LAPD Chases and Bystander Injuries, Child Support Responsibilities Behind Bars, and Kinship Care in South LA


Los Angeles Police pursuits injure more bystanders than in any other California city, according to an LA Times investigation into the issue statewide.

One out of ten LAPD chases between 2006-2014 left innocent civilians injured. The rate is more than twice that of the state average, a statistic made more alarming by the fact that California has led the rest of the country in police pursuit-related injuries. And while rare, LAPD chases also result in more fatalities than in other cities.

To address the issue at the state-level, in 2005, legislators increased pursuit training for law enforcement officers, required agencies to report all pursuit data to the CHP, and increased penalties for fleeing from officers. Initially the law dramatically reduced injuries in police chases across the state, but then the numbers started climbing again.

Part of the problem in Los Angeles may be that LAPD officers are allowed to chase people suspected of certain misdemeanors as well as felonies.

In contrast, other large CA cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Long Beach only allow officers to chase people who are posing an immediate danger to the public or who are suspected of violent felonies.

LAPD officials say that while injury to any uninvolved bystanders is unacceptable, the numbers sound more serious than they are, because most bystander injuries are very minor. The risk of such injuries are often outweighed by the possibility of a reckless and dangerous person causing a multi-car pile up, or worse.

Here’s a clip from the analysis by LA Times’ James Queally:

Stopped at a red light in El Sereno, Julio Reyes-Salvador was oblivious to the cars hurtling toward him.

In front was a gray Chevrolet Tahoe, racing at speeds of more than 80 mph as a Los Angeles Police Department cruiser gave chase.

The pursuit, which began when officers tried to stop the fleeing motorist for reckless driving, ended when the Tahoe smashed into Reyes-Salvador’s car, setting off a chain-reaction crash that crushed his Toyota Corolla. His car “looked like a soda can somebody just stepped on,” one of the pursuing officers later recalled in court.

Reyes-Salvador, 23, was killed instantly. A friend in the passenger seat was seriously injured.

The crash was a stark illustration of the dangers of police pursuits in Los Angeles, where chases have long been part of cop lore and a staple of live local television news broadcasts.

A Los Angeles Times analysis of statewide data shows that LAPD pursuits injure bystanders at more than twice the rate of police chases in the rest of California. From 2006 to 2014, 334 bystanders were injured — one for every 10 LAPD pursuits, according to The Times’ review of pursuit data reported to the California Highway Patrol.

Although fatalities remain rare, the analysis shows that LAPD pursuits are also more likely than chases in the rest of the state to result in a bystander’s death. Reyes-Salvador was one of nine people since 2006 to be killed in LAPD pursuits in which they were otherwise uninvolved.

LAPD officials say officers take measures to keep the public safe during chases and that many of the injuries are minor. Much of the blame, they argue, falls on the city’s sprawling web of multilane thoroughfares and highways, which they say allow suspects to move at greater speeds and make wild turns through traffic, greatly increasing the likelihood that someone may be hurt.

But experts who study police pursuits say the LAPD needs to do more to minimize dangers to bystanders. Unlike other departments, they say, the LAPD increases the risk of those injuries by allowing officers to chase motorists suspected of relatively minor offenses, including intoxicated or reckless driving, who are more likely to drive faster and erratically while trying to escape police.


Because many child support agencies consider imprisonment “voluntary impoverishment,” about one-fifth of parents in prison are held responsible for child support obligations. The arrears adds up fast for imprisoned parents working jobs that pay pennies per hour, and when the parents are released from prison, they can end up right back behind bars for failure to pay.

The Marshall Project interviewed more than 30 parents in 10 different states who still owed child support while locked up, the child support debts ranged from $10,000 to $110,000. Not surprisingly young black men are disproportionately affected by this system.

The huge debts are often insurmountable for these young fathers exiting prison, as they are faced with the difficulties of transitioning from prison to their communities, like finding employment and housing, obeying the rules of parole, and many other challenges.

The Obama administration has authorized a new set of regulations to address the disparity by reducing child support payments for those incarcerated, which would likely give the parents a better chance at successful re-entry upon their release.

