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Former LASD Commander Discusses Baca Leadership….Treating Locked-Up Kids Like Adults…LAPD Chief and the Game Anti-Violence Campaign….Reseda Church Holds Police-Community Town Hall

July 22nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker


In an interview with KTLA’s Kareen Wynter, former L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Cmdr. Ralph G. Ornelas, says former Sheriff Lee Baca did not properly supervise the actions of his number two in command, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

“[Baca] didn’t do the one thing that was extremely paramount, was to manage the people below him,” said Ornelas, who was in command of Men’s Central Jail from March of 2011 until mid-2013.

At a sentencing hearing for Baca last week, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson dynamited Baca’s plea deal (a sentencing range of 0-6 months in prison). Now, Baca and his lawyers can either come back with a deal Anderson is more likely to accept, or withdraw the plea and go to trial.

Paul Tanaka was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison for the dual crimes of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice while a federal investigation into brutality and corruption in the county jail system was taking place.

Ornelas, who testified against Tanaka, said Baca’s sentence needs to send a message. “It’s bigger than Baca,” he said.


A growing body of research on teenagers’ still-developing brains (notably the areas of the brain governing impulse control, critical thinking, and consideration of consequences), has led to major juvenile justice reforms at the local, state, and federal levels. Yet, the majority of juvenile lock-ups don’t reflect the fact that kids and teens are fundamentally different from adults.

Writing for Medium, youth justice advocate and CEO of No Kids in Prison, Liz Ryan, points out some of the ways that juvenile detention centers mimic adult prisons, and why the similarities—like solitary confinement, a focus on punishment, dehumanizing treatment, and rampant violence and victimization—are especially harmful to children. Of course, not every youth facility subjects kids to these injustices, but most do.

In California, it’s taken many years to improve conditions for locked up kids. In 2003, the nonprofit Prison Law Office sued the state of California over huge problems in the California Youth Authority facilities. In order to settle the case in 2005, the state agreed to “provide wards with adequate and effective care, treatment and rehabilitation services, including reducing violence and the use of force, improving medical and mental health care, reducing the use of lock-ups and providing better education programs.” It took the state more than a decade to implement the necessary reforms and end the lawsuit (like reducing use of force, overhauling education, and implementing evidence-based rehabilitation programs).

Here’s a clip:

Focus on punishment, not rehabilitation

Youth prisons were designed to serve as an alternative to adult prisons by having a more rehabilitative focus. It hasn’t turned out this way in many instances, even when the purpose of the juvenile facility is defined in a state’s statute to rehabilitate youth.

For example, in Connecticut, the Department of Children & Families (DCF) states that the mission of Connecticut’s youth prison, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS), “is to provide a safe, secure and therapeutic environment while providing opportunity for growth and success.”

This mission statement which promotes a rehabilitative approach is not consistent with the report and videotapes released by the Office of the Child Advocate last year documenting youth being brutalized by staff. These actions appear to be more about punishment than rehabilitation.


In a video released Wednesday, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and rapper the Game announced they would be partnering on a new anti-violence campaign.

The duo called for an end to bloodshed in the city. Chief Beck pointed out that of the nearly 1,000 people shot in 2015, close to 300 died, and 80% of both victims and shooters were young men of color.

“We have to stop killing one another,” the Game said.

Snoop Dogg and the Game led a peaceful march to LAPD headquarters earlier in July, and joined LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for a press conference.


On Thursday night, the Reseda Church of Christ hosted a town hall for community members, city officials, police, and clergy to discuss race and policing to “facilitate healing and reconciliation” between law enforcement and communities of color.

The predominantly black congregation has lost two members to violent encounters with officers.

“For us to make progress, we’ve got to focus on the reduction of overall violence in these communities,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Bob Green, who spoke at the meeting.

LA Daily News’ Brenda Gazzar has more on the town hall. Here’s a clip:

In 1982, congregant James Mincey, 20, died after he was put in a chokehold by a Los Angeles police officer during a struggle in Lake View Terrace. The public outcry that resulted from the Pacoima man’s death prompted limitations on the use of the controversial technique by the LAPD.

On May 16, 2013, another congregant, Christian Eaddy, 25, was fatally shot during an encounter with Los Angeles police in Pacoima. His cousin had called 911, reporting that Eaddy was sticking himself with syringes and was armed with two knives. Police said Eaddy refused commands to drop the knives and continued to approach the officers before one used a stun gun on him and another shot him. Another cousin, however, said Eaddy was 3 feet away from officers when he dropped the knives and was shot, according to prosecutors who investigated the case.

Winrow said Eaddy had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old. No criminal charges were filed and the case is in civil litigation, he said.

The 63-year-old minister, who lives in Granada Hills, believes that more community policing as well as having more officers from the communities they patrol would help reduce such incidents.

“Sometimes we view people not in the same way that we view our own, and we become more likely to make mistakes of judgement,” Winrow said. “Those kinds of mistakes … can cost people their lives.”


On KPCC’S Take Two, host Alex Cohen spoke with Jerry Hoffman, co-chair of the community police advisory board for the LAPD’s Northeast division, and Ruben Arellano, Sergeant at the Northeast division, discussed how to get involved and improve police-community relations through open dialogue and other tools. Sgt. Arellano suggests attending the community advisory board’s meetings and attending the LAPD’s community citizen’s academy—where, one night a week for 10 weeks, participants get special lessons on policing issues. Attendees learn about everything from traffic stops and chases, to how Internal Affairs works. Go take a listen.

Posted in LASD | 11 Comments »

LA County Approves Prop. 47 Outreach….Questions About CA’s Upcoming Foster Care Reform…and Kids with Leukemia Become Deputies for a Day

July 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by County CEO Sachi Hamai to allocate $6.6 million from the county’s budget to help approximately 500,000 people with felonies that qualify for reduction to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. The vote was 4-1 with Supe. Michael Antonovich dissenting.

The money will go toward services and outreach so that as many people as possible take advantage of the legal relief Prop. 47 offers before the law’s November 2017 deadline. (There’s also a bill working its way through state legislature that would extend the deadline, if there were good cause to do so.)

The Public Defender’s Office will kick off the outreach by mailing letters to potentially eligible people. “County departments, community-based organizations, advocates, and interested public and private agencies will also receive posters and flyers to advertise the opportunity for Prop 47 legal relief and services,” Hamai’s letter reads. And if a 10% response rate is not achieved, “then the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) will insert Prop 47 flyers into their regular correspondence to clients and advertisements will be placed on public transportation routes.”

