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LAPPL Blog Update: Lead paragraphs in newspaper stories led to the inaccurate narrative surrounding the lawful shooting of Ezell Ford

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/15/2017 @ 04:14 PM

In analyzing the lead paragraphs of numerous newspaper stories that covered the lawful shooting of Ezell Ford, it is apparent that exclusion of relevant facts from those lead paragraphs assisted in the creation of an inaccurate narrative of the events leading up to and including the shooting. For some, this inaccurate narrative has blossomed into an urban legend, and this particular yarn goes something like this: Los Angeles police officers unlawfully targeted and gunned down an innocent, unarmed black man who happened to be out for a stroll heading back to his home. This urban legend is simply untrue.

A careful, even cursory, reading of the official report of the Ford shooting, issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s Justice System Integrity Division, categorically refutes the urban legend version of what occurred. We find it curious as to why some print media outlets choose to “bury the lead” and not include the comprehensive investigative findings from this report to initially frame an accurate narrative of events for their readers.

The importance of the words and phrases utilized in a lead paragraph of a newspaper story cannot be over-emphasized. In most instances, lead paragraphs set the tone for a newspaper story and are used to deliver the basic facts of a story with subsequent paragraphs utilized to buttress, support, explain or even justify content contained in the lead paragraph and reaction to it. In this day and age when, according to the Washington Post, most consumers of news read just the headlines and/or the first paragraphs, what is contained, or in many instances, what is omitted from lead paragraphs can leave a lasting impression in the reader’s mind.

Take, for instance, the headline and lead paragraph below from a Los Angeles Times article published on January 24, 2017:

No charges against LAPD officers who shot and killed Ezell Ford, D.A. says

Los Angeles County prosecutors said Tuesday they will not criminally charge two Los Angeles police officers who shot and killed Ezell Ford during a clash near his South L.A. home in 2014. This conclusion drew the ire of activists who say LAPD officers are rarely held accountable when they use deadly force.

This lead paragraph begs several questions, does not accurately portray the events that justified the shooting and omits a critical finding made by the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division report on the Ford shooting.

By utilizing the phrase “not criminally charge” in the lead paragraph without utilizing the essential conclusion from the investigative report that “prosecutors concluded that Ford posed an immediate threat to the officers and they acted lawfully when they shot him” leaves an impression that although not charged, the officers' actions were not justified.

Couple “not criminally charged” with a portion of the last sentence of the lead paragraph where “activists” allege “LAPD officers are rarely held accountable when they use deadly force” and the reader is left with the impression that the officers need to be held accountable for what was legally deemed a justified shooting. Typically, holding someone accountable is for a bad act or bad behavior, and that is not what the D.A. found in this case.

Characterizing that the officers shot Mr. Ford after a “clash” does not come close to describing what occurred prior to the shooting. For a reader of only the headline and first paragraph of this story, “clash” could have meant a verbal altercation. Clearly, a verbal altercation for most would not justify deadly force, but that is not what occurred in this case. Utilizing “clash” in the lead paragraph is not fair to the officer who was tackled by Mr. Ford and had to fight to keep control of his service weapon in a violent confrontation initiated by Mr. Ford.

The actual description of the confrontation is described in detail in the D.A.’s report. They concluded and the evidence supports that Mr. Ford tackled the officer, fought violently for the officer’s weapon, that the officers gave numerous lawful verbal commands to stop, that the officers believed their lives were in imminent danger and subsequently shot Mr. Ford to stay alive. Period.

What is also left out of the lead paragraph or the subsequent paragraph is why Mr. Ford was stopped. Mr. Ford was sitting on a couch with identified gang members in front of a known criminal gang house where drugs are dealt on a frequent basis. Drug purchasers consume the drugs bought at this location at a nearby alley a few feet from where Mr. Ford was sitting with other known gang members.

Mr. Ford was observed by two uniformed Los Angeles police officers driving in a marked LAPD police car walking away from the congregation of gang members. The D.A.’s report states that when Mr. Ford saw the police officers, he tried to gain distance from the officers and put his hands in his pockets and waistband. The officers observed these actions and concluded that Mr. Ford, having just left a known gang and drug hotspot, may be attempting to discard drugs or be in possession of a weapon.

