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LAPD: Professionalism in the Face of Protests

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/12/2014 @ 03:33 PM

Countrywide protests serve as a reminder of the complexities law enforcement professionals face every day. Tragic events and demonstrations that can sometimes follow highlight the fact that there is a fine line between First Amendment rights to protest and speak out, on the one hand; and crossing the line to inflict damage on property, harm police, or endanger fellow citizens on the other.

Public safety requires cooperation and respect between police and citizens alike. For this reason among others, Los Angeles Police Department officers should be commended for their professionalism and dedication to all of our public safety.

Los Angeles police officers responding to recent demonstrations in Los Angeles went into the situations with a strong element of the unknown. It is important to remember that the very nature of everyday police work requires that officers subject themselves to risk; this is of course heightened when crowds form, and when protests take a turn towards violence.

During the demonstrations, LAPD officers detained hundreds of individuals without the use of force. These people were not detained because they were expressing their views or political opinion peacefully, but rather because they were interfering with others’ rights and refusing to disperse when given lawful orders and in some cases, inciting violence. It should be noted that these protesters were released in time to celebrate Thanksgiving at their homes. Through their courage in a time of tension, the LAPD serves as an example to all other law enforcement agencies.

The Los Angeles Daily News had it right in their editorial, “The police seem to have made arrests when the alternative was to let protesters endanger themselves and others, and block traffic on streets and the 101 Freeway near downtown; there were arrests for unlawful assembly, for alleged assaults on officers, and for outstanding warrants. Police should be held accountable if they’re proven to have detained people for unlawful assembly without warnings, but so far that doesn’t appear to be true.”

There will always be issues and decisions that every citizen may not agree with – it is simply the nature of who we are as Americans and as Angelenos. In these instances, we encourage all citizens to express their views.

That said, we ask the citizens of this great City to help reduce situations that might create new risks – to themselves, to the City, and to the officers of the LAPD. The LAPD will continue to serve the Los Angeles community with respect, professionalism and dedication. Together, we are hopeful we can create a safer, more peaceful community. At the end of the day, all police officers strive to serve and protect the public with the ultimate goal of going home to their families and loved ones in one piece. We are proud of L.A. police officers for reminding us all that they are the best police force in the world.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Los Angeles, We have a problem

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/20/2014 @ 04:45 PM

Last night, many of the City’s most distinguished leaders gathered at the 13th annual Eagle and Badge “In the Line of Duty” Gala not only to honor leaders in public service, community support and law enforcement, but also to honor the LAPD officers who work to serve and protect their City, and pay respect to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in striving to keep the streets of L.A. safe. While truly heartfelt words of appreciation and thanks were given, it was the Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff who spoke to the reality this City is facing, proclaiming that our officers are significantly “underpaid, under equipped and underappreciated.” Truer words were never spoken – LAPD officers face danger on the streets each and every day, and as we head into the holiday season, they will sacrifice time with their families during the holidays in order to keep Angelino families safe, regardless of a contract or certainty about their economic future. They remain committed to their mission to protect and serve.

A mission that is becoming increasingly more difficult considering the fact that according to the Los Angeles Police Department, Citywide violent crime– including murders, attempted murders, rapes and assaults - is up almost 10 percent in 2014 compared to the same period last year. In raw numbers, that’s more than 1,500 additional violent crime victims, or about five more per day. Unfortunately, these numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise; stories of brazen murders and vicious assaults have been leading local TV newscasts and leaping off the pages of the papers.

Make no mistake, this 9.9 percent marks a major jump in violent crime that will require LAPD officers to work even harder and place themselves in greater danger in pursuit of public safety. Crime will continue to rise in Los Angeles and across the state as the consequences of the recently passed Proposition 47 begin to put hardened criminals back on our streets. Unsurprisingly, we’re already seeing convicted criminals, released under the provisions of Prop 47, return to crime within days of leaving prison. This could be the beginning of a dark and dangerous time for Los Angeles. The voters have spoken and so our officers will do what they can to protect our great City.

Protecting our City, and our officers, requires leadership. Leadership to recognize the outstanding work LAPD officers have been doing amid increased threats to public safety…leadership to present a contract offer that acknowledges that outstanding work…leadership to take action to prevent a further deterioration of officer morale and to retain the Department’s highly-skilled workforce. Leadership to do what’s right.