As of April, the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender’s Office had received over 54,000 Prop. 47 petitions, and filed over 31,000 petitions. This doesn’t include applications filed by private attorneys, but is certainly a far cry from the estimated 500,000 eligible people who still haven’t submitted requests. Part of the money will be used to add paralegals to the Public Defender and District Attorney’s offices to help with the anticipated increase in workload.

The funds will also be used to connect Prop. 47ers with mental health and substance abuse services, medical care, housing, and employment resources from community-based businesses and organizations.

NOTE: The Supes passed a separate motion that would task the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Probation, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Office of Diversion and Re-Entry, and other government entities and external organizations to research ways to reduce recidivism, including probation for misdemeanor offenders. We’ll have more on the motion later this week.


In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 403, a bill that will overhaul counties’ child welfare placement systems by eliminating traditional group homes, and by focusing on long-term placements with foster families, as part of a larger effort called the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). The changes are slated to go into effect by January 2017, and so far, California’s not ready for the switch.

At that time, the current controversial group home model will be thrown out in favor of short-term residential treatment centers (STRTCs) which will have to meet much higher standards of care than today’s group homes. Kids placed in the STRTCs will stay a maximum of six months while receiving specialized therapeutic treatment for mental health and other needs.

But what will happen to LA County’s high-needs foster children when the long-term group homes vanish and there are not enough foster families to go around? (USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism students Sara Tiano & Brittany Reid explored the issue in a story for WitnessLA.)

Writing for the Chronicle of Social Change, human services veteran and founder of the Family Care Network, Jim Roberts, reports that CCR was not designed specifically to improve the lives of children in the welfare system…it was designed to save California money. And unfortunately, without a major (and unlikely) boost to currently depleted foster parent ranks, the plan may be doomed before it even begins. Part of the problem, says Roberts, is that the state isn’t substantially increasing payments to foster families and foster family agencies, which would help with recruitment.

Roberts also points out that, so far, the state has been unwilling to pay foster parents an appropriate amount to take care of teenagers and hard-to-place high-needs, challenging foster kids who are extremely hard to place (and who often end up in group homes). Here’s a clip:

For the past couple of years, the state has been doling out more money to the counties to improve resource family retention and recruitment, but I can guarantee you, these are not the families who will be taking the youth coming out of group homes, many of which have significant behavioral, mental and emotional problems. The majority of these kids went into residential treatment because they needed it, not because there was a lack of placement options elsewhere.

Of equal concern is the fact that the state is not willing to appropriately pay foster parents what it takes to serve high-needs, challenging foster youth. The “new” CCR rates include, at best, a paltry rate increase, but actually decrease some rates to foster parents who provide certain levels of care, including those who care for teenagers. We should be doubling or tripling the amount paid to our foster parents who are working with challenging youth 24/7.

My agency, the Family Care Network, has been successful in working with the county to cobble together multiple funding sources in order to pay foster parents one of, if not the, highest rate in the state. But it is still not enough, nor has it helped much in our recruitment efforts.

One ray of hope in the resource family reimbursement debacle is therapeutic foster care (TFC). Yes, TFC will provide additional payment to “therapeutic foster parents” working with an FFA. But they must meet stringent vetting and training requirements, they must participate in the clinical process and complete required daily documentation, and the foster youth must meet “medical necessity” in order to qualify for mental health services. Plus, the FFA must be a qualified specialty mental health services provider with a contract to receive reimbursement. The long and short of this is that it will benefit a handful of foster parents at best, providing that you can find these families.

Another demonstration of the state’s lack of insight concerns probation youth within the juvenile justice system. These kids are one of the higher consumers of group home services and the plan is to move many of them into the community. Again, the “new” rate structure does not provide any accommodation for serving this high-risk, offender population. Most of these youth do not “meet medical necessity” and would not qualify the foster parent to receive the TFC rate augmentation. And I rather doubt there will be many – if any – foster families willing to take in a juvenile offender without substantial reimbursement and the necessary intensive services and supports.


Today (Wednesday), Julian Cardenas, a 13-year-old with leukemia, will become an honorary deputy for a day at Industry Sheriff’s Station.

When Deputy Marianne Oliver responded to a call to help Julian back in May, she connected with the boy, who she learned was struggling with the fact that he could not play with his peers outside, or regularly attend school while undergoing treatment. Oliver, who felt she needed to do something beyond the standard call for service, shared Julian’s story with her fellow deputies, who decided to surprise Julian by making him honorary deputy at their station.

Today, Oliver will pick Julian up in an LASD Camaro show car, and take him to the station, where we will be sworn in, receive a tour of the station, train in the weapons training simulator, and visit the Special Enforcement Bureau Special Weapons Team, K-9 and Aero Bureau deputies. Oliver and her coworkers will also present Julian with a bunch of challenge coins and souvenirs from different LASD departments.

The Industry Station will also host a barbecue fundraiser to help Julian and his family.


Upon hearing the story of Alfonso Hoffman—a 12-year-old in Boyle Heights who is fighting leukemia, and who dreams of one day becoming a K9 officer, the LASD’s Transit Policing Division swore Alfonso in as an honorary deputy for a day. Alfonso was given a tactical vest, rode in a armored truck, and trained with the department’s explosives detection dogs.

Alfonso, who faces three years of chemotherapy treatment, thanked the transit deputies officers with tears in his eyes. “It’s been an honor,” Alfonso said.

(We also recommend heading over to ABC7, where you can watch a video of Alfonso being sworn in.)

Posted in Propositions, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Fed Judge Dynamites Baca Plea Deal, Says 6 Month Sentence Would “Trivialize the Seriousness” of His Offense”

July 19th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


When the sentencing hearing for former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca began on Monday morning in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson, most of those in attendance were fairly sure they knew what to expect.

The room was packed with Baca supporters who had various kinds of personal ties to the former sheriff. Most of the supporters showed up at the downtown federal courthouse on Spring Street an hour early to make sure they got a seat in the courtroom before the place filled to overflow, which it did quickly. Tommy Lasorda, the beloved former manager of the Dodgers, was one of those waiting to enter.

One supporter brought with him a plastic bag full of enamel lapel pins, each formed in the shape of a small yellow ribbon tied in bow. The man went down the line passing out the pins to the crowd. One man who said he’d known Baca since middle-school, quick fastened a pin to his suit jacket. “I guess it’s just another way of showing support,” he said.

Eventually, a trio of federal marshals allowed everyone who could fit to file into the courtroom and get seated. By that time around two thirds of those gathered wore a yellow ribbon pin, excluding the press, and the smattering of lookee-loo attorneys who had wandered down from the building’s upper floors.

