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Pre-Primary Election LASD News, Some LA Schools May be Using “Off-the-Books” Suspensions, and Pope Francis on Juvenile Life Without Parole

June 2nd, 2014 by Taylor Walker


Throughout the campaign season, KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has had good coverage of the sheriff debates and fundraising numbers, along with helpful profiles on (most of) the candidates.

With the June 3 primary nearly upon us, Stoltze asked the sheriff hopefuls three jail-related questions. All but Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers and Patrick Gomez responded. Here is the first question:

Question: The Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence said one of the problems with inmate abuse is that deputies trained to patrol the streets are assigned to serve as jail guards in their first few years on the job. The panel recommended that the next Sheriff adopt a “dual track” system whereby deputies are recruited and trained specifically as jail guards for careers inside the jails. Do you support this recommendation – why or why not? How would you overcome objections from the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which has vowed to fight the change?

This may have been the easiest question for Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who wrote: “Not only do I support the recommendation for a ‘dual track’ system, I helped craft it as a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence.”

But as the only person running who’s never served in the department, McDonnell would have to deal with the powerful labor union that represents deputies for the first time. “I have experience working successfully with police unions at the LAPD and in Long Beach and am confident that I could work with the deputy union,” he wrote.

Only former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka refused to commit to the dual track system. “I believe that we must explore the options available to us,” he wrote. “I do believe that we should make sure that those assigned to the jails and want to move on to patrol, should be able to do so – we need those individuals keeping our neighborhoods safe.”

Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold, former Sheriff’s Commander Bob Olmsted and LAPD Sgt. Lou Vince all committed to a dual track system for deputies.

Hellmold said all deputies should receive the same training, however, in case jail guards must also end up working in the field during emergencies. He also said he’d limit street deputies to serving no more than two years in the jails.

“I have already been involved with communicating my vision with [the deputies' union] leadership and members and confident my vision reflects that of our members,” Hellmold wrote.

Olmsted included this in his response: “Although the dual-track is one method to resolving the problems in the jail, however, the primary concern is the lack of good leadership and adequate managerial oversight.” He noted he reduced use of force at Men’s Central Jail by 25 percent when he ran the facility.

Vince, a former Sheriff’s Department reserve officer, said he would convince the deputies’ labor union to accept any changes by offering perks: “I would also ‘sweeten’ the deal by seeking to implement organization-wide compressed work schedules and returning ‘gym time’ (they would get 15-20 minutes for on duty physical fitness),” Vince wrote.

Read the remaining questions and responses.

(Here are Stoltze’s profiles on Todd Rogers, James Hellmold, Bob Olmsted, Paul Tanaka, and Jim McDonnell. They are worth reading, if you haven’t yet had the chance.)

The LA Times Robert Faturechi also has an interesting profile on Paul Tanaka, and what both his supporters and opponents have to say about his tenure at the Sheriff’s Dept. Here are some clips:

A county commission concluded that he helped foster problems with brutality inside the jails. And the FBI is investigating allegations that he played a role in obstructing their investigation into the abuse.

Supporters say his reputation has been unfairly tarred by former subordinates whom Tanaka cracked down on for being lazy or inept. They describe him as hard-working, good at managing budgets and hyper-focused on lowering crime.

“If you’ve worked hard, he liked you…. If you were lazy, didn’t do your job, he didn’t give you the time of day,” said sheriff’s Capt. Louie Duran.


In 2003, Tanaka drew federal scrutiny for helping funnel hundreds of sheriff’s bulletproof vests to Cambodia through Gardena without declaring them to customs officials. The odd transaction, which did not become publicly known until 2013, did not result in charges.

Eventually, Baca’s loyalty to Tanaka eroded.

After a sergeant pointed a gun at another sergeant at the sheriff’s Compton station, Tanaka and other top officials ignored a recommendation to demote the supervisor, instead giving him a 15-day suspension. Baca was upset, stripping Tanaka of his role in making discipline decisions.

Their relationship continued to strain after a blue-ribbon commission created by the county to examine inmate abuse found in 2012 that Tanaka had helped foster a culture of misconduct. The commission recommended that Tanaka be stripped of most of his authorities. Baca listened, and months later took it a step further, pushing his undersheriff to step down.

Tanaka has since gone on the offensive, saying that the sheriff’s officials who spoke out against him were former subordinates he had cracked down on for subpar work.

In his interview with federal agents, Tanaka gave an example. He recalled making a surprise visit to a sheriff’s station. There, in the middle of the work day, he found the lieutenant in charge not in uniform, but rather in shorts, T-shirt and sneakers.

According to Tanaka, the lieutenant greeted him, then said: “I was just getting ready to go to softball practice. You need me?”

“He gets in his car like an idiot and drives away,” Tanaka recalled. “I call his chief and I say, ‘I want him gone.’”