The storm of already increasing crime coupled with the consequences of Prop 47 means every LAPD officer will face greater pressure, greater urgency and greater danger when they go to work every day. Public safety faces a great challenge, but LAPD officers stand ready to do their part, as always, protecting and serving, and putting public safety first. The question that remains unanswered is will the City do its part to serve its brave officers?

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Leavin’ (a troubled City) on a jet plane

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/13/2014 @ 05:45 PM

Dark clouds are gathering over Los Angeles. Violent crime is up. Thousands of dangerous felons could soon flood the area after state voters passed Proposition 47 last week. LAPD officer morale is low and sinking even further due to the City’s woefully inadequate and indeed insulting contract offers. And where, you ask, is Mayor Eric Garcetti? He is leaving L.A. on Saturday on a 12-day junket to Asia – further proof that public safety is way down on his list of priorities.

A quick look at last weekend’s news headlines underscores the increased dangers our brave officers are facing every day on the City’s increasingly violent streets. On Saturday night, an assault suspect repeatedly fired at police who began pursuing him in East Los Angeles. The next afternoon, officers were threatened by a knife-wielding man on Victory Boulevard and Haskell Avenue in the San Fernando Valley. In other weekend incidents, a woman was shot and killed when a gunman fired multiple rounds into a car in downtown Los Angeles, a car-to-car shooting left a man dead in South Los Angeles, an Army veteran was shot and killed in Sylmar and a group of men attacked a 69-year-old woman in Hancock Park in broad daylight, holding her down while cutting her Rolex watch off her wrist. This might sound like a crime roundup for Chicago, but it’s happening right here.

Unfortunately, incidents such as these are not aberrations.

Violent crime has leaped 9 percent this year compared with the same period in 2013. Homicides are up 4.5 percent, reported rapes 12 percent and aggravated assaults an astonishing 20 percent.

Things are likely to get worse when Prop 47’s hidden provisions are unleashed onto an unsuspecting city. Felons with prior convictions for armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, child abuse, residential burglary, arson, assault with a deadly weapon and many other serious crimes are eligible for early release.

But instead of recognizing the outstanding work LAPD officers have been doing amid increased threats to public safety, the City presented a regressive contract offer that forced the LAPPL to declare impasse in the contract negotiations. There is already demonstrable evidence that the City’s refusal to address this issue is affecting morale and the Department’s ability to retain highly-skilled officers. Officer attrition, of course, negatively affects public safety – we just have to look north to San Jose as a case in point.

The mayor has made it clear he’s happy to spend taxpayer money – just not on police. He was more than willing to shell out $170,000 to subsidize Live Nation’s two-day downtown music festival over the Labor Day weekend. And he’s aggressively pursuing a $1 billion federal plan to restore a few miles of the Los Angeles River. It’s folly to think the City’s share of the cost won’t amount to millions, at least.

We’re certainly not against public entertainment or beautification projects. But a true leader must have priorities – and the top priority must be public safety. Our message is clear. Step up, Mr. Mayor. Take responsibility and lead this City.

A good start when he returns to L.A. would be to take care of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect its residents, instead of nickel-and-diming them.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Prop 47 jeopardizes public safety

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/31/2014 @ 04:44 PM

Click on the image to view as a full size PDF.

Click on the image above to view as a full size PDF.

What if we told you that you had the opportunity to release thousands of dangerous inmates with serious criminal records back to your community? Would you do it? Would you risk the safety of your family and community by allowing felons back onto your streets?

That is exactly what you would be doing voting for Proposition 47 on November 4, 2014.

Felons convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, child abuse, residential burglary, arson, assault with a deadly weapon and so on, would be eligible for early release specifically under Prop 47.

Prop 47 handcuffs judges from preventing the early release of convicted felons except under the rare exception, defined by “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.” As vague and ambiguous as that definition of a rare exception is, even more perplexing and deceptive are the supporters of Prop 47 with their claims of “safer neighborhoods and schools.”

Prop 47 will not only release convicted inmates, but will also automatically change serious crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, leading to a hollow law enforcement system and criminal justice system.

Misleading tactics have propelled Prop 47 supporters in deceiving the public in favor of this masked legislation. How can “safer neighborhoods and schools” be accomplished by allowing serious criminals into your community that are benefiting from a legislation that will only give them a slap on the wrist?

Prop 47 DOES NOT put public safety first and we're not the only ones who have concerns. For more information, read the articles below.

