commit to better management of the jails, and all will be well.

But if the department’s problems are not that recent or simple — and the evidence is overwhelming that they are not — what is needed is a candidate with the law enforcement credentials, the integrity, the backbone and the skills to march the deputies, their leaders and their culture through a rigorous and soul-searching reinvention, all while raising performance standards and recommitting the department to transparency and humane and constitutional treatment of suspects, inmates and the public at large.

That latter standard is the bar a candidate should meet. The one who comes closest is Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell. The Times strongly recommends a vote for McDonnell for sheriff.

Is McDonnell as good as his reputation? Does he have the will, as well as the command presence, to confront and prevail over what is sure to be resistance from entrenched elements in the Sheriff’s Department?

The Times’ editorial page is convinced. His tenure as Long Beach police chief has been short but impressive. Before that, he was a highly regarded second in command to the Los Angeles police chief, and although he was not the most publicly visible or vocal leader of the Los Angeles Police Department during the era of Rampart reforms, his leadership during that time was unmistakable to those who closely follow the LAPD. His quick mind and thoughtful analysis were apparent as he sat on the county’s Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence that cut to the heart of problems in the Sheriff’s Department and recommended decisive corrective action.

[SNIP]

Credit retired Cmdr. Robert Olmsted for his role in calling out abuse in the jails, but he is not the leader the department needs. Todd Rogers, especially, deserves notice for his commitment to community policing, and the integrity and professionalism he brings are badly needed in the department. But like other candidates, he need not hold the top spot to be part of the solution.

A note about candidate and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka: His name comes up in virtually every report or interview about command breakdown and jail violence in the last five years of Baca’s tenure. His attempts to explain some of his stunning directives — for example, his admonition to deputies to work in the “gray area” of the law and his later explanation that he meant they should use their discretion — are laughable. He is exactly the wrong person to lead the Sheriff’s Department forward.

The right person is Jim McDonnell

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tomorrow we’ll catch up on the non-LASD news.

Posted in 2014 election, LASD, Los Angeles Times, Paul Tanaka | 79 Comments »

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 »

Holder & Duncan Shocked at Pre-School Discipline #’s….Child Abuse Deaths Up….Looking at Sheriff Candidate Bob Olmsted….and More

March 24th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



ERIC HOLDER & ARNE DUNCAN SHOCKED AT SUSPENSION OF PRESCHOOLERS

This past Friday the Civil Rights division of the US Department of Education released a report detailing the disturbing number of suspensions and other forms of discipline in American schools. The statistics on preschool suspensions, in particular, were so high that they succeeded in shocking the US Attorney General and the Secretary of Education.

The Center for Public Integrity’s Susan Ferris has the story. Here’s a clip:

Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed shock at data released Thursday showing that thousands of preschool kids were suspended nationwide during the 2011-2012 school year. The suspensions fell heavily on black children, who represented 18 percent of preschool enrollment yet 48 percent of all suspensions.

“I was stunned—I was stunned—that we were suspending and expelling four-year-olds,” Duncan said at a Washington D.C. elementary school, where he and Holder discussed findings of the latest Civil Rights Data Collection by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The survey showed that nearly 5,000 preschool students were suspended in the 2011-12 academic year.

“This preschool suspension issue is mind-boggling,” Duncan said. “And we need to as a nation find a way to remedy that tomorrow.”

Duncan said training is needed at schools that suspend large numbers of kids at all grade levels to demonstrate a “better way” of handling problem behavior. “We know there is a correlation between out-of-school suspensions and ultimately locking people up,” Duncan said. “And folks don’t like it when we talk about it. But for far too many children and communities the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ is real.”

Here’s the report.


SAME DATA FINDS AFRICAN AMERICAN PRESCHOOLERS MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE SUSPENDED

Jesse Holland of the Associated Press looks deeper into the racial disparities in school suspensions found in the recently-released Dept. of Education report, including suspensions in the nation’s preschools, where African American preschoolers account for a stunning 48 percent of suspensions.

Here’s a clip:

Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have contributed to a “school-to-prison” pipeline that snags minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This was the first time the department reported data on preschool discipline.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration issued guidance encouraging schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal’s office. But even before the announcement, school districts have been adjusting policies that disproportionately affect minority students.

Overall, the data show that black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that’s three times higher than that of white children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys.


ALARMING SPIKES IN CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT IN VARIOUS STATES

The Wall Street Journal reports about the frightening rise in child abuse deaths that is getting lawmakers to pay attention. Since the WSJ is hidden behind a pay wall, The Crime Report summarizes the story. Here’s a clip:

Seventy-eight children died in Florida last year as a result of abuse or neglect—36 of whom had prior involvement with the state Department of Children and Families, says the Wall Street Journal. The string of deaths triggered public outcry, plunged the state’s child-welfare system into crisis and led to the resignation of the agency’s secretary. Now, the Florida legislature has made overhauling the system one of its top priorities in the session that began this month. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican seeking re-election this year, has called for nearly $40 million in additional funding. Other states and localities are embroiled in similar controversies. In Massachusetts, the September disappearance of a 5-year-old boy, who is feared dead, went unnoticed by the state’s child-welfare agency for three months, prompting the governor to order an independent review. In California, the brutal death of an 8-year-old boy allegedly abused by his caregivers led Los Angeles County supervisors to create a commission on child protection that is due to issue recommendations next month…..


KPCC’S FRANK STOLTZE PROFILES BOB OLMSTED

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has a new profile of retired LA County Sheriff’s Department commander Bob Olmsted. That makes three candidates that Stoltze has interviewed and profiled. (He’s also done stories on candidates Jim McDonnell and James Hellmold.)

The profiles aren’t long but they’re smart, featuring those who express pros and cons on each man.

You can find the podcast here, and here’s a clip from the written version of the Olmsted story:

Whistleblowing cops usually end up as pariahs. Bob Olmsted is no different.

“I’ve got a problem with a guy who runs to the FBI,” says retired Sheriff’s Lieutenant Craig Ditsch. “We have some very good people who have been indicted.”

A federal grand jury has indicted 20 current or former sheriff’s officials on civil rights and corruption charges – in part because of Olmsted. Most of the charges relate to excessive use of force against jail inmates, or efforts to cover it up.

Now, Olmsted is using his whistleblower past to distinguish himself among the seven candidates hoping to succeed former Sheriff Lee Baca as head of one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.

Olmsted once oversaw Men’s Central Jail as a commander, and went to his superior seeking to remove a problem captain. When Olmsted didn’t get the help, he went higher.

“I told my chief, ‘I’m going over your head,’” Olmsted recounts. He sounds like a worried parent when he describes the corrosive effect of bad deputies.

“Who is protecting these young guys, the good guys?” he asks. “Nobody.”