In February of this year, Baca pleaded guilty to one count of lying to federal officials, having to do with his knowledge of hiding federal informant Anthony Brown, the threatening of a federal agent, and other forms of interference in a federal investigation into brutality and corruption by deputies the LA County Jail system.

It was an agreement that reportedly took much negotiation to wrestle to the ground. But, eventually the government and the defense were in accord, and Baca formally pleaded guilty to the single charge in front of Judge Anderson. Now all these months later, the deal was about to be finalized, once Anderson sentenced Baca.


In most plea deals, when it comes time to sentence, the defense and the prosecution each make their pitch for the sentence they hope to sell to the court, then the judge delivers the sentence he or she deems just, and that sentence is binding.

But Baca’s agreement was a slightly different breed of federal plea bargain called an 11(c)1(C) agreement. This form of plea deal allows the government and the defense to agree upon a narrow range of possible sentences from which the judge may select. If the court doesn’t agree with the sentencing range, it may go outside the agreed upon parameter. Then the defendant must decide whether to accept the rogue sentence, or instead be allowed withdraw his or her plea, in which case everyone is back to square one. Commonly the judge stays within the agreed upon sentencing range since, in most cases, no one is all that interested in the square one option.

In Baca’s case, the agreed-upon sentencing range was 0 to 6 months —zero meaning probation only.

Thus, all that had to happen on Monday was for both defense and prosecution to make their respective pitches to the judge for their preferred sentences, and for Anderson to select the point on the 0 to 6 month continuum he believed to be the most appropriate for Baca.

But that was not what occurred.

As most of you reading this likely know by now, Anderson instead flipped the game table, took a blow torch to the sentencing spread, dynamited the plea agreement (or whatever other metaphor you prefer). He chose none of the above— which essentially rendered the carefully crafted 11(c)1(C) agreement null and void.

However, at the beginning of the morning, everyone was still blissfully ignorant of the curve ball that was coming.


When Baca entered the hallway outside Anderson’s court, stopping to greet be greeted by supporter after supporter, he seemed relatively prepared for whatever fate was going to be handed to him. (In contrast, when the former sheriff came to court back in February, he seemed on the verge of shattering.)

After some necessary legal remarks by the judge, Baca’s lead defense attorney, Michael Zweiback, got up with his client beside him, and made an eloquent case for the probation only alternative. Zweiback read excerpts from letters written by a wide variety of people whose lives Baca seemed to have touched or helped to make better, and listed Baca’s accomplishments.

Finally Zweiback laid out the Alzheimer’s issue, and why he believed his client’s condition would make a federal prison “a cruel place” for the former sheriff to be.

Unlike other sheriff’s department defendants the judge has sentenced, the defense attorney said, “my client is accepting responsibility” for what he’s done….

“We would urge this court not to incarcerate Mr. Baca. There is so much more that can be done for him and by him” if he is allowed to stay out of prison.


When it was the federal prosecutors’ turn, as they had in their sentencing briefs, the prosecution pushed for the full six months. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox praised Baca’s positive achievements, But “this is not all about Mr. Baca,” said Fox. “It’s about justice.” And about “deterrence,” and communicating to others that “they will be held accountable.”

When Baca lied to federal officials, he did so to protect himself from an indictment, Fox said “That’s not what a leader does. That’s what a coward does.”

The former sheriff also “ignored plenty of warnings that deputies in his jails were abusing inmates,” and then became “angry” when the FBI began investigating his department,” the prosecutor said. Yet Fox also made it clear that the government thought anything greater than a six month sentence for Baca was excessive, considering his medical condition.

Furthermore Fox said, the government believed that Paul Tanaka was “far more responsible” for the wrongs that had been done in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, than the former sheriff. He also pointed out that no other defendant involved in the obstruction cases has admitted to the court that they’d done anything wrong, save Baca. “They remained defiant throughout the process.”

After Fox sat down, Baca read a page long prepared statement in which he expressed regret about his actions. “I failed,” he said. “I did not lead. Instead I delegated the responsibility for this investigation. I should not have done that.


Finally it was Anderson’s turn. And, as the judge began to talk, it quickly became evident that he was not happy with the sentencing choices the plea deal had given him.

A six month sentence, Anderson said, does not “fairly account for the significant harm” caused “by this defendant” and “under-appreciates this defendant’s culpability.” The guidelines agreed upon, the judge continued, “fail to fairly measure the culpability of this defendant….and the nature and circumstances of criminal conduct.”

Under Baca, said Percy Anderson, a grand jury investigation was derailed, jail deputies “were taught to how to cover up abuse by other deputies.” If an inmate disrespected a deputy, his fellow deputies were taught that they should beat the inmate badly enough “to put him in the hospital.”

While [in the agreement] the parties place no value on this harm,” Anderson said grimly, “I do.

“The behavior of the chief law enforcement officer on Los Angeles county” involves covering up abuse in the men’s central jail.

Yes, Baca has many accomplishments, Anderson said. “But those factors are greatly outweighed by other sentencing factors.”

Six months in prison, he said, “would trivialize the seriousness of his offenses, his lack of respect for the law and the gross abuse of the public trust….”

“…Thus this court rejects the plea agreement.”

And that, was that.


Anderson informed Zweiback that Baca was not longer bound by the plea agreement, a fact of which Zweiback and his associates were already quite aware.

This meant he and his client could withdraw the plea, and the “court could impose a sentence that is “more severe than what had been agreed upon.” But Anderson declined to say how severe.

After Zweiback and Baca conferred, the defense attorney asked for a continuance.

It was agreed that everyone would return to court in two weeks, on August 1.

Outside the courtroom, Zweiback said that in seventeen years as an Assistant US Attorney, and 9 years as a criminal defense attorney he’d never had a deal rejected.

Between now and August first, Zweiback added, he will meet with the federal prosecutors and try to hammer out another deal that will work both the government and the defense—and, of course, for Judge Percy Anderson.

But, said Zweiback, “It may well be that nothing will satisfy the court except for a trial.”

Yet a trial is a risk for both the defense and the prosecution, said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Miriam Krinsky, who was also the executive director of the Citizen’s Commission for Jail Violence. “If they go to trial, that means first the government has to present its evidence to a grand jury and get an indictment. And the government may decide to indict on more charges.”

At the same time, Krinsky said, the prosecutors have indicated that their evidence on Baca is likely not as strong as it was on Tanaka and others.

So what kind of sentence would Percy Anderson like to impose? There is no way of knowing, of course. However, two different veteran attorneys guessed that a one or two year sentence. “And if you’re Baca, you take that deal,” one of the attorneys said.

