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Needed officer privacy legislation stymied in Sacramento

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/18/2012 @ 01:59 PM

State Senate Governance and Finance Committee Chair Lois Wolk

State Senate Governance and Finance Committee Chair Lois Wolk.

After the home addresses of more than a dozen LAPD members were posted anonymously on the Internet, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) introduced in the California Legislature a bill actively supported by the League. AB 2299 lets counties establish programs to redact the names of police officers, judges and other public safety officials from real estate records to protect their residences from those who may wish to do them harm.

The bill sailed through the Assembly on a 68-0 vote and seemed on its way to certain passage. But when it arrived at the State Senate Governance and Finance Committee on June 13, committee chair and State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) unwisely chose to actively oppose the bill. She personally lobbied committee members to defeat a motion for the bill’s advancement to the Senate floor. Wolk invited Feuer to hold the bill for "more study.” This was, as Feuer put it, "a gentle way to kill the bill." He called for a vote, but Wolk used the power of her committee chair to announce that the bill would be held in committee. Given how late it is in the current legislative session, it’s doubtful anything can be done to keep the bill moving at this time.

Regardless of what happens in the remainder of this session, we recognize and thank Mr. Feuer for his commitment to doing everything possible to protect peace officers’ privacy, and we congratulate him on a fine piece of legislation on which to build during the next session.

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

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The Kings, the fans and the LAPD: A great week in L.A.

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/15/2012 @ 02:03 PM

When the L.A. Kings took a 3-0 lead in the first period of the sixth game of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, the LAPD issued a citywide tactical alert from an abundance of caution. You knew then the Kings were on their way to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Weeks of planning and preparation were about to be tested as thousands of fans decked in black and purple converged on L.A. Live to celebrate.

The morning of what turned out to be the final game, Chief Beck continued to hammer home a constant theme of the playoff series: “If you make trouble tonight, the LAPD will find and arrest you.” The warnings were well advised. After all, memories of the disturbances following the Lakers’ NBA titles in 2009 and 2010 were still fresh. Adding to the concern were images from the large riot that consumed Vancouver last year after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

As impressive as the Kings were on the ice inside Staples Center, the men and women of the LAPD were impressive on the streets surrounding L.A. Live. Those of us on the scene and many who watched on television were proud of the professionalism and dedication exhibited by the LAPD that ensured a great night in L.A. sports history. The icing on the cake was the repeat performance three days later when the huge crowd turned out for the downtown parade and Staples Center rally.

It was one of those feel-good weeks in L.A. we will long remember and cherish. We would be remiss if we did not recognize the vast majority of the fans who cheered and celebrated their team with pride, and respect for law and order. LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith summed it up on Channel 4 News hours after the game that clinched the cup: “I think you could say the LAPD are big fans of the Kings fans. They did a great job out here tonight; very peaceful, very good crowd. Everybody was well-behaved and we’re really proud of them.”

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

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California legislature’s U-turn on law and order issues

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/30/2012 @ 09:58 AM

One of the low points in the history of victims’ rights was the Rose Bird Supreme Court. Relying on the doctrine of “independent state ground,” the court issued scores of headshaking decisions consistently in favor of criminals. These rulings hampered evidence collection and kept collected evidence out of trials. Unsurprisingly, California crime rates soared.

Fed up voters began correcting this disastrous era in June 1982 by passing Proposition 8, which put the brakes on the Bird Court’s attempts to remake criminal law. The California Constitution was amended to bring evidence suppression limits in line with those of the U.S. Constitution, as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the present legislature has begun a concerted back door effort to undo Prop. 8 and its requirement that California follow the federal exclusionary rule. In the past year, there has been a bill mandating the taping of suspects’ statements, with a requirement that these statements be suppressed if they aren’t recorded—despite there being no such requirement by the Miranda ruling. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on police use of GPS devices, a bill was introduced to drastically expand on the court’s decision by requiring a search warrant in all cases of GPS use and the exclusion of evidence if no warrant had been issued.

After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld strip searches of new jail inmates, a bill sought to countermand that decision by barring such searches and preventing weapons and contraband found on these inmates from being introduced in court. Gov. Brown had to veto a bill passed last year that would have required a search warrant for officers to look through cell phones seized from arrestees’ immediate person — after the California Supreme Court had expressly upheld such searches.

Another bill sailing through the legislature, despite opposition from law enforcement and victims’ rights groups, would make it virtually impossible to impound the vehicles of unlicensed drivers. Police would be required to call a licensed driver to take away or park the vehicle; if the car has to be impounded, an officer would need his or her supervisor's permission.

These actions come on the heels of the legislatures’ near-dismantling of the state prison system last year, which drastically reduced the types of convicted criminals that can be sent to prison, shortened sentences, and eliminated supervision of inmates upon their release.