In 2011, when Baca and his former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka (now a candidate for sheriff), refused to help, according to Olmsted, he went to the FBI. Olmsted had just retired from the department.

Last summer, before Baca abruptly resigned and a slew of other candidates jumped into the race, Olmsted announced his run for sheriff. It was a bold move by a political novice against a powerful incumbent.

“It was my duty to run,” Olmsted says.

[SNIP]

While many current and former deputies loathe the idea of a whistleblower becoming sheriff, retired Commander Joaquin Herran is a proud supporter of Olmsted.

“He had the guts to go do the right thing for the right reason,” Herran says. “Other people did not.”


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC, HERE’S WHAT THE DAILY NEWS SAYS ABOUT THE LASD SHERIFF CANDIDATES AND THE RACE

The Daily News’ Christina Villacourte interviews experts about what the voters need to look for as they contemplate whom to choose as LA County’s new sheriff, and talks briefly to the candidate themselves.

Here’s a clip:

[Laurie] Levenson, the criminal law professor, said the new sheriff must meet stringent criteria.

“I think integrity is key,” she said. “It should be somebody who’s experienced in law enforcement, and who has the confidence of law enforcement personnel.”

“He should be a good manager, politically savvy, and with a great deal of courage to take on the different issues that confront the county — from homeland security to modern approaches toward law enforcement, even inmate rehabilitation and penal reform,” she added.

If a candidate were to win the majority of votes on June 3, the county Board of Supervisors could remove interim Sheriff John Scott, and appoint the sheriff-elect to lead the department immediately. If no candidate exceeds 50 percent, the top two would face a runoff election on Nov. 4 and the winner would be sworn in Dec. 1.

If voters choose poorly, the consequences can be costly — literally.

“County taxpayers paid about $40 million last year in settlements and jury verdicts for illegal behavior on the part of the Sheriff’s Department,” American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Peter Eliasberg said.


Pre-art photo of preschool kids from PreschoolMatters.org

Posted in 2014 election, DCFS, Education, Foster Care, LASD, School to Prison Pipeline, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 34 Comments »

Feds Address Contra Costa Juvenile Hall’s Use of Solitary Confinement…a Call for LASD Oversight…and DCFS Simulates Home Visits for Social Worker Trainees

February 19th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

JUSTICE AND EDUCATION DEPTS JUMP INTO LAWSUIT AGAINST CONTRA COSTA’S ISOLATION PRACTICES IN JUVENILE HALL

Both the US Department of Justice and Department of Education has intervened in a federal lawsuit challenging Contra Costa County’s solitary confinement of mentally disabled kids, and the lack of education provided to them while in isolation. A statement of interest by the DOJ and DOE requested that the presiding judge deny motions to dismiss the case and asked that both departments be able to take part in the oral arguments.

The Contra Costa Times’ Matthias Gafni has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Justice Department’s filing quoted findings from a departmental task force that concluded:

“Nowhere is the damaging impact of incarceration on vulnerable children more obvious than when it involves solitary confinement.” It said such confinement could lead to “paranoia, anxiety and depression” and creates a risk of suicide.

The lawsuit was filed last August by Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates, along with a pro-bono law firm and a private firm, on behalf of a teenage girl and two boys, all of whom were or are still detained at the maximum-security, 290-bed Martinez facility.

In March, a San Francisco federal judge will rule whether to grant class-action status to the suit, allowing other disabled youths to sue the county Probation Department, which runs juvenile hall, and the Contra Costa Office of Education, which runs the McKinley School inside the facility.

An attorney representing the teens said the solitary confinement policy is from the “Dark Ages.”

“We do know that Contra Costa is probably one of the worst,” said Marie-Lee Smith, Disability Rights Advocates’ managing attorney. “There are many counties that do not use solitary confinement. It’s very troubling and very disturbing to see a county continue to use this form of discipline.”

Smith said it was extremely rare for the Justice Department to weigh in on a lawsuit, and even more unusual for federal education officials to join. In a Feb. 13 filing, the feds voiced concerns over using solitary confinement to punish detained youths, citing a 2002 Department of Justice study finding such treatment led to mental problems and even additional suicide attempts.

Unlike jails for adults, under state law juvenile halls are required to provide a “supportive homelike environment” and focus on rehabilitation, not punishment. Punishments based on a youth’s disability must be treated differently from other discipline, and facilities must provide schooling, including special education, even if youths are being disciplined, according to state law.

The suit also alleges the county fails to provide adequate special education opportunities for all disabled youths.

(The LA Times’ Lee Romney also reported on this issue.)


EDITORIAL: THE LASD TROUBLES ARE NOT OVER YET

So far, 20 members of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. have been indicted as part of a federal investigation, and there are almost surely more indictments to come. Sheriff Lee Baca retired abruptly at the end of January, and the LA County Board of Supervisors chose OC Undersheriff John Scott to take over as interim sheriff until the November election (or the June primary, at the earliest). Moreover, all the recommendations made by the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence are—at least theoretically—on their way to being implemented.

But do these things herald the end of an era of LASD corruption and misconduct scandals?

In an LA Times editorial, Robert Greene says the crisis isn’t over yet, not by a long shot, and won’t be until there is permanent and meaningful oversight of the department. It is time to really start the discussion, he says. Here are some clips:

…We are not done. The system did not work. The system, in fact, is at the core of the culture that pervades the Sheriff’s Department even in years in which the anguish of abused inmates and their families, the outrage of deputy cliques with their own gang-like tattoos and codes of silence, the astonishing number of deputies arrested for drunk driving don’t make it to the headlines or don’t catch the interest of voters.

The system of an elected sheriff in a county of 10 million people, the vast majority of whom aren’t served by his deputies and need not pay attention to his department’s travails, is an anachronism.

But of course, that invites a host of questions: If the sheriff isn’t elected, who should appoint him? Would the Board of Supervisors, also protected by a veneer of democracy without facing any serious electoral challenge, do a better job of running the Sheriff’s Department than the sheriff? Would the supervisors be better at picking a sheriff than they were in recent years at picking a chief probation officer or a director of the Department of Children and Family Services? What is the value of added accountability if the sheriff merely is subject to the direction of others who are virtually unaccountable?

[SNIP]

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced a motion last September, when Baca was still in office and still considered likey to be reelected, that would create a five-member citizens oversight commission, appointed by and reporting to the Board of Supervisors. Gloria Molina seconded it. But Ridley-Thomas has repeatedly pulled the matter from the agenda, suggesting a struggle to find a third, and winning, vote.

The matter is on the calendar to come before the board again next Tuesday — but to date there has been little public discussion of the proposal’s merits and pitfalls.

