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How will public safety be affected if changes are not made to state’s realignment experiment?

By Peter Repovich on 11/29/2011 @ 11:14 AM

Most people I speak with are unaware of the prison realignment plans being implemented by the state of California that disregard the safety of Californians and warrant a prompt reevaluation.

In addition to cuts to local public safety, the state intends to terminate over 840 employees in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s parole division by September 2013. And according to published reports, the state has also drafted plans to close six prisons.

In a June statewide conference call, State Parole Director Robert Ambroselli told parole agents throughout California that state officials had created a plan to effectively end parole supervision in California by eliminating 80 percent of field staff. The closure of six prisons would come after completion of “parole redirection” and achieving compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s prison overcrowding ruling.

Some state officials may be using the Court’s order as a smoke screen for their plans, hoping the public will believe the closures and parole cuts are also part of the Court’s mandate. The ruling ordered a reduction in the inmate population, but it did not mandate that prisons be closed or that inmates be freed without supervision.

It is troubling indeed that state leaders would so readily risk hard-won gains in public safety by essentially eliminating supervision of released inmates and unnecessarily closing six state prisons.

Coupled with the relinquishment of responsibility for felons, the state is now dumping criminals on local law enforcement agencies. Take the case of Lloyd Anthony Holbrook, who had a long criminal history that included assaults, firearms possession and making criminal threats. Under the state’s new prison realignment law and parole programs, Mr. Holbrook was classified as a ‘low-level, non-violent’ offender not requiring parole supervision. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Blankstein documented Holbrook’s most recent encounter with law enforcement, an arrest by U.S. marshals who took him in for making terrorist threats after a half-day standoff with LAPD’s SWAT team.

Many were surprised that with a rap sheet like his, Holbrook was not being supervised. Parole agents were not tracking his movements or making sure he complied with his parole conditions. Holbrook is only the latest addition to the growing list of ‘low-level, non-violent’ offenders who, once paroled, turned out to be highly dangerous and harmful to society. Part of the reason this is happening all too often involves the list of 500 criminal code sections responsible for classifying an offender as ‘low-level, non-violent.’

According to the California District Attorneys Associations, more than 20 offenses that most people would consider serious or violent fall into the low-level, non-violent category. Among them are killing or injuring a police officer while resisting arrest, involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, participating in a lynching, possession of weapons of mass destruction, possessing explosives, threatening a witness or juror, and using arson or explosives to terrorize a health facility or church.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley summed up the situation when he said realignment casts too wide a net in defining low-level offenses. Sound judgment and common sense are clearly lacking. Virtually all law-abiding Californians would consider these types of crimes anything but trivial. We should expect individuals convicted of these crimes to serve their full terms in prison, not in a county jail. Moreover, most people would want parolees’ movements tracked upon their release and the assurance that authorities are enforcing parolees’ compliance with their parole conditions.

The criminal justice realignment governing incarceration and parole is a bold experiment that has many of us in law enforcement more than concerned about the potential consequences – unintended or otherwise – on public safety. Adjustments will undoubtedly need to be made as we learn from experience, but a good start would be eliminating from the list of criminal code sections those crimes that by no stretch of the imagination can be considered ‘low level, non-violent.’ And because this is a clear matter of the public’s safety, we suggest this be done as soon as possible.

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

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Decoding ‘prison realignment’

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/21/2011 @ 04:22 PM

Surprise, surprise. Some of the so-called “low-risk, nonviolent” inmates being sent to county jails are turning out to be far more dangerous than touted by advocates of prison realignment.

What went wrong? For starters, only the inmate’s most recent crime is being taken into consideration when determining eligibility for transfer. His or her latest crime may not be of a violent nature, but often, previous convictions have been for very serious crimes that suggest a potential for future dangerous behavior.

Because of jail overcrowding, an inmate’s path from arrival at the L.A. County Jail to release on unsupervised parole can be a short one.

L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich called attention to one prisoner set for transfer to L.A. County who previously served time at the maximum-security Folsom and Atascadero state prisons. In reviewing his rap sheet, county officials were shocked to find that he was a violent sexual predator convicted of rape with violence.

Antonovich says the gaping loophole in the realignment legislation puts the community in danger. It could also cost the county plenty because if an inmate attacks an employee or another inmate, “we assume 100 percent liability."

Antonovich fired off a letter to Gov. Brown calling for the loophole to be closed. The Board of Supervisors has authorized counsel to review possible legal actions to stop transfers of inmates with previous convictions for violent crimes.

This is a problem we’ve been warning the public and elected officials about for some time now. California’s hastily crafted prison realignment legislation was a bad budget cutting solution that transferred the state’s inmate problem to local governments.