That lieutenant later spoke before the jail commission and accused Tanaka of mismanagement.


The Professional Peace Officers Association, one of two LASD unions, polled 1,374 active and retired members on who they thought should be the next sheriff. After considering the results, the PPOA board of directors chose not to endorse any one candidate. Here are the numbers:

Jim McDonnell — 507

Bob Olmsted — 450

Jim Hellmold — 184

Todd Rogers — 170

Paul Tanaka — 54

Lou Vince — 9

(Paul Tanaka and Pat Gomez were not on the ballot because they did not participate in the PPOA debate (which was a requirement). Tanaka’s votes are write-ins.)


Statewide, and at the LAUSD-level, suspension and expulsion rates are on the decline.

A growing number of Los Angeles schools (Gompers Middle School in Watts, for instance) are lowering their suspension rates by resolving conflicts through “restorative justice” practices. There are reports, however, that some LAUSD schools are sending kids home without officially suspending them, in order to appear in compliance with the local, state, and federal push against harsh school discipline.

The LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe has the story. Here’s a clip:

In the heart of Watts, where violence in nearby housing projects can spill over onto campuses, two of the city’s toughest middle schools have long dealt with fights, drugs and even weapons.

Administrators typically have handled these problems by suspending students. But this year Markham and Gompers middle schools have reported marked reductions in that form of discipline — as has the L.A. Unified School District overall, where the suspension rate dropped to 1.5% last year from 8% in 2008.

The drop came after the Los Angeles Board of Education and L.A. schools chief John Deasy called for fewer suspensions as concern grew nationwide that removing students from school imperils their academic achievement and disproportionately harms minorities, particularly African Americans.

But have suspensions really become rarer?

Several African American parents at Markham recently alleged that administrators were sending their children home without officially suspending them. Markham Principal Paul Hernandez flatly denied that practice, known as “off-the-books” suspending.

Similar charges have been made elsewhere in L.A. Unified. The principal at Manchester Elementary in South Los Angeles was removed earlier this year following allegations that he sent at least 20 students home while directing staff not to mark them absent or suspended, according to two knowledgeable sources who asked for anonymity to avoid retaliation. A district official confirmed Gregory Hooker’s removal “pending the outcome of an investigation” but declined to provide further details.

A confidential report by two community organizations in 2012 found that some principals were using “work-arounds” to district mandates to reduce suspensions. Maisie Chin, executive director of CADRE, a South Los Angeles nonprofit that has long worked on the discipline issue, declined to release the report but said it showed that some students were being sent home, sometimes with no given reason, depriving them of the due process rights in the formal suspension process.

“We do think the pressure to reduce suspensions is probably causing a lot of unintended consequences,” Chin said.


Last year, the L.A. school board became the first in the state to ban defiance as grounds for suspension; legislation would expand that ban statewide.

But those in the trenches say it hasn’t been easy to comply with the mandates — especially since years of tight budgets have left limited funding for the extra staff and training they say are critical.

At Gompers, Principal Traci Gholar said she readily suspended disruptive students in 2011-12, her first year at the helm, to drive home to families that she was intent on building a safe, orderly and positive school climate.

When superiors questioned her high suspension rate, Gholar asked for new resources that would support alternative disciplinary approaches: a conflict resolution specialist, a restorative justice coordinator, more campus aides, performing arts events and other activities.

The extra help appears to have made a difference. According to school data, incidents involving student misbehavior declined from 1,035 in the last school year to 663 as of May of this year. And although most of the misbehavior was serious enough to warrant suspensions, Gompers made a greater effort to address it in alternative ways, reducing the suspension rate to 3% from 30% last year.


Pope Francis responded to a group of 500 letters written by young people across the US who were sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.

Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, coordinated the project and collected the letters, and Father Mike Kennedy, chaplain at Sylmar Juvenile Hall, sent the letters to the pope.

Writing for America Magazine, Kennedy shared Pope Francis’ response, along with his own thoughts on the issue of juvie LWOP. First, here’s a clip from the pope’s letter:

Dear Father Kennedy,

I have read the letters which you kindly sent to me from hundreds of young people throughout the United States sentenced as juveniles to life imprisonment without parole. Their stories and their plea that this form of sentencing be reviewed in the light of justice and the possibility of reform and rehabilitation moved me deeply. I would ask you kindly to assure them that the Lord knows and loves each of them, and that the Pope remembers them with affection in his prayers…

Read the rest here.

Now, a clip from Father Kennedy:

Jody Kent in Washington, D.C., the leader of the national campaign to end LWOP and insure that no children ever get sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, collected 500 letters in many states from incarcerated youth who received a sentence of LWOP. These letters were addressed to Pope Francis because they had faith that this world leader would advocate for them. Some Jesuits and I helped forward them to the pope three weeks ago.