It’s time for that discussion. Some of it must necessarily be wonky, dealing with balances of power and political theory; and some of it must be mercilessly pragmatic (why, for example, would any elected sheriff ever pay such a commission any mind?)…


NEW SIMULATION ROOM PREPS DCFS WORKERS FOR THE CHALLENGES OF REAL LIFE HOME VISITS

As part of the LA Department of Children and Family Services training system overhaul, new social workers are sent into a simulation house where role-players reproduce home visit scenarios to prep the social worker trainees for the realities of protecting LA’s 35,000 DCFS-involved kids.

DCFS has also increased the total training time social workers receive from 8 weeks, to a full year of instruction before being sent out in the field.

The LA Daily News’ Christina Villacorte has the story. Here are some clips:

Entering a home where a father may have broken his baby’s arm in a drunken rage, the rookie social workers tried to soften the family’s guarded apprehension — albeit not always successfully.

“I’m with the Department of Family and Children’s Services,” one nervously told the sullen man who opened the door, even incorrectly stating the name of their agency.

Another rookie sat hesitantly on a couch in a cluttered living and dining room, not noticing the scissors on a coffee table, which could have been used as a weapon had tensions escalated.

Fortunately, no one was in real danger.

The “home” is a simulation laboratory where trainers from the county’s Department of Children and Family Services can collaborate with teachers from various universities as well as law enforcement and legal consultants to help the next generation of social workers.

“It’s OK to make mistakes here,” academy instructor Beth Minor told a class, standing next to a prop refrigerator with a whisky bottle and flyer for Alcoholics Anonymous.

“When you go out in the field and it counts, we want you to take the lessons that you learned here, and apply them.”

[SNIP]

Cal State Los Angeles agreed to build a 440-square-foot residential simulation laboratory with a facade, living and dining room adjacent to the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and hallway closet for about $17,000. University officials also allowed trainers to use a second simulation lab, resembling a hospital room, that was built years ago for medical courses.

“The simulation is the cornerstone of the new training,” said Harkmore Lee, director of Cal State Los Angeles’ Child Welfare Training Center and a former social worker. “This is where their learning becomes concrete, and also where we can assess whether they’re getting it or not.”

Research has shown that people typically retain from 5 percent to 10 percent of what they learn through reading and lectures, and 80 percent to 90 percent of what they practice in simulation, said James Ferreira, Cal State Long Beach’s Child Welfare Training Center director.

Posted in DCFS, Education, Foster Care, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, Sheriff John Scott, Sheriff Lee Baca, solitary, The Feds | 48 Comments »

Santa Barbara Gangster Turned Philosophy Professor….Long Beach Schools Reject Zero Tolerance…& More on the Special Counsel’s Report

October 9th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


GANG MEMBER….SURFER…PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR: THE EVOLUTION OF MANNY RAYA

Santa Barbara’s Mission and State has produced another one of their wonderful non-fiction narrative tales, this one written by Karen Pelland about a confused kid named Manny Raya whose caring but overstressed immigrant mother let him run in the streets, until he inevitably joined a gang and began winding up on the wrong side of the law, his life trajectory decidedly unpromising.

But as luck would have it, several adults—notably two local cops and a philosophy professor—saw something special in the kid and reached out to him. Now Raya has a master’s degree in philosophy and is a sought after philosophy instructor at Santa Barbara City College. And he’s a surfer.

How 32-year-old Raya recalibrated his trajectory (with a little help from Plato) is a story worth reading.

Here’s a representative clip from the story’s middle to get you started:

Joining a gang was not something Raya set out to do.

“It was confusing,” he admits. “As a kid you’re trying to figure out who you are, and you’re trying to separate from your family.” In Raya’s tiny world, that meant one thing: the streets. “The gang to me was everything,” he says. “I didn’t see options. What, I was going to be a gardener?”

Jumped in (delivered a ritual beating) to the Westside Projects gang at 15 with the street name “Fozzy,” Raya’s transition from carefree boyhood to troubled-filled adolescence did not go unnoticed by his mother.

Their relationship had always been open and respectful, but this was something Ms. Raya didn’t understand. “I know you’re better than this,” Raya remembers his mother saying. “You need to stop this somehow.”

It was a puzzling moment for the young man. “I love my mom so much,” he says, “but I was showing my love elsewhere. I remember thinking I had this strength and confidence about myself, and I just wanted to be a man!”

The police, particularly members of the gang task force, also saw a confused kid with potential. “You could tell that he was always torn between his [blood] family and his street family,” says Santa Barbara Police Department Officer Alex Cruz, who arrested Raya after the delivery van incident and who would arrest him many more times.

Cruz, who joined the police department in 1994 and was assigned to the fledgling gang task force in the late ’90s, often got phone calls from Raya’s worried mom. So, Cruz would head out looking for him.

“He had somebody that cared about where he was and whether or not he was in jail,” says Cruz. “Some kids just don’t have that support.”

Lieutenant Ralph Molina, who worked alongside Officer Cruz on the gang task force for years, remembers that “Manny had potential, you could see it.”

Molina says he encouraged the gang unit to really get to know the kids and their families, to talk to them about life, to build mutual respect. “You’d be amazed at some of the things they’ll tell you if you have a rapport with them. They’ll tell us they’re not getting love and attention at home; they’re getting abused at home, physically, sexually… and guess what? If they’re in the streets, the homeboys will give them all the love and attention they want.”


TUESDAY, LONG BEACH SCHOOL DISTRICT VOTES TO ADOPT A KID-FRIENDLY, SCHOOL DISCIPLINE SYSTEM

Several news outlets reported on this story, including the Long Beach Press Telegram.

But this story from non-profit Liberty Hill’s blog, nicely captures the importance of LBSD’s decision to turn away from its previous discipline policies that had resulted in 83,691 students being suspended in the 2011-2012 school year. Here’s a clip:

“Restorative Justice allows a student to see the larger picture of his/her defiance,” said Barbara Lindholm, Principal at Reid High School. “We aren’t interested in ‘punishment.’ Rather, we want to inculcate the values of empathy, orderliness, and manners in students – lifelong lessons which they will use in future arenas.” A student from Poly High School and a leader from Khmer Girls in Action, Malachy Keo, echoed Principal Lindholm adding, “I’ve had disagreements with teachers before. Restorative Justice practices would have helped me and my teachers see each other’s point of view and build better relationships.”

As the majority of students in Los Angeles County, young people of color have a vital role to play in making our neighborhoods safer, our economy stronger and steering our city and state towards success. Yet low income and young men of color have the lowest life expectancy rates, highest unemployment rates, fewest high school and college graduates and most murder victims of any demographic group in the county. This reality starts in school policies that unfairly target students of color for suspensions which ultimately lead to truancy and drop-outs.

“This vote is an important first step in our effort to ensure that every student has an opportunity to thrive,” said Kafi D. Blumenfield, President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation. “Passage of this resolution signals that Long Beach truly wants all students to lead healthy, successful lives.”