Critics say the new regulations undermine a 1996 welfare reform that called for states to find absent fathers and enforce child support payments to ease taxpayers’ burden. Others say many of the fathers do not deserve to be relieved of the child support debt.

The Marshall Project’s Eli Hager has the story. Here’s a clip:

Administration officials and their supporters counter that billing fathers while they’re in prison does little but dig them deeper into debt.

“Billing poor fathers doesn’t help poor mothers and kids become less poor,” said Jacquelyn Boggess, a poverty expert with the Center for Family Policy and Practice.

“All it creates,” she said, “is a highly indebted individual.”

For Earl Harris, the problem was keeping up. He had a job in prison, cleaning the kitchen, but it paid only $7.50 a month – well short of the $168 the state of Missouri was billing him.

“Didn’t they know I was in prison?” he asks. “Weren’t they the ones that put me in there?”

When he got out in 2001, the unpaid amount was listed on his credit report – and pursued by an agency with the power to garnish 65 percent of his wages, intercept his tax returns, freeze his bank account, suspend his driver’s license and, if he failed to pay, lock him up again.

By then, his debt had surged to more than $10,000.

Harris entered barbering school but soon returned to drug dealing and was thrown back into prison for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, his child-support debt swelled to more than $25,000.

Harris’s plight is not unusual. The Marshall Project interviewed nearly three dozen noncustodial parents in 10 states; they all left prison owing between $10,000 and $110,000 in child support. Mostly fathers who are disproportionately black and poor, these parents faced prosecution for not repaying the debt, even after their children were grown.

And what they were able to pay did not necessarily go to their children or the mother. The state often kept their money as repayment for welfare, child care or Medicaid benefits that had been provided to the family while the dad was locked up.

To address the issue, the Obama administration began drafting new rules about four years ago. As currently written, the rules would forbid state child support agencies from classifying incarceration as “voluntary,” granting parents the legal right to a reduction in payments while they’re in prison, a right that does not exist in 14 states.

The rules would require agencies to inform incarcerated parents of this right and would encourage agencies to provide a reduction in payments automatically. And they would urge states to transfer all payments directly to custodial parents – mostly mothers – and their children.


South Los Angeles residents taking care of their relatives’ children (who would otherwise end up in foster care) often struggle to pay their bills and meet basic needs. In LA, more than half of foster kids are being raised by relatives, a number twice the national average. And while Los Angeles County (unlike San Bernardino and Riverside) opted in on a 2014 California law that granted equal financial assistance to kinship caregivers as non-relative foster families, the process is complicated, and some caregivers still have not started receiving the much-needed increase in benefits.

KPCC’s Deepa Fernandes has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

In South Los Angeles, many foster parents who take in the children of their relatives survive on very limited incomes. “We know that many of our relative foster parents are living at and below the poverty line,” said Angie Schwartz, attorney for the advocacy group Alliance for Children’s Rights.

Data from the Administration for Children and Family Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, show that one-third of relative caregivers nationwide live in poverty. It may well be even higher in South L.A. given the poverty rate there is more than double that of California as a whole.

For 58-year-old South Los Angeles resident Maria Garcia, taking on her daughter’s children created a heavy financial burden. She said her daughter was a victim of domestic violence and after repeated incidents, social workers removed her children from the home. Garcia agreed to take in the children, and is raising 3-year-old Soledad, 6-year-old Pablo and 11-year-old Jose.

Garcia receives a state welfare benefit for the children through CalWORKs, about $800 a month. Until earlier this year, it was her only means of support. In February, she started receiving food stamps, too. She has been unable to work since the children came to live with her. They need her to shuttle them among doctors, special needs therapists and school.

Her expenses are hefty. The county Department of Children and Family Services requires that she have a certain number of bedrooms. Her monthly rent of $1,100 is higher than if she lived alone, she said.

Often, Garcia said, she goes months without paying her gas or electric bill. She has racked up huge credit card debts just meeting the family’s basic needs.

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