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Truth triumphs over payoff demand

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/15/2012 @ 11:58 AM

Photo by Lawrence K. Ho (Los Angeles Times)

Photo by Lawrence K. Ho (Los Angeles Times)

Last week, the jury in a federal civil rights case came to a swift and correct decision on who was responsible for the death of Manuel Jamines; it was 37-year-old Manuel Jamines.

On September 5, 2010, LAPD officers responded to a call of an intoxicated man who was threatening people with a knife. Officers gave orders to the man, Mr. Jamines, in both Spanish and English to drop the knife – he refused and was shot. Chief Charlie Beck said that the officers had only about 40 seconds to take decisive action in the quick-moving emergency situation. This case was textbook police work by the three officers who share 20 years of experience on the force.

In the days following the shooting, agitators in the community attempted to gin up outrage against the police, both by questioning the use of force and falsely claiming the knife-wielding Jamines was unarmed when he attempted to attack police. After all witnesses were heard from and evidence considered, the jury took just four hours to reach a verdict that confirmed the officers acted lawfully and with full justification by shooting Jamines to end the danger he posed to officers and civilians.

In March of 2011, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners ruled that the shooting was within Department policy.

As we have said repeatedly, when individuals threaten police officers with a deadly weapon, they alone are responsible for the consequences of their actions. If you don’t want to get shot by a police officer, don’t try to stab one, or anyone else around, with a knife.

If an intoxicated man is reckless enough to threaten innocent people with a knife, causing one resident to flag down passing officers for help, it should come as no surprise that he may do something as irrational as turn on the uniformed police officers with that knife in an attempt to kill them. The jury came to the sensible conclusion that any person, whether or not they speak English, or who has had too much to drink, should have understood that threatening officers with a knife will result in a swift and appropriate response by police, including the use of deadly force.

This was not and should not be a controversial shooting. Certainly this was a tragic incident and undoubtedly uncomfortable for people in the area to witness, but police work isn’t pretty. Police officers don’t get paid to get stabbed, nor do we possess magical powers or weapons that allow the seamless disarming of armed and dangerous individuals. When an individual, armed with a deadly weapon, makes a decision (however poor that decision is) to advance on police officers or threaten a member of the public, then that individual is solely responsible for whatever the consequences may be.

We applaud the City for refusing to pay off the plaintiffs any sum of money in this case as a “cost of doing business.” We commend Chief Beck and the Commission for looking at the facts in this incident and standing behind the officers who protected the community from an intoxicated, knife-wielding man. We sincerely thank Deputy City Attorney Denise Mills and all who supported her in the City Attorney’s Office, for their commitment and diligence in defending the officers and the City.

We recognize the economic strategy in settling nuisance claims, but we applaud the city attorney’s decision to choose truth over cost savings and ultimately establishing the truth of what happened in this case. The value of that decision to the City, the Department, the involved officers and the community cannot be overstated.

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

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A path to poverty

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/10/2012 @ 03:58 PM

We’ve used this space on at least three occasions in the past two years to warn of the dangers of pushing Americans out of traditional defined pensions and into 401k plans. Our point has been that reliable and secure retirement incomes cannot be provided by 401k plans. Moreover, traditional pension plans have stood the test of time as a cost-effective and proven retirement instrument to provide the American worker with a secure and dignified retirement.

Evidence continues to mount that we have it right. Case in point: Reuters’ Mark Miller column this week titled “Why you may retire in poverty” notes that the steep reduction in the number of Americans covered by defined benefit pensions has significantly contributed to the looming crisis of poverty among lower- and middle-class seniors in the years ahead.

From 1998 to 2010, he writes, the percentage of Americans over 60 receiving income from a defined benefit pension fell from 52 to 43 percent; in the private sector, the decline was more dramatic, falling to just 15 percent in 2010. The trend is continuing with major corporations such as General Motors and Ford announcing plans to terminate pension plans for hundreds of thousands of retirees.

We are saddened but not surprised by a new study by the National Institute on Retirement Security. It found poverty rates nine times greater in 2010 in households without defined benefit pension income. Pensions resulted in 4.7 million fewer poor or “near poor” families and 1.2 million fewer families on various forms of public assistance.