Miriam Krinsky agreed “This judge is very aware,” she added, “that a lot of people got caught up due to Baca’s failure of leadership, and got much higher sentences” than he found in the now-rejected deal.

WLA’s photo of Baca and one of his attorneys was taken after his plea hearing in February 2016.

Posted in LASD | 77 Comments »

Violence Prevention Efforts in Los Angeles, a Problematic Study on Racial Bias in Policing, and LAPD Body-Cam Policies

July 19th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


Aquil Basheer is a nationally known pioneer in the field of violence prevention, whose techniques have been implemented in cities worldwide.

For 40 years, Aquil Basheer, a former member of the Black Panther Party, and the son of Los Angeles’ first African American firefighter, has been working to reduce violence in LA. Now, Basheer travels around the globe training firefighters, social workers, students and former gang-members on how to become gang interventionists and bring peace into the turbulent neighborhoods in which they live and work.

Before Basheer launched his own training company, he was the executive director of Pete Carroll’s A Better LA.

Basheer’s training program teaches participants how to mediate ceasefires, help kids avoid slipping into gang life, and control neighborhood rumors, among other hands-on skills.

Basheer has co-authored a book called, Peace in the Hood, and two documentaries have been made about his work—License to Operate, and, more recently, The Black Jacket (preview above). He also one the 2010 California Wellness Foundation’s Peace Prize.

Here’s a clip from LA Magazine’s Jessica Ogilvie’s profile on Basheer:

Mike Wallen, Omelet’s chief content officer and the producer of what would become the film License to Operate, learned about Basheer’s hesitation early on. “When we first approached these men and women,” Wallen says, “they expressed their concerns. They didn’t want to be exploited; they didn’t want their story to be sensationalized.”

Wallen took the concerns to heart, but his plan to steer clear of gratuitous imagery wasn’t received well from initial audiences. “We got a lot of feedback from people: ‘Where’s the shooting? Where’s the yellow tape?’,” he says. “But it’s so much less about the violence and so much more about community restoration and creating hope and opportunities for kids. It’s a story of redemption. They feel they have to try and create the opportunities for the next generation because it wasn’t there for them.”

The film puts Basheer, who calls his relationship with the police a “respectful coexistence,” in the spotlight at a time of peak conflict, when tension between police and black communities is at a combustible high. “When you tell the police department, ‘We are going to give you military rights, military equipment, military firepower, equip you to be a force that’s going to war,’ well, guess what? There has to be an adversary in that scenario,” he says. “The community has become that adversary, and that is felt.”


Dozens of LA-area gang members attended a meeting convened by rappers Snoop Dogg and the Game on Sunday in South LA, where a number of speakers (including gang intervention leader and Homies Unidos founder Alex Sanchez) to discuss peace—between cops and communities of color, as well as between gangs—in the wake of a number of high-profile shootings in recent weeks.

This isn’t the first time Snoop Dogg has worked to end violence between LA’s gangs, and the Game recently raised more than $70,000 with his son for Tommy Norman, an unsung hero of a cop—a police officer in Little Rock, Arkansas who takes kindness and community policing to a new level. The money will go toward Norman’s efforts to contribute to the community he serves (which is predominantly a community of color), funding things like toys, snacks, and drinks for the kids he meets.

The Game said he felt compelled to hold the summit following the recent killing of his foster brother. The Game explained that he wants his three children to live in a safer world.

Snoop and the Game headed a peaceful march to LAPD headquarters earlier in July, and joined LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for a press conference (see above video).


The front page of last Tuesday’s New York Times included a much-talked about story about a study that surprisingly found no racial bias involved in police shootings. The study, authored by Harvard economics professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. looked at police reports of more than 1,300 shootings in big city police departments, including Houston, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Orlando, and found that officers were more likely to use non-lethal force on black suspects than white suspects. But when Fryer and his team looked at their data on the actual shootings, they found no racial bias. In Houston, the city focused on the most, Fryer found that officers were around 20% less likely to shoot a black suspect than a white suspect in situations where lethal force might have been justified.

But how accurate are Fryer’s startling conclusions?

Several criticisms of the study have surfaced, including from Vox’s Dara Lind, and MTV News’ Ezekiel Kweku, highlighting red flags in Fryer’s research.

Washington Post’s Radley Balko explains the biggest problem with the study: it’s based entirely on police reports, which are nearly always written by the officers involved in the incidents, and can be uneven, incomplete pictures of incidents. Balko explains that if you were putting together statistics on medical errors, written statements from the accused medical professionals wouldn’t be the only data source you’d tap into. Here’s a clip:

We want to reform policing. But we want those reforms to be informed, based on good data. The problem is that nearly all the data we have on incidents involving police officers using lethal force comes from reports written by police officers, and nearly all of those reports were written by the officers who were actually involved in those incidents.

The current law on when police officers may use lethal force allows for what critics (like me) would say is far too much discretion. It doesn’t account for police officers who needlessly escalate a situation and then have no choice but to use lethal force due to the circumstances they created. It doesn’t account for mistakes made by police officers themselves that might have caused an officer to reasonably believe a suspect posed an imminent threat. It doesn’t account for police officers giving contradictory commands, then shooting someone for misinterpreting them.

For the purpose of the discussion, let’s break shootings and killings by police into three categories: incidents that were illegal and unnecessary, incidents that were legal and necessary, and incidents that were legal but unnecessary. If you’re asking whether current laws and policies allow for too many police shootings, looking at how many shootings are justified under current law and policy is just question begging. It’s that last category — legal but unnecessary — that we want to explore. Unfortunately, it’s also a category that is plagued by subjectivity and the simple fact noted above: Most of the data we have comes from police reports themselves.

If we were to compile statistics on, say, medical mistakes in an effort to make policies that would improve the state of medicine, we wouldn’t get all of our data from written statements by the accused doctors or hospitals. If we wanted to compile data on conflicts of interest in politics, we wouldn’t rely on politicians to self-report and adjudicate when their vote may have been influenced by a campaign donation. But this is essentially what we do with shootings by police officers.

The argument here is not that there’s something uniquely untrustworthy about cops. The argument is that almost every police officer who has just shot and killed someone will defend his or her decision to kill. It’s human nature.


As the LAPD and other major law enforcement agencies are rolling out officer-worn cameras, the question of who has the right to see all this video (and when, and under what circumstances) has quickly become the subject of debate between police, civil rights advocates, and the public.

