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Congratulations to Los Angeles’ newest councilmember, LAPD Officer Joe Buscaino

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/18/2012 @ 03:59 PM

Joe Buscaino and his daughter celebrate Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro after he took an early lead over Warren Furutani in the race for a City Council seat. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

We congratulate LAPD Officer Joe Buscaino, who today was declared the winner in the election to fill the 15th District L.A. City Council seat, left vacant by now-congresswoman Janice Hahn.

Residents overwhelmingly chose to place their trust in the hometown candidate, a graduate of San Pedro High School and 14-year LAPD veteran. Buscaino may be an “average Joe,” as he frequently called himself during the campaign, but he nevertheless brings firsthand knowledge of the needs of his district and the city, and leadership experience from his years as a Senior Lead Officer at Harbor Division.

Buscaino’s energy and commitment to his neighborhood and the city bode well for the city’s future. We congratulate him once again and look forward to working with him and the rest of the Council to meet the city’s problems head on.

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

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No parole for cop killers – no exceptions

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/11/2012 @ 01:21 PM

SB1399 was aimed at saving California millions of dollars in prison health care expenses by allowing the parole of medically incapacitated inmates. It’s unfortunate and outrageous that this law is being used by cop killers like Gerald Youngberg to seek parole.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Lt. Al Stewart

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Lt. Al Stewart

CHP Officer Larry Wetterling

CHP Officer Larry Wetterling

In 1973, Youngberg took the lives of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Al Stewart, CHP Officer Larry Wetterling, and gas station attendant Robert Jenkins in execution-style murders. He was sentenced to death, but his sentence (along with hundreds of others’) was overturned in the mid-1970s when the California Supreme Court declared the state’s version of the death penalty unconstitutional.

Since then, Youngberg has applied for parole on 11 occasions and been denied each time. His last denial came in 2010 when he was told he would have to wait five years to reapply. But the enactment of SB1399 has made possible another hearing on Feb. 8, 2012, when Youngberg’s application for a medical parole will be heard by the Board of Parole Hearings at High Desert State Prison in Susanville.

“Although Youngberg is precisely the type of person who was not intended for medical parole, drafting provisions of that law make him eligible for an application,” said Sacramento Lobbyist John Lovell. “Since he has received a certification from the head physician at High Desert State Prison, defeating this effort will be a daunting one. This is true even though the stroke which afflicts Youngberg took place eight years ago, and he is not totally disabled. The only restrictions on his prison activities are that he is confined to a wheel chair and must have a lower bunk in a cell.”

Law enforcement agencies and organizations throughout California strenuously oppose parole of any kind for Youngberg. The League is joining the effort and encourages others to do the same.

Letters opposing Youngberg’s parole should reference “Penal Code 3550 Parole Hearing for Gerald Youngberg, Inmate Number B50097” and be sent to:

High Desert State Prison
Attn: C&PR/Records Office –Board Desk
475-750 Rice Canyon Road
P.O. Box 750
Susanville, CA 96127

Board of Parole Hearings
Attn: Lifer Scheduling Analysts
PO Box 4036
Sacramento, CA 95812-4036

We also wish to take this opportunity to call on SB1399 author Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to consider amending his legislation to preclude the use of “medical parole” for anyone convicted of murdering a law enforcement officer.

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

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Assaults on police officers continue to rise in 2012

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/10/2012 @ 03:39 PM

Assaults on officers continue to rise in 2012.

For over a year, we’ve been calling attention to the disturbing disconnect between declining crime statistics and rising assaults on police officers. Now comes news that these assaults are up dramatically for the first week of 2012. Twelve serious assaults occurred in this year’s first week, compared to two during the same week in 2011, and again two in 2010.

It’s too early to draw any conclusions from these numbers, but it is nevertheless a disturbing trend. We pointed out last month that assaults on LAPD officers in 2011 were up 26.7 percent compared with 2010. Chief Beck has noted that as assaults on police officers increase, so do the number of officer-involved shootings.

The increased violence toward officers is a reminder of the dangers they face every day. And although overall crime rates may be falling, the rise in these assaults should concern the public as a whole because an assault on the peace keepers of our society is an assault on society itself.

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

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Sacramento’s new prison realignment plan is off to a terrible start

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/09/2012 @ 04:40 PM

State leaders might have seen an ideal budget fix in their new law allowing felons with prison terms of six years or less to be housed in local jails and then supervised by local law enforcement agencies, but the last 48 hours have already given us two examples of just how terribly bad this idea will turn out.

Shooting suspect Steven Hoff in a May 17, 2011 mug shot.

Daily News Los Angeles

Shooting suspect Steven Hoff in a May 17, 2011 mug shot. (Daily News Los Angeles)

Steven Hoff was paroled from state prison in January 2011, but the parole was suspended in July, which typically means he broke contact with his parole officer, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Parole agents had been looking for him for a parole violation when he allegedly shot and seriously wounded a parole agent on Wednesday. He was apprehended after an hours-long manhunt in Lake View Terrace that forced the closing of the 210 Freeway and lockdown of two schools.

