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Threat to public safety by unlicensed drivers confirmed by DMV study

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/28/2012 @ 10:09 AM

EDWARD BYRNE Rookie slain in 1988.

We’ve been warning for a long time that suspended or revoked and unlicensed drivers were a public safety menace. That’s why we opposed the LAPD directive not to impound for 30 days vehicles of unlicensed drivers. The politics-above-public-safety policy puts innocent people at risk of being injured and killed on Los Angeles streets.

City officials choose not to believe the very police officers who investigate vehicle crashes in Los Angeles and instituted a policy that ignores state law. Perhaps they now will listen to the DMV.

The LAPPL welcomes new study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, “Fatal Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers,” which found suspended or revoked and unlicensed drivers are much more reckless on the road than validly licensed drivers. The study found that unlicensed drivers are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash than licensed drivers. The study also found that unlicensed drivers are more hazardous than drivers with suspended or revoked licenses. Some of the key findings of the DMV study are:

  • Compared to validly licensed drivers, suspended, revoked and unlicensed drivers are 2.60 and 2.73 times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure.
  • The largest percentage of suspended, revoked and unlicensed drivers involved in fatal, two-vehicle crashes is those aged 20 to 29.
  • For drivers aged 19 or younger in fatal, two-vehicle crashes, the percentage that consisted of unlicensed drivers was almost four times higher than the percentage that was suspended or revoked.
  • The actual number of unlicensed drivers in California is unknown because these drivers are unknown to the DMV until they are involved in a crash or convicted of a traffic violation.

There are two fundamental reasons why vehicle impounding of unlicensed drivers is smart law enforcement. First, an unlicensed driver willing to ignore the law is, at least temporarily, less likely to further violate this law because he or she will not have access to the impounded vehicle. Second, the cost and inconvenience of recovering an impounded vehicle discourages people without licenses from driving. That is precisely why the state legislature enacted the 30-day hold law.

Don Rosenberg started the website “Unlicensed to kill” to bring attention to the horrendous problem of unlicensed drivers after his son Drew was killed by Roberto Galo, an unlicensed driver. His traffic safety whitepaper details the issue and points out that last year 7,500 people were killed by unlicensed drivers. Rosenberg was the first to point out that nationally, 11 percent of all police reported crashes involve a hit-and-run collision, while in Los Angeles, 44 percent of all traffic collisions are due to hit-and-runs.

LA Weekly’s excellent investigation “L.A.’s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic” exposed what they call an epidemic of hit-and-run crashes in the City of Los Angeles and which number over 20,000 a year. According to the story, nearly half of all the crashes in L.A. are hit-and-runs.

LA’s policy of skirting state law substantially reduces the disincentives against the unlicensed and unlawful operation of a vehicle. It is our hope that in the new year, the DMV study will be the impetus for city officials to revisit this issue and in so doing, show that they are serious about putting public safety first.

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

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Realignment: The need for fixes continues

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/05/2012 @ 04:56 PM

Jose Luis Saenz was taken into custody Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012.

Jose Luis Saenz was taken into custody Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012.

On Thanksgiving, a specialized group of police officers, the FBI and Mexican authorities were able to capture a dangerous fugitive, Jose Luis Saenz, in Guadalajara, Mexico. Saenz, an American citizen, who had vowed to murder police officers, was arrested without incident and extradited back to the United States.

Jose Luis Saenz is a hard-core gang member who has a long history of violence, with several prison sentences. Shortly after being paroled in 1998, parole agents issued an arrest warrant for Saenz for failing to show up for parole supervision - again. A few months later, LAPD Hollenbeck Detectives notified parole agents that Saenz was a named suspect for the murders of two rival gang members on July 25, 1998. Less than three weeks after that, Saenz was again named as a murder suspect for the rape and killing of his girlfriend.

Fast forward to 2008, and Saenz was yet again named as a suspect in the murder of Oscar Torres in Whittier, a killing apparently captured on videotape. Wanted for four murders, Saenz made the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list in 2009.

So how is someone on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list discharged from parole several months before he’s actually captured? As a result of realignment legislation, the Division of Adult Parole Operations is now making the conscious decision to discharge thousands of parolees who have new arrest warrants if the crime that originally sent them to prison was for low-level, non-violent criminal offenses, even if these parolees are now wanted for a violent crime(s). This was the case with Jose Luis Saenz, who was discharged from parole on August 17, 2012.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League has warned the community that realignment would result in mass discharges of very dangerous felons and the deaths of innocent individuals. While realignment was enacted years after Saenz was first wanted, what justification does the Parole Department have for discharging Saenz in August, when he’s still wanted for killing four people?

As we have said before, one common-sense fix is to evaluate who is eligible for “realignment” based an inmate’s total arrest and conviction record – not merely the last offense for which he or she is incarcerated. The other flaws, unfortunately, will only continue to surface as more people fall victim to those who, just over a year ago, were appropriately housed in state prisons.

