Community & Justice Community Health & Safety Courts Gangs

Under Settlement, LAPD and City Attorney Must Offer Individuals Court Hearings Before Enforcing Gang Injunctions Against Them

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

In October 2016, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and its justice leaders, alleging “unconstitutional enforcement” of approximately 46 gang injunctions restricting the actions and movement of thousands of LA residents, without allowing those individuals to contest the city’s claim that they were a gang member.

Now, the City of LA has agreed to a proposed settlement of the class action lawsuit that will, among other changes, require the LAPD to prove a person is a gang member in court before enforcing a gang injunction against them.

The ACLU of Southern California, together with the Urban Peace Institute, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, brought the class-action lawsuit on behalf of the Youth Justice Coalition, and Peter Arellano and Joseph Reza, two plaintiffs representing the class.

Gang injunctions work like restraining orders, but restrict groups of people — specifically purported gang members or associates — rather than individuals.

The restrictions outlined in an injunction may prohibit those named from entering a defined geographical area referred to as the “Safety Zone,” associating with others who are purported gang members, even if they aren’t named in the injunction, and participating in certain activities that are otherwise legal.

Inclusion in a gang injunction can mean that being seen in public with family and friends, gathering on street corners, working with other residents from their neighborhood, possessing felt tip markers, or wearing certain clothes can result in an arrest. Some injunctions fail to provide an exception for school or church attendance.

Those named in injunctions are banned from going certain places and participating in specific activities. If anyone included in an injunction violates any of the restrictions that the injunction enforces, that person can end up in jail.

Plaintiff Peter Arellano, who was 21 when the suit was filed, was a teenager when he was listed in an Echo Park injunction that was put in place in 2013.

According to the complaint, this was particularly difficult for the young man as Arellano’s father, brother, uncle, cousin, and some of his childhood friends were also reportedly named as gang members.

Arellano’s home where he lived with his parents was within the “Safety Zone” of the injunction. This meant that Arellano feared getting arrested even for being seen in his front yard with his brother, or sitting porch with his dad, because such activities fell within the prohibition of associating within “public view.”

The second plaintiff, Jose Reza (who was 39 when the complaint was filed in 2016) was reportedly born and raised in the Ramona Gardens housing projects of East Los Angeles, which was within the geographical area referred to as the “Safety Zone” for the Big Hazard gang injunction.

According to the complaint, Reza left Romona Gardens in 1999 and moved to Whittier. Nevertheless, the 2006 “Big Hazard injunction” reportedly prevented him from picking up his son, who sometimes stayed in Ramona Gardens with family members. The injunction also reportedly prevented him from taking union jobs with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles to remodel the housing projects because the jobs were located within the “Safety Zone,” according to the complaint.

Like Arellano, Reza “skipped neighborhood gatherings and social events, and even feared arrest while attending a friend’s funeral.”

As was the case for most named in the injunctions, neither man was offered a hearing to contest their designation by the city as gang members.

According to the original complaint, the city’s 46 injunctions naming more than 9,000 individuals were “based on a unilateral and behind-closed-doors determination by police and city attorneys that [those included in the injunctions] are active participants in a street gang.”

“Most of the people put on gang injunctions in the City of LA were just handed injunction papers by LAPD officers and told that because police thought they were members of the gang named in the injunction, they were now on the injunction and had to obey the rules listed in the injunction,” the ACLU said.

To make matters worse, the LAPD has a problem with officers falsely labeling people as gang members to boost their patrol statistics.

This February, the California Department of Justice initiated a review of the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of the statewide gang database, CalGang, in response to allegations that LAPD officers had been intentionally mislabeling people as gang members in order to improve their stop and search statistics.

The LAPD began investigating the issue itself, early last year, and found alarming discrepancies between body cam footage and what officers wrote on gang field identification cards. More than two dozen officers were suspected of involvement. Six members of the department have been charged with falsifying records, so far.

In July, CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the LAPD would be blocked from accessing any part of CalGang, and all other law enforcement agencies across the state would be unable to access any records that the LAPD had entered into the database — which accounted for about a quarter of all of California’s 78,000 gang records.

Being designated a gang member in the error-prone CalGang can affect employment prospects, lead to sentence enhancements in criminal cases, trigger deportation proceedings, and lead to inclusion in a gang injunction.

Back in 2017, 7,300 people were removed from Los Angeles gang injunctions, after the LA City Attorney’s Office and the LAPD conducted a joint audit of the injunctions, in response to the previous year’s federal complaint. The removals accounted for approximately 82% of the total number of people subject to gang injunctions in the city between 2000 and 2017.

And since April 2018, a federal judge’s order has banned the city from enforcing injunctions against an individual without proving to a court that the person was an active member of a gang.