IN HIS REPORT, SPECIAL COUNSEL MERRICK BOBB TALKS ABOUT THE “GREY FOG” IN THE LASD & THE POSSIBLE NEED FOR FED INTERVENTION

In the introduction to his 33rd semiannual report on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Special Counsel Merrick Bobb kindly gave a shout out to WitnessLA, talked about former undersheriff Paul Tanaka’s “gray fog” and the possible need for federal intervention to produce true reform at the LASD. Here’s a clip:

….[During the years before his departure] the former Undersheriff apparently exhorted some LASD deputies to work in the so-called “gray zone” or, as I prefer to call it, the gray fog, where objects can be seen only dimly and the guideposts to distinguish right from wrong cannot be read. When the gray fog finally began to burn off, the Sheriff and Undersheriff faced calls for resignation. Although there may have been over-delegation and unwarranted reliance on the Undersheriff by the Sheriff, and despite the LASD being a paramilitary organization, it is worth noting that the assistant sheriffs and chiefs and commanders and captains, with two or three exceptions, did not exactly mutiny or protest when the Undersheriff seemed to overreach.

To attempt change in LASD culture and practice from the outside, the levers have been pulled and the pressure points pushed. The Los Angeles Times and Witness LA, as well as the Department of Justice, have lit up dark corners at the LASD and kept the spotlight unremittingly focused. Yet while vigorous investigations and solid news and editorials are necessary, they are not always sufficient to bring about change. It is frustrating when some recommendations to curb the callousness (or worse) toward some suspects and inmates by a small minority of LASD employees have never been adopted or vanished into the gray fog. In all the years I have served as Special Counsel, I recall only once when I was told things about rotation of deputies in the jails or intentions “sincerely” to change one’s ways that the speakers knew to be less than truthful, and this was at the latter stage of the gray fog years.

Time and again, it is been shown that the power to control an elected sheriff is a near impossibility, to the frustration of many—in particular, to the Supervisors. Despite good- faith efforts to be aware of and respond to problems, the Supervisors at the end of the day lack the power to order the Sheriff or Undersheriff to run a constitutional jail, whether directly or through a blue ribbon commission or a civilian commission or Special Counsel or OIR or an Inspector General or otherwise. It may be that the federal government needs to be added to the mix….

Posted in American voices, Gangs, juvenile justice, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 2 Comments »

MORE POST TRIAL NEWS: Violence at an LA Prayer Vigil……”What Do I Tell My Boys Now?”….Zimmerman Juror’s Speedy Book Agent Deal……..and more

July 16th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



PLANNED LEIMERT PARK COMMUNITY RALLY DISRUPTED BY VIOLENCE, RALLIERS DISMAYED

A well-organized, well-attended prayer vigil and community rally that began at Leimert Park early on Monday evening, was disrupted by a rowdy, angry and violent group of mostly young men on Tuesday night. The destruction-intent group was described by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at an 11 pm press conference in the Crenshaw area as being made up about 150 people who reportedly vandalized Walmart, jumped on cars, broke windows in other nearby stores, and assaulted random people, including an attack injurying KCBS reporter Dave Bryan and his cameraman.

“The right of the many has been abused by the action of the few,” Beck said. The chief warned that on Monday he had allowed the protestors a lot of latitude, but that the latitude was about to vanish. “Parents, don’t send your children to protest in and around Crenshaw tomorrow,” Beck warned.

Mayor Eric Garcetti opened the 11 pm press conference by saying, “The verdict has ignited passions, but we have to make sure it doesn’t ignite our city.”

Garcetti was joined by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who spoke on similar themes. “Twenty-one years ago we witnessed what can happen when there’s a reaction to a verdict. I stand today to say a word about nonviolence…It’s the most effective way to communicate how to address injustice…”

Next up was City Councilman Bernard Parks who, like the other three, urged moderation: “You can protest. Your voices will be heard.” Parks asked demonstrators to focus on the “tragedy in Florida.” Instead, he said, “some people are trying to “create their own tragedy in the city of Los Angeles.

“This will not be tolerated after tonight.”

Community organizer Najee Ali, who was one of Monday night’s main rally organizers, was shaken by the melee caused by the splinter group or groups.

“I’m on my way home from one of the…craziest nights of my life,” he tweeted and posted on his Facebook page. “Its sad seeing our young people like that. To see them and what they did to innocent people was devastating.”

All officials stressed that the violent group was very much in the minority.

For additional reports see the LA Times and Natasha Vargas-Cooper from Buzzfeed.


MEANWHILE, IN OTHER NEWS AROUND THE THE TRIAL OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN AND THE DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN…

Along with the ongoing news reports, editorials and the Op Eds, a series of pain and grief-laden essays by parents continue to appear. Here are a couple we didn’t think you should miss—one from New York, the other from LA.


“WHAT DO I TELL MY BOYS NOW?” A FATHER ASKS

Among the most emotionally affecting in the newest crop is this essay by NY Times columnist, Charles Blow. Here’s a clip from the essay’s end. But please read the whole:

…Sometimes people just need a focal point. Sometimes that focal point becomes a breaking point.

The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies — like stop-and-frisk, and in this case neighborhood watch — regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning down a house to rid it of mice.

As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?”

We used to say not to run in public because that might be seen as suspicious, like they’d stolen something. But according to Zimmerman, Martin drew his suspicion at least in part because he was walking too slowly.

So what do I tell my boys now? At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion?

And can they ever stop walking away, or running away, and simply stand their ground? Can they become righteously indignant without being fatally wounded?

Is there anyplace safe enough, or any cargo innocent enough, for a black man in this country? Martin was where he was supposed to be — in a gated community — carrying candy and a canned drink.

The whole system failed Martin. What prevents it from failing my children, or yours?

I feel that I must tell my boys that, but I can’t. It’s stuck in my throat. It’s an impossibly heartbreaking conversation to have. So, I sit and watch in silence, and occasionally mouth the word, “breathe,” because I keep forgetting to.

But read what Blow wrote in the lead up—especially if you are a parent. Even more, if you are the parent of a boy, whatever color.


WHAT DO WE TELL THE CHILDREN?”

LA Times columnist Sandy Banks told how she is struggling painfully with similar questions, as do her friends. Again, please read the whole thing. But here’s a representative clip:

What do we tell the children?

That’s the cliched question we trot out when we’re confounded by cases like this. This time, for black parents at least, it’s more than rhetoric.

Lawrence Ross is an Inglewood author who travels to colleges around the country, counseling and encouraging black students. Ross is also the father of a 14-year-old boy, whose favorite show of independence these days is walking alone to the 7-Eleven near their gated community.

Ross has spent years teaching his son to be safe and not fall prey to others’ fears:

If you’re driving and the police stop you, put both hands on the dashboard, so the officer can see you don’t pose a threat. If you’re in the elevator alone with a white person, speak so they’ll know you’re articulate and they don’t have to fear you.

