Baca, Tanaka, and Olmsted…Inmate Phone Rates Cut…Students & Leaders Champion School Discipline Bill, and the LA Police Commission’s New FacesAugust 16th, 2013 by Taylor Walker
“PALACE BLOODBATH” TO COME?
On Thursday morning former undersheriff Paul Tanaka announced his entry into the race for Los Angeles County Sheriff, challenging Lee Baca who will be running for a fifth term.
(Watch KABC’s coverage of the press conference here.)
Tanaka, who has, of late, often been the focus of intense criticism regarding his tenure as the department’s number two man, made the announcement as he stood on a helipad in Griffith Park, backed by a wall of his supporters (some of whom, like LASD Commander Dave Waters and Captain Louis Duran, are not themselves strangers to controversy).
The two newest candidates join LAPD detective Lou Vince, and retired sheriff’s lieutenant Patrick Gomez. Still more candidates are expected to join what is shaping up to be an extremely contentious and accusation-filled contest.
Meanwhile, blunders and unpleasant revelations continue to pile up for Baca, points out LA Times editorial board member, Sandra Hernandez, in a blog post late Thursday afternoon.
LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus has a sneak peek of what we might expect to see as the race for sheriff unfolds … Here are some clips:
The race for L.A. County Sheriff is usually a coronation. But this year it has the makings of a palace bloodbath, as two former Sheriff’s administrators have announced they plan to unseat four-term incumbent Lee Baca.
Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who retired Aug. 1, announced his candidacy this morning at a press conference in Griffith Park. Tanaka vowed to restore accountability, improve the department’s hiring practices and “bring much-needed order to the house.”
On Wednesday, former Commander Bob Olmsted launched his own campaign, and said he holds both Tanaka and Baca responsible for the department’s “corruption and cronyism.”
Parke Skelton, Baca’s political consultant, took issue with Tanaka’s pledge to restore accountability to the department.
“It’s a little disingenuous for him to come out and say he’s going to be the paladin for reform when he was the greatest obstacle to reform as undersheriff,” Skelton said.
Tanaka’s campaign expects to have strong support from the department’s rank-and-file. Tanaka appeared at today’s press conference surrounded by supporters, including many active-duty Sheriff’s captains.
Tanaka argued that he was not in the chain of command over the jails during the period of the worst abuses.
“I was nowhere in the organizational chart where that was my responsibility in any way, shape or form,” he said.
Tanaka declined to comment about Olmsted, but when asked why Tanaka himself hadn’t raised some of Olmsted’s concerns, he said, “I was not raised to be a whistleblower.”
FCC REGULATES EXORBITANT PRISON AND JAIL PHONE CALL FEES
The Federal Communications Commission voted Friday to put a cap on the absurd fees charged to inmates families for interstate phone calls with their locked-up loved ones. The FCC’s new cap of 21 cents-per-minute for prepaid calls and 25 cents-per-minute for collect calls will apply to inmates in prisons and jails, and those in immigration custody. (WLA has previously reported on the issue here and here.)
A sharply-worded LA Times editorial welcomes the end of contracted phone companies “gouging” inmates and their families. Here’s a clip:
Under the new regulations, which were announced late last week, telephone providers may only charge up to 21 cents for a debit or prepaid call within the United States, and up to 25 cents for domestic collect calls made by inmates. That is a huge improvement over the old system, under which telephone companies were free to set rates without any federal oversight. In some cases, a 15-minute call from prison could cost as much as $17 or more. As The Times’ Ricardo Lopez reported, that is more than 10 times the average per-minute rate paid by most phone customers.
The new rule may face legal challenges; one FCC commissioner argued that it would be too complicated and difficult to administer. The solution, however, isn’t to ignore the problem, as the commission did for more than 10 years after the first complaints were filed.
The Associated Press reported right after the FCC vote with an informative story that explaining the specifics of the usurious rates that phone companies have been charging.
And the Atlantic’s Rebecca J. Rosen points out that while the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” accurately depicts how vital regular phone calls are to inmates, it doesn’t mention the incredible financial burden it places on those outside.
STUDENTS AND CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS BACK BILL CURBING “WILLFUL DEFIANCE”
Students rallied in Sacramento on Wednesday in support of AB 420, a bill authored by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson that would eliminate “willful defiance” as grounds for expulsion in any grade, and suspension in grades K-5. Twenty-two civil rights leaders also sent a letter to the capitol urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign AB 420, which is currently awaiting a decision in the Senate.
Fix School Discipline has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:
Saying “school discipline is a civil rights issue,” students from across California told powerful personal stories about school suspensions in a rally on August 14 on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento.
They joined the nation’s top civil rights leaders including Rev. Jesse Jackson and Marian Wright Edelman in urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign AB 420, which will help fix the state’s school suspension gap. LGBT students, students of color and students with disabilities are all much more likely to be suspended than other students, and the impact on their education can be shattering.
Students delivered a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to sign AB 420 (Dickinson), which would help protect students’ civil rights and keep students in school.
Currently, LGBT students are 1.4 times more likely to be suspended. African American students are nearly 4 times more likely to be suspended statewide. And students with disabilities are 2 times more likely to be suspended.
MAYOR GARCETTI SWITCHES OUT LA POLICE COMMISSIONERS
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti replaced four members of the civilian commission that oversees the LAPD, leaving only one original commissioner. One thing the new police commission members have in common, it seems, is a lack of experience in law enforcement.
The LA Times’ Joel Rubin has more on the change-up. Here’s a clip:
The most notable name on Garcetti’s list of nominees was real estate developer Steve Soboroff, one of the city’s power elite and a staunch supporter of Garcetti during his run for mayor.
Along with Soboroff, Garcetti tapped Paula Madison, a former journalist and media executive; Kathleen Kim, a law professor whose work has focused on human trafficking and immigration issues; and Sandra Figueroa-Villa, the executive director of a nonprofit community group.
The choices lack experience in policing issues. Although such knowledge has not been a prerequisite for past appointees to the board, the arrival of these four all at once to the commission equates to a dramatic loss of institutional knowledge of how the LAPD operates.
Being pushed out by Garcetti, for example, is John Mack, a civil rights leader, who has served on the commission for several years and is well-versed in the department’s troubled history of abuses and its push to reform itself over the past decade. Also leaving is Andrea Ordin, a former federal prosecutor who long has been involved in efforts to reform the LAPD.