The LAPD has maintained that videos would not be released unless required by a court, arguing the importance of officer and victim privacy and investigation integrity. There are critics of this stance, including the president of the police commission, who believes the policy should be reconsidered.

Department officials say they have been keeping an eye on San Diego’s progress with a policy of releasing portions of officer-involved shooting videos after once the DA chooses not to charge the cops involved. But Craig Lally, head of the LAPD officers’ union, says releasing any video would be a mistake.

The LA Times’ Kate Mather has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Supporters of broader access to police video welcomed a review of the LAPD’s policy. An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union called it “long overdue.” But, he added, officials would need to craft specific guidelines preventing the LAPD from sharing only footage that helped officers.

“They can’t just leave it to their discretion to release video if it exonerates officers and withhold it if it’s incriminating,” said Peter Bibring, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California.

But the president of the union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers sharply rejected the idea of releasing any of the recordings. Craig Lally said he feared the decision to release certain footage would be influenced by public or political pressure, jeopardizing evidence that could be used in a trial.

“Once you open that Pandora’s box, who’s going to decide what’s going to be released?” Lally said. “Is it going to be the chief of police? Is it going to be the mayor? What’s the criteria going to be?

Posted in Violence Prevention | No Comments »

What to Expect When Lee Baca To Be Sentenced Monday Morning

July 18th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

On Monday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson will announce
what sentence he believes is appropriate for former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca.

There are a number of factors that could influence Anderson’s decision.

But, we’ll get to all that in a minute. First let’s quickly review how we got here:

In late 2015, it became fairly clear to Baca and his attorneys that the former sheriff was very likely going to be indicted for some part of his alleged participation in obstructing the FBI’s investigation into corruption and brutality by deputies in the LA County jail system. With this in mind, toward the end of last year—according to members of the U.S. Attorney’s office—Baca’s people floated the idea of a deal. However, it took until the first week of February 2016 for the final language of the plea deal to be nailed down in a flurry of negotiations.

Finally, it was agreed that Baca would plead to one count of lying to federal officials. Specifically, according to the feds, the former sheriff replied falsely to certain questions when he was interviewed in April 2013 by members of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office, having to do with Baca’s knowledge of alleged attempts by LASD personnel working under him to obstruct the aforementioned federal investigation.

In return for the plea, the government would recommend a sentencing range of between zero to six months, but not to exceed six months. Additionally, Baca would agree not to contest certain other accusations, but would not plead guilty to them.

For their part, prosecutors would agree not to bring charges based on those acts that the sheriff would not contest.

And so it was that, on the morning of February 10, 2016, the deal was announced, and in the afternoon Baca pleaded guilty to that one count of lying before Judge Percy Anderson. All that remained was for Anderson to actually sentence Baca.

There was one small caveat: for the deal to remain in place, Anderson’s sentence must stay within the agreed upon 0-6.

Until the plea hearing, it was pretty much assumed that Anderson would stay within the 0-6 boundary because, should Anderson decided to give Baca a sentence greater than six months, this would effectively dynamite the deal, bringing everyone back to pre-deal conditions where the government was prepared to indict Baca and take him to trial, an outcome that nobody really wants.

But during that February hearing, while the judge didn’t say he’d exceed the 0-6 boundaries, Anderson also made it clear that he legally could go as high as five years, leading some court watchers to wonder if the judge might be toying with the notion of going at least a little higher.

Or then again, maybe not.


As one might expect, Baca’s team of attorneys, led by Michael Zwieback, has asked the court to sentence the former sheriff to probation only.

Baca “did the unthinkable,” wrote Zwieback and company in a 30 plus-page sentencing memo. But “he accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty to a crime.”

Baca is seventy-four years old, his attorneys wrote of their client. “He has early stage Alzheimer’s disease. He needs constant monitoring, prescription medications, and any treatment that may slow or stall the progression of this degenerative disease. No one contends that he is a threat to the community. He will not offend again. All conditions support a probation only sentence.”

(Lead defense attorney Zweiback is, by the way, a former assistant U.S. attorney.)

The former sheriff’s attorneys also told the judge that, if Baca was not sentenced to prison, he would be accepted into a clinical study at UCLA that might change the course of his disease, plus as a former high profile member of law enforcement, along with his medical condition, he would be a target for victimization in a federal prison.

The 36-page brief was accompanied by scores of letters from supporters that include sports personalities, religious figures, former jail inmates, at least two former California governors, and a lot of other names that you would know.

The elephant in the room, however, when it comes to Baca’s sentencing, is the fact that seven people to date working under the former sheriff, and to whom he directly, or through the chain of command, gave orders, have already been given federal prison terms by Judge Anderson ranging from 18 months to 41 months. And those sentences are arguably, at least in part, a consequence of the orders Baca allegedly gave. And then there is former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, who received a sentence of 60 months.

Baca’s attorneys argue that those other cases and sentences don’t apply because their client is to be sentenced for the crime of making a false statement in connection with a single interview, not with obstruction, bribery or any of the other alleged Illegal acts on which the other “Related Cases” are based.


The prosecution, in contrast, wants Judge Anderson to give the former sheriff a sentence of six months in a federal prison.

“Defendant Leroy Baca is a study in contrasts,” prosecutors Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes, and Eddie Jauregui wrote in their most recent sentencing brief. “He was a champion of certain reforms in the criminal justice system, yet ignored warnings that his deputies were committing serious abuses in the Los Angeles County jails” and became “angry that the federal government was investigating his department”

Baca, they wrote, issued orders that,” taken literally, may not have been corrupt,” but were carried out, without Baca’s objection, in a manner that was corrupt.

And then he “lied to the federal government.”

As for the matter of the former sheriff’s Alzheimer’s, the prosecutors contend that, while Baca “suffers from a mild cognitive impairment” it should not preclude a sentence like the six months they propose.

In a separate 10-page declaration, Dr. James Pelton, Regional Medical Director for the Western Region of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, assured the judge that “Mr. Baca’s medical condition is not unusual in the BOP.”As discussed below,” Pelton wrote, “there are hundreds of inmates who have cognitive impairment that is more severe than Mr. Baca’s condition. Additionally, contrary to the assertion of Mr. Baca…it is very likely that Mr. Baca would continue to be able to take medication prescribed to him to treat his disease while incarcerated. I make this statement as the person who would be deciding whether Mr. Baca 2 would receive this medication….”


Near the end of their brief, the prosecutors pointed to an incident that they said suggested that the former sheriff still felt he had done nothing wrong, and that he was “above the law” and that he “refuses” even now “to acknowledge the problems within the Los Angeles County jails.”