But the verdict delivered a message that mocks those parental pretensions: “The world has just been told that my son is [going to be] the aggressor,” Ross said. “That he has no right to exist without question or explanation. That’s devastating to me.

“I want him to walk out in the world as a productive and kind adult, without burdening him with all the sociological issues this country brings.” But he also can’t afford to let naivete disarm his boy.

“What is the safe point? That’s the conundrum. That’s what makes this resonate so strongly.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a mother, my heart tears open reading these accounts.

My own son is now 27, married, and living in the Bay Area with a fabulous job. In his skateboarding, fence jumping, late-night-walking, risk-taking, hormone-fraught teenage years, he mostly wore a beanie, not a hoodie.

And, most crucially, he is white.

But these essays still make me sob, and make me thankful that my cherished tall boy, the light of my life, is grown. To be honest, I’m also grateful that in his edgiest, scariest adolescent moments (and without going into detail, suffice it to say, that there were a few very scary times) I never had to deal with the added fear that race still brings into the mix.

Many of my other friends cannot say the same. And I grieve with them.

I grieve for all of us.


AND IN STILL OTHER TRIAL-RELATED NEWS…


ZIMMERMAN TRIAL JUROR MANAGES TO SIGN WITH HOT SHOT BOOK AGENT 36 HOURS AFTER THE (SATURDAY) VERDICT? REALLY? – UPDATED

TUESDAY UPDATE – Book agent Sharlene Martin decides to recind the deal to represent Jurer B37 after watching the woman’s interview with Anderson Cooper, calling the contract a “grave mistake.”

LA Times reporter Hector Tobar makes an interesting observation in his story on Tuesday about the fact that a Zimmerman trial juror, the woman known as “Jurer B37,” somehow magically managed to have signed with a book agent by first thing Monday morning, meaning she and her attorney husband were very, very busy on Saturday night after the verdict, and on Sunday—either that OR the agency-representation-signing timeline is a little less attractive and ethical than anyone has yet admitted.

Here are the relevant clips from Tobar’s story:

Over the weekend, while thousands of people in various cities across the United States were protesting the George Zimmerman trial verdict, one of the six jurors in the trial was apparently quite busy on the phone—with a literary agent.

The not guilty verdict in the shooting of Trayvon Martin came on Saturday evening. And on Monday morning, the woman known as “Juror B37,” and the juror’s husband, had signed an agreement to be represented by the Los Angeles-based Martin Literary Management agency, as announced by the agency’s president, Sharlene Martin.

[SNIP]

Anyone who’s ever tried to reach a literary agent over the weekend will question the timing of said announcement, which came less than 36 hours after the jury found Zimmerman not guilty of all counts. Is it possible that Juror B37, or her husband, was in contact with the agency before the six-woman jury even began to deliberate? And might a desire to transform her experience as a juror into a marketable story have influenced B37’s view of the case?

Good (and very discomforting) question.

Just so you know, Tobar, in addition to his work at the LA Times, is a talented and well-regarded novelist, meaning he’s familiar with such things as getting agents on the phone over any given weekend.

So, yeah, all you jurors, make literary and TV movie deals, if you can manage it. God speed! But it would have been comforting to know that all the deal hustling waited at least until after the deliberations over a very painful murder trial had been safely completed.


AND WHY WAS B37 ON THE JURY AT ALL? ASKS SLATE’S DAHLIA LITHWICK AND A STRING OF LAWYERS

Aside from the oddly-timed book deal deal it seems B37 is a bit of a quirky girl.

Here’s a clip from Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick’s story that questions “Why her?” with regard to B37′s selection.

Less than two days after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin, juror B37, one of the six members of the anonymous panel, signed with a literary agent to shop her book about the trial.

The news comes with a bonus video: juror B37’s entire voir dire captured on film and promoted today by Gawker. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Sadly the GAWKER voir dire video has since been yanked from YouTube, but here's another.] The process by which counsel on each side of the case interviews prospective jurors is revealing in all kinds of ways, and a useful lesson in the strengths and weaknesses of the jury system. In the case of B37, it is also master class on how to not know anything about something everyone else knows about.

Start with the general observations already raised in Gawker: B37 consumes no media beyond the Today Show—no radio, no Internet news and no newspapers used for anything but lining her parrot cage. Perhaps because she does not consume any media, she was under the false belief that there were “riots” after the Martin shooting. She also described the Martin killing as “an unfortunate incident that happened.”

But the tape raises another question that should be debated in every trial advocacy class in America: What were the lawyers, especially the prosecutors, thinking when they seated her? Why didn’t prosecutors use one of their peremptory challenges to nix her? She’s contrarian, she raised serious ontological doubts about the nature of truth-seeking, and she was only ever truly animated on the subject of rescue birds…


TOMORROW WE WILL BE BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING…

We have several stories that got bumped because the Trayvon stories seemed pressing.

Among other things, at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the LASD’s jail building proposals will be presented….so stay tuned.

Posted in Charlie Beck, Eric Garcetti, LA city government, LA County Board of Supervisors, media, race, race and class, racial justice, Youth at Risk | 8 Comments »

50 Years of Gideon—the Case That Created the Right to Public Defense…Plus Failing Our Girls in the Juvie Justice System… & More $$ for the LASD

March 18th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY GIDEON V. WAINWRIGHT – THE RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY

We have all heard the text of the Miranda warning recited in films and on episodic TV shows at least a zillion times:

You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

What most of us don’t know or don’t remember is the fact that the last line—the thing about a lawyer being provided for those who can’t afford one—is a right that is only half a century old.

Monday, March 18, marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright, which guarantees the right to counsel for criminal defendants in state courts who
cannot afford an attorney.

But, despite this remarkable Supreme Court decision that changed American legal history, and despite the hard work of many dedicated public defenders, the system, say experts, is close to broken, with overloaded public defenders often able to spend little more than 3 hours on a clients entire case.

The AP’s Mark Sherman has a story on the topic. Here’s a clip:

….So that was the promise of Gideon — that a competent lawyer for the defense would stand on an equal footing with prosecutors, and that justice would prevail, at least in theory.

A half-century later, there are parts of the country where “it is better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor. Leahy said court-appointed lawyers often are underpaid and can be “inexperienced, inept, uninterested or worse.”

Regardless of guilt or innocence, few of those accused of crimes are rich, while 80 percent say they are too poor to afford a lawyer.

People who work in the criminal justice system have become numb to the problems, creating a culture of low expectations, said Jonathan Rapping, a veteran public defender who has worked in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and New Orleans.

Rapping remembers walking into a courtroom in New Orleans for the first time for a client’s initial appearance before a judge. Several defendants in jump suits were shackled together in one part of the courtroom. The judge moved briskly through charges against each of the men, with a lawyer speaking up for each one.