Pension plans, like those offered to Los Angeles City employees, provide reliable, stable monthly income that retirees cannot outlive. In stark contrast, a defined contribution 401k retirement plan provides no established monthly pension, and there is nothing to fall back on when the savings account is depleted.

Common sense suggests the country is headed in the wrong direction if policies and practices are pushing more and more Americans down a path to poverty. The time is now for careful analysis and sound decision-making by government and private sector officials before millions more Americans are put at risk of living a life in retirement that no one wants to contemplate.

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

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Crime statistics in an era of municipal budget woes

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/23/2012 @ 11:58 AM

We would like to believe that it is a genuine commitment to putting public safety first that has given L.A. a national ranking it can be proud of. In calling Los Angeles the “safest big city in America,” Chief Beck cited crime statistics for the first half of 2012, comparing our per capita violent crime rate to Houston, Chicago and New York – the other three cities with at least 2 million residents.

The Chief, joined by Mayor Villaraigosa at a press conference, reported that the city experienced less than 9,000 violent crimes (homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults) in the first six months of 2012, a decrease of nearly 9 percent compared with the same period last year. Tempering the positive overall report, however, was news that homicides in the San Fernando Valley increased by 50 percent and that several areas of the city saw significant increases in property-related crimes.

We agree with the Chief that the realignment law is undoubtedly a factor in driving the increase in property crimes. The sad fact is that most offenders now receive little supervision and are not placed in assistance programs after being released, which in turn increases their propensity to commit new crimes.

“Crime is not down in all categories; crime is not down in all parts of the city,” Chief Beck told the L.A. Times, but ... our strategies in crime reduction are working.” Let’s not forget that it was not so long ago that this city was known as the murder capital of the United States. That is not true anymore.

While crime is down, let’s not forget that City has made significant budget cuts to the Department. Officers have done more with less, in the form of vehicles, equipment, training and support services. Because of reductions to the budget, the LAPD has essentially lost the equivalent number of people it has hired. Yet, these same leaders tell the public that the Department has grown. The truth is that the Department has grown, but only on paper and not in terms of police officers doing actual police work every day. Every 100 officers pulled from fieldwork to backfill civilian positions is the equivalent of removing about 30 police cars citywide, resulting in a dramatic impact on the LAPD’s ability to respond to calls and keep crime down. We do remain concerned that the insistence on continuing to hiring new officers may be setting the City up for a public safety crisis and potentially subjecting our members to unnecessary and irresponsible furloughs or pay cuts in order to keep up a “magic number” of officers.

Thankfully, in Los Angeles, most elected officials understand that “Public Safety First” is not simply a slogan but rather a commitment to ensuring public safety budget needs are met before making cuts in other areas. It should not be a difficult concept to understand, but in cities across America where some politicians are willing to risk trimming law enforcement budgets, the consequences can be horrendous.

Perhaps the most dramatic current example is Stockton, Calif., which last month became the largest city in the U.S. to file for bankruptcy court protection. In the run-up to the bankruptcy filing, Stockton shrank its police force by 26 percent in four years. As a result, murders more than doubled from 24 in 2008 to 58 in 2011. In the decade that ended last year, robberies were up 28 percent and burglaries rose 44 percent.

Today, living in Stockton means the police no longer respond to non-injury traffic accidents or send officers to keep the peace in civil disputes. Two more California cities have subsequently filed for bankruptcy court protection – Mammoth Lakes and, closer to home, San Bernardino.

As recently as April, L.A. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana warned that Los Angeles needed to do more to get its financial house in order or risk a municipal bankruptcy. He has since backed away from that dire warning but believes much work still has to be done to put L.A. back on solid financial footing for the long term. No one can quarrel with that as long as Mr. Santana and everyone else in the budgeting process in L.A. remember to keep public safety first.

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

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Positive law enforcement fatality trend no cause for complacency

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/20/2012 @ 10:58 AM

It comes as something of a relief that recent trends in law enforcement fatalities were reversed nationwide in the first half of 2012, even as we continue to mourn the 53 officers who died in the line of duty.