And when people are as bad as Jose Luis Saenz, law enforcement should have every tool to catch them and keep them from hurting someone else, without the flaws in the corrections system working against them.

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

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Thank you, Officer DePrimo – An inspiration to us all

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/03/2012 @ 02:44 PM

Officer Lawrence DePrimo bought new boots for a homeless man he encountered in Times Square. (Photo: Jennifer Foster)

Officer Lawrence DePrimo bought new boots for a homeless man he encountered in Times Square. (Photo: Jennifer Foster)

An all-too-common story is that of a passerby who uses his cell phone to catch a cop in an unflattering light. The social media world then picks up the picture, and it goes viral. But this time, the story is different. This time, the passerby took a picture that captured an act of kindness that reflects positively on police officers everywhere and inspires us all.

The picture – taken by Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Arizona, on an extremely cold night in Times Square – showed NYPD Officer Lawrence DePrimo giving a pair of boots to a barefoot older homeless man, Jeffrey Hillman. The officer was on counterterrorism duty when he spotted Mr. Hillman without shoes sitting on 42nd Street. The officer walked to a Skechers store and paid $75 (the store manager gave him the employee discount) for insulated winter boots and thermal socks.

When he returned to Mr. Hillman, he knelt down to put the footwear on him. Just then, the tourist snapped the photo. The image, initially posted on the NYPD’s Facebook page, became an instant hit. More than 600,000 users “liked” what they saw. Officer DePrimo found himself in great demand for interviews by news media outlets around the world.

“It was freezing out, and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” 25-year-old DePrimo, a three-year veteran of the department who lives with his parents on Long Island, told The New York Times. “I had two pairs of socks, and I was still cold.”

While New York Times reported this week that Mr. Hillman was spotted this week wandering the streets again with no shoes, we’d like to echo Mr. Hillman’s sentiment when he thanked Officer DePrimo and said, “I wish there were more people like him in the world.”

Even though they may not be recorded by cell phones, similar acts of kindness happen every day. One example here in Los Angeles also involves shoes. The LAPD’s Olympic Station is collecting shoes for underprivileged school-aged children in Operation Shoes from Santa. Hundreds of pairs of shoes have been dropped off in bins at the Olympic Area Watch Commander’s Office. On the evening of December 20, LAPD officers and Santa will distribute the shoes at the LAPD Olympic Station.

We recognize and commend our colleague in New York for inspiring people across our nation – and not just police officers – to practice acts of kindness. There is no better time of year to keep an eye out for the sometimes unexpected opportunities to do just that.

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

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Billionaire Boys Club Bankrolling Pension Scheme

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/15/2012 @ 04:23 PM

Eli Broad and Richard Riordan

Eli Broad and Richard Riordan

Richard Riordan and his billionaire friends are currently circulating petitions to put a Charter Amendment ballot measure called the “New Defined Contribution Plan” on the May 2013 ballot. Riordan is telling anyone who will listen that closing the three city pension funds to new hires and replacing them with a 401(k) system would be less costly to the City. His statements are in the league of Arnold Schwarzenegger — they sound good, however they are not true.

The actual facts are that Riordan should be well aware that closing the plan will immediately lead to substantially-increased costs for pension plans. Potential savings, if they exist, will not appear for decades. Instead, the Riordan plan simply (and deliberately or directly) passes the costs of the current pension plan on to our children and grandchildren.

We now know that retired insurance billionaire Eli Broad is bankrolling the Wall Street scheme designed to take away public safety pensions and giving them to stock market speculators. Broad’s former company, AIG, helped create the mortgage crisis which led to the recession. Now, he is helping Riordan bankroll a reckless pension scheme that has been tried before — and has failed. In the past year, a number of states and local municipalities have considered switching their new employees to the same type of plan that Broad and Riordan are recklessly supporting. Every single state that considered it did a thorough study and then rejected the switch, because it not only wouldn’t save taxpayers any money but would cost taxpayers billions more!

Thoughtful analysis and real solutions are needed to solve public employee pension issues. Not Wall Street double-talk. If asked, please do not sign the petition to put this costly scheme on the ballot.

Broad image

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Dine and Dash

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/09/2012 @ 05:33 PM

Richard Riordan

Richard Riordan

Former Mayor Richard Riordan has taken the first steps toward eliminating the current pension system for all future City employees and replacing it with 401(k) plans. However, this proposal will significantly cost the City more while it impacts current officers’ pay and benefits.

It is surprising that a restaurant owner who expects to be paid immediately after meals are consumed is advocating that the City adopt a “dine and dash” mentality for the costs of current City services.