The were referring to Baca’s May 29, 2016, speech and interview given when he was honored on May 29, 2016, by a Jewish organization.

At that time, Baca stated he was not afraid of jail. “I’m not afraid of
anything….” he said. “I can serve time, I don’t care what the circumstances are…I’ll stand on my record proudly, anywhere, whether it’s in the free world or in jail.”

Similarly, although it was too recent to make it into their brief, the prosecution was also reportedly very interested in a panel with which the former sheriff participated this past Friday, July 15, entitled Every Life Matters – Solving the Imbalance of Race Relations From Both Sides.


So will Anderson go with six months, or probation only? Or will he blow up the deal?

Those reading tea leaves, point to Anderson’s harsh remarks after he sentenced Gilbert Michel (the deputy who accepted a bribe to bring in the cell phone to inmate/FBI informant Anthony Brown), and then the scorched earth lecture he gave to Paul Tanaka before he handed down the undersheriff’s sentence.

If by some chance Anderson decides to go above the 0-6 boundary on Monday, Baca and his attorneys will have a decision to make. They can roll the dice and go to trial where, in addition to the public spectacle, if Baca loses, the judge can give him up to 5 years, which is what he gave Tanaka.

Or, if the sentence isn’t too excessive, Baca could elect to cut his losses and decide to keep the deal in place.

In any case, Monday morning all speculation will end, and we will learn what sentence Judge Percy Anderson considers just.

So…stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

After Baton Rouge: Voices in the Darkness

July 18th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

The LA County sheriff’s deputy union ALADS,
struck a good note with its statement on Sunday evening about the horrific Baton Rouge shooting that claimed the life of three law enforcement officers, and injured three more:

“We join in solidarity with law enforcement officials and agencies throughout our country in condemning in the strongest possible terms the attack on peace officers in Baton Rouge this morning,” the ALADS board wrote. “While we do not yet know, let alone begin to understand the circumstances surrounding the killing and wounding of these police officers, we know that violence directed at the very men and women sworn to uphold the rule of law undermines our society and threatens our freedom. The time is now for America to pull together to find solutions to these senseless assaults on law enforcement.

The message is simple. It condemns what must be condemned and is full-hearted in its support of law enforcement. But the message is also devoid of the divisiveness and demonization that—on both sides—too often poisons a discussion that daily seems to be growing more necessary, not less.

Then the ALADS board went one step further, at the end of its formal statement by pointing to the emotional and heart-piercing Facebook post written by Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson a few days before he was killed.

Marcus Tillman, a former Baton Rouge police officer who was a good friend of Jackson’s and reportedly partnered with him for a short period, grieved for his law enforcement brother on Facebook when he got the terrible news that Jackson was one of the three officers killed by a rogue gunman in black fatigues now identified as Gavin Long, 29, of Kansas City, Missouri.

“Rest in Peace to my former partner and one of the best cops I’ve ever known...” Tillman, wrote on Facebook during the day on Sunday. “His name was Montrell Jackson! His call number was 3519! And he was a black life that apparently didn’t matter to the one that took it!”

Then eight hours later, around 10 p.m. Tillman wrote another post:

Unless you’ve been there, you can’t possibly understand why at a time like this all I want to do is gear up and go right back out into the streets to protect and serve. Evil may expose the weakness of men, but it will not make The Light cower!”

Montrell Jackson expressed in the clearest possible terms his commitment to walking on the side of light, even though he was getting slammed both as a police officer and a black man. So did Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola when, after an exhausting week, they went back to work, and responded unhesitatingly when the B-Quick call came, as did the five Dallas officers who protected their fellow Texans who had come to peacefully protest, although it cost them everything.

Surely, we honor them best by staying in the light ourselves as we talk to each other, even when we disagree, even when we wish to do otherwise.

Posted in race | 2 Comments »

3 Police Officers Shot Dead in Baton Rouge, 3 Injured, 1 Suspect Dead – UPDATED

July 17th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


*Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers are dead, three more are injured.

The single shooter has been identified as Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri. Originally, police believed there might be three shooters. But, as in Dallas, it was a single gunman. Long, 29, who was wearing body armor and carrying a rifle, killed three officers and wounded three others before he was shot and killed by police.

*Shooting took place at approximately 8:30 a.m. Sunday, at a B-Quick convenience store in Baton Rouge, LA, near police headquarters.

*Two of the dead are Baton Rouge police officers, one is an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy

*The names of the three officers killed are reported to be Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola.

The death of Jackson, who is black, was confirmed by his aunt earlier. “Today is not going too well,” she said.

*The incident comes less than two weeks after the shooting death of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers on July 5, sparking both local and national protests.

*On July 13, Alton Sterling’s 15-year old son pleaded for peace, begging the public to come together “as one united family,” with “no violence whatsoever.

*Sterling was buried on Friday, with no protests.


Officer Montreal Jackson had been working long hours during the protests after Alton Sterling’s death. After one of his shifts, he expressed some of his feelings on Facebook.

“I’ve experienced so much in my short life and the past 3 days have tested me to the core,” he wrote. “I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

Jackson, who was on the force for a decade, was married with a four-month-old baby boy, still wrote with hope.

“Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer I got you.”

According to the Advocate Deputy Brad Garafola, 45,of the Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s department, was “working extra duty” at the B-Quik convenience store, his last shift before a vacation. His shift ended at 8 a.m., and his wife went to meet him. But she “ran into a sea of police cars.” Like the other two, Garafola leaves kids to whom he was devoted, a 21-year-old son who lives in Texas, a 15-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

Matthew Gerald, was former Marine who had joined the Baton Rouge PD a year ago. He is survived by a wife, a special ed teacher, and two children. Gerald was a former Black Hawk Crew Chief during his time in the Marines.

Of the three officers injured, one remains critical as of this writing.

Posted in law enforcement | 5 Comments »

Report by San Francisco’s Blue Ribbon Panel Finds SFPD is Controlled by Police Union That Obstructs Reform

July 15th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

A book-length report released on Monday by a special blue ribbon panel found that the San Francisco Police Department
was virtually run by its police union, resisted efforts by the panel to gather data, and contained a culture that actively threatened whistleblowers who attempted to flag wrong doing.

Officials at the union in question, the San Francisco Police Officers Association or POA, were not at all pleased by the report, and promptly launched an attack on San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who originally triggered the report’s existence.

Specifically, in May 2015, Gascón caused the creation of the “Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement,” after it came to light that fourteen members of the the San Francisco’s police department had exchanged a series of loathsome racist and homophobic text messages.

