CA’s New Prisons Chief, the Homelessness Plan, Baca’s Guilty Plea, and Chief Beck on the “Ferguson Effect”


The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s new chief, Scott Kernan, wants to drastically change CA’s prison culture from an us-versus-them attitude to one in which guards are “engaged in the rehabilitation process.”

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Kernan, who was previously the CDCR’s undersecretary of operations, to the top position of CDCR Secretary following the January 1 resignation of Jeffrey Beard, the former top prison official.

When Beard took the helm in 2012, the CDCR faced a number of class action lawsuits challenging conditions within the state’s prisons, and an order from federal judges to reduce the prison population. Some of these issues, including the population mandate were resolved while Beard was in charge, but much work remains to improve the prison system.

Kernan is looking into what’s working in other states and will increase specialized training for guards and staff. Kernan also says that, moving forward, the department will do a better job of cooperating with the inspector general’s office.

The Associated Press’ Don Thompson has the story. Here’s a clip:

Crowded conditions meant a violent atmosphere, few rehabilitation programs and an us-against-them attitude from guards, Kernan said.

“It’s just emotional survival. You tend to paint, for example, all inmates with a broad brush of negativity, and I think we’ve got to change that,” he said.

Altering that culture is his top priority as secretary, now that prisons are less crowded and state policymakers are emphasizing inmate rehabilitation, he said.

Kernan, 55, assumed the top post days after the state inspector general said the union that represents most correctional officers is encouraging a code of silence. The report came more than a decade after the department first tried to end a culture in which prison guards protect one another when they witness wrongdoing.

It was part of a scathing investigation that found guards at an isolated state prison created a culture of racism and used an alarming amount of force against inmates, among many other problems.

Kernan plans more training for rank-and-file employees, leadership programs for supervisors, and a search for practices that have worked in other states as he tries to change attitudes. He also plans to work more cooperatively with the inspector general’s office and inmates’ attorneys who filed the class-action lawsuits that largely drive prison policies and led to the federal population cap.


On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive plan to help and house thousands of the county’s homeless residents through interagency coordination within the county, and partnerships with the city of Los Angeles, non-profits, philanthropy groups, and businesses.

“The gravity of the crisis is profound and if we fail to act now, the problem will be compounded,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Urgency has to be the mantra of the day.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said she was optimistic that the county’s homelessness plan will solve “one of the most challenging moral issues facing Los Angeles.”

The $100 million County Homeless Initiative will employ 47 strategies that fall under six main goals: preventing homelessness, increasing subsidized housing, boosting income, providing individual case management and supportive services, creating an inter-agency coordinated system, and increasing affordable housing and homeless shelters.

According to the initiative, phase one, comprised of twelve high-priority steps, is scheduled to launch by June 30 of this year. Phase one includes expanding outreach to inmates in jails to help them stay off the streets when they are released, creating short-term housing for those leaving lock-ups, expanding emergency shelters, providing disabled homeless residents with subsidized housing, and decriminalizing homelessness by training first responders in the complex needs of the population and how to connect them with appropriate services.

The LA Times editorial board, which has been vocal about the county’s new plan (as well as the county’s old, failed plans to combat homelessness) asks, “Whatever happened to Project 50?”

Project 50 was the first stage of a county program that put 50 chronically homeless residents in housing, rather than shelters, with access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services. Project 50’s two champions—former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and the county’s deputy chief executive officer, Miguel Santana—wanted to expand the original Project 50 to Project 500, and then Project 5,000. But instead of growing, the promising program fizzled out due to the supervisors’ lack of enthusiasm for spending more money, even if it would save big bucks in the long run.

The Times’ editorial board examines some possible reasons for Project 50’s demise and how the county can avoid letting the new homelessness plan meet a similar fate. Here’s a clip:

The county was spending $650 million annually dealing with homeless people in repeat visits to emergency rooms, clinics, jails and other county institutions. By spending some money upfront, hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to the county health department, the sheriff and others would be avoided.

The supervisors weren’t having it. That should have raised some questions then, and it raises them today, seven years later.

For example – Was the failure to move forward essentially a matter of bookkeeping? In other words, was the problem that all those the savings would be recouped by county departments other the ones that did the spending? Was the county seriously willing to pass up hundreds of millions of dollars in cost avoidance because the inter-departmental accounting was difficult?

It’s infuriating to think that might be the case. Yet the current board’s decision to merge three departments – health services, mental health and public health – just might help by allowing revenue and costs from the three units to be more easily exchanged. Meanwhile, let’s note that a recent report says the county now spends $1 billion dealing with homeless people without the initiative. So any new spending to keep people housed and treated should be balanced against the expected avoidance of at least part of that current $1 billion cost.