Within hours, details of his violent past began to emerge. Among other things, according to the Times, Hoff was involved in a standoff with LAPD SWAT officers in the same general area nearly a decade ago. On Aug. 21, 2002, he barricaded himself in a Sylmar home to evade police and state parole agents searching for him in connection with a parole violation and the slaying of a motorcycle club member in Kern County.

In the coming years, the Steven Hoffs of the world won’t be supervised and tracked by parole agents. Instead, the state will have turned over the job to local law enforcement agencies. What will happen when they simply abscond to another county to get away from local supervision? Who, exactly, will go look for these dangerous individuals if there is no statewide parole agency?

Captured escapee William Scott Woodin

Captured escapee William Scott Woodin. (OCSD.org)

And speaking of local inmate housing commitments, the first inmate sentenced to local jail in lieu of prison escaped on Wednesday. William Scott Woodin, jailed locally because of the new law, escaped from Orange County’s Theo Lacy maximum-security jail by ‘wiggling through a kitchen window.’ He may be the first inmate to escape from that jail in 20 years, but he is a precursor of problems that will only multiply in the coming years. Jails are built to house pre-trial inmates and low level offenders. They are not equipped – by facility design or in staffing levels – to house inmates for years on end. Woodin was a mostly a thief and drug addict; but what will happen when violent felons like Steven Hoff start filling our local jails on multi-year sentences?

We’ve already seen the death and destruction caused by the state’s now abandoned “low level, non-violent” release program, whose sole aim was to release unsupervised inmates into our communities. This state’s latest effort, placing inmates into county jails and leaving local authorities to supervise them, looks doomed to be just as much of a public safety failure.

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

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Policing in a dangerous time

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/19/2011 @ 04:15 PM

Anyone hoping we would see a downturn in assaults on police officers – in Los Angeles and nationwide – has to be deeply disappointed by statistics released last week by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

Chief Beck reported to the Police Commission that assaults on LAPD officers are up 26.7 percent this year compared with 2010. He noted that as assaults on police officers increase, so do the number of officer-involved shootings – up 58.8 percent this year.

The Chief’s reports were concurrent with other somber news. Police officer deaths in the line of duty have increased 14 percent across the U.S. compared to last year, according to a preliminary report released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Firearms-related deaths were the number one cause of officer fatalities nationwide, a change from previous years. “For the first time in 14 years, firearms-related deaths will outnumber traffic and ‘other’-related deaths,” said Craig Floyd, chairman and CEO of the fund, in a recent CNN article.

With a total of 10 fatalities, California was fourth in line of the states with the highest number of fatalities, just behind New York, Florida and Texas (data as of December 13, 2011). The 14 percent increase can be attributed to factors including budget cuts and a surge of violence toward police officers, according to Floyd. “We’re hearing about more brazen, violent activity today, more cold-blooded murders,” Floyd told CNN.

This increased violence toward officers is a solemn reminder of the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis. We again lament the stark disconnect between falling crime rates and assaults on police officers. There’s no compelling, clear evidence why this is occurring. All we can say with certainty is that despite declining crime statistics, policing remains a very dangerous profession.

To our law enforcement brothers and sisters, as the end of 2011 draws near, may you never forget the fellow officers that gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the protection of others, and may you always look out for the safety of your colleagues as you protect and serve your communities.

Thoughts? Leave a comment below.

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Danger in cutting corners on supervision

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/15/2011 @ 12:15 PM

The City’s approach to its current budget problems is hiring just enough replacements for LAPD officers lost through retirements and attrition. This approach, however, has been accompanied by an abandonment of the middle management positions needed for the Department to operate effectively.

With scant attention by outsiders, but growing alarm among those in the Department, there is a burgeoning number of vacancies for police officer III (288), sergeant (88), detective (122) and lieutenant (26). These are critical positions that need to be filled, as they are both the frontline supervisors and the Department leaders who make the day-to-day decisions most noticed by the public. Allowing these positions to go unfilled by failing to fund promotion opportunities for rank-and-file officers puts the Department and the City at risk of retreating to a bygone era.

This is not a theoretical concern – it is being felt Department-wide at an alarming rate. Too often in debriefing of incidents where mistakes were made, we find a lack of effective supervision was the primary reason why department policies and procedures were not followed. These leaderless breakdowns have unfortunately led to taxpayer-funded legal settlements. We believe that the failure to adequately fill frontline supervisor positions is leading to a lack of proper supervision and ineffective command and control that is infecting the entire Department. Do we need history to repeat? Have we not learned the lessons of the Rafael Perez/Nino Durden scandal, the Christopher Commission and the Consent Decree?

Supervisors direct, evaluate and monitor officer performance in the field. They respond to the scene of significant incidents; review reports, including arrest and booking reports; ensure the integrity of applications for warrants and the use of confidential informants; and they ensure the appropriate treatment of persons in custody. This is why supervisory positions need to be filled.

