Tanaka Reappears with Tweet, LAPD Chief Beck Horse Purchase Controversy, Juvenile Justice Recommendations for Law Enforcement…and MoreAugust 7th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
PAUL TANAKA RESURFACES WITH A TWEET, SAYS CAMPAIGN IS TAKING THE SUMMER OFF
On Monday we pointed to a story by KPCC’s Frank Stoltze asking where former undersheriff and current sheriff-hopeful Paul Tanaka (and his campaign staff) had disappeared to.
At the time of Stoltze’s story, Tanaka’s had last posted on Twitter June 3 (primary election day). The following day, after garnering only 15% of the vote, he posted on Facebook thanking those who voted for him, and saying that efforts must be redoubled moving forward. A month and a half later, the only new notes on either social media platforms were from supporters on Facebook wondering what had happened to the campaign.
On Tuesday, likely in response to Stoltze’s story, Tanaka posted an update both on Twitter and Facebook confirming that he is still in the race, but no longer campaigning. The Facebook update reads, “We are still in the race but giving our supporters an opportunity to spend the summer with their families. Thank you for understanding.”
ABC7′s Miriam Hernandez has more on the story. Here are some clips:
“It looks like this campaign went into hibernation,” said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor and political analyst.
Where’s Tanaka? He vacated his Gardena headquarters, ignored an Eyewitness News request for an interview, and since early June, has been a no-show on social media — until a single tweet went out on Tuesday:
“We are still in the race but giving our supporters an opportunity to spend the summer with our families.”
“I think that anyone who really is running a full-force campaign would not wait until Labor Day to gear up,” said Levinson.
Tanaka is sometimes visible at Gardena City Hall. He was elected to a third term last spring as mayor. The staff tells Eyewitness News he does not keep office hours, but has not missed a council meeting.
As for the sheriff’s run, one former Tanaka campaign manager says he and others have left.
“Paul is working on putting together a new team for the General Election run. Given the results of the primary, I think a shake up is needed,” said former Tanaka campaign manager Ed Chen
Also needed: funding. Tanaka’s filings with the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office fill 10 pages, compared to 145 for McDonnell.
What we also learn from the registrar is that there’s no procedure for bowing out of the race. Tanaka’s name will be on the ballot, no matter what.
CONTROVERSY OVER LAPD CHIEF CHARLIE BECK’S INVOLVEMENT IN POLICE HORSE SALE
As the LA police commission’s Tuesday vote on whether to reappoint LAPD Chief Charlie Beck draws nearer, questions have been raised about his involvement in the department’s purchase of a horse from his daughter, Brandi Scimone (Pearson), an officer in the mounted unit.
When the issue originally surfaced, Chief Beck told the public that he was not involved in any way with the $6,000 horse transaction.
But documentation of the purchase bearing Beck’s signature was obtained by the LA Times. LASD spokesman Commander Andrew Smith told KPCC’s Frank Stoltze that the chief only signed off at the very end, after the horse had passed the customary, rigorous evaluation process.
Members of the police commission expressed concern with the discrepancy, but still appeared to be supportive of Beck (as did Mayor Eric Garcetti).
Here’s a clip from Stoltze’s story on the issue:
“That paperwork steered completely around me,” Beck told reporters gathered around him at police headquarters. “I kept it in Chief Moore’s shop,” said Beck, referring to Assistant Chief Michael Moore.
Now, the Los Angeles Times has published an LAPD memo that includes Becks’ signature, approving acceptance of the horse as a donation from the Police Foundation. The Foundation used $6,000 in private money to purchase the horse from the chief’s daughter, Brandi Pearson, for use in the department’s mounted unit. Pearson is an LAPD officer who is assigned to the mounted unit.
“The document would appear to be inconsistent with what he said,” Police Commission member Robert Saltzman said. “I was surprised and troubled by the document.”
“I think when there is an appearance of conflict of interest, we should bend over backwards to make sure the transaction is handled by others,” Saltzman added.
Then, on Wednesday evening, Chief Beck issued a statement saying he was mistaken in his first statements regarding the issue:
“Yesterday, I stated that the paperwork for the donation of a horse originally owned by my daughter, LAPD Officer Brandi Scimone, and purchased with private funds ‘steered completely around me.’ Since that time, I reviewed the file and realized that I had signed the LA Police Foundation’s Grant Request after the donation had been evaluated and approved by the Office of Special Operations and had also signed the Intradepartmental Correspondence to the Board of Police Commissioners to approve of the donation. Therefore, I now realize that my comments were mistaken.”
“After evaluating the circumstances of this donation, in retrospect, I should have ensured that the Department had formally transmitted to the Commission the additional documentation on file which identified the original owner of the horse. I will continue to work with the Commission to increase the Department’s transparency.”
Police commission president Steve Soboroff also issued a statement saying that after reviewing all information, he was satisfied that the chief had no involvement with the decision to purchase the horse.
Here’s a clip from CBS:
L.A. Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said he was “satisfied the commission will have sufficient disclosure going forward” based on Beck’s statement.
“After reviewing the information provided to date by the Department, the Inspector General, and Chief Beck, I am comfortable that the Chief was not involved in the selection, evaluation or purchase of the horse (by the LAPD Foundation) that was previously owned by Chief Beck’s daughter, LAPD Officer Brandi Scimone, and that he did not influence any decision to accept the donation by the Department,” Soboroff added.
The comments follow just hours after Beck came under fire when the memo addressed to him from Capt. Patrick Smith, dated March 14, 2014, emerged in a report by The Los Angeles Times.
The document explains the animal’s qualifications for service on the LAPD, and that the cost of the horse would be covered by a private donor, but identifies the seller only as “a department employee assigned to the Mounted Platoon,” rather than by name.