Or was it a question of territory? Yaroslavsky represented most of the wealthiest county neighborhoods, like Malibu, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, plus much of the San Fernando Valley – but Project 50 at first focused on people on skid row, in Gloria Molina’s district. That violated a county rule of the roost. Each supervisor is expected to keep his or her nose out of each other’s district.

Or was it personal? People who worked at the Hall of Administration in that era confide that the other supervisors flat-out disliked Yaroslavsky, and that their staffs didn’t like his, because Yaroslavsky and his people had a missionary zeal about Project 50 that the others found off-putting. And that reaction may be understandable – but what if Yaroslavsky was right about his program? So what if his colleagues were miffed? Did the welfare of thousands of people living on the street really depend on how chummy five elected officials were?

The supervisors say everything’s different this time; they all like each other, and they’re all on the same page on the homelessness initiative. Terrific. But the current line-up changes again at the end of the year when two supervisors are termed out and two new ones are voted in, and then the five of them will live with each other for years, much like strangers thrown together in a beach house on one of those reality shows. There will be disagreements, bruised egos and factions – but none of that can be allowed to undermine the county’s commitment to move people off the street.


On Wednesday, former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca pled guilty to one felony count of lying to federal authorities when he was interviewed in 2013 by the FBI as part of an investigation into LASD corruption and civil rights violations.

An LA Times editorial says Baca’s guilty plea is an important signal to department officials that law enforcement members are not above the law, and to county officials that department oversight must be “muscular” enough to keep the department clean enough that the feds won’t have to intervene. Here’s a clip:

As the elected sheriff, he ran a complex of jails where brutality had become systematic and where would-be whistle-blowers were threatened with retaliation. He helped hide inmate and FBI informant Anthony Brown, and he lied about it.

In prosecuting the matter that became known as “Operation Pandora’s Box,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office showed tenacity, yes, but also the true meaning of justice by not stopping with the convictions of a dozen or so lower-level players or with the ongoing prosecution of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who is due to face trial soon. Baca’s guilty plea is important. It is vindication for those who resisted the sheriff’s active mismanagement of the jails and a reminder to those who come later that no one is above the law — and most certainly not those who are entrusted with its enforcement.

The final opinion we didn’t want you to miss was an op-ed by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who says the city of Los Angeles is experiencing its own kind of “Ferguson effect,” but not the “Ferguson effect” theory that other law enforcement agencies and certain media outlets are talking about. According to the theory, upticks in crime in some big cities across the nation are the result of the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Missouri cop, and the protests that followed, and that public scrutiny makes police officers less inclined to engage in proactive policing, and less inclined to make arrests.

Chief Beck says that’s not the case in Los Angeles. While violent crime rates increased in LA last year, LAPD officers made 8% more arrests for violent crime in 2015 than in 2014.

Instead, Chief Beck says, the nationwide protests against law enforcement have muddied the public’s perception of cops and whether they are doing their job in a fair and just manner, lowering cooperation between Los Angeles communities and officers, and in turn, making crimes more difficult to solve.

(We would like to point out that although no one is exactly sure why violent crime numbers have risen, the LAPD misreported serious violent crime stats at least as far back as as 2005 and as recently as 2014. For years, the errors made violent crime rates appear lower than they were, so it’s possible that the department’s recent fixes have had something to do with the fluctuation.)

Here’s a clip from Beck’s op-ed:

There are any number of theories on what causes crime rates to swell, but nearly everyone agrees that public trust is essential to successful law enforcement. Police alone cannot reduce crime. Community partnerships, joint problem solving and open communication with the public are critical. When those links are weak, police are less effective, particularly at preventing crime.

The legitimacy of the whole criminal justice system, in fact, starts with the public’s perception of policing. Every day, officers have to take actions that are often misunderstood or unpopular, most especially the use of physical, even deadly, force. Every community — including people of color and residents of poor neighborhoods — needs to have faith that officers will apply force in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons. It isn’t sufficient to simply say that police officers used force appropriately, to protect their own lives or the lives of others, after the fact. Without legitimacy, law enforcement will always struggle.

The Los Angeles Police Department has confronted and overcome many such challenges in recent decades. But we know there is still much work to do, especially in communities that have been underserved and suffered the most from violent crimes.

This is why the LAPD is taking a dual approach to responding to the city’s increase in crime. We have doubled the size of the Metropolitan Division, a squad of highly trained officers who concentrate on the most dangerous criminals and violent crime. This unit has the geographic flexibility to focus on areas where crime is rising, bringing extra help to make neighborhoods safer.