So the officers did what thousands of officers do every day: they stopped their car and attempted to initiate a consensual conversation with Mr. Ford. Let’s run through the facts one more time. Mr. Ford was on a couch in front of a house sitting with identified gang members at a location where drugs are dealt and consumed. Mr. Ford, having seen the police officers, tried to gain distance between himself and the officers, and put his hands in his pockets and waistband.

When the officers attempted to speak to Mr. Ford, he kept walking away. An officer placed his hand on Mr. Ford’s shoulder and Mr. Ford turned around and tackled the officer, and violently attempted to seize the officer’s weapon. Mr. Ford’ s DNA was found on the officer’s holster, and the other physical evidence and witness statements confirmed the assault on the officer by Mr. Ford.

Fearing for their lives if Mr. Ford was successful in seizing the officer’s weapon, the officers used deadly force to stop Mr. Ford.

A more accurate lead paragraph to the LA Times article published on January 24, 2017, would look like this (our additions in bold):

Los Angeles County prosecutors said Tuesday they will not criminally charge two Los Angeles police officers who shot and killed Ezell Ford after Ford tackled an officer and attempted to take his weapon in a violent assault near his South L.A. home in 2014. Prosecutors concluded that Ford posed an immediate threat to the officers and they acted lawfully when they shot him. This conclusion drew the ire of activists who say LAPD officers are rarely held accountable when they use deadly force.

The urban legend that the unarmed Mr. Ford was just out for a stroll and was targeted and killed by LAPD police officers for no reason other than being black is untrue, and lead paragraphs in newspaper stories should report that fact accurately.

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Protesters had a plan, LAPD’s command staff did not

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/10/2016 @ 03:13 PM

Command staff embraces political correctness, puts officers in harm’s way

When did some LAPD command staff stop being cops, instead becoming politicians worried about their next promotion rather than the safety of those under their command?

Why do some LAPD command staff only worry about the rights of those protestors who clearly go out of the way to break the law? Why are they willing to allow those protestors to break the law, disrupt the lives of innocent people and put officers’ safety in jeopardy?

Last night’s protest was yet another pathetic example of political correctness undermining the public’s safety. As the news video below depicts, police officers and highway patrolmen were in imminent danger, surrounded by hundreds of protesters and were pleading for backup.

Click on the image to view news video of the protest.

Click on the image to view news video of the protest.

A blind person could have seen what was coming last night. The professional protesters were all over the news and social media telling anyone who would listen that they were going to raise hell in the streets of Los Angeles.

Apparently, the only people who did not anticipate this protest materializing was our LAPD command staff. They had no plan of action and failed to act. Officers on the street last night were overwhelmed and calling for backup, freeways were shut down, fires were started and angry crowds grew larger and larger. It was a powder keg waiting for a match. Sound familiar? The 1992 Los Angeles riots started in this manner. Where was the plan to maintain order and keep residents and officers safe?

So pick one; either LAPD command staff were outsmarted, outplanned and outmaneuvered by a cadre of professional protesters or LAPD command staff were too timid to act to protect officers and the safety of Los Angeles residents because it would be considered politically incorrect to do the right thing.

LAPD command staff are now telling the League that they did not have the resources to restore order during last night’s lawbreaking. Really? Well, then what are they doing about our chronic understaffing? The League has been clamoring for a baseline staffing plan to boost the number of officers protecting our city on a daily basis. It is part of our comprehensive Community Policing Reset (CPR) plan that we are pushing for.

Instead of giving our rank and file lip service about how “we don’t have the resources,” we need action. The LAPD command staff should get off their rear ends, put their money where their mouths are and fight alongside the League to get the public a baseline staffing plan that will keep residents and officers safe.

Putting officers and the residents we serve in danger because LAPD command staff does not want to ruffle the feathers of professional protesters, or justify to City Hall that we need more resources, is unacceptable. Maybe it’s time some timid LAPD command staff go back out on patrol so that they can remember what it was like to be a cop again!

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

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Help stop parole of cop killer Voltaire Williams

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/28/2016 @ 01:11 PM

We need your help to prevent a cop killer from walking free. Twice in two years, Voltaire Williams CDC# E17796, the convicted murderer of LAPD Detective Thomas Williams, has been up for parole. Both times, after organized efforts by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) to send letters to Governor Brown and the Board of Parole Hearings, Williams was denied parole.