The pope answered these letters by writing me acknowledging receipt of them and to give hope to those who now have no hope. The pope’s letter is strong and clear. He believes our youth deserve a second chance. Each prisoner who wrote a letter will be receiving a copy of the pope’s letter.

As we know, a youth’s brain has not developed to the level of an adult at the ages when they commit these crimes. They should be tried in juvenile courts not adult courts. It is very clear that Pope Francis understands this and has taken this issue of youth locked up as a personal concern.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD, LAUSD, LWOP Kids, Paul Tanaka, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 16 Comments »

16 Responses

  1. In my 33 years of service... Says:

    P.T for TOY SHERIFF at Disneyland. No vote needed here.

  2. Gone and forgotten but still care Says:

    Having managed two of the Custody Division’s jails and been the Ops Lt at MCJ, I found I could always rely on the patrol trained folks to be the mature leaders on the floors and the people I could go to when there was a problem that needed to be solved. This “dual track” that was recommended by the jail commission is designed to eliminate what I considered the strength of our system; seasoned, street-wise, deputies working beside young, less mature and impressionable deputies.

    The committee had no real clue what works inside the jails. In the likely scenario that McDonald is the next Sheriff, he still will have not a clue of what works and what will not and I bet he would just as soon jettison the entire jail system to the BOS and allow them to have their own Department of Corrections (just take a look at the Probation Dept to see how that will work out).

    The reality is that the problems inside the County Jail were in the leadership at the very top of the LASD, not with the rank and file – good management would have nipped the 3000 boyz in the bud. Unfortunately, the likelihood of good jail management coming out of this election seems to be unlikely, but my vote will still be going to Bob Olmsted.

  3. Unveiled Reality Says:

    @#2…..Prior to 1982, patrol was optional, in essence, a dual track system. It worked then and there was not a problem. Patrol is essential, but overrated, outside of deputies being killed, injured and overworked. If patrol was all that, fewer deputies would leave patrol. The deputies that work patrol have their work cut out for them. I’m not undermining them or underestimating them. The same goes for the deputies in All non-patrol positions. WE ARE ALL SWORN PEACE OFFICERS. DON’T SHIT ON DEPUTIES WHO WORK CUSTODY. Let’s get off that tough guy, bad ass” mentality.

  4. On The Patch Says:

    Well said, The management is still in place and still running the show, they just learned how to blow more smoke and fill up the mirrors. Bob has my vote.

  5. truthbetold Says:

    (Paul Tanaka and Pat Gomez were not on the ballot because they did not participate in the PPOA debate (which was a requirement). Tanaka’s votes are write-ins.)

    Now wonder Tanaka didn’t win. I’m sure if he was on the ballot, he would have received the majority of votes.

    Union politics…. I guess tomorrow will tell the real story.

  6. Wuzfuzz Says:

    Gone and forgotten but still care….You’re gone, as am I, but you’re not forgotten. Too bad your vote from La Quinta won’t be counted in LA County. For what it’s worth, I totally agree with your opinion of “dual track”. Experience and maturity will be lacking. Will a dual track system have any affect on the Patrol Cost Model and the cost of law enforcement to the contract cities and other public entities?

  7. LATBG Says:

    McDonnell finally showed his true colors as a political opportunist. In a glossy mailer included in the LA Times print edition today, Jim “fresh eyes” McDonnell made the astonishing claim that he “stood up to the culture of corruption and violence within the Sheriff’s Department!”

    This is news to everyone on the Sheriff’s Department, for when Fresh Eyes was on his politically appointed stint on the CCJV (courtesy of his political daddy, Don Knabe of course) he failed to ask ANY hard-hitting questions to either Baca or Tanaka. It’s more like he bowed down to them and sat on his hands instead of standing up. He left the tough questions for others as he pondered his next move in a slimy political chess game.

    And then, to add insult to injury, with all his professed experience, fresh eyes, leadership, “I’m the only police chief,” alleged understanding of the department’s problems, blah blah blah, he walked away from the job of challenging Baca at his game. Yes, ol’ Fresh Eyes said it was too difficult to challenge the incumbent, so he turned his back on the LASD and walked away.

    And now this man has the gall to claim he stood up to the culture of corruption and violence? Is that how reform would look in a McDonnell administration, all fluff and no substance? There is only one man who stood up, did the right thing, and took the fight straight to Baca and he has the record to show for it – Bob Olmsted.

    This election is about ending corruption AND political opportunism. My choice has been the same from the start, and Bob Olmsted should be the choice of all honest men and women of the LASD.

