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The aftermath of police encounters with “unarmed” individuals — 57 murders

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/26/2014 @ 04:44 PM

Repeated descriptions of a suspect as “unarmed” when shot by a police officer does not, contrary to the belief of the New York Times and others who use the term without further describing the facts of the encounter, determine if the force used by an officer was lawful or reasonable. Labeling the suspect as “unarmed” does not begin to answer the question of the danger they posed in each instance where deadly force was used.

According to the FBI’s online database of officers feloniously killed, as well as the Officer Down Memorial Page, since 2000, there have been at least 57 occurrences where the suspects have taken officers’ weapons and murdered the police officer with it. Fifty-seven times, loved ones of those officers heard the awful knock on their front door, notifying them that their husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter would never be coming home again. Fifty-seven times, the threat that some loudly continue to claim does not exist, ended with fatal results.

While statistics for officers killed with their own weapons are hard to find, we know from the FBI and www.odmp.org that between 2000-10, at least 51 officers were killed by suspects who used the officer’s own gun. Four officers were killed in 2011, one officer in 2013. While the data for 2014 is not final, we know that Johnson City (New York) Police Officer David Smith was murdered this past March with his own weapon.

Thus asking, “What justification do the police have for killing an unarmed suspect?” and answering “none” as former Police Chief Joseph McNamara did in this blog is pointless. Twenty-five years ago, in the case of Graham v. Connor, the United States Supreme Court set forth the legal standard for evaluating a use of force. The U.S. Supreme Court wrote an officer’s action is judged in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. Crucially, the “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the “perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.” The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the “calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”

The reality is that police officers need and wear guns. Those firearms can be taken by “unarmed” suspects and turned against the officer. Many armchair experts across the country sit around their air-conditioned conference rooms, pondering their views on how police officers could kill an “unarmed suspect” and the non-existent threat they pose to officers. We must ask, what did they use to as the factual basis for their conclusions? Is it from fictional police dramas on TV? Gut instinct?

We won’t be so crass as to suggest that we give a gun to the columnists and editorial writers who equate “unarmed” with “not dangerous,” and then tell them that although we are unarmed, we are going to try to take that gun from them. If successful, we will use the gun to shoot them. While we are confident this scenario might slightly affect their mindset on “unarmed” suspects, the tragic reality is that scenario has happened at least 57 times in 14 years.

Until all of the facts surrounding the use of force by any officer are known, the urge to decide whether the use of deadly force was reasonable and lawful is simply a “rush to judgment”—no matter how many times the suspect is referred to as “unarmed.”

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

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No outrage against attempted murder of police officers

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/19/2014 @ 03:21 PM

KTLA Los Angeles / August 18, 2014

(KTLA Los Angeles / August 18, 2014)

Over the last 72 hours, there have been a number of attempted murders of police officers in Los Angeles County, yet there has been no community or media outrage.

Two prime examples include an LAPD SWAT officer who was severely injured during a shootout with a suspected gunman following a pursuit in South Los Angeles. In another case, a sheriff’s deputy is facing a long recovery after undergoing surgery for life-changing injuries he suffered in an unprovoked attempted murder by an “unarmed” man already on probation for assaulting a peace officer. Witnesses said the deputy was escorting a male suspect in a mall when the suspect unexpectedly turned on the deputy and hit him several times, knocking the deputy to the ground, and continuing his assault.

Crickets chirp as we wait for the LA Times Editorial Board to chime in with some suggestions on police tactics following these incidents.

City residents, law enforcement, community members and editorial writers should be alarmed when those whose job it is to fight crime on a daily basis are being targeted for murder. Why do otherwise reasoned individuals—despite evidence before them to the contrary—become reflexively critical of police? Why do these individuals jump to the twisted conclusion that police officers’ lives are any less endangered when encountering “unarmed” suspects than when they’re staring down the barrel of a gun? Why do these same individuals assume all officer-involved shootings—while always tragic—are always “bad” shootings? These individuals are cherry-picking the facts and doing a disservice to the communities they serve.