Under the terms of the settlement, this ban becomes permanent. Everyone covered by the class action lawsuit have thus been removed from injunctions, and can only be put back on an injunction if the LAPD can prove they are actively participating in a gang. They must offer accused individuals “the same due process rights as a defendant,” according to the settlement.

“They can no longer just hand people a copy of the injunction and then enforce it against them,” the ACLU said.

19 Comments

  • Sounds good to me–let the Courts and not the police put people on Gang Injunctions.

    The Courts have displaced the U.S. Military as the most honest institution in America, so they have more public credibility.

    Now.

    Let’s do this at the County level.

  • What! Surely you’re kidding? I guess you believe CNN is the epitome of , “unbiased, hard-edged, neutral and balanced reporting” too? These same courts not so long ago decided the outcome of a US Presidential election (Bush v. Gore), which was probably the first glimpse for most of the unbridled power a partisan judiciary could have. Fast forward to the countless examples of judicial activism, most notably seen with the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which made it it’s mission to make outlandish rulings and constantly throw wrenches in the efforts of President Trump to do the thing Presidents do (secure the borders for example). It’s not a coincidence that the ACLU routinely “judge/court shops” when it wants to file a lawsuit in a favorably liberal/progressive court with national implications. At least President Trump was able to make some appointments to bring some balance to “Wackiest Court” in the land.

    No, the court is not most the honest institution in America and years of biased rulings have proved that. Minorities receiving harsher judgements and sentencing was not the result of the police but due to the power of the almighty beings in the robes wielding the gavels. The fact is, society has no faith in any institutions anymore. We are all “woke” as they say.

  • I never put that much faith in any organization composed of people. I had a buddy who was privileged (depends on how you see it) to work a security detail providing security for local judges and politicians (judicial protection). The stories he would tell me regarding these individuals sense of entitlement, superiority complexes along with the twisted things they and their families got involved in. My buddies job along with his team was to smooth things over and run interference with the legal authorities in other jurisdictions where their misdeeds might occur. Not saying these individuals did anything different than anyone else since they are just people but their clearly was a different standard how their misdeeds were handled. Have you ever heard of a judge being arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to jail….prison?

  • So here is the latest on the Orange orangutan. He is isolated, angry and refusing to give up center stage despite making little pretense of governing the country any more, all while 4000 people die everyday in America.

    If a Black or Latino man killed someone, he would scream tweet on the top of his voice. How does he get the worst instincts out of his INBRED followers: LAW AND ORDER says the orangutan. He denies masks, and thinks they are a sign of weakness, or even better he calls this VIRUS a hoax.

    He spent 378 days of his Presidency playing golf, and firing off angry tweets, all while the forecast now projects there will be up to 424,000 US deaths by Jan. 23. This under the Presidency of DONALD J TRUMP. I call him DON the CON; because he has conned all his followers. His words: I love my lowly educated because I can fool them. Yes indeed he conned all you clowns.

    Currently, the DON has expanded his insults beyond his usual targets, the “fake news” media and the Democrats; the Supreme Court, three of whose justices he appointed? he calls them “Totally incompetent and weak” why because they did not sway the elections his way.
    His other targets of vitriol? The FBI, and the DOJ… I mean LAW AND ORDER
    How’s that MAGA thing working for America?

  • Did I miss something. I thought this article was about the procedure relating to how gang enhancements are handled in the of LA going forward? How did *MAGA” and a rant regarding President Trump get in the mix? Is this an example of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and indictive of someone who sees President Trump lurking behind every corner in the deep dark corner of their psyche?

    I hope your euphoria for the Biden/Harris administration is well placed. I’m looking forward to the, “apology tour part 2” and
    the new era of, “peace, prosperity, social enlightment and tranquility” you and others who pray and kneel at the altar of progressive Democrats seem to believe will come to fruition. If this state of grace does not magically arise, you will no longer have the “man in orange” to blame but instead can lay it on the steeps of “Senile Old Joe”.

  • MAGA is great and it’s not over. We’re only 1/2 way through!
    Buckle up buttercup!
    Jan 6, we break the chains of swamp government forever.

    • Defeat can be very devastating combined with denial and doomsday behavior.

      The cast of characters on 1/6/2021 include the blind sheep & followers of Pvt Bone Spurs as the world awaits with popcorn, Coca Cola and Twizzlers.

        • 20 years ago people gave up their lives and prevented a plane from crashing into the US Capital. And, yesterday the President of the United States had his terrorists destroy the US Capital. This is betrayal of the Presidents Office. He betrayed the Oath he took which is nothing new to Don the Con.

  • MAGA will adopt the left’s playbook.

    Lie
    Cheat
    Steal
    Riot

    Better grab your lettuce instead.
    The right gets to hit the streets now.

    • So much for the legacy of Donald Chump as the ultimate embarrassment to America.

      Yes, you get the last laugh but you still lose, as the clown leaves the circus leaving his sheep in tears.

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