The news came Thursday as the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), in conjunction with the Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), released preliminary statistics for the period Jan. 1 through June 30, 2012. Officer fatalities declined 44 percent over the 94 officers who lost their lives during the first half of 2011, a 52-year low. The reductions came across all circumstances, yet officer ambushes remain the leading circumstance of fatal shootings.

Memorial Fund Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd noted that after two years of rising numbers of peace officer fatalities, the law enforcement community joined together to raise awareness and make officer safety the utmost priority.

We agree and feel strongly that this is no time for complacency. Every peace officer must maintain top-of-mind awareness that policing is a dangerous profession requiring focus and vigilance for their personal safety. Let’s all resolve to work hard in Los Angeles in the second half of 2012 to do our part to maintain the positive national trend we are seeing at mid-year.

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

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Revealing their true colors by their silence and votes

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/06/2012 @ 01:51 PM

Dramatically overstated “unfunded liabilities” of public pension systems are a cornerstone of the arguments used by public-pension opponents. They deliberately and drastically lower the amounts of money public pensions can expect to receive from their investments, which makes for dramatic headlines about alleged shortfalls and inflames public opinion. And just to show their purity of motive, these opponents often decry the fact that the public systems assume higher investment returns than their corporate counterparts.

We’ve seen former Arnold Schwarzenegger advisor David Crane and former legislator Joe Nation misuse Stanford University’s good name and reputation by ginning up a headline grabbing study claiming that unfunded liabilities of California public pension systems are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. They accomplished this feat by enlisting graduate students to crank out projections based on absurdly low future investment return rates.

Likewise, California Congressman Devin Nunes in the past year authored a bill to try to force public pensions to use short-term treasury rates – presently well under 2 percent – to project future investment returns. In doing so, the unfunded liabilities of these pensions would’ve soared, giving Nunes, Crane, Nation and friends more ammunition with which to attack public pensions. And, of course, these very same people would then demand drastic “pension reform.”

But just last week Congress passed HR 4348, raising the investment return rate corporate pension plans can use for their projections. The legislation now allows corporate pension plans to use a 25-year investment history to calculate their investment returns. The New York Times pegs this new rate at “around 7 percent,” which is significant because the new congressionally-approved investment return rate for corporate pension plans will be only a half percent lower than the one used by most public plans.

You might expect Congressman Nunes, whose own bill would’ve required public pension plans to report liabilities using a rate of less than 2 percent, to oppose HR 4348. But he in fact voted “yes” to letting corporate plans increase their investment return rates, as did 38 of the 51 co-sponsors of his legislation.

The California pension bashers have been silent. We haven’t heard a peep from Crane, Nation and friends about the Congressional action that raises investment return rates for corporations to levels on par with those of public systems. This only reinforces our belief that pure politics and a disdain for public employees, instead of genuine concerns about public pension funding, have driven their actions and statements.

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

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Jury convicts man of attempted murder of LAPD officers

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/05/2012 @ 10:37 AM

On Oct. 15, 2008, a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier flagged down two police officers working the Olympic Area transition team. The mail carrier had been hit in the head by Romeo Ramos after requesting that Mr. Ramos sign a certified mail receipt. As the officers were attempting to detain him, Mr. Ramos pulled a knife and attempted to stab one of the officers. They drew their weapons and he immediately turned and walked into his apartment building.

Despite the assault with a deadly weapon, the officers showed great restraint in not shooting the suspect because he was no longer an immediate threat to the officers and was fleeing. LAPD SWAT responded and a seven-hour standoff ensued. During the standoff, the suspect engaged in defiant and bizarre behavior. He showered officers with multiple items, including a vacuum cleaner, marbles and a large wooden box. He then threatened to kill the officers, and he threw a knife at a group of three officers, narrowly missing them.

When negotiations failed and Mr. Ramos was still unwilling to surrender, SWAT officers attempted to arrest him. The defiant Mr. Ramos then doused the officers with lighter fluid and set fire to the top of the stairway the officers were on. The officers quickly devised a plan and were able to extinguish the fire. Mr. Ramos repeatedly threatened to kill the officers and proceeded to barricade himself in an apartment. He armed himself with additional knives. The highly skilled SWAT officers utilized specialized less lethal weapons to neutralize the defendant and take him into custody.