The disconnect between reality and the world in which newspaper editorial boards live in cannot not be more starkly contrasted than the LA Times editorial which pontificated about the Ezell Ford shooting with the following: “It is hard to believe that police cannot refine their encounters with unarmed citizens to avoid the use of deadly force.” In other words, according to the Times, “unarmed” residents pose no threat to officers.

The reality is that when somebody attacks a police officer, they should expect the reaction to their attack will be swift, sure and met with enough force to end the assault. As LAPPL President Tyler Izen told the Times, “While waiting for the facts to be determined, I feel the need to restate the obvious. When a person attempts to take an officer’s gun from them, no matter their physical or mental condition, we should expect an officer to respond accordingly to save their life—and that likely includes the use of deadly force.”

We also note with dismay that while compelled to devote numerous pages of coverage to the unfolding situation in Ferguson, Missouri, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board cannot be stirred to write even a murmur of protest over the violence directed against police officers there. Apparently, throwing Molotov cocktail bottles, rocks, and other debris at police officers is just not worthy of their commentary. Yet, you can be sure that if a police officer were the perpetrator of equivalent violence, entire forests would be decimated to print the hand-wringing editorials from the Los Angeles Times.

If a suspect takes or attempts to take an officer’s gun by force, he has sent a clear message that he intends to murder that officer and possibly others, and must be stopped for the safety of all. Whether that aggressive suspect is under the influence of a controlled substance, alcohol, or has a mental illness, the target of his attack will be in immediate danger nonetheless. When anyone grabs for the officer’s gun, they become an armed suspect, and in most cases, predetermined the tragic outcome of events.

Public safety requires a strong two-way partnership. We need to make it clear that Los Angeles is a city in which violence against the community or its police officers is never tolerated. The dedicated men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department, who serve to protect our communities, deserve all the tools and support the community can possibly provide. The LAPPL asks the public and our community leaders to continue to support our officers and make sure that criminals do not deter them from making Los Angeles the safest big city in America.

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

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Misuse of statistics behind erroneous LA police officer salary claims

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/07/2014 @ 04:44 PM

Ed Ring can’t be taken seriously, given the bile he regularly spews out, such as public employee unions “are the primary force behind the erosion of our freedoms and the ebb of our prosperity. They must be eliminated” and “A California renaissance requires only one thing-the abolition of public sector unions.”

However, since Ring’s views that are churned out at either his “UnionWatch” or “California Policy Center” websites are sometimes picked up other sites, some obvious misstatements beg to be rebutted.

A case in point: Ring’s latest attempt to opine on pay raises for Los Angeles police officers is the latest demonstration of both his lack of understanding of pension issues and his continual need to invent numbers to fit his preordained conclusions. In this piece, Ring attempted to determine “how much do Los Angeles police officers make?” Well, in “Ring math,” what an officer “makes” includes pay, cost of benefits, and the cost of City contribution to the Police and Fire pension system for pensions and retiree healthcare.

According to Ring, the average officer makes $110,285. To that number, he adds the City contribution last year for pension and retiree health of 49.51 percent. That, exclaimed Ring, means the “average total compensation for LAPD officers is actually $157,151.” Uh, no!

The annual cost of City contributions for employee pensions and retiree healthcare is known as the “normal cost.” For pensions, it is 19.43 percent, and 4.06 percent for the retiree health subsidy. That’s about 23.49 of salary—a far cry from the figure Ring touts.

The other part of the City contribution he cites pays for the unfunded liability, which covers the past investment experience of the plan and fluctuates depending on past performance. For example, prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the unfunded liability was negligible, and the City contribution rate was essentially simply the “normal cost.” Further, unfunded liabilities include pension liabilities of already retired and deferred plan members, not just active officers. The bottom line is that claiming the unfunded liability cost as part of an officer’s compensation is grossly and deliberately misleading—but that should not surprise us when it comes to Ring’s opinion pieces.