  8. Line Guy Says:

    Paul Tanaka is a wanna be. He ACTS like a cop, but let’s face it, he’s a WANNA BE. He’s not a real cop, PERIOD. I don’t care how many “letters” people write on his behalf. He’s a joke, and we all know it. I don’t doubt he surrounds himself with real cops, but he’s a joke, and ALWAYS WILL BE. All the suck asses that keep pulling for him, cool, but your jokes too. Writing a letter that he set up containments, what a joke!!!! You know who you are too!

  9. The Bear Goes Everywhere Says:

    You Olmsted guys are going to be so disappointed in 24 hours time… You really should brace for it. I respect Bob Olmsted for what he did and believe much of the good that is happening to the department now is a result of it. But that doesn’t give him a claim on the Sheriff’s Office, and it’s pretty ridiculous that you guys just dismiss out of hand every other candidate, including candidates far more qualified, with name calling and childishness (just as Olmsted’s e-mail today, which LATB parroted, was childish). There are criticisms to be made of all the candidates. And Olmsted certainly can and should be criticized for his palling around with Gary Nalbandian these past couple months just for the dirty money he sprinkled on the last regime, before he was fired for the corruption you say Bob fights so much. So let’s look at these guys on their merits. Bob did a good thing. But his qualifications to be sheriff are minimal: rose no higher than commander, was (for whatever reasons) too ineffective to affect change inside the department, has run a sloppy campaign, has a very narrow (however deep) well of support, has virtually no endorsements of note, has exercised bad judgment in who he is visibly supported by, and who continues to come off (as he did in his email today) as an angry old man…nearly as angry now as Pat Gomez. My vote is for McDonnell. Maybe he should have jumped in a year ago, sacrificing his career and life savings. I don’t know. But, to be clear, Bob didn’t sacrifice those things. He sacrificed a year of retirement for a year in the limelight and score-settling, which he clearly enjoys. Not quite the same thing. We owe him gratitude, but that’s it.

  10. InterestedParty Says:

    As usual, LATBG hit the nail on the head. And Gone and forgotten but still care’s view that the committee hasn’t a clue regarding Dual Track or Jail Ops 101 is spot-on. Bob Olmsted is the best man to take LASD through the necessary change and thrust it back into the once solid and honorable LE organization it was before BaNaka. Thank you Bob for stepping up and putting your heart into this election. Best wishes tomorrow.

  11. IthacaBoomer Says:

    @LATBG- Rah Rah Sisboomba. The final cheer, pom poms fly in the air and float to the ground as the clock ticks down for that long and lonely walk into the tunnel of retirement. Boom!

  12. The Bear Goes Everywhere Says:

    PS- And while we’re talking about who’s calculating … the only reason Bob Olmsted has put out 3-4 requests for donations in the last couple days is not, as his emails suggest, to win the election (since he couldn’t have spent the money in two days), but to pay back himself and his campaign strategists. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, except that that’s not what he said the money was for. So, again, glass houses.

  13. Eyeswideopen Says:

    #2: Your absolutely right in that the corruption in the department is from the position of captain up to Sheriff Baca himself. There is no accountability, policy and procedures were and are ignored and now we have this mess. I want to thank Bob Olmstead for being a stand up guy and for being the only one who stood up to the sheriff on behalf of the department, it took guts and you all know that. I keep reading in the comment section that Bob should have done this and should have done that as a commander. Apparently, some of you don’t know what the responsibilities of a commander are, that is their responsibilities and limitations. A commander is an “aide” to a chief, and follows his policies and instructions. A commander has limited authority, just ask anyone of them.

  14. Read it and Weep Says:

    @Bear, I spoke with someone connected to his campaign this morning and asked about the question you raised #12 because you peaked my interest. Your information is incorrect, I was told his campaign is actually debt free and the money raised from some type of email he/they sent out WAS spent on purchasing Robocalls on Monday afternoon, NOT staff expenses as that was already handled. FYI.

  15. LATBG Says:

    The Bear Goes Nowhere, it’s nice to see you signed up for Bob’s campaign and receive his communications. That is quite honorable of you, I may add, indicative of the integrity of the candidate YOU support. Too bad your reading comprehension is not quite up to par.

    I find it quite amusing the amount of time you and your sidekick Boomer devote to Olmsted’s supporters. Based on the PPOA vote, he has an awful lot on the department, in fact even more than Hellmold, Rogers, and Tanaka combined. Anyone within the department who supports McDonnell probably cheered on Tanaka during the good years, and is now looking to latch on to another leg.

    I don’t care what rank Olmsted finished at when he retired, that has never defined a person or candidate in this particular race. Case in point, look at all the stars collected by Tanaka, Hellmold, and Rogers, and how they obtained them, its embarrassing to say the least. But hey, if that’s what you admire suit yourselves, it’s a free country!

  16. Huh! Says:

    Nice response LATBG. Like “gangsters” they will all turn on each other soon enough and I will continue to sit back and laugh at how frustrated they get trying to break me!

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