Then he called a name and there was no lawyer present. The defendant piped up. “The guy said he hadn’t seen a lawyer since he was locked up 70 days ago. And no one in the courtroom was shocked. No one was surprised,” Rapping said.

A new award-winning documentary called “Gideon’s Army” gives a visceral feeling for the problem, and the idealism of some of the young public defenders who are trying to make a difference, despite the odds.


GIRLS & BOYS ARE DIFFERENT—SO WHY DO WE PRETEND OTHERWISE WHEN WE LOCK THEM UP?

The juvenile justice system was—and in most ways still is—-designed for boys. And that’s a problem.

Yes, boys greatly outnumber girls in the justice system but girls’ numbers have been growing. Between 1991 and 2003, girls’ detentions rose by 98 percent, compared to a 29 percent increase in boys’
detentions.

More recently, as the number of juvenile arrests has dropped in the U.S., the drop is far bigger for boys than for girls. (In 2010, boys’ arrests had decreased by 26.5 percent since 2001, while girls’ arrests had decreased by only 15.5 percent.)

Girls come into detention facilities for different reasons and with different needs from those of their male counterparts, and yet they are often treated with a cookie cutter sameness.

For instance, 19 percent of boys in juvenile detention facilities had tried to commit suicide, while 44 percent of girls had.

In terms of physical abuse, the split was 22 percent boys, 42 percent girls.

And 8 percent of boys admitted to being sexually abused; 35 percent of girls had been sexually abused.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to differences—and the needs they suggest.

The Sunday LA Times has a story by Anna Gorman on the subject. And it is an important topic that we’ll continue to return to over the next year.

Here’s a clip from Gorman’s report:

Latrice lifts the sleeve of her gray sweatshirt to reveal small, dark lines — scars from slicing her forearm over and over to drown out pain from years of sexual abuse. She says she was an alcoholic, dropped out of school in the eighth grade and got pregnant at 16.

Now 18, she is in Los Angeles County’s juvenile justice system because she violated probation. Latrice says she has been locked up more than 20 times in four years. Petite and talkative, she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and takes antidepressants.

Her health issues — and those of about 9,400 girls in juvenile detention centers around the nation — are serious and complex. Many of the girls don’t have regular doctors, so their physical and emotional problems often go undiagnosed and untreated. That continues when they enter a system that was designed for boys and has been slow to adapt to girls.

“Their health needs are different; they are more severe and more complicated than boys’,” said Catherine Gallagher, a George Mason University professor and an expert in juvenile justice. “They come in underserved…. They remain underserved.”

More than one-third of girls in custody nationwide have a history of sexual abuse, compared with 8% of boys. Girls also have had more physical abuse, suicide attempts and drug-related problems, according to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Few juvenile justice centers have shown they meet minimum healthcare standards, and girls are less likely than boys to get the care they need.

Both the Atlantic Monthly and NPR did good stories —both by reporter Jenny Gold—on the needs of girls that are worth reading and/or listening.

Here, also is one of the studies from the Department of Justice with some of the facts and figures.


SHERIFF LEE BACA AGAIN PROPOSES NEARLY $1 NEW BILLION JAIL

Christina Villacorte of the Daily News has the story:

With the inmate population steadily increasing, Sheriff Lee Baca will ask the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to study replacing the dilapidated and violence-plagued Men’s Central Jail with a $932.8-million high-tech facility, and consider relying more on electronic monitoring devices and other alternatives to incarceration.

The proposal at this stage is to hire a contractor to prepare a conceptual design and environmental impact review.

In a letter to the board, Baca and county chief executive officer William Fujioka said it was “critical” to begin the process of replacing the aging MCJ with a more efficient facility that would hold high-security and medical inmates.

The proposed new jail would be built on the site of the half-century-old MCJ in downtown Los Angeles. It is envisioned to house up to 3,500 high-security and medical inmates in two towers.

Baca and County CEO are also scheduled to ask for $22 million in order to restore adequate patrols in the county’s unincorporated areas. (So what happened to that independent audit that was going to be done on the department’s budget to find out where the money was going. Here’s that story—also from Villacorte at the DN.

Posted in Courts, crime and punishment, criminal justice, gender, juvenile justice | No Comments »

Rebooting Fatherhood in Jordan Downs

March 12th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



REBOOTING FATHERHOOD IN THE PROJECTS
As Jordan Downs heads for a massive rebuild, how the men in one unique local support group may help heal their long-troubled community—as they heal themselves


Michael Cummings—a large, charismatic man known by most simply as Big Mikehas been through a wider variety of stages in his life than most. He’s been an LA gang member, been shot, sold drugs, been to prison.

Now he’s an ordained pastor and a recognized community leader who spends most of his waking hours working to heal the same community that, as a young man, he and his friends helped to break.

For instance, on weekdays, Cummings oversees a program called Safe Passages where he, and the team he has organized, get kids to and from Jordan High school safely so they don’t get robbed, jumped, beaten up…or worse—and thus stop going to school, or drop out altogether.

Then as a pastor, in addition to his spiritual work, he officiates at funerals when someone is killed by neighborhood violence, and helps the families of the dead find affordable ways of burying their loved ones. He helps struggling young men in the community to find jobs, and, when he is able, interrupts violence on the street when he sees it about to occur.

And, since the fall of 2011, Big Mike has run something called Project Fatherhood, in which men from the Jordan Downs housing project (and beyond), meet every Wednesday to teach each other, and themselves, how to be fathers.

“See, most of the men in the group never had fathers,” Cummings told me. “Or if they did have a father in the home, he was usually was doing drugs or an alcoholic, or abusive, or both. So those men never had anyone show them what it means to be a parent,” said Cummings, at least not a male parent.

“A mother can teach a lot of things. But she can’t teach the same things that a father can teach,” he said. “She can’t teach a boy to be a man.”

It is that lack of a father that often sends young men into gangs, said Cummings (a fact that I had observed over and over again in my own years of gang reporting.)

“Take me,” said Cummings. “My father wasn’t there. He came around every so often, but even then, he mostly talked to my sister.” Cummings paused. “For a long time, everything I did”—the gangster activities, the drug sales, the flashy accoutrements—”all that I did to show my father I didn’t need him. If he had a Cadillac, I wanted two Cadillacs. That’s how I got back at him. That’s how I showed him he didn’t matter, that I could become a man without him.”

A lot of the men in the group are like him, Cummings said. But they are also men who wanted desperately not to continue the cycle.


MEN WITHOUT FATHERS

Project Fatherhood was begun with a grant from the Children’s Institute, administered by The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA). For years one of LA’s poorest and dangerous public housing complexes, Jordan Downs is now scheduled for an ambitious $1 billion reconstruction to begin in 2014, and HACLA is trying to institute programs and activities that will help improve the personal lives of the residents, during the time in which their residences are being so dramatically transformed. With all this in mind, the CI people saw Jordan Downs as an ideal site for a new program to “help reengage urban fathers.” Some years before, Children’s Institute had noted that “fathers were most often left out of programs designed to strengthen troubled low-income urban families.” Thus Project Fatherhood was created. It was a program that CI had already tried out in other locations, but there seemed to be few better laboratories for a new iteration of the program than historically dysfunctional and violence-haunted Jordan Downs—especially when it was on the cusp of such a massive change.