Wrong on so many issues, Ring can’t separate himself from an issue he has unsuccessfully pushed for years. Since the 2008 crisis, he and his fellow public pension haters have bashed the assumed return rate assumptions of public pension plans as being too high. Turns out the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension system return rate was 17.3 percent for 2013-2014, and other public pension funds reported similar double-digit returns and five-year returns exceeding their assumed rates. This isn’t happy news for Ring. But rather than acknowledging these facts, in the same screed in which he inflates officers compensation, Ring deflates assumed return rate assumptions in a desperate attempt to enlarge the unfunded liability of pension funds.

More dissection of Ring’s handiwork isn’t really necessary because as the famous saying goes, Ring uses statistics as a drunk uses a lamppost; for support, not illumination. A bitter worldview to be sure, just not one grounded in reality or facts.

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

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The value of LAPD and Public Safety

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/24/2014 @ 12:56 PM

The purpose of a City is to provide a variety of services to its residents, chief among them public safety. Services are provided by people, which is why the majority of costs in every city budget are the costs of employees. It is always interesting to hear critics of public employees decry the cost of their pay and benefits, while simultaneously assuming that slashing pay and benefits will result in more City services — as if quality employees will flock to work for an employer who offers compensation lower than what they could earn elsewhere.

When City revenues fall, employees pay the brunt of the subsequent restructuring, either in job losses or cuts and freezes in salaries and benefits. The officers of the LAPD are a prime example. While residents may have received less in City services, LAPD officers and their families were directly and negatively impacted. The dedication and willingness to tackle the problem at personal expense helped the City address its budget challenges and maintain core services. Those concessions included:

  • Tier 6 pension – $30 million annual savings
  • Compensated time off for overtime – $80 million annual savings
  • 20 percent pay cut for new hires – $5 million annual savings
  • 2 percent increase in medical contributions – $12 million annual savings

There is a true “high cost to protect and serve in L.A.,” just not a cost that critics of LAPD pay and benefits like to acknowledge. It’s the cost of not using increased City revenue to repair the cuts outlined above that LAPD officers took over the last several years. While City revenues have increased, City leaders “hope” that their refusal to engage in meaningful efforts to use increased revenues to reverse these cuts will not affect public safety. Unfortunately for them, “hope” is not a plan.

The LAPD has reached an inflection point; the rank and file’s recent vote to reject the City contract is firm evidence that morale is down. There is a deep seeded frustration and anger among the rank and file due to their low pay, working conditions, a disciplinary system that is viewed as biased and unfair and their perception that management is unreceptive to their concerns. That frustration has translated to the fact that officers are no longer willing to continue their financial givebacks. Nor are these officers without alternatives; experienced and well-trained officers are desired by police and sheriff departments throughout Southern California and statewide. LAPD does not have a magical attraction that prevents officers, who have fallen well behind their peers, from leaving for higher salaries in other agencies.

The loss to the City if officers leave in large numbers will be profoundly felt and seen in a variety of ways. To begin with, the City will incur enormous financial costs from the estimated $150,000 the City pays to recruit and train every new police officer.

Furthermore, public safety is likely to suffer — the City of San Jose is a prime example. There, the police force of 1,400 has plummeted to 900 as salary cuts, an illegal and flawed ballot initiative, and repeated denigration of police officers by the Mayor and other city leaders spurred officers to leave in droves. In lockstep with the steadily shrinking police force, crime in San Jose has increased at a rate higher than state and national averages. In Los Angeles, the City has been unable to recruit enough people to fill authorized Academy classes and recent graduates are leaving to work for other agencies upon completing the Academy. This pay differential is why 130 LAPD officers left the Department last year alone for other police departments. While the City has now decided to fix the starting salary regardless of the contract, what about the tenured officers who have worked for years and sacrificed to keep Los Angeles safe?

One myth being spread is that “For every dollar paid in salary to police officers, the city must come up with 50 cents more for retirement costs.” That statement is simply NOT factually correct, and reflects a lack of understanding of pension financing. A modest cost of living adjustment to all officers will NOT increase the City’s contribution as a percent of pay, as the City’s contribution next year already has imbedded in it a salary increase for all officers. According to reports publically available at the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension (LAFPP) website, the percentage the City will pay, if it pays that amount, is already calculated cost and will not increase the City’s payment by 50 percent every year as some have claimed. A modest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for officers means that the City would only pay more in dollars, but the percentage will not increase.