Dianne Feinstein- California Senator

“Danger from Prop. 47 is that it will result in the resentencing—and often outright release—of thousands of California convicts.”

Sacramento Bee Editorial Board

“If voters approve Proposition 47, about 40,000 offenders a year would be affected, facing misdemeanors rather than felonies.”

Sandra Hutchens- Sheriff, OC Sheriff’s Department

“Prop. 47 is a bad idea. It will result in more crime, new victims, and less safety. Safe Schools and Neighborhoods Act? I’m not buying it.”

Bill Brown- Sheriff, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department

Joyce Dudley- District Attorney, Santa Barbara County

“Reducing the penalties for gun theft, possession of date rape drugs, agricultural crime and other serious offenses will expose our communities to increased criminality.”

Los Angeles Daily News Opinion

“Also worrisome is that Proposition 47 allows no extra penalty for repeat offenders. What about someone who forges 10 checks for $500 each over the years? This proposition doesn’t deal with that. And for poor communities, where a few dollars matter, that is huge.”

Greg Munks- Sheriff, San Mateo County

Steve Wagstaffe- District Attorney, San Mateo County

“Proposition 47 inappropriately takes away the discretion of the district attorney to determine whether criminals with serious and violent records should be prosecuted as felons when they commit certain crimes against victims in our community. This is bad public policy and should be rejected.”

George Skelton – Los Angeles Times

“Proposition 47, which would reduce drug and theft penalties, is a bill that shouldn't be on the state ballot… The thief who steals a $200 bracelet from a mom-and-pop jewelry in Boyle Heights gets a slap on the wrist. But walk off with a $2,000 necklace from a Beverly Hills shop and it's a felony. Doesn't click.”

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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The Latest Rush to Judgment

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/25/2014 @ 02:45 PM

After all of the recent high profile cases where the initial reports of an incident did not tell the entire story, one would expect that politicians would not rush to judgment in a case that they know nothing about except for what they read in the Los Angeles Times. However, that was not the case for Councilmember Curren Price, who has apparently already passed judgment in the Clinton Alford case.

The Times story says that a Los Angeles police officer is being investigated by the department's Force Investigation and Internal Affairs divisions for allegedly using excessive force during the arrest of a drug possession suspect, Clinton Alford, in South Los Angeles last week. Citing "anonymous sources close to the investigation," the Times reported that a private company's surveillance camera captured images of the officer kicking the suspect in the head.

Councilmember Price said in a statement that he was "deeply disturbed to hear about this incident as our community is still reeling from recent incidents of excessive and even deadly force." He demanded that the LAPD "take every action necessary to ensure that these officers are held accountable for their actions."

Even more frustrating are the comments NOT made by Chief Beck. Beck was quick to comment on the investigation, stating "This investigation is ongoing and there is still much that needs to be done to determine the facts of this matter, but let me be very clear, any officer that is found to abuse the public is not welcome in this department, and we will apply whatever legal or administrative means necessary to insure the community's trust without exception." We all agree the investigation needs to happen, but it's disappointing that the Chief isn't reminding people to hold their judgement until all of the facts are known. Furthermore, where is his outrage about "police officials" in the department leaking information for a story that hasn't been verified by the Times? Quite frankly, what he doesn't say, speaks volumes to our membership.

Tyler Izen, President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, spoke with the Times reporter before the story was published; however his comments reminding that the public should not rush to judgment in this case and that all the officers have not even been interviewed yet, never made the story. Izen told the Times that the League wanted a quick and thorough investigation just like everyone else, because the officers are assigned home and that's not good for anyone.

Gary Fullerton, an attorney representing the officers, disputed accounts of the story and said that, "It's is my belief once everything is explained and all the nuances of the incident are understood, it will be clear the force the officers used was appropriate and necessary." Fullerton said the officers were responding to a detective's radio call for help in locating a robbery suspect when they spotted Alford and attempted to apprehend him. Alford turned out not to be the man the detective was pursuing, but the officers ended up arresting Alford for possession of cocaine, the attorney said.

We would expect that Councilmember Price and the community-at-large would be encouraged to know that the LAPD thoroughly investigates all allegations. We would also hope that Chief Beck and the community will balance their enthusiasm for the investigation with the commitment to due process. We've been in this situation before and everyone needs to be reminded that in many instances, a video alone does not hold all of the facts necessary to determine the truth.