It appears some California legislators want very strongly to return to the bad old days of the Bird court. They shouldn’t try to chip away at Prop. 8 by enacting statutes that hamper evidence collection and its use in criminal cases. If state lawmakers want to change what voters put in place, they should run a proposition that asks voters to overturn Prop. 8. Otherwise, they must accept the will of the voters.

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

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Once again, a failure to follow precedent at the 9th Circuit

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/18/2012 @ 05:09 PM

“We’ve given police a simple, common-sense rule to deal with vehicles that are left unattended because the driver has been placed under arrest.”

If those words had been used by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of the U.S. vs. Cervantes, we’d say, “Amen!” Unfortunately, those were the words of dissenting Judge Sandra Ikuta in a three-judge panel ruling of the Court.

As we’ve written on many occasions, the 9th Circuit Court has a knack for arriving at result-oriented decisions that must later be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s easy to see why that reputation is deserved when you consider this particular case. This case should be yet another decision that the Supreme Court, and an en banc panel of the 9th Circuit, reverses.

Jesus Antonio Ramos Cervantes’ vehicle was stopped by LAPD officers for a traffic violation, and since he was an unlicensed driver, his car was later impounded by LAPD officers. The officers, following well established law on impounds and LAPD policies regarding impounds, found two kilograms of cocaine in the car. Federal District Court Judge John Walker denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the seized cocaine.

A federal appeals court in Pasadena found that LAPD officers who stopped Cervantes should not have impounded the car, but merely cited Cervantes and moved along. Courthouse News reporter Tim Hull recounts the details of the case in his recent story. The twists and turns the majority took to ignore established and straightforward law are admirably laid out in the dissent by Judge Ikuta. She rightfully argued that the majority had unnecessarily complicated a simple issue and had “silently overruled our long line of precedents establishing the community caretaking doctrine.”

“No complex legal analysis is required,” Judge Ikuta wrote. “The police merely have to determine whether it’s necessary to remove the vehicle from a public location in order to ‘prevent it from (1) creating a hazard to other drivers or (2) being a target for vandalism or theft.’ If the officers determine that either prong of this simple test is met, they may impound the vehicle in furtherance of their community caretaking function.”

A result-oriented decision by two liberal 9th Circuit judges should not be allowed to complicate what are established and straightforward rules. This is not rocket science. It is common sense. We look forward to another court reviewing this decision and upholding the right of the LAPD officers to legally impound and search vehicles under the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment.

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AB 109 delivers an insult to justice

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/04/2012 @ 05:09 PM

AB 109, the state’s new prison realignment law, will go down as one of the worst pieces of legislation ever enacted in California. As the list of its failures continues to grow, the only possible explanation is that either the bill’s supporters actually believe serious crimes should go unpunished, or that they are seriously incapable of crafting laws that protect the public.

The headlines behind this misguided “reform” of the criminal justice system trumpeted its dual aims of reducing the prison population and helping save the state millions of dollars. It’s now estimated that $5.9 billion in responsibilities was shifted to local counties. Californians were assured that criminals sentenced to imprisonment would still be held accountable in local custody. But this legislation’s disastrous consequences continue to add up.

Realignment’s latest outrage comes from Merced, California, where a public safety officer was killed by a DUI driver. Because of AB 109, that driver will not spend a single day behind bars.

On June 9, 2011, Amie Chick was driving with a blood alcohol level over .07, marijuana in her system and possibly while talking on a cell phone. At that same moment, 29-year-old Los Banos firefighter Andrew Maloney was riding his 2011 Suzuki motorcycle southbound on Highway 165 in Merced County when Amie Chick turned left in front of Maloney, killing him in the resulting crash.

Chick later pleaded guilty to one count of felony vehicular manslaughter and was to begin serving her sentence of a year in jail on April 23. Under AB 109’s terms, however, she was immediately eligible for a house-arrest program because she was classified as a low-level prison inmate sentenced for a non-serious, non-violent crime. This allows her to serve her sentence at home while wearing an electronic monitoring device.

This is only one of the many tragic cases now unfolding that demonstrate how in their haste to remake punishment in California, the legislature in fact gutted punishment as a consequence of crime. Will AB 109’s proponents tell Andrew Maloney’s family their intention was that his death not be punished, or that the complete lack of punishment for his killing was simply an oversight—a case of legislative incompetence?

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

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The LAPD today

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/24/2012 @ 03:21 PM

The 20th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots has been welcomed by countless news stories and retrospectives on this important event in our city’s history. But many of these retrospectives have included analyses that overstate the riots’ role in the evolution of the Department.

Any balanced analysis must recognize that policing in general has evolved across the nation. Changes in the Department were part of a larger national trend of evolving approaches to policing. Community policing was a new approach adopted by agencies across the country as its value was becoming clear. George L. Kelling’s Broken Windows theory, for instance, showed how new approaches to fighting and preventing crime in troubled neighborhoods could provide better results than simply putting more ‘boots on the ground.’

