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The Will to Solve the Problem?


All day Tuesday some of the main players in the realm of
LA criminal justice got together at the Davidson Center at USC and talked with each other and the audience about what a successful 21st Century criminal justice system ought to look like. Among those present were LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, LA civil rights attorney Connie Rice, gang intervention specialist, Bo Taylor, Urban League president Blair Taylor, author and former California state senator Tom Hayden, LA gang czar Jeff Carr…and lots more.
The discussions were moderated by journalist/author Joe Domanick and bounced around between such subjects as gangs and gang violence, California prisons, the LA County jail and the broken parole system.

I’ll blog about the high points later.
But the conversations were remarkable for their lack of defensiveness or grandstanding. Everyone seemed to have showed up with the willingness to genuinely talk about solutions—and how the ideas discussed this week could get beyond talk to actual implementation.

Here’s some of what Victor Merina, Senior Fellow at the the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, wrote about the conference:

For Connie Rice, an attorney and architect of Los Angeles City’s landmark anti-gang report, reforming the criminal justice system is critical in dealing with an “endemic epidemic” of violence on community streets.

For Sheriff Lee Baca, who oversees the country’s largest jail system,
a criminal justice system overtaxed by mental health issues among those incarcerated has worsened a staggering problem.

For Darren “Bo” Taylor, a former gang member
who now works with at-risk youth as founder of Unity One, the everyday violence in communities of color is simply “a crisis. It’s an emergency.”

And Blair H. Taylor, president and CEO
of the Los Angeles Urban League, puts it even more dramatically, calling the need to curb community violence today’s paramount issue. “It’s a problem, I believe, bigger than any problem in the 21st Century,” said Taylor, “bigger than global warming, bigger than terrorism.”

A civil rights attorney.
A law enforcement official. An anti-gang worker. A community activist. All had warnings about the dangers of violent crime but all also shared optimism that a committed effort to change the criminal justice system could be a step toward curbing the mayhem and other crime that have shattered so many families.

Theirs were among the voices heard on the opening day
of a three-day conference at the USC Davidson Executive Conference Center aimed at looking at one of the most vexing problems of the day: how to revamp a criminal justice system with its high recidivism rate and perceived inequities while also maintaining public safety……

The conference is sponsored by the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism and continues today and tomorrow. It is open to the public. Admission is free.

Com’on down!


  • You can’t fight gangs and street crime without good cops on the street, and in that regard, the Police Commission’s current draconian interpretation of the financial disclosure regs for cops on gang beats is the single biggest threat to making progress in this effort. Today’s Op Ed in the L A Times by Tim Rutten blasting the City Council, especially its Public Safety head Jack Weiss, for taking jurisdiction over the matter to study whether all the provisions of the disclosure regs as currently proposed are necessary, is itself the kind of grandstanding it accuses the Council of.

    No one believes the disclosure regs would do anything to curb truly crooked cops, who wouldn’t put their ill-gotten gains in the accounts of their kids or parents, let alone themselves, so all his rambling about cases of bad cops is irrelevant; even former cops Smith, Zine and Parks oppose the current form of the disclosure requirements, and question how secure the info would be; and people following anti-gang efforts of all stripes, from the LAT Editorial writers to you, Celeste, and people from right to left, have opined that questioning this instead of accepting it blindly is the right thing to do.

    If we lose hundreds of gang cops over this, all the talk at conferences like this one will definitely be for naught, proving Woody right (and I want him to be wrong on this). General commenters like Tim Rutten, whose articles more often run in the Calendar section, and who know nothing about the gang issue or cops, should just butt out and not make things worse. Maybe when Hiller thinks about further cuts, he can ask what Tim Rutten contributes to the city, informed dialogue on this issue or bottom line of the paper.

  • WBC, I’m inclined to agree with you on the merits, but I don’t think Rutten was grandstanding. I just think he disagrees. I’d certainly be interested to hear him respond to your or Celeste’s criticisms. Perhaps he’d respond to a letter from a well respected justice journalist and allow his response to be printed on this blog? Might be a good conversation.

  • Mavis, I was responding to Rutten’s tone and personal attacks on the motives of the Councilmembers, hence my own tone. He starts by saying when the Council does “something particularly stupid, there’s usually money or personal ambition involved;” attributes the support of “failed former Police Chief Parks,” to “immutable” antipathy to Bratton (maybe even Parks is right once in a while, especially when the Council decision was unanimous); Weiss’s is even more snidely impugned; Cooley supports the Council’s concern because “he is up for relection,” and therefore wrote a letter supporting “one of the league’s several preposterous allegations. What a lot of baloney.” Since “the reasons for such disclosure too obvious to belabor,” etc. And all these people would see that, if they, too, weren’t “too tired from spit-shining the league’s shoes.”

    Well, no they’re not, and everyone opposing this particular interp of the Consent Decree is not a flaming idiot or scoundrel, as Rutten makes them out to be. The second half of Rutten’s article shows that it’s he who doesn’t understand the issues which underlie their questioning this particular interpretation of how extensive the financial disclosures should be; it’s also the responsibility of these lawmakers to consider the big picture, the impact on public safety for the city as a whole, whereas the judge whom Rutten imagines is “doing a slow burn” while the lawmakers “fiddle” has his own different, and much narrower, job to do.

    Intelligent and rational disagreement would have been one thing, but it’s because of this overall smug, superior dismissal (and impugning) of all these lawmakers and the DA (who don’t often all agree on anything), among others, that I suggested Rutten should follow his own advice, and “go play politics somewhere else.” Off the payroll of the Times.

  • If people are not in jail…they can do whatever they please. However, these people chose to go to jail, therefore, allowed themselves to lose most of their previledges that free people enjoy. Let us not forget the fact that we, the people created these jails to protect freedom and peace. Inmates will use the system to their advantages in whatever they can. They chose to be in these environments when they decided to commit to whatever crime they decided to do. Imagine yourself being the victim of these people and then decide if they deserve no less that jail environment, cry babies! It is time they face up to their own justice. ACLU, imagine yourself being raped, abused, harassed, murdered, violated, beaten up, attacked and the list goes on. When your child or wife, husband or grandmother is a victim of these people, tell me how it feels. End the polictics and let them suffer the consequences of their own actions!

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