Although he now serves as district attorney, Gascón is very familiar with the challenges of policing. Prior to assuming the job as SF DA, he was the chief of the SFPD. And, before being appointed as San Francisco’s top cop, Gascón was hired to reform the then-troubled Mesa, Arizona, police department. Previous to Mesa, Gascón spent more than 20 years at the Los Angeles Police Department, where he last served as First Assistant Chief under Bill Bratton, which meant he ran the patrol side of the LAPD on a day to day basis during the period when that department was laboring under a federal consent decree and was still reeling from Rampart and related scandals.

He is also an attorney, and was the first cop in the nation to move laterally into the job of DA.

When Gascón created the Blue Ribbon Panel, as its website explains, the panel was specifically tasked with answering the questions raised by SF’s texting scandal—namely: Was the racial and homophobic bias demonstrated by the offensive texts a reflection of institutionalized bias within the SFPD and, if so, to what extent?

Once it was created the panel also took on two related goals:

First, the three judges who made up the panel were asked to review almost 4,000 police reports authored by the texting scandal cops to determine whether their bias affected their policing.

(According to the Blue Ribbon Panel’s website, this review is ongoing and is expected to be completed by fall 2016.)

And second, the panel’s law firm working groups were tasked with examining the extent to which bias was institutionalized within the SFPD’s policies and practices in general, and to “recommend solutions to address any bias or threat of bias they discovered.”

The results of this broader inquiry were released in a 239-page final report form on Monday. The release comes at a time when the city is still looking for a new chief of police and, as has been true elsewhere in the nation, public concern over officer shootings has grown increasingly heated.

(The report was released in an earlier, unfinished version this spring.)

The lenthy final report (which you can find here) includes 72 findings and 81 recommendations. It is critical of a number of department policies and, as mentioned earlier, points to the department’s union, the POA, as virtually running the department, and standing in the way of substantive reform.

“They are setting the tone in the department,” said one panel member, former Santa Clara County Judge, LaDoris Cordell.

And, while the panel members and the legal teams found evidence of bias, they also said they that the department’s lack of transparency, code of silence, and failure to keep reliable data made it impossible to do an accurate analysis of many of the issues they were mandated to explore.

The report also features many constructive recommendations, and makes a point of praising the fine and dedicated officers that make up the majority of the department.

Immediately after the report’s release, the POA president Martin Halloran, who had objected to the panel’s formation, denounced it and it’s report as a “Kangaroo Court,” set up by a DA with a bias against police, then equated the report’s release with the murder of police officers in Dallas:

“On Thursday, a sniper in Dallas took aim at police officers and murdered five in cold blood,” Halloran said in a written statement. “Today, George Gascón is taking aim at police officers in San Francisco with half-truths and distortions.”

The report is scheduled to be forwarded to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is conducting a review of the SFPD’s policies.

For more on the report and its findings, Alex Emslie at KQED has a good story that is worth your time.

POST SCRIPT: An interesting side note on the panel and the report is the fact that, one of the panel’s three judges is Dickran Tevrizian, a retired U.S. District Court Judge, who was also one of the seven members of LA’s Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, which delved into problems of inmate abuse by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies.)

Posted in law enforcement | 1 Comment »

Inspector General Gives LA County Sheriff’s Dept. (Mostly) Good Grades in Report on Jail Force Investigations (Except for Those Pesky Bad Grades)

July 14th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


In a first ever outside audit of the reformed process for investigating complaints by inmates alleging improper use of force inside Los Angeles County’s various jail facilities, Inspector General Max Huntsman gave the LA County Sheriff’s Department fairly good grades on its performance, with 12 areas that could use improvement.

The report, which was presented to a gathering of county officials on Wednesday, covered a period of from January 1, 2013, through September 30, 2014.

It should be noted that, this particular OIG’s report doesn’t look at the outcomes of the force complaints. Nor does it follow behind the department’s investigations to see if the the conclusions reached seem—well—correct. At this point, the OIG merely looked at methodology, to see if all the proper marks are being hit in the new and improved process of investigating force complaints, and, if not, making recommendations as to what ought to be done about it.

The audit looked at 14 “Objectives,” and found that, out of the randomly selected sampling of 57 investigations of force complaints, the majority hit most of their marks.

Yet, in certain categories, a percentage—and in some instances, a significant percentage—failed to appropriately comply.


For example, one of the categories that caused the OIG concern was Objective 2, the no-brainer requirement that the supervisor conducting the investigation of a force complaint cannot be someone who was involved in that alleged force issue, or was a direct witness of the alleged use of force in question.

Out of the 57 cases audited, in four cases (7.0%) the investigation of allegation-of-force was conducted by a supervisor “alleged to have been involved in or a witness to the incident.”

The good news is that, in 53 out 57 cases, an appropriate supervisor did the investigating. The bad news is that there were any supervisors at all who thought it was a fine idea to investigate an allegation in which they were involved or were a witness.

Or as the OIG’s report diplomatically put it: “While the compliance percentage in this area was high, it is of such critical importance that any failure to follow policy in this regard requires correction.”


One of the categories in which custody personnel failed miserably pertained to a requirement that emerged as a consequence of the huge class action lawsuit, Rosas v. Baca, which species that:

“An inmate should be advised of the results of the Department’s investigation of the inmate grievance against personnel, but not any sanction imposed, within 10 days of the Department’s adjudication of the grievance.”

The notification must also be in writing.

Out of 57 cases, in two cases the inmate was properly informed regarding what happened with their complaint. In the other 55 cases, there is no evidence that the inmate was informed in writing, if at all.

Obviously, if an inmate files a force allegation in good faith, and hears nothing about the matter ever again, it does not exactly encourage the filing of force complaints—righteous or otherwise.

Or as the OIG’s report put it:

“The Office of Inspector General regularly hears that prisoners believe their complaints are disregarded or not conveyed. Failure to provide notice fosters such a belief.”


Another area in which there was a 10 to 20 plus percent breakdown in compliance had to do with medical treatment for alleged victims of force.

Objective 5 specifies that jail personnel are required to make sure the inmate on whom certain categories of force was used—or allegedly used—is examined and treated by medical personnel—particularly if the inmate “alleges any injury and requests medical treatment, whether or not they have any apparent injuries.”

Out of the sample cases audited where medical attention would have been appropriate, in 11 percent of the cases there was no evidence in the report that the inmate had ever been examined by medical personnel. Nor was there documentation that the inmate had refused medical help.

Similarly, when it came to Objective 6, which “requires that the force package includes documentation showing suitable treatment from qualified medical personnel was sought and/or received,” in 12.5 percent of the cases audited, the appropriate documentation was nowhere to be found.