One of the officers attempting to safely resolve this standoff using less lethal tools was Robert J. Cottle, an LAPD SWAT officer and U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Major who was killed in the line of duty in March 2010 while serving in Afghanistan. On June 29, 2012, through the tenacious efforts of Deputy District Attorney Frank M. Tavelman of the L.A. County District Attorney's Crimes Against Peace Officers Section (CAPOS), a jury convicted Mr. Ramos of attempted murder of a police officer, assault with a deadly weapon on four police officers, assault with a deadly weapon on a civilian, and arson of an inhabited structure.

We express our thanks to the CAPOS unit and the fine legal team that District Attorney Steve Cooley has assembled to prosecute those who harm police officers. While their work often goes unnoticed, it is greatly appreciated.

Because the involved officers' actions did not result in sensational news headlines, the media did not cover this case. However, we recognize that the restraint, excellent performance and tactics of all the officers involved four years ago is an example of the unnoticed but outstanding work LAPD officers deliver every day to the residents of Los Angeles.

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

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California voter imperative: Stop payroll deception on November ballot

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/03/2012 @ 12:03 PM

It was a big week for the U.S. Supreme Court. Last Monday, the Court threw out key provisions of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants, struck down automatic life sentences without parole for juveniles convicted of murder and on Thursday upheld most of president’s health care law. Those were the headline grabbing decisions.

Less attention went to the Court’s upholding of limitless political donations from super political action committees, or super PACs. This ruling ends for now a controversial saga in the court's 2010 Citizens United case, which along with other federal rulings, has stripped away restrictions on political contributions from corporations, labor unions and millionaires and billionaires.

In our view, this ruling makes it an even greater imperative that California voters defeat a measure on this November’s statewide ballot. The payroll deception measure, officially titled the Special Exemptions Act, claims to be about “stopping special interests,” but it would actually award special exemptions to corporate special interests. It would give the wealthy and well-connected even more power to influence elections, control government and weaken our state’s middle class.

At the same time, it would severely restrict public safety employees and other union members in both the public and private sectors from having a voice in our political process. Police officers, firefighters, teachers and nurses, among others, would be unable to speak out on issues that matter to us all – like cuts to police and fire (affecting response times), our schools and colleges, patient safety and workplace protections.

We invite you to learn more by watching a video on the importance of stopping the officially titled Special Exemptions Act this November. The video and other important information is available on the League’s web site.

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

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USC journalist maligns LAPD detectives

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/26/2012 @ 02:19 PM

One would expect a news story questioning the integrity of hard working LAPD detectives to be backed by thorough reporting and years of experience investigating shootings and murders. But none of these things are evident in “New Details In Shooting Case Linked To USC Murders Point To Lax Investigation,” by USC Neon Tommy journalist Catherine Green. If anything is “lax,” it’s her reporting.

Ms. Green’s sensationalistic, innuendo-filled story suggests LAPD detectives could have prevented the April 11 murders of USC graduate students Wu Ying and Qu Ming. According to her story, a key witness was able to identify prime suspect Bryan Barnes and his accused accomplice Javier Bolden from a Feb. 12 crime, when they allegedly opened fire at a party. Green relies heavily on a search warrant contained in court documents to malign the LAPD.

Lost on this reporter is the purpose of search warrant affidavits, which is to demonstrate probable cause to a judge in order to authorize a police search. Just as a news story cannot include every single word uttered by people the reporter interviewed, the search warrant seeks to inform the judge of only the most relevant facts so the court can make an informed decision based on the information provided by police.

Green’s reporting fails to consider the fact that a total of 262 people were shot in the Department’s South Bureau in the time period examined. Every one of these shootings has to be investigated, and obviously, detectives must conduct multiple investigations at the same time. Drawing conclusions about the depth and adequacy of any one of these investigations based on summaries of parts of the investigations drawn from a search warrant is lazy, superficial reporting. The full depth of the investigation will be revealed by the accompanying police reports and courtroom testimony, which may not provide the headline or instant judgment a reporter might desire, but will provide the truth.

While Ms. Green seeks headlines in her rush to judgment of multiple police investigations based on a single document, we believe it’s more fair and accurate to allow the entire story to unfold before judging the performance of detectives in this case.

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