Recently, the CDCR Board of Parole granted Voltaire Williams parole, and it’s up to Governor Brown to either allow or reverse that decision. We urge you to help us tell Governor Brown that cop killers should not be granted parole and allowed to live in our communities. Williams was involved in the premeditated, retaliatory murder of Det. Williams, who was picking up his young son, Ryan, from his church school at the time of the brutal attack.

A strong and clear message must be sent to those who murder peace officers. The recent murders of law enforcement officers in Lancaster, Palm Springs and Modoc County are a prime example of what happens when the consequences for murdering a peace officer slowly begin to fade away.

Please help us and send the message that the killing of a law enforcement officer is the ultimate violation of public safety and should result in the forfeiture of the assailant’s freedom for life. Public safety must come first!

On behalf of the almost 10,000 LAPD officers who protect and serve Los Angeles, the LAPPL has already sent a letter about Williams to Governor Brown, but it’s going to take more people speaking up to keep this cop killer out of our communities.

Time is of the essence, so if you haven’t already, please take a minute to call the governor’s office at (916) 445-2841 or email the governor at govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php. You can also write to him at:

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Attention: LEGAL
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, California 95814
Voltaire Williams CDC No. E17796*
(*If you choose to email the governor, please include this identifying information.)

We only have limited time to convince the governor to reverse this travesty of justice, so please call and send your emails or letters soon. Thank you for helping us keep public safety first.

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

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No on 57: Stop the Early Release of Violent Criminals

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/14/2016 @ 01:11 PM

This November you have an opportunity to prevent another public safety disaster. You can vote NO on Proposition 57.

Proposition 57 falsely claims it will improve public safety. That’s simply untrue. Proposition 57 will allow violent convicted felons to receive parole after serving only a small portion of their sentences. And don’t be fooled, this harebrained proposition is not limited to nonviolent offenders. It will release into our neighborhoods a host of criminals convicted of violent crimes.

If you think criminals who profit from the trafficking of young girls in the sex trade are reprehensible, you must vote NO on Prop 57. Under Prop 57, human traffickers are eligible for early parole.

If you believe a thug who pounds your neighbor with a baseball bat should not be let out early to roam your neighborhood streets again, you must vote NO on Prop 57. Prop 57 makes these criminals eligible for early parole too.

If you believe that anyone who kills a pedestrian with their vehicle and runs away from the scene should serve their time, you must vote NO on Prop 57. Yes, these cowards are eligible under Prop 57 for early parole as well.

Try to hire a hit man? Get out early. Give a gun to a gang member to carry out a gang hit? Get out early. Roughing up a witness set to testify? No problem. You can get out early too.

Can Prop 57 really be this flawed? Yes. Yes, it can.

That’s why 50 District Attorneys, 28 County Sheriffs and scores of law enforcement associations and crime victims’ organizations all oppose Proposition 57. They are joined by major newspapers across the state including: The San Diego Union-Tribune, The San Jose Mercury News, The Fresno Bee, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat and The East Bay Times. You can see a full list of those opposing Proposition 57 here.

California residents are currently suffering through the impacts of the last two rounds of criminal justice experimentation. Proposition 47 and AB 109 have put more criminals on our streets and have downgraded so many crimes from felonies to misdemeanors that it has become open season on our homes, vehicles and our local businesses. Our criminal justice system has become a revolving door for criminals and made our neighborhoods less safe.

Combine the passage of Proposition 57 with the fact that police staffing in Los Angeles is at dangerously low levels, and you have a recipe for disaster: more dangerous criminals in our neighborhoods with fewer police officers to protect our residents.

Haven’t we learned our lesson when it comes to half-baked ideas from pandering politicians? Vote NO on Proposition 57.

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

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Police Commission tells officers to run away, or else

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/21/2016 @ 04:44 PM

Run away. If a police officer is confronted by a suspect with a weapon, those entrusted to set policies for the Police Department believe officers should run away. That’s the recent finding from the Los Angeles Police Commission which has turned Monday morning quarterbacking into a weekly agenda item at the three-ring circus they preside over every Tuesday morning.