At the same time, we are investing in efforts to build strong bonds and promote mutual understanding between the police and the public. In August, for instance, we formed the new Community Relationship Division to better consolidate, coordinate and improve our public outreach efforts, which are so essential for building strong partnerships with the public.


  • 6 months meted out to Baca while the people who did his bidding got years. No statement taking responsibility for his part as he runs off crying to his car. The egotiscal ass even has the nerve to title his name “Retired Sheriff” on a signature? Truly a sign that this pathetic p.o.s. Is still in denial. No, “Convicted Lying Felon” is more appropriate.

  • “As the elected Sheriff….”

    Important point there. The electorate is the Overseer here, and it can correct only what it can see: if nothing is seen, no corrections can be made.

    So the onus falls on the media; “Freedom of the Press” is a Constitutional guarantee precisely to enable the electorate to see what is wrong. If the Press doesn’t inform, then the electorate doesn’t know, and when the electorate doesn’t know….

  • I find the LA Times editorial posted in this article about Baca to be absolutely disgusting. The Editorial Board of the Times are an absolute disgrace to the journalism profession. They in particular, stood idly by while Baca and his major executive staff were openly engaged in misconduct, mismanagement and illegal behavior. The Times Editorial Board, time after time, gave Baca pass after pass, softball after softball, for his incompetence and mismanagement. Why? Because Baca was “their Progressive Sheriff.” The Editorial Board had not the integrity nor political will to expose Baca’s quirky, unstable and delusional agenda. My statements are not directed towards their wonderful investigative reporters of years past who aggressively dogged Baca and Tanaka. My statements are focused on the individual members of the Editorial Board themselves. You have been complicit enablers of the Baca/Tanaka crime family with your progressive, head in the sand, role in the destruction of LASD. You are doing the exact same thing with Sheriff McDonnell as evident by your recent editorial praising him for de-Tanakafying LASD. Nothing further from the truth could be reported. McDonnell has virtually the same Command Staff under the Baca/Tanaka regime. The same executives who raised money for Tanaka’s campaign, carrying his water, promoting “his” (Tanaka’s) inked up people to the rank of captain and above. McDonnell has the same liars, cheats and buffoons sitting in the same chairs of executive management positions doing the same thing, yet the Times Editorial Board sings blindly, songs of accomplishment and reform. News Flash: It ain’t happening nor will it. LASD is as demoralized as it was five years ago, I know, I still live it with a front row view. Celeste: Hopefully the Times will read this and get a dose of reality of what is and is not “really” happening with their “new Progressive Sheriff.”

    PS: Cindy Chang of the Times, get on the job and start investigating/reporting on what is “really NOT happening” inside LASD or transfer to the Home and Garden section of the Times and let a real investigative journalist take over.

  • Argus is right on the money. The Times Editorial Board pontificates from this absurd ivory tower, propped up by Peter Eliasberg over at the ACLU, with zero institutional memory about what it has previously pontificated for/against, to say nothing of actual experience in the worlds and doing the jobs it has the temerity to judge. Their last editorial on LASD was doubly absurd. As you indicate, the Department has not been de-Tanakafied. And, moreover, their contention that somehow “time was running out” is also silly. No, it’s not. Time continues; the beat goes on. It’s not as if the Sheriff doesn’t please them or their/the ACLU’s fanciful timeline there is some consequence. The Department is already being hobbled by consent decrees, a civilian commission, an inspector general and numerous other reviewing bodies, to say nothing of management bloat. And, seeing rising attacks on police and spiking crime, the public’s interest in beating up on law enforcement is beginning to wane. It was an absurd op-ed … as much of what Robert Greene writes is.

    As for Cindy: she’s done a good job on a few pieces, but what has she written–like five stories in the last year? About an organization with a million of them? Most of which were clearly tipped to her (Rothans, the M&P and event-based stuff). Tanaka acolytes and secret advisers; hundreds of brass trying to divine what the sheriff wants, and flying their commands into the mountain in the process. Morale is in the toilet and getting flushed deeper. The Sheriff is MIA.