Riordan owns the Original Pantry Cafe, Riordan’s Tavern, Gladstones 4 Fish and the Village Pantry. The former mayor, a multi-millionaire with a $100 million fortune, apparently doesn’t believe in paying the bills he created and convinced voters to approve during his terms.

In 2001, Riordan championed and signed a ballot initiative that allowed the City to skip pension payments to the Fire and Police Pension fund. Less than five years later he advocated bankruptcy as a way to skip out of the obligations. Now he has a new approach: stick the grandkids with the bill.

The League has been asked by some individuals to boycott the restaurants. While organized boycotts can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about the impact of an issue, we are not organizing a boycott (picketing, establishing sanctions, etc.) of Richard Riordan’s restaurants, because to do so would take time away from educating the public about his flawed proposal. At the same time, we understand why so many people and their families have stopped patronizing Riordan owned establishments. They have told us that when they spend their hard-earned money, they want to do so at establishments where the owners are not advocating for policies that are detrimental to the City of Los Angeles and their personal safety.

The Riordan initiative will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and will result in less money for public safety. In New Hampshire, after the pension plan produced a study showing why and how costs would dramatically increase, the Republican House Speaker did not believe the report and so he commissioned his own actuarial study. That study also concluded that it would be more expensive to close the pension plan and open a new 401(k) plan.

The reports concluded that “total pension funding costs would rise” and that “in all areas” transition to a “proposed defined contribution plan will be more expensive to employers and employees than maintaining the current defined benefit system.” If there was a simple off-the-shelf idea to avoid the cost of closing a plan due to the amortization of the unfunded liability, they would have included it in their studies. They didn’t, because there isn’t. Riordan’s idea wasn’t included because those experts rightly rejected simply “cost shifting” to a future generation.

Why does Richard Riordan think he is smarter than the authors of those nine other studies? Answer: he isn’t. Unlike Riordan, those studies didn’t try to hide the cost of closing the plan by shifting it to our children and grandchildren.

Riordan is cynically trying to shove the costs of the policies he pushed for onto the future generations of Los Angeles. We vigorously disagree, and urge all people who care about the City’s future to learn the facts about his proposal.

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

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Reckless Richard Riordan

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/30/2012 @ 04:43 PM

As you may have read in recent news stories, former Mayor Richard Riordan has taken the first steps toward eliminating the current pension system for all future City employees and replacing it with 401(k) plans. However, this proposal will not only impact the pay and benefits of current employees, who have already given years of service to the City, but it will be detrimental to Los Angeles taxpayers.

Under the Charter Amendment proposal, which needs signatures from more than 254,000 registered voters by Dec. 7 to qualify for the May 21, 2013 election, Riordan’s proposal would close the current pension systems and have all future employees adopt 401(k) plans. Please tell your friends and family that if they value the work of police officers, firefighters and other City workers, they should not sign this petition.

The Riordan scheme has the catchy ballot title, “Bankruptcy Avoidance and Pension Protection Act,” when in reality the cost of closing the three pensions plans is projected to cost taxpayers nearly an additional billion dollars in the next decade alone. His poorly thought-out plan does not save the City money, despite his witty sound bites, but instead may lead the City to bankruptcy.

The plan Riordan is proposing immediately becomes more costly to the City. The reasons are twofold: (1) the pension system will have a shorter investment horizon and a lower return rate; and (2) the time to pay the unfunded liability is reduced. In short, it ends up costing taxpayers billions more.

In the past year, nine states considered switching their new employees to 401(K) plans. Every single state that considered it did a thorough independent study and then rejected the switch for one reason: because it does not save taxpayers money and in fact would cost taxpayers billions more!

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana has examined a possible shift to a 401(k) style system, but found it would cost the City even more than the current system. The study found that the City would still be liable for the benefits to be paid to workers covered by the existing system without the benefit of new contributions from the new City workers.

It is disappointing that the Charter backers may likely bankrupt the City by pushing a plan that is more costly than the current pension systems. Thoughtful analysis and real solutions are needed to solve public employee pension issues – not Wall Street double-talk and Charter changes that are poorly thought out, more expensive and legally dubious.

The Riordan plan is reckless in light of all the publicly available reports from many different states that such a drastic change will cost taxpayers billions.

Richard Riordan is factually wrong about all the pension plans and has no independent analysis to back up his numbers. The Riordan scheme will bankrupt the City. We urge all residents not to sign the petition that would put this poorly thought out plan on the ballot.

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Growing use of bath salts prompts warning

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/19/2012 @ 01:59 PM

Image: WCBS 880

(Image: WCBS 880)

Bath salts were a “trending topic” in social media this week. Contributing to the cyberspace chatter was news of a recording released by the LAPPL. Deutsche Bank executive Brian C. Mulligan was caught on tape telling a Glendale police officer he snorted white lightning, a type of bath salts, and that he believed a helicopter had been trailing him. The dramatic revelation undercut the banker’s $50-million brutality claim against two LAPD officers.