In the Commission’s most recent decision on an officer-involved shooting, in which a suspect charged at two officers swinging an 8 to 9-inch knife, they faulted the officer for not “redeploying” to “create distance.” In plain English: the officer didn’t run away.

The key facts in this case are not in dispute. A female suspect, armed with an 8 to 9-inch knife, charged at officers, repeatedly ignored commands to stop, and was recorded yelling “shoot me” as she swung her knife from side to side.

The armed suspect quickly closed the gap between her knife and the police officers from 70 feet to less than 5 feet in under 10 seconds. That is when the first officer discharged his service weapon. The second officer involved had only three seconds to respond to the imminent threat. Even the Commission stated that “It was reasonable for Officer C to believe, in the moment when the use of force occurred, that the subject would imminently assault him with the knife.”

So where’s the beef?

The officers didn’t run away. The Commission, armed with video and their own political agenda broke down the footage frame by frame to determine that in the course of seconds, the first officer whose “position initially provided Officer C with a position of tactical advantage” lost the advantage as the suspect charged him. They wrote, “this advantage rapidly diminished as the Subject continued her advance, leaving him with neither distance nor effective cover as the Subject approached the space between two parked vehicles by which Officer C was located.”

Suspect charging from the front. Vehicles on either side. Where do you “redeploy?” Run backwards. This is absurd and it’s dangerous. What happens if the officer loses his footing with a charging suspect? What happens if the suspect runs into a nearby home or store and confronts its occupants with her weapon? What if the suspect also had a concealed gun? What is created when an officer turns tail and runs away is a large target. It’s called a back. The officer would put their lives in further jeopardy by running away if the suspect had a gun. At this close range, running away would create a self-caused danger to the officers and the public.

Chief Beck, who has absolutely no problem finding fault with officers, agreed with these officers’ actions. The Commission, with a grand total of zero years of experience in law enforcement, overruled the Chief’s decision. The Commissioners created an alternative set of facts that acknowledged that the officer was right to believe his life was in jeopardy but found fault with the officer shooting the knife-wielding suspect because the officer should have run away. Pathetic.

It sure must be easy to talk about “redeploying” an officer’s position while sipping a Diet Coke or bottled water while sitting in a police-guarded, air-conditioned room, in a cushy office chair, watching the events unfold in slow motion on a big-screen TV.

But that’s not reality. The Commission is becoming nothing more than a politically motivated rubber stamp for the warped worldview of a handful of activists that they pander to. In this instance, only Commissioner Steve Soboroff was willing to let facts and reason prevail.

The message the Los Angeles Police Commission is sending to officers confronted with a violent and dangerous suspect is clear: You can save your life or save your job, but you cannot do both. You choose.

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

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LAPPL Board of Directors meet with L.A. Mayoral Candidate Mitchell Schwartz

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/15/2016 @ 04:44 PM

LAPPL Directors and Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Mitchell Schwartz (center)

LAPPL Directors and Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Mitchell Schwartz (center)

Today, the Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors met with Mayoral Candidate Mitchell Schwartz to listen to his ideas about reducing crime, increasing the number of police officers patrolling our streets and improving our city.

The League Directors also shared with Mitchell examples of the chronic understaffing faced by our patrol divisions. They strongly urged him to support the utilization of overtime to put in place a baseline patrol staffing model to help keep our city safe. Other topics of discussion included fixing our broken workers’ compensation system, making sure civilians are performing civilian work so that police officers can perform police duties, and revamping the unfair Board of Rights disciplinary structure.

The Board of Directors appreciated Mitchell’s candor and openness, as well as many of his stances on the issues that Los Angeles faces. To learn more about Mitchell, please click here.

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

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Boyle Heights Shooting

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/12/2016 @ 06:25 PM

There’s no question about it. The death of a 14-year-old, for any reason, is a true tragedy on so many levels. But the early indications in this case are that the 14-year-old fired a handgun at LAPD officers and our officers must always put their safety and the safety of the public we serve first.

Nothing can be done to bring back Jesse Romero to his family, but there is much to be learned from this tragic event. The sad reality is that it makes no difference the age, race or gender of who is firing a hand gun. The bullets kill just the same. No officer wants to use his or her firearm to take a life. However, LAPD officers this week found themselves in an impossible situation: patrolling known gang territory and being fired upon. They had no choice but protect themselves and the public from harm.