When HACLA began looking for someone to launch and run the experimental parenting group, Cummings—along with another friend, Andre Christian— already had a once-a-month casual Saturday barbecue/talk session going in Jordan Downs. The way it worked was as follows: using the food as an excuse, guys from the projects would drift over the barbecue area, at which point Cummings and Christian would engage them in conversation on a variety of topics, parenting prominently among them.

And so when Cummings and Christian heard that HACLA was looking for people to submit proposals to run some kind of new fatherhood program…. “We went for it,” he said.

The twosome got the nod—which meant a small grant for the first year’s expenses, plus the requirement that they hire a master social worker.

UCLA’s Dr. Jorja Leap, who already knew Big Mike from her gang work, agreed to fulfill that social worker role. Leap is an expert on gangs, at risk youth, and community violence reduction (among other specialities). “But I started out as a social worker in Watts in 1978 and into the ’80′s,” Leap said. “So for me it was like coming back home.”


REBOOTING FATHERHOOD

The combination worked. A few men out of Cummings and Christian’s Saturday barbecue group came and the word spread. Sometimes the meetings held inside Jordan Downs on Wednesday afternoons are crowded. Other times, according to Leap, it’s down to the core group of 15 or so men. There are a few hispanic men, but most are black, all are impoverished.

All want to be better fathers.

The topics discussed vary widely. “We teach them how to go to school for their kids to talk to the school principal or the counselors,” said Cummings. “We deal with racial and emotional issues. With talk about how to get jobs to support their families. We talk about what it means to be there for your kids.”

Some issues turned out to be controversial and difficult, explained Leap, like the night they talked about corporal punishment—hitting your kids. “They fought me on that,” Leap said. “It got down and dirty. They kept saying, ‘You don’t understand…’ They were worried if they didn’t hit their kids, they would make their kids weak.”

Still, in the days and weeks after the fractious spanking and hitting discussion, some of the group members told Leap individually how they were struggling with the issue, and that they had decided no more physical punishment. “But they never said it to the group.”

The night that got to her most, Leap said, “was the night the men talked openly about how they wished they’d had fathers. I’d heard it before from other men, and from homeboys. And, in my work, believe me, I’m on intimate terms the father wound, and all that.” But she’d never quite heard the level of anguish around the subject that she heard that night.


GROWTH BEGETS GROWTH

Now the program is in its second year, with a brand new and larger 2-year grant that will keep it going for at least a third year. While the core of Project Fatherhood has remained the same, the positive outcomes it is producing have widened beyond solely parenting. For example, in addition to the fathering talk and training, Cummings and company have gotten some of the men into a good construction apprenticeship/training program, at the end of which, “they have OSHA cards.”

Plus, empowered by their involvement in the group, the men have started extending themselves to become more involved in helping their communities, said Leap.

She described one awful night last June when a 24-year-old father and his 1-year old son were shot in what appeared to be a gang shooting gone awry. The father lived, but the little boy died. Although the wounded dad wasn’t part of the Fatherhood group, Leap said, the group nevertheless texted each other back and forth and “organized a peace march, and marched throughout the neighborhood,” to show the sorrowing young father their support.

Another night, Cummings said, a young father age 20 or 21 came to the group and said he had an autistic child and really needed some help. “Two other fathers in the group spoke up and said that they also had autistic kids, and began talking to him about all the things he would need to do.”

Amazed by the unexpected wisdom he suddenly saw exchanged, the incident became one of Cummings’ favorites.

On still another occasion, the Project Fatherhood guys attended a meeting that had been scheduled to discuss concerns about the Jordan Downs reconstruction. In response to issues expressed by the crowd at the meeting, plus additional community lobbying and pressure, it was decided that 30 percent of the construction jobs created by the project had to go to locals. Cummings tells how the fathers were jazzed to be a part of the community activism.

“You can see the growth in all these men,” he said. “It’s so strong!”


REPLICATION

In addition to continuing to grow and strengthen Jordan Down’s Project Fatherhood, Cummings believes that the project can and should be replicated. “We’re to the point, that we could take this project anywhere. You’d have to tailor it for the individual communities, but the basics are there.”

And the need is great, he said.

“In Jordan Downs, Project Fatherhood was basically something that’d been waiting to happen. But the potential was there. The need was there.”

Leap agreed. “This is an example of a community really doing for itself. And that’s exactly how you affect real change.”


POST SCRIPT: THE FATHER OF ALL SUPPORT GROUPS

A few weeks ago, the LA Times Kurt Streeter published a wonderful story on Project Fatherhood that gets deeper into what the meetings are actually like than what we have here. It’s a must read.

Below, for example, is a clip from the middle of Streeter’s story in which he tells of the night the men talked about discipline:

One evening there’s a discussion that might take place at a parenting group in a faraway suburb: where to get good baby formula, how best to bottle feed, the importance of being open and honest. The next week the talk is more particular to Jordan Downs: raising families on welfare; keeping kids from being killed by gangs from nearby neighborhoods; maintaining dignity when you’re a father struggling to find work.

The two topics discussed with the most passion? The men’s mothers and the virtues of old-fashioned discipline.

“Good Lord, we love our mamas,” says one of the men on a midsummer night. But it’s complicated. Some of their mothers were drug addicts. Some had dangerous boyfriends or were quick-tempered.

“You all remember mine,” McGruder says. “Anyone in these projects needed anything when they were boys, they could come to her.”

The men agree. Everyone remembers Miss McGruder.

“But oh Lord, she laid some whuppings on me,” he says. “All of our mothers did. That discipline is what’s missing with our kids these days.”

There are cackles of laughter. Children in the neighborhood, one father argues, “need to learn fear.” Without fear they can become teens who talk back to the police. If that happens, the police will surely jail, beat or even kill them.

The reasoning hangs in the air, solemn, serious, seen as fact. “Tell it!”

Leap, married to a former LAPD commander who once patrolled Jordan Downs, tries to get the group to consider alternatives to corporal punishment. Some of the men say she’s just plain wrong. Talking and “time-outs” might work in wealthy white neighborhoods, but not here.

Sensing she’s going to lose this debate, at least for now, Leap reminds the men of how the law defines child abuse. “No closed fists, nothing to the head, fellas, nothing.”

Big Mike joins her. “No bruises or cuts. You do that, not only is it wrong, but your kids are gonna be taken by the authorities.”

Be sure to read the rest here.