We at WitnessLA have long thought highly of Los Angles Police Department chief Charlie Beck. Even before he was selected to head our city’s police department, we found him to be a straight shooter who loved policing but was realistic about the department’s imperfections, and about the necessity of healing its relationships with the communities it served. After he became chief, we observed his hand to be a steady one at the wheel. We also noted that Beck was a man unafraid to learn and change on the job (as evidenced by his recent efforts to be more transparent). As a consequence, the LAPD has improved considerably under his leadership.
That is why we are dismayed at the string of accusations of conflicts of interest and favoritism that have plagued Beck in the last few months. For instance, this past spring there was the chief’s controversial reversal of the decision to fire Shaun Hillmann, whose uncle happens to be a well-known former LAPD deputy chief. And, more recently, there are the allegations that a sergeant who reportedly had less-than-appropriate relations with two female officers, the chief’s daughter one of them, received a lighter form of discipline than was originally planned or was called for.
Finally, there is the matter of the purchase of Beck’s daughter’s horse for the department—a story we originally thought to be a silly non-controversy. Then suddenly there was the perception, at least, that Beck was less than one hundred percent honest about his involvement in all this horse buying business, a mistake that Beck has mostly rectified, as of Wednesday night.
We have no doubt that Chief Beck should be awarded a second five-year term next Tuesday when the police commission is scheduled to vote. Letting the chief finish the work he has begun at the LAPD is assuredly the best choice for our city. But a new contract should not be confused with a blanket approval of all of Beck’s actions.
Even the appearance of favoritism, especially when it comes to discipline, is toxic for a law enforcement organization.
This means that, whatever the truth of the various controversies, Chief Charlie Beck must work quickly and aggressively to correct the appearance that the rules are different for some favored people in the department that he leads.
ACTIONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT LEADERS TO TAKE TO REFORM THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
An important new report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police offers 33 recommendations for law enforcement leaders to reform the juvenile justice system at the local, state, and federal levels. The report was produced with the support of the MacArthur Foundation.
The report addressed areas for reform such as partnering with kids and their families, developing alternatives to justice system involvement and incarceration, data collection, and helping kids graduate. The report’s recommendations were developed at a National Summit on Law Enforcement Leadership in Juvenile Justice, where they received input from such advocate organizations as Justice for Families.
Here are the recommended actions for law enforcement leaders to improve interaction with kids who have behavioral disabilities and history of trauma:
Prevalent challenges: A large proportion of the young people who come into contact with law enforcement have mental health conditions, substance abuse problems, developmental disabilities, or trauma histories. These youth present distinct challenges in terms of how they interact with law enforcement and what their needs are. Law enforcement officers need training and protocols to enable them to better understand these issues and respond effectively.
Connecting youth and families with resources: Young people and their families are often in need of a wide range of services, and absent these services, criminal justice remedies alone will not be effective. As the first point of contact with many youth and families—long before any social services agency might learn of their needs—law enforcement officers have an opportunity to connect them with needed resources.
Law enforcement policies, practices and training should enable officers to respond appropriately to youth with mental health and substance abuse disorders and trauma histories by empowering officers to:
- understand the impact of these disorders and background on youth behavior;
– recognize and interpret the needs of a youth during first contact;
– respond appropriately with the aid of crisis intervention techniques to de-escalate conflicts and maximize the safety of officers, youth, and others; and
– make appropriate referrals to community-based services and minimize justice system involvement whenever possible.
Training on youth with trauma histories should include information on:
– the powerful and lasting effects trauma has on young people and their behavior;
– ways that arrest and detention can contribute to youth trauma; and
– the critical role of law enforcement in helping children recover from traumatic experiences by reinforcing safety and security.
As the first point of contact with many young people and families, law enforcement agencies have a unique vantage point to recognize unmet needs for behavioral health services and to collaborate with local government agencies and community-based providers to address systemic gaps in services.
LA TIMES’ ROBERT GREENE ON THE SUPES’ LASD OVERSIGHT DECISION
On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted down the creation of a civilian commission to watch over the sheriff’s department. The Supes also chose to bind the department’s Inspector General to the board through an attorney-client relationship. This means that the Supes could receive his reports in closed-door meetings.
The LA Times’ Robert Greene says that what the sheriff’s department needs is oversight that reports to the public, not just the county supervisors.
Here’s how it opens:
In arguing against a civilian commission to oversee the Sheriff’s Department, Richard Drooyan on Tuesday read the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors a key passage from the report on jail violence he helped write in 2012. Such a commission, he said, “is not necessary if the Board of Supervisors continues to put a spotlight on conditions in the jails and establishes a well structured and adequately staffed OIG” — meaning the new Office of Inspector General.
They are the correct words to draw from the findings and recommendations of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence, but they should direct readers to the opposite conclusion.
An oversight commission is not necessary if — and it’s the key “if” — the supervisors continue to focus on the jails and if they establish a well-structured and adequately staffed OIG.
In fact, as to the first “if,” the long, sorry record of the Board of Supervisors’ failed oversight of the Sheriff’s Department shows that its attention is too unfocused over time to properly do the job. That’s the whole point: Los Angeles County is facing federal court jurisdiction over treatment of inmates, has seen six deputies convicted of obstructing an FBI investigation and a dozen others indicted on various charges, and is paying out millions of dollars in lawsuit verdicts and settlements because the board was inadequate to the task of oversight.
It’s not that the supervisors weren’t on notice of the problems, which were detailed for them every six months, along with recommendations, by Special Counsel Merrick Bobb. They were indeed on notice, but somehow lacked the will or the ability to do much about it.
Now, after rejecting a civilian oversight commission on Tuesday, a majority of the supervisors insist that everything will change. They’ve learned their lesson. They’ll do better. They really mean it this time.