The incident forces us to ask ourselves, why would a 14-year-old feel the need to carry a gun? Why would he run when approached by police officers? Why would he shoot at police officers, as at least one witness alleges he did? What was happening in this young man’s life that led him to make a series of horrible decisions that ultimately led to a horrible outcome for all involved?

As is the case with any use of force, an exhaustive investigation will be conducted, and we encourage everyone to remain patient while the investigation is being completed. Rumors, innuendo and assumptions will not lead to truth or justice. These rumors just fuel the fires that cloud objective facts in these cases.

The men and women of the LAPD who risk their lives to protect the people of Los Angeles are all impacted by this case. We all fear that one day, we will be on the receiving end of bullets from a suspect’s gun. We all dread any day where we are forced to use force to protect ourselves, our partners or the public.

Make no mistake, like many officers involved in similar situations, every day will be an intense struggle to recover from the trauma they experienced this week. A part of them will never, ever be the same.

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

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Will Mayor Garcetti say NO to corporate welfare and put safety first?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/04/2016 @ 03:23 PM

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Police Protective League demanded that the multibillionaire owner of the Los Angeles Rams pay his bills for police services in full. The LAPD estimates that the annual cost to provide police services outside of the L.A. Coliseum is $2 million. That’s chump change when it comes to the Ram’s owner.

Why did the LAPPL speak out? Because our City is in the midst of a violent crime surge coupled with a crisis in our neighborhood patrol staffing levels. Because we do not have the resources, financially or personnel-wise, to provide over 200 officers every game day. We came forward because the discussions between one of the world’s richest men and the City of Los Angeles are taking place behind closed doors.

We publicly asked the Mayor to protect police services and to say no to freebies for a billionaire. His response left us scratching our heads. He said, “We will do everything necessary to make sure that all public resources are used as thoughtfully and as efficiently as possible.” Huh? That’s an excellent display of political doublespeak.

The Rams released a statement about how there are “meetings” set up over the next couple of weeks to discuss this issue with the LAPD. Those “meetings” have been going on for months and the Rams have refused to commit to paying the full cost for police services. The season is upon us and there’s no deal. A member of the media asked us yesterday, “Why is this just coming out now?” “Why didn’t the City figure this out before the Rams came back to town?” Those are good questions that only our Mayor and Police Chief can answer.

We know the command staff members who have to implement the Rams plan are sweating bullets. They’re trying to ensure a minimal amount of on-duty officers are yanked from patrol beats to assist the Rams. But the LAPD media machine is stating there will be no impacts to neighborhood safety. That just isn’t true. What they’re hiding from the public is that they’re yanking officers, who have active detective caseloads, off of their cases to provide security for an NFL team that will be leaving our city in three years. So which rape case, which juvenile abuse case and which home burglary case that you’re pulling detectives from has no impact on neighborhood safety? It’s appalling how, given the opportunity, the brass just can’t level with the public.

Make no mistake, we’re excited the Rams are back in the L.A. area. However, we cannot let our excitement cloud the issue of why we are here: to protect the people of L.A. Violent crime in Los Angeles since 2014 is up over 42 percent. There really is only one person who can ensure that the man considered one of the most powerful men in sports, who owns an NFL team, an NBA team, an NHL team, an MLS team and an English professional soccer club, pays his bills. That’s Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Earlier this year, we pleaded with the Mayor for more funds to increase neighborhood police patrols, but we were told the City couldn’t afford it. That’s a basic service. So, we expect him to tell the person aiming to capitalize on the nation’s second largest media market that we just can’t afford to give you a free lunch today. Sorry.

We’re counting on the Mayor to put our residents’ interests above the interests of the super wealthy and super powerful. We put sunlight on this issue because we believe that the public deserves transparency in this matter. If the Mayor steps up and puts safety first, he deserves praise. If he decides that L.A. is in the business of corporate welfare, well, he can explain that decision to residents, taxpayers and voters.

Mayor Garcetti, it’s fourth down and we’re behind in the last quarter. Will you lead the come-from-behind win? Or will you take a knee and hand the game to the billionaire?

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

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