To be clear, the illicit “bath salts” we are talking about are not the cosmetic products sold in bath, beauty or drug stores for use in bath water. Those products are safe to use as directed, according to the authoritative website drugfree.org.

We are alerting you to the growing use of synthetic bath salts drug being pushed as white lighting, white rush and Hurricane Charlie. It causes severe and potentially fatal side effects. Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of L.A. County’s Department of Public Health, said in a warning issued this week: “Bath salts are particularly dangerous in that not much is known about what goes into the drug and even less is known about what people are capable of while on this drug.”

Dr. Fielding warned of harmful risks to users and an increased potential for others (read: LAPD officers) to be harmed if someone near them is high on the drug. The drug can cause kidney and liver failure, seizures, increased suicide risk and even death, according to Fielding. Other side effects include sweating, chest pain, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, violent behavior and mental illness. Symptoms of abuse can include lack of appetite, decreased need for sleep, self-mutilation and severe paranoia.

Officials nationwide are alarmed by the dramatic increase in use of bath salts. According to an L.A. Times story, U.S. poison control centers report that calls related to bath salts increased dramatically from zero in 2009 to 6,138 last year. In response, President Obama signed a federal ban on the drug’s three active ingredients, and halted smoke shops and gas stations from selling bath salts.

As with so many illicit drugs, it’s difficult to shut down the supply where there is growing demand. We submit Brian Mulligan as a testament to that reality. In the process he has unwittingly become the poster boy for just how dangerous this drug can be.

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

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Criminal cases that go unnoticed

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/09/2012 @ 04:50 PM

Valerie Allen

Valerie Allen. (ABC7)

On the heels of a $3.2 million judgment against LAPD for tasing and shooting Valerie Allen, a bipolar woman who attacked officers with a sharpened construction stake, the media did not report on a similar case where the Crimes against Peace Officers Section of the DA’s office successfully obtained a guilty verdict.

Officers are called upon to assist with mental illness daily; the vast majority of which are resolved without incident. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and sometimes split second decisions must be made.

In 2009, two LAPD officers, a training officer and a probationary police officer only a short time out of the academy, could have been killed. The officers were called to a house to by the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to assist with a psychiatric hold.

When the officers arrived, the defendant, who was quite agitated and repeatedly threatened to attack the officers if they did not leave, confronted them. Since the DMH had placed the defendant on a hold for danger to self and others, the officers could not simply leave, but called for additional officers. With DMH workers witnessing the events, the officers repeatedly attempted to calm the situation and assist DMH with their hold. Before additional officers could arrive, the defendant aggressively advanced toward the officers, and the probationer fired the Taser at the defendant. The defendant pulled the Taser wires from the prongs in his chest and threw them back at the officers, threatening to “bash the officer’s face in.” The defendant then fled to a bedroom where his mother had taken refuge.

Fearing that harm could come to the defendant’s mom, the officers gave chase. Once in the room the defendant attacked the officers, striking both of them. During the fight, he began to choke one of the officers, and the partner attempted to use a carotid restraint to subdue the defendant. As the carotid restrain was applied, the young officer was able to partially pull the larger and stronger defendant from his partner, but the defendant reached back and pulled the officer’s weapon from his holster.

The probationary officer deflected the gun, which was now pointed in the direction of his partner when the defendant fired the pistol. The probationary officer regained his pistol, cleared a malfunction and then shot the defendant twice. The officer who was choked also was able to have enough room to shoot the defendant. The defendant was rushed to the hospital by paramedics and treated for three gunshot wounds.

On October 5, 2012, a jury convicted Dwayne West of multiple crimes, including assault with a semi-automatic firearm on a police officer, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury on a police officer, resisting an officer by force and resisting an officer and removing the officer’s firearm. Despite having mental illness, the jury rejected claims that the mental illness justified the defendant’s criminal conduct. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict as to one count of attempted murder of a police officer, and hung 11 to 1, the majority in favor of guilt.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Frank Tavelman from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office’s Crimes Against Peace Officers Section (CAPOS). CAPOS is a special unit within the DA’s office that is responsible for prosecuting the murder, attempted murder, and serious violent assaults against police officers. The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19, 2012. The DA still has to determine if they will seek a new trial on the attempted murder count.

We are not surprised that the media did not cover this story but rather focused on sensational cases like Valerie Allen’s. In the Allen case, we applaud Chief Beck for telling reporters, “She attacked them (the LAPD officers) with a sharpened construction stake. I don’t expect my officers to be hurt or killed by someone before they act. I stand by the actions of our officers completely.”

We are sure that this is not the last we will hear of this case. The defense attorney for Mr. West, Leo Terrell, also represents this newly convicted felon in a civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD related to the same incident.

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

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