And, in that same vein, there is Objective 4, which specifies that the investigating supervisor is required to interview “the attending physician or other qualified medical personnel…as to the extent and nature of the suspect’s injuries, or lack thereof, and whether the injuries are consistent with the degree of force reported . . . .” When it came to this objective, a worrisome 21.8 percent of the cases the supervisors either failed to conduct the required interview, or failed to document ever having done so.

Interestingly, when it came to these medical issues, the Inmate Reception Center had the highest percentage of failures to comply, with Men’s Central Jail and Century Regional Detention Facility running in second place.


A curious glitch in a few cases had to do with Objective 3, the requirement to interview the inmate making the complaint on video, and then to include the video in the investigative package.

In the cases of four investigations, there was no video interview of the inmate included at all.

(For the record, three of those four force packages sans video interviews were turned in at MCJ.)

Even in those cases where the interview or interviews were recorded on video and included in the report, a bunch of those were reportedly less than ideal. Here’s what the report said:

We noted in our review that several of the video interviews were dark, shaky, contained muffled voices, or did not include the subject of the interview in the video frame. For example, a sergeant conducting one interview videotaped only the inmate’s nostrils during the entire interview.Another video depicted the ground as the sergeant spoke with the inmate. In another, the voice of the sergeant and the inmate were muffled and barely audible.


And then there is that annoying timelessness requirement. To wit:

“The watch commander or supervising lieutenant shall prepare and submit a force package to the Unit Commander for all reviews of force not conducted by an IAB Force/Shooting Response Team as soon as possible, but no later than 21 days after the incident, unless otherwise directed . . . .”

How did the jails do? Not well. Less than half (46.5 percent) of the cases met the 21-day deadline, while 54.5 percent did not.

When we poked around a little more we found that, according to the report’s foot-noted fine print, the average amount of time it took the watch commander or supervising lieutenant to prepare and submit an allegation‐of‐force package to the unit commander was 69 days.

And the longest amount of time was….386 days— by which point, if there was any wrongdoing, the year-long drop dead date for such an investigation would—we presume—have passed.

So, yes, the OIG’s report suggests that much progress has been made since the bad-old-days when boxes full of force packages were blithely deep-sixed in cupboards and drawers by certain high ranking supervisors, and inmates who attempted to report bad uses force were not-so-gently discouraged from doing so with threats and pernicious forms of retaliation.

And, the reply from Sheriff McDonnell sent in response to the Inspector General’s recommendations, we learn that many of the concerns had already been corrected in the time between the reporting period and now.

But, while the change is cheering, there’s still some healthy room for improvement—much of which seems to be already moving forward.

Posted in LASD | 4 Comments »

LA Board of Supes Votes to Speed Up Use of Body-Cams for Sheriff’s Deputies

July 13th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


On Tuesday, members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to speed up the full implementation of body-worn cameras by LA County Sheriff’s deputies.

Although the motion, which was sponsored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, had been in the works for a few weeks, the events of the past week in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, gave Tuesday’s vote an unusual urgency.

That sense of urgency multiplied by several factors as, a few blocks away from the where the supervisors met, hundreds of demonstrators reacted to a decision by the Los Angeles Police Commission, which found that the highly controversial 2015 fatal shooting of a 30-year-old black woman named Redel Jones by an LAPD officer did not violate the department’s deadly force policy.

“Today’s action signals the Board’s commitment to making whatever investments are necessary to minimize the unnecessary loss of life and to heal tension between law enforcement and the community,” said Supervisor Solis. “Body worn cameras protect our officers and members of the public, and they must be implemented without delay….”

Co-author Sheila Kuehl, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (who offered an amendment to the motion having to do with finding secure data storage methods) both addressed the issue directly.

“Concern about police use of force is very high,” said Kuehl. “We need to better address allegations of misconduct and increase public trust of law enforcement. I believe use of body-worn cameras will help move us in that direction,”

Ridley-Thomas was even more specific, mentioning “controversial officer-involved shootings,” including the shooting of Philando Castile in Saint Paul, MI.

“The point is,” he said, “to get to the truth and to justice. These tools will help us.”

The motion requests that Sheriff Jim McDonnell report back to the board in four months with a reasonable plan to equip all patrol deputies with body-worn cameras as quickly as possible.


The push is also expected to be widely welcomed by LA County deputies, as well

In September 2014, the department began an eight-month volunteer pilot program to test body cams at four LASD stations—namely, Carson, Century, Lancaster, and Temple. The program tested four brands and five models of body-worn camera systems, deploying a total of 96 cameras. Over the course of the eight months of the pilot program, the department solicited detailed feedback from the participants, through both electronic questionnaires and focus groups that were held at each of the four stations. T

The Inspector General’s office monitored the program and issued a report in September 2015.

According the report, although some of the stations were located in high crime areas, while others dealt with somewhat less intense crime levels, the feedback from the deputy participants was remarkably similar in all four stations.

All of the deputies who participated in the pilot program’s focus groups said that the body cams “would be a huge asset.” Deputies believed that the cameras would protect them from “baseless civilian complaints,” explaining that, on patrol, “you’re being recorded everywhere you go.” So having a body-worn camera would, deputies felt, more accurately document events from the officers’ perspectives.

Deputies also felt that viewing footage from an event after the fact, helped them write more accurate reports.

According to the report, a number of deputies told examiners that they missed the cams when the program was over.

ALADS, the deputies’ union, has also been vocally in favor of getting a department-wide body cam program going.


“Video recording is a critical component of modern urban policing,” concluded the OIG in the 2015 report. “Video technology is now so advanced that it is present in almost every pocket, attached to the heads of skateboarders, and hovering above us as part of what we once called model aircraft. Failure to incorporate that technology is not just a missed opportunity, but a shortcoming that the public is increasingly unwilling to accept…”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Inspector General Max Huntsman renewed his recommendation that the board move on the matter, ASAP.

If the board was “looking to reform the sheriff’s department,” Huntsman told the supervisors, the body cams were the best place to begin. “It’s a win-win.”


Not surprisingly, the push for body-worn camera gained traction elsewhere in the nation this week as Boston officials announced—also on Tuesday—that up to 100 Boston patrol officers will begin wearing body cameras likely next month, after a deal was reached between the city and the police department’s largest union to launch a six-month test of the devices.

“The agreement,” wrote the Boston Globe’s Jan Ransom, “means Boston police will join a growing number of departments across the country that have chosen to outfit their officers with cameras, at a time when controversial police shootings have prompted complaints about misconduct in several communities.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

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