It’s not that promotions aren’t being granted. In fact, the Department has promoted 22 command officers. During this time, there have been only six promotions to the rank of detective, 16 to sergeant and 20 to lieutenant.

Funding command staff promotions while ignoring the needs of the day-to-day frontline supervision necessary to police our city is a recipe for disaster. It’s also a cause of frustration for qualified rank-and-file officers waiting on promotional lists established over the last year-and-a-half. The ensuing morale problem can undermine the LAPD’s effectiveness throughout the City.

We know that the large number of vacant positions at the rank of police officer III and above is already a concern to Department leaders; there’s no reason why it shouldn’t concern the Mayor and City Council, too. While City leaders can take satisfaction in seeing that the number of officers is not declining, they still need to understand the damage incurred to the core of the Department by the current hiring and promotion process. We cannot afford to return to the days of rising crime and violence that plagued our City when supervisory ranks were thin.

We call on the Mayor and the City Council to recognize the dangers of continuing to tolerate large numbers of unfilled supervisory positions within the LAPD and do something about it immediately. If City leaders don’t step up to this obvious problem, the decision to continue hiring officers will need to be reconsidered. It makes no sense to keep hiring police officers if we can’t be assured they’ll receive adequate training and supervision when they are patrolling our streets.

Leaving supervisory positions vacant may make short-term financial sense for the City, but could it lead to another leadership breakdown within the Department? Weigh in by leaving a comment below.

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Finest moment?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/10/2011 @ 07:51 AM

On October 1, 2011, protesters encamped on City Hall’s front lawn and declared themselves part of the national Occupy movement protesting income inequality and corporate greed. City leaders promptly welcomed the Occupy L.A. protesters with open arms, with the City Council not only endorsing the movement but also inviting protesters to stay indefinitely.

The City leadership stated that the price of denying protesters’ First Amendment rights would be too great. So for nearly two months, LAPD officers policed the encampment, carefully balancing the Occupiers’ right to protest with the need to protect public safety and property. But as the costs of this policy started becoming apparent, the City slowly rescinded its support, and in perhaps the clearest example of its mismanagement of the situation, attempted to lure the movement off the City Hall lawn by offering them office space and other financial incentives. The protesters didn’t budge.

And so on November 30, long after encampments in other cities had been forcibly removed, our officers were finally given orders to disband the Occupy L.A. camp. The operation was efficient, orderly and involved a minimal use of force. The mayor lauded it as the LAPD’s “finest moment,” and indeed this was a job very well done, but to say that this was their finest moment did a disservice to our men and women in blue.

Our finest moments occur every day, every time LAPD officers prevent a crime, rescue people in danger, solve a crime or make an arrest. Our finest moments occur every time LAPD officers respond, capably, professionally and with appropriate restraint to the threats that arise organically in our society, not to problems fostered or even created by political calculation or attempts at political correctness.

This was a clear success for the LAPD and stood in contrast to operations in other cities, but many observers have recognized that there were serious and avoidable costs – far exceeding the price of repairing the City Hall lawn – resulting from the way the City handled this situation. Millions of scarce taxpayer dollars were squandered on over-accommodating protesters, some of whom abused the City’s goodwill by destroying public property and undermining respect for our laws. What kind of precedent has this set for future situations requiring the balancing of constitutional rights against public safety? The L.A. Times got it right in their editorial, “Handling the next occupation in L.A.

We hope these costs will be fully considered should a similar situation arise in the future. LAPD officers, who must face considerable personal risk when carrying out orders to restore public order, deserve better. Taxpayers, many of whom are struggling with unemployment and reduced services, deserve better. Los Angeles deserves better.

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Fully funding the LAPD would save more lives

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/06/2011 @ 09:46 AM

More officers and better policing. That’s what a Los Angeles Times editorial stated recently as key reasons why L.A. is a much safer city today.

The editorial, “L.A.'s triumph over crime,” makes the irrefutable case for full funding of public safety. This article should be reviewed by every elected official at City Hall whenever budget priorities are being set.

Recalling the bad old days when L.A. recorded 1,000 murders a year, the Times stated that 800 families this Thanksgiving weekend enjoyed a holiday that would have been barren had they lost a loved one to a murder – “a social victory for which every resident of this city should be appreciative.”

Beyond saving lives, fighting crime with a fully-funded police department is the best investment the city government can make. As the editorial pointed out, for every crime there is a cost — property that is lost, medical bills to pay, workdays missed and the more difficult-to-measure effects of psychological damage to survivors. Using a methodology developed by researchers at Iowa State University, the Times calculates a savings of $1.36 billion annually for Los Angeles by eliminating 800 murders a year since the early 1990s.

While we give our thanks to the Times’ editorial board for reminding everyone of the importance of keeping public safety as our city’s No. 1 priority, we can’t help but wonder how many more people would be alive for the holidays if the city fully funded the LAPD. The Department estimates its budget is currently underfunded by $50 million and its cash overtime budget by $100 million.

We urge the residents of Los Angeles to join us and take the Public Safety First Pledge and oppose any reductions in the number of LAPD officers protecting our neighborhoods.

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

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