  • Baca’s Media & Oversight Pass –

    It does not take much to compile a list (actually a very long list) of Baca’s escapades and scandals. So let’s review some of the things that the media and “oversight” persons gave Baca pass after pass, on. And simply writing one article then letting the issue fall by the wayside, does not constitute responsible reporting. And, this list is by no means a complete list of all of Baca’s scandals, etc – it is just a start:

    – Baca wrote a letter requesting commutation of Carlos Vignali’s son, a convicted drug dealer, which Baca did
    – Baca’s list of “donors” included people whose companies have been given business contracts with the LASD
    – Taking tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from LASD employees
    – Baca’s “Field Deputies” – they were each paid a six figure salary, from the LASD budget, and paid for by the LA County taxpayers. These “Field Deputies” had LASD assets given to them, including county cars, county gas, county computer equipment and on many occasions, sworn LASD employees who functioned as “drivers” for the “Field Deputies”. What service did they perform for those salaries?
    – Baca’s Celebrity Reserve Unit controversy when badge carrying and gun toting wealthy donors ran afoul of local law enforcement agencies, and relied on their badge to get them out of being arrested for their assorted contacts and/or crimes
    – Elimination of the Asian Organized Crime Unit – which was replaced with a unit comprised of non-investigators and headquartered in private offices in the City of Industry, and not in Detective Division
    – Was there in fact, the much rumored redirection of the 9-1-1 phone line, from Baca’s home, taking the ringdown from the city that Baca lived in, and transferring that responsibility to Temple Sheriff’s station
    – Baca’s very public retaliation against an employee who dared to run against him politically, for the position of Sheriff of Los Angeles county. Los Angeles county paid out big money to this employee
    – The press never reported on the spate of employee generated lawsuits, against Baca, for “Retaliation” and for the fabrication of “evidence”, in case after case
    – Baca’s Homeland Security Support Unit – another “unit” comprised solely of money donors, who each received official forms of LASD identification – which “members” used to try to get some sort of a “pass” from the law enforcement investigations that they tried to influence
    – CCW’s for FOS’s – particularly the Friends of the Sheriff – who were large donors to Baca
    – July 10, 2012 LA Times article about the recall of an estimated 200 badges that Baca gave to local politicians. This recall came two weeks after the FBI arrested three city officials in Cudahy on bribery charges – this article also sported a photo of a smiling young female in a Cudahy nightclub, brandishing two handguns and wearing a councilman’s badge on her chest. The article reported that 200 badges were recalled from 40 cities
    – LASD cars issued to contributors, and then refusing to release the information pursuant to a public records request. The refusal to release the public information should have triggered a red flag
    – The use, actually the misuse, of county resources on behalf of Baca’s contributors. Specifically the Delijani and Marciano investigations. Baca launched “special” investigations into allegations on behalf of both of these contributors. In the October 26, 2010 LA Times article, Michael Gennaco (Former OIR “Lead Attorney”) said that OIR would not investigate the allegations that Baca had improperly used department resources to benefit his political donors, because the LASD does not have a policy against special treatment for campaign contributors. This juvenile response was a huge red flag, and was indicative of the broken system, yet no one pressed for an answer
    – Closure of the LASD Academy by the State amid questions over equipment, crowding, testing-security procedures and whether filming of a reality TV show at the academy was distracting cadets from training
    – Baca wore his uniform while endorsing a candidate for political office in Los Angeles County
    – A 2006 LA Times analysis found that Baca’s supervisors and managers who contributed to his re-election campaigns were more likely to get promoted that those who didn’t. Even if this didn’t catch anyones’ interest, it should have when the “Pay to Play” allegations went public, accusing Baca’s “Car 2”
    – Running seriously over budget, time after time
    – Purchase of a much reported on airplane, yet interest in pursuing this item merely “went away”
    – Baca’s extensive travel out of the US, leaving Tanaka in charge. This as Baca was rumored to be posturing for a political career – with his sights initially set on the Chief position of the newly formed Bureau of Homeland Security
    – Manipulation of LASD promotions, as reported and rumored, time after time
    – Baca’s CCJV testimony – On July 27, 2012 Baca said: “A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing. and i’m one who tries to see more than is able to be seen. and when you start looking as deeply as i have into the system, then you’re going to see a lot of things”. Why was this not pursued? What things did he see? He surely didn’t see the actual problems
    – Bishop Turner and the drug money connection. The press just let this one go, too
    – Deputy Darren Hager lawsuit – Deputy Hager was falsely fired for exposing internal corruption in the Antelope Valley. The county paid him millions. Why not just look into the allegations? They may not be true, but it’s possible that they may be true
    – Jan 2013 – Realignment Funding – LA County was set to receive nearly $7M of the $24M total, which was to be divided among the county’s various city police forces. LA County’s administrative city for the distribution of these funds, is the City of Gardena (one of 42 cities in LA County). Tanaka is the Mayor of the City of Gardena. Why not Pasadena, or Burbank?
    – In 2013 Baca was named “Sheriff of the Year” by the National Sheriff’s Association. How did this come to be? Why was this not pursued?

    For that matter, why was any of this allowed to fade into history?