Posted in Community Health, Gangs | 1 Comment »

WitnessLA on Warren Olney’s Which Way LA? Discussing Jump Out Boys Planned Firing, Deputy Gangs in General, and More – UPDATED

February 8th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


UPDATE: THIS SEEMS TO BE MY WEEK FOR RADIO.
I’M GOING TO BE ON WITH SUZI WEISSMAN ON KPFK’S BENEATH THE SURFACE, TODAY, FRIDAY, between 5pm and 6pm. (I’ll be doing a ten minute news segment at some point during the hour.) We’ll be discussing the Christopher Dorner story and much else.

You can listen live at 90.7 FM or online here. Here’s the podcast. You can find me in the first 13 minutes or so.


THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT AND THE MATTER OF DEPUTY GANGS

I was on Warren Olney’s Which Way LA? on Thursday night talking about whether the LA Sheriff’s Department’s recently announced plans to fire 7 members of the LASD’s Jump Out Boys clique was an action that was more symbol than substance—designed to refurbish the department’s scandal-wracked reputation.

[You can find the podcast here.]

LASD spokesman, Steve Whitmore, was also on the show, as was LA Times reporter, Robert Faturechi. Whitmore said that the Jump Out Boys firing was simply the first in a process of “cleaning house.”

Yet, given the department’s largely unadressed history of deputy cliques—which, in too many cases, seem to project an us-versus-them, we’re the “alpha dogs, do what you got to do ethos of policing—it is difficult not to be skeptical about all this purported sweeping up.


When on the show, I listed a few of the corners of the LASD “house” that could use some cleaning, when it comes to deputy gangs.

For instance I mentioned this account of problematic deputy gangs inside Men’s Central Jail, as told by retired LASD Commander Bob Olmsted during his testimony to the jails commission:

Following up on Busansky’s line of questioning, the Commission’s executive director, Miriam Krinsky, asked if Olmsted had ever heard the term, “earn your ink.”

Olmsted nodded, yes, he had.

“I was a commander at the time. When significant force was going up, I told Captain Cruz that I wanted to see every report where significant force occurred in Men’s Central Jail.

“There was one particular report that stood out in my mind. The inmate was interviewed, and he said, ‘I was up against the wall. I had my hands behind my back. Then one deputy said to the other deputy, “Are you ready to earn your ink?” And then, boom! All of a sudden they busted his orbital. “ (The orbital being the eye socket.)

“And I’m thinking, what the hell does ‘earn your ink” mean? Then I started asking a around. People said, ‘Oh, you don’t know? The 2000 Boys have a Roman Numeral II tattooed on the back of their calf. And that’s how you earn your ink, by busting somebody’s head.’”

At this last, the commission members, who had listened to all of Olmsted’s testimony with unusual intensity, lapsed into a thoughtful silence—except for Reverend Murray, who shook his head slightly.
“Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmmm.” Murray, murmured sadly, his expression of dismay not meant for the microphone, which picked it up anyway.

When I spoke to Olmsted on Thursday morning, and asked him if there had been any firings around these issues, he said to his knowledge, there had not.

And then there is the matter of the Regulators, as represented in an internal LASD document, circa 2004, that WLA acquired some time back. The memo indicates strong concern among command staff about the gangster-like behavior of the Regulators clique based at Century station. Among other concerns, it was reported that, as with the Jump Out Boys, if a Regulator was involved in “a fatal deputy involved shooting,” then smoke was added to the barrels of the revolvers featured in the clique’s signatory tattoo. (In the case of the Regulators, the clique tattoo reportedly depicted a trench-coated skeleton wearing a cowboy hat and holding not one, but two nice big guns.)


There were, of course, illustrations of the problem I didn’t have the time to mention.

For instance, there is the matter of Sergeant Timothy Cooper who allegedly pulled a gun on Sergeant Mark Moffett, pointed it at his head inside the Compton station in front of a witness and mouthed, “I’m going to kill you.” Serg. Cooper sports both a Viking tattoo and a Regulator tattoo. He received a 15 day suspension and, according to our sources, at least half of that suspension was “suspended.”

**And then there are the Vikings clique members who are scattered throughout the department in positions of responsibility, people like Lt. Greg Thompson, who last we heard was being investigated by the LASD for this incident inside Men’s Central Jails, and by the feds in this incident, was named multiple times for alleged misconduct as a Vikings clique member in this famous class action lawsuit. To my knowledge Thompson has not even been relieved of duty.

The list goes on after that.


When I spoke to Witmore after the broadcast, he reiterated the sheriff’s intention to do housecleaning.

“And look,” he said, “just these seven sends a chill through the department.”


SHERIFF’S BOOSTER CLUB DENIES MISUSE OF FUNDS BY LASD CAPTAIN JOSEPH STEPHEN, NAMED IN SEXUAL COERCION INVESTIGATION

John Loesing at The Acorn has looked into this side story about alleged misappropriation of booster club funds for personal use by former Los Hills/Malibu Station Captain Joseph Stephen. The accusation sprang up following the sexual coercion allegations against three former Sheriff’s Department higher ups, including Stephen, who has recently been relieved of duty. The Sheriff’s Department has reportedly opened an Internal Affairs investigation on the matter but Acorn spoke to Daniel Stern, a board member with the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Foundation, who said that the accusation involving “….possible sexual misconduct and misappropriation of Booster Club funds” relating to parties and prostitution while he attended the 2012 Baker to Vegas Relay, a law enforcement fundraising run” was completely unfounded.



EDITOR’S NOTE: WLA GRIEVES FOR 2 RIVERSIDE OFFICERS SHOT, ONE FATALLY, IN AMBUSH ATTACK REPORTEDLY BY CHRISTOPHER JORDAN DORNER


The Press Enterprise has the story of the two Riverside officers shot early on Thursday,
allegedly by Christopher Jordan Dorner.

(That’s our respected friend, Riverside Chief of Police Sergio Diaz, at the press conference about Dorner and the shooting in the video above.)

Christopher Jordan Dorner is, of course, the former LAPD officer who is suspected of shooting and killing Monica Quan, the daughter of longtime LAPD officer Randy Quan, and her fiance Keith Lawrence, in a ghastly and tragic act of revenge against the LAPD for what he believed was his unfair dismissal.

WLA grieves too for the Quan and Mitchell families.

It is our deep hope that Dorner can be quickly apprehended without anyone else getting hurt, and that this frightening chapter can come to an end.


The LA Times Joel Rubin, Jack Leonard and Kate Linthicum have an informative article on Dorner and his background here.

And you can read details, witness testimony and the ruling regarding Dorner’s 2011 appeal of his firing here: DORNER v. LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT It was his second appeal in the matter.

Here, by the way, is a link to Dorner’s manifesto, but with the names of the officers and others he names redacted for their safety.

Posted in Gangs, LA County Jail, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 44 Comments »

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