Judging the officers actions and vilifying them in a rush to judgment based on partial information and an incomplete investigation is innappropriate, unfair and irresponsible. We urge everyone to allow the investigation to run its course without premature, inflammatory or condemning remarks. The facts will be revealed by interviewing the officers involved and reviewing ALL of the evidence - not just a single video - all of which may not provide the headline or instant judgment that a politician might desire, but will assist in determining the truth.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Picking the wrong target

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/01/2014 @ 03:45 PM

“Watch out,” Mayor Garcetti said during a downtown news conference on Monday. “We’re going to make sure that we’re coming after you.”

Huh?!?

The mayor was reacting to an Los Angeles Times story reporting that the city spent $328 million on salaries, medical bills and other expenses between 2009 and 2013 for police and firefighters on leave due to injuries. Using one of the Times’ favorite tactics of generalizing, the story sought to portray an abuse epidemic of the worker’s compensation system. Nothing could be further from reality.

It’s tough enough to be a public safety officer forced off duty with an injury without the mayor threatening to come after you as if you were somehow abusing the system. In a YouTube video after the LAPPL declared an impasse in contract talks, the mayor professed to respect LAPD officers. Mere weeks later, telling us to watch out and that he’s coming after us is a strange way to show it.

Is it too much to ask the mayor to get his facts straight before he speaks in front of the news cameras?

The fact is public safety officers injured on duty are unable to get prompt and efficient medical treatment, causing them to remain off duty far longer than they should or want to. Compounding the problem is the stress caused by a system that doesn’t make fixing it a priority. The broken worker’s compensation system in California, as administered in the City of Los Angeles, is the root of the problem. The mayor should know that and target it in his public comments.

Julie Sherman, a partner in the law firm Straussner-Sherman and a representative of injured employees for 25 years, was interviewed for an hour by the Times for its story. Fewer than 50 words of the interview were printed by the Times in its 3,500-word article. As a result, the law firm published a strong rebuttal to the story on the firm’s website. It is recommended reading for anyone – starting with the mayor – who needs to understand why the increased cost of IOD is the result of inaccessible medical treatment in the workers’ compensation system, not fraud.

On behalf of the 99.9 percent of the public safety officers who are injured on duty and are off work because they have to be, not because they want to be, we call on the mayor to withdraw his offensive and veiled threat, and apologize to the men and women of the LAPD and LAFD. Moreover, we think the mayor should turn his attention to fixing the broken worker’s compensation system and helping us get cops to work.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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LAPD Disciplinary Process – Clearing the Air?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/26/2014 @ 02:22 PM

As said in the book To Kill a Mockingbird, “The best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open.” And, all out in the open is precisely what happened following the detention of actress Daniele Watts on September 11, 2014, following her social media posts claiming LAPD officers only detained her because of her race. LAPD Sergeant Jim Parker, the officer who first encountered Ms. Watts, put everything “out in the open” by recording his interaction between him and Ms. Watts the day of the encounter, clearly disproving her claim of racial bias by LAPD officers.

It appears the tape and photos of Ms. Watts’ conduct prior to police arrival seem to disprove any racial bias by officers, who according to an LAPD press release “responded to a radio call of indecent exposure in the 11900 block of Ventura Boulevard. The citizen who called the police to complain told the 9-1-1 operator that a male and a female were involved in indecent exposure inside a Silver Mercedes with the vehicle door open.” After listening to the tape and seeing the photos, community activists such as Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson held a press conference to call on Watts to apologize to the LAPD for her racial bias allegations. Hutchinson said the audio recording and photos cast doubt on Watts’ account.

“I was one that was very outspoken about it,” he said. “We take racial profiling very seriously. It’s not a plaything. It’s not trivial.” Hutchinson told KNBC that this incident was a teaching moment for him. “We began to see pictures that actually show that perhaps there was probable cause for the stop. There was probable cause for the detention,” he said. “You must have your facts. You can’t rush to judgment. If you do that, you have no credibility.”

One might think that the tape, photo, that fact that it appears no formal complaint was made by Ms. Watts, and the outspoken judgment by community leaders that there was no racial bias by police in this incident would end the matter for the LAPD. Wrong.