    Thought for the future – Persons who find themselves working in a management or oversight type of position – please pay attention to the “red flags”. If you don’t raise a challenge to every one of these actions, no one else will. It’s just that simple. You can clearly see what a disaster all of this led to.

  • A few more gems left out: The role one rookie lieutenant played in “training” the celebrity reserves, while on their yachts and in their mansions, to get fake POST credentials. Then Baca decided that providing this same lieutenant to chauffer his father around on the taxpayer dime was a justifiable expense, anyone want to guess who that lieutenant, now executive, is?

    As for the Times, you guys have them dead on. I know for a fact that the Times was handed on a silver platter the entire pay to play scam, including donors, names of all those who failed promotional tests and had their scores altered, and were subsequently promoted, again and again. This was way before the CCJV, and instead of running with it the Times editor directed his reporters to ignore it.

    The saddest part is that as some have already observed, the Times is in the process of repeating all of their unethical, selective, reporting with the current regime in order to advance their bullshit “gatekeeper” function for Southern California’s liberal political establishment.

  • Hey Commander Swensson, we know you read this stuff daily. As the Sheriff’s new watchdog are you briefing him on what is being said? Or are you sitting idly by just hoping for another promotion. You are the one exec. that was not a Tanaka guy. You know how it feels. I hope you are doing the right thing.

  • Don’t forget the retired Executive with a penchant for drinking and visiting Asian massage parlors. I understand he may also have been involved in a few traffic accidents while under the influence of his favorite alcoholic beverage. You know….stuff they fire deputies for, but Executives get a free walk!

  • One of the most blatant acts of disloyalty exhibited time and time again, is/was filtering relevant information from the Sheriff. I saw this being done first hand to both Block and Baca. I will never forget being in a meeting when some scandalous information was being discussed. Someone asked a Chief, “Did you advise the Sheriff?” And the Chief replied, “Are you kidding? I’m not going to be the poor bastard who delivers bad news to the boss.” I never cared for this guy, but I lost absolutely all respect for him and his rank from that second on. He has since retired, but he and his mentality is iconic of why LASD is so screwed up at the rank of captain and above. Everyone (most) is looking for that next bump in rank, putting on a happy face, following the Tanaka mantra of “create no waves, make everyone happy.” Keep telling everyone above you in the chain, “everyone loves me, everyone loves me and everyone loves me. My people are highly motivated, morale is at an all time high, the City(ies) are all happy, I’m so bitchen, you need to promote me.” It is a sick game and the Rothans of the world mastered it.

    It would not surprise me McDonnell has several layers of filters right outside his office. He could ask, “Any good comments on Witness LA?” And he would be told by a number of folks, “Nothing of interest boss. Just the usual snivelers, whiners and crybabies bitching about your leadership and mandate of strict accountability and reform.”

  • Just remember,,, baca was nominated for “Sheriff of the Year” by “big daddy” sexton who ALSO had the connections to baca’s much desired future position at Homeland Security! Just saying!

  • ALSO,,, how many LASD lives did baca ruin by “holding deputies” accountable to standards he, himself did not hold himself up to? I know an awful lot of people who were accused of not reporting info or “lying” who were terminated & have had to rebuild their lives. Then you look at all of the folks who have to do serious time in the Fed pen & leroy gets 6 months??!! Great looking out for your people, A/H!

  • Really Now: Commander Swensson, how bout standing up for some of the history and traditions that separated us from other law enforcement agencies. Example: Giving deputies the knowledge and training to make their own decisions in the field without undue interference from supervisors. Go back to the green raid jackets for OSS/GET. A unit of history and tradition respected by other law enforcement agencies. Finally, Don’t let Sheriff McDonnell turn our Department into a photocopy of LAPD. He needs to understand our history and traditions (identity) are something to be proud of and encouraged. We have had our owns issues…but then again so has LAPD.

  • Continuing: Be more than happy to meet with the Sheriff and discuss our history/traditions…….feel free to schedule me an appointment.

  • I see that the California Attorney General has opened a “Criminal Investigation” into the Lost Hills caper involving Matrice Richardson (who was released at 0’dark thirty and her skeleton was found by her family) from a few years bac. Anyone know what prompted the AG to become involved after all this time has gone by?

  • My guess is not enough black votes in the Bay Area to secure her Senate seat, so she’s angling for Southern California blacks to help her cause. Politics, definitely not a burning desire to know the truth.

  • CSN83…Thank you so much from bringing that up. I’m one of those lives that was ruined by that pos Baca. He had the nerve to say that I, “knee the rules” while he was lying his ass off to the FBI. Where’s ALADS at?

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