It’s true that the makeup of today’s LAPD officers has also changed considerably and now includes significantly larger numbers of minority groups; officers of Hispanic descent, for example, now account for 42 percent of the police force. But this change is as much a result of the changing community demographics as it is of any single event in the city’s history.

The changing makeup of the force also means that fewer and fewer current officers took part in the operations that brought the city back under control during the riots. Many LAPD officers working today were not on the job two decades ago. Of the current approximately 9,940 officers on the force, only 2,641 were on the job in April 1992. Nearly 7,300 had not yet joined the Department.

There are varying opinions about what led to the events that prompted the 1992 riots. These were a major event in the city’s history, as were the 1965 riots. But in all fairness, they were not the single impetus for change that many analyses claim them to be. And while much has changed, it’s important to remember what hasn’t. The men and women of the LAPD, both sworn and civilian, remain committed to the safety of Los Angeles residents. Courage and integrity, which have been hallmarks of LAPD personnel, have never wavered.

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

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Thank you, Commissioner Skobin

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/20/2012 @ 11:51 AM

To say that Los Angeles Police Commissioner Alan J. Skobin will be missed is an understatement. As many of you may know, the longtime commissioner has been nominated by the mayor to serve as a fire commissioner. And since police commissioners are limited by the Los Angeles City Charter to two five-year terms, the police department’s loss will clearly be the fire department’s gain.

Mr. Skobin was first appointed to the Police Commission in 2003, and was elected Vice President of the Board of Police Commissioners immediately upon his appointment. The mayor appointed him to a second five-year term in 2008. His department liaison and committee assignments have included Use of Force, Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence, Training, Budget, Transportation and Traffic, the Police Reserve Program, and Valley Bureau and Operations. He currently serves as chair of the Oversight Committee for the Office of Public Safety, City of Los Angeles Department of General Services.

What makes Commissioner Skobin a truly invaluable public safety advocate is his firsthand knowledge of law enforcement and his willingness to share it with his fellow commissioners. He has served as a reserve deputy sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for more than 30 years and currently holds the rank of reserve chief. He’s experienced in patrol, detectives and administration. Before joining the sheriff’s department, he served as a reserve police officer with the San Fernando PD for nearly eight years, attaining the rank of sergeant.

Commissioner Skobin has either initiated or taken a leadership role in many important projects and programs, many of which have directly affected the lives of our members. He was the driving force behind the creation of the LAPD Purple Heart Award, which recognizes the sacrifice of officers who were either seriously injured or slain while serving the public. Commissioner Skobin successfully developed the program to replace outdated and unsafe radios with updated equipment; he implemented a new program to manage and prevent officer-involved traffic collisions; and many more programs, projects and activities for the betterment and safety of LAPD employees and the public they serve.

With a record of community and civic service that spans more than 40 years, Commissioner Skobin’s efforts have made a significant positive impact throughout many communities. His achievements have been recognized with commendations and awards from virtually every level of government, including city, county, state and federal officials.

On behalf of the League’s members, the Board of Directors offers its sincere gratitude to Mr. Skobin for his dedicated service and unwavering support of LAPD officers. We invite everyone, especially the rank and file, to come and thank Alan for his service when the Police Commission formally recognizes him for his nine years of service to the LAPD on Tuesday, April 24th at the Police Commission meeting and a reception beginning at 0830.

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

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Bureaucratic hoops let parolees hide behind privacy laws

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/16/2012 @ 01:13 PM

You’d think the same state legislators who backed the release of thousands of parolees from state prisons into local communities would at least ensure that local police could know the identity of these convicted criminals. But in its haste to enact prison realignment, the legislature made it too easy for parolees to slip into neighborhoods unencumbered by their criminal past.

Sacramento lawmakers failed to adjust state privacy laws, which currently restrict local police’s ability to get immediate information on the parolees coming into their community. As it stands, police chiefs must prepare and sign a statement declaring their need to know parolees’ names, addresses and criminal history in the interest of public safety. Only then can state parole officials provide the information.

State corrections officials should be able to provide police with a complete roster of former prisoners arriving in neighborhoods. Given felons’ high recidivism rates, it’s only logical for police to review parolee data when certain crimes occur in their area.

California Assemblymember Brian Nestande is among those who think police chiefs should be able to access this information without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops. “If there’s a way we can define that in law, that the police have the right to know without going through an unnecessary process, I’ll certainly look into working with others to make that correction,” Nestande told The Desert Sun. Assemblymembers from L.A. looking for a public safety issue to support would do well to make contact with Nestande.

The increased crime local communities are already seeing is one of the early failures of this poorly conceived law. At this point, all we can ask for is a chance to identify these convicted criminals so we know who is roaming among us in our communities. Here’s hoping the legislature is up to the task.

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

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