The City’s refusal to meaningfully address the disparity in officer pay compared to agencies in other large cities, the Department’s arbitrary and unfair disciplinary system, and the backhanded slaps at officers by City leaders is creating a toxic stew that will have long-lasting and impactful results for the City’s residents. Public safety that is delivered by highly trained, quality individuals cannot come on the cheap, even if City leaders “hope” it can.

Let’s learn from the examples in San Jose. City leaders need to address the real issues of pay and unfair and arbitrary disciplinary practices in a serious and meaningful way, and they need to do it now. They need to put public safety first.

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

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Video as “evidence”—A cautionary tale

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/25/2014 @ 03:21 PM

When viewed by itself and without any context, this video looked troubling. It showed three Los Angeles Police Department officers wrestling with a young skateboarder while a fourth officer appeared to punch him in the face.

An easy case of police brutality, right?

Wrong.

A Los Angeles federal jury unanimously rejected the civil rights lawsuit that Ronald Weekley Jr., a 20-year-old Venice man, filed in connection with his August 2012 police encounter. Weekley was initially stopped for skateboarding on the wrong side of a Venice street.

Public reaction to the cell phone video was predictable: How could the LAPD do this? How could officers beat a defenseless young man for no obvious reason?

As we said in August 2012 when the video surfaced, “While Mr. Weekley claims excessive use of force, it is important to remember that partially recorded police action can easily misrepresent what actually occurred. That is why it is important to know all the facts in this case and not rush to judgment. It is also important for everyone to understand that it is required by law to follow an officer’s lawful commands. We already know that the partial videotape does not tell the whole story. If, as appears in this case, the recording begins toward the end of the incident, then crucial context which explains the necessity of the use of force is not captured.”

The members of the jury wisely saw the bigger picture. After examining all of the facts, and not simply focusing on the most sensational piece of “evidence,” the jury rejected the plaintiff’s claim that police used excessive force against him because of his race. The jury concluded the officers did nothing wrong and the LAPD was not liable.

While we are grateful for the jury’s decision, this case was a cautionary tale about the importance in refraining from jumping to conclusions based on snippets of evidence. While outwardly compelling, a video does not depict what occurred before and after an incident. A video simply depicts a few moments in time; it does not provide context and may not reveal the subtleties behind an encounter, what led up to it, and the totality of what occurred during it.

In this instance, the video did not show that the skateboarder tried to flee from police, requiring officers to use force to handcuff and subdue him.

Police work is not just dangerous, it’s heavily nuanced. In this case, “excessive force” turned out to be a justified and logical response by highly trained professionals to a specific set of rapidly evolving circumstances.

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

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Supreme Court decision allows release of police officers’ names after shootings

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/04/2014 @ 12:34 PM

As police officers, we know before entering the Academy that the job comes with risks. We know it’s a dangerous job, and that every person we encounter on a routine traffic stop or a domestic violence response might have a gun that they’re prepared to use. We’re willing to accept those risks because we believe in public service and fulfilling our duties. Our calling is to help and protect people and to improve society in whatever way we can. Thus, we are disappointed in the state Supreme Court ruling that California police departments shall not have a blanket right to conceal the names of officers involved in shootings.

California Supreme Court Associate Justice Ming Chin recognized the threats we face in his dissent opinion regarding the Los Angeles Times’ lawsuit seeking to force the Long Beach Police Department to release the names of officers involved in shootings. Unfortunately, the rest of the judicial bench did not agree and the court majority ruled in favor of the Times. Nevertheless, their judgment is the last word on this vital issue to the law enforcement community throughout California. In spite of the ruling, we will continue doing our part in vigilantly protecting the safety and privacy of all our police officers.