Although it appears that a complaint has not been filed by Watts, LAPD Internal Affairs has launched an internal affairs investigation of the sergeant and two other officers who responded to the incident. The officers have not been told what they constituted “misconduct.” Perhaps this investigation is driven by the consent decree entered into years ago by the LAPD, which demands an investigation when wrongdoing comes to the attention of the LAPD. However, we would be guessing as that being the basis, because when asked for comment by the media as to the nature of the investigation, the Department responded, “we don’t have a comment to make.”

One can only imagine what would have happened had Sergeant Parker not taped the incident, and had the tape not been released to the media. Likely, there would have been a long debate about racial bias in the LAPD, the names of the involved officers would have leaked, then tarnished, and it would have been much later before the investigation ended and the “air cleared.” Instead, although what did happen is known, a mysterious foray into some unknown wrongdoing will commence.

Regardless of the investigation’s conclusions, and even if the officers involved in this incident are cleared of wrongdoing, this unwarranted investigation will have future repercussions. The fact the officers were investigated will always remain in their personnel files, and may detrimentally affect their careers going forward. As an appellate court has noted in a 2013 ruling on an LAPPL lawsuit regarding internal affair investigations, the LAPD may use prior complaints without finding of wrongdoing to establish “a ‘pattern of conduct’ that for purposes of, be used to sustain a future complaint.”

The investigation into this incident brings into the open what many LAPD officers have long claimed; the LAPD disciplinary system is arcane, unfair and needs to be reformed. The tape and photos in this incident, viewed by the public and concerned community activists, “cleared the air” and allowed persons of commonsense to quickly come to rational conclusions about what happened. Unfortunately for the officers involved, they will now be forced into the “rabbit hole” of the LAPD disciplinary process, a process that would make the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland chafe with envy.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Providing ID To Police Officers - A Public Service Announcement

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/16/2014 @ 12:12 PM

The Los Angeles Police Protective League provides the following as a public service for those whose understanding of the law regarding the necessity to provide identification to police comes from watching, or acting in, fictional police dramas. Instead, they might want to rely on the considered advice of legal professionals, such as the prosecutors at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. Those prosecutors have opined that when you are detained by a police officer, you must provide identification when asked to do so, or face arrest for obstructing or delaying a police officer.

The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the requirement to provide identification to an officer during a detention. In 2004, in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District of Humboldt County, the court ruled on the case of a man detained by the police who “refused to identify himself only because he thought his name was none of the officer’s business.” The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling a police officer has a right to request identification during a valid detention. The court ruled that obtaining identification was a minimal intrusion on a suspect’s privacy, with the need for law enforcement to quickly dispel suspicion that an individual is engaged in criminal activity, justifying the requirement a suspect is required to disclose his or her name. As a California Appellate Court summed up, “where there is a right to detain, there is a companion right to request and obtain the detainee’s identification.”

What constitutes a lawful detention is also clearly established law for several decades. As the United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Sokolow, a person may be detained if there is reasonable suspicion that the detainee may be involved in criminal activity. What is reasonable suspicion is a level of justification considerably less than probable cause for an arrest, and it does not matter that there might be a possible innocent explanation of the activity witnessed by the police officer.

We remind those who rely on fictional police dramas as the basis of their refusal to identify themselves during a lawful detention, that they should know the friendly prosecutors at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office have said, while failure to identify oneself cannot, on its own, justify an arrest, nothing in United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit case law prohibits officers from asking for, or even demanding, a suspect's identification. Instead, Ninth Circuit cases, as well as those of the United States Supreme Court, suggest that determining a suspect’s identity is an important aspect of police authority. For example, one of the most common investigative techniques used in investigatory stops is interrogation, which may include both a request for identification and inquiry concerning the suspicious conduct of the person detained. The Alameda District Attorney’s Office have opined that a detained person’s refusal to furnish written identification if they have it, or to walk away from an officer requesting identification, is a violation of Penal Code § 148(a)(1). That is the Penal Code section that makes it unlawful to willfully delay or obstruct an officer in the performance of his duties. As a California Appellate court ruled, to allow otherwise and to “accept the contention that the officer can stop the suspect and request identification, but that the suspect can turn right around and refuse to provide it, would reduce the authority of the officer… to identify a person lawfully stopped by him to a mere fiction.”

We are hopeful the advice of these prosecutors — the ones who decide whether criminal charges are filed — will avoid future encounters with individuals whose erroneous understanding of their “rights” end up leading to either their arrest, or a detention that is prolonged past the few minutes that would have been necessary to ascertain their ID and send them on their way.

We invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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