The concerns of the law enforcement community stem beyond privacy; they land primarily on the safety of our police officers. Officers identified as having shot and, in some cases, killed suspects, are in immediate danger because police shootings stoke strong emotions amongst the families of the suspects, those who’ve had a bad experience with the criminal justice system and those who instinctually equate use of force with police brutality and misconduct.

The reality of the Internet age is that with a credit card and a computer, access to an individual’s personal information is easily available. Addresses, spouse’s name, employer and children’s names are obtainable. Officers involved in shootings—and their families—are prime targets for revenge. Releasing the names of these officers creates a pathway for vengeance or anyone’s twisted concept of “justice.” To deny this safety to them is, at best, naïve.

The Times argues the public has a right to know the names of officers involved in shootings. We argue officers—and their wives, husbands and children—have a right to safety and to minimize the targets that they already are. We cannot afford to wait for a death of an officer or of an officer’s family member to spur legislation to correct the court’s decision.

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

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Thank you for helping us grieve

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/09/2014 @ 10:10 AM

The Los Angeles Police Protective League would like to thank the community for their outpouring of support as the LAPD mourns the loss of three police officers in the line of duty this year.

Last week, Officer Roberto Sanchez was killed by a hit-and-run driver. In March, Officer Nick Lee was killed when his patrol car was hit by a garbage truck and in April, LAPD Motorcycle Officer Chris Cortijo died after he was struck by an alleged DUI driver.

While LAPD officers are first responders on a daily basis to violent crimes, rape victims, victims of assaults and/or car crashes, the recent deaths of three beloved brother officers has been devastating to the men and women of the LAPD. The duties of a police officer entail confronting situations that often cause considerable emotional distress, and it’s not uncommon for post-traumatic stress disorder to manifest itself after these types of events.

In this time of grieving, it’s been comforting to see officers and the community join together to honor and memorialize those lost in the line of duty. In just days, police memorial ceremonies will take place across the country in recognition of National Police Week. Meanwhile, yesterday at the Police Administration Building, the Department honored all officers lost in the line of duty with its Annual Memorial Ceremony. And over the weekend, a contingent of LAPD personnel will be heading to Washington, D.C., to join in the various ceremonies taking place during National Police Week. These memorial ceremonies remind us about the dangers and ultimate sacrifices officers make.

While officers have united in support of one another during these trying times, we cannot say enough about the outpouring of compassion and support that rank and file officers have received from the community these past several weeks. The notes, flowers, and food brought to area police stations has touched officers deeply and has provided the Department with a great deal of comfort and solace during this difficult time.

To the countless individuals who have reached out to offer their comfort and support to us, on behalf of all LAPD officers, we want to say thank you.

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

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City Attorney Mike Feuer: Putting Public Safety First

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/20/2014 @ 03:53 PM

Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer.

Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer.

L.A.’s proactive, results-oriented city attorney walks and talks public safety first. In suing Time Warner Cable last week to collect nearly $10 million he alleged is owed to the City, Feuer noted the money is needed to fund programs that affect the lives of local taxpayers.

According to the city attorney, Time Warner is required to pay the City a franchise fee to install cable wires and boxes under city streets, on telephone poles and elsewhere in the “public-right-of-way.” Until 2009, the cable provider was also required to pay a fee toward providing public, governmental and education television programming, including allowing the public use of its studios.

Mike Feuer showed he clearly has his priorities straight when he said at a news conference on Friday:

“The money we allege in this complaint would fund 100 police officers. It would fund 50 miles of sidewalk repair. It would fund the trimming of 60,000 trees in the city. It’s real, it’s material, and it’s time the taxpayers of L.A. received an amount of money that, relative to the billions of dollars that Time Warner derives from its franchise here in Los Angeles, is very nominal for them. It’s material for us.”

Feuer has been in office for less than a year, but his public safety priorities are already benefiting the city. He is doubling the neighborhood prosecutor program and is working with the LAPD to enforce new rules passed by the voters restricting marijuana dispensaries. As a result, he has shut down over 100 illegal dispensaries.

We appreciate and salute the city attorney and his staff for watching the backs of Los Angeles residents and serving as a role model for all elected officials by putting public safety first.

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

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