We commend Supervisor Antonovich’s leadership in pushing back on Sacramento for playing politics with public safety.

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

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The perception of a double standard

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/10/2011 @ 11:57 AM

“I have a running joke,” attorney Gregory Smith told LA Daily News reporter C.J. Lin. “If I sue a supervisor, they’re going to get promoted within the next six months.” Smith should know. He’s filed dozens of lawsuits on behalf of LAPD officers against the Department.

It’s disheartening to the rank-and-file when managers are promoted or given coveted assignments after being found culpable by a jury. Adding to the morale problem is the perception of a double standard in which the rank-and-file receive unequal treatment in similar cases.

Now L.A. City Councilmember Dennis Zine, head of the Council’s Audits and Governmental Efficient Committee, is determined to understand why promotions or preferential treatment are given after lawsuit judgments or settlements. He has called on the City’s risk management task force to ensure LAPD is holding managers accountable for misconduct.

“The investigation will look at the discipline meted out for supervisors who were the focus of lawsuits in which the city had to pay out judgments or settlements, and whether those managers were promoted, demoted, fired or temporarily suspended,” according to the Daily News story.

"You cost the city millions of dollars, and you're getting promoted? What the heck is that about?" Zine asked. "We want to support strong supervision, but we also have to be sensitive to those who have cost us millions in mismanagement. You don't want to reward misconduct."

We welcome Zine’s determination to get to the bottom of this long-standing issue and we support the LAPD’s move to hire a risk management specialist.

There needs to be a sense of urgency here. Los Angeles cannot afford to continue paying out six- and seven-figure judgments or settlements for internal harassment and discrimination suits. In the last three years alone, the payouts have totaled more than $40 million. That’s taxpayer money that can better be spent to maintain public safety services and keep residents safe.

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

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Congratulations, Officer Buscaino!

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 11/09/2011 @ 04:22 PM

(Steve McCrank - Torrance Daily Breeze)

We are pleased and proud that LAPD Officer Joe Buscaino was the top vote-getting candidate in Tuesday’s election to fill Janice Hahn’s vacant City Council seat. Joe ran an impressive campaign in a crowded field. He will now face Assemblymember Warren Furutani, who came in second place, in the January 17 runoff election.

Torrance Daily Breeze reporter Donna Littlejohn summed up the secret to Joe’s success: “Buscaino managed to galvanize many in the community who came from opposite sides of the political spectrum in an upbeat campaign that stressed the candidate's hometown roots.”

The League enthusiastically endorsed Joe Buscaino in the primary. Joe is a fresh face, a favorite son of the community, and will undoubtedly be an outstanding addition to the L.A. City Council.

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

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Coming together for justice in the memory of Officer Ian Campbell

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/24/2011 @ 11:37 AM

The members of the Los Angeles Police Protective League are extremely gratified that the California Board of Parole Hearings recommended against granting a compassionate release from prison to Gregory Powell, the infamous "Onion Field" cop killer whose 1963 murder of LAPD Officer Ian Campbell was chronicled in the best-selling book. The decision ensures that Powell, now 78, will die behind bars.

Powell’s fate was sealed at this week’s parole board hearing through the collaboration and support of the many friends and supporters of law enforcement who joined with the League in mounting a campaign against his release from the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

We would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to publicly thank the many who came together in the memory of Officer Campbell and in support of his family, friends and colleagues. We are grateful to the many community members who commented on our blog and sent letters to the parole board.

We are also grateful for the City Council resolution sponsored by Councilmember Mitch Englander and seconded by Councilmembers Dennis Zine and Eric Garcetti. It urged the members of the California Board of Parole Hearings to deny Powell’s parole and was passed unanimously. That sent a very strong message to Sacramento that our city was united in its determination to keep Powell locked up for the remainder of his life, just as his sentence called for.

LAPD Officer and current League Delegate Cliff Armas, a close friend of the Campbell family, attended the hearing and read a statement from Campbell's daughter. In the statement, Valerie Campbell Moniz, who was three when her father was killed, told of the family's devastation after Campbell's death: “I grew up without a father because of the act of a sociopath … Gregory Powell must spend the rest of his life in prison. To release him dishonors the memory of my father, law enforcement and the Los Angeles Police Department."

LAPPL Director Scott Rate reminded the parole board that Powell was initially sentenced to death, but that sentence was then reduced to life in prison with the possibility of parole when the courts struck down California’s death penalty in 1972.

“Given that, Powell’s life sentence is not a sentence of ‘imprisonment until a terminal illness develops,’” Rate said. “It should be expected that the inmate will stay and die in prison. It defeats the purpose of a life sentence if, at the end of life, cold-blooded murderers like Powell are let out so their last days can be spent in comfort. Part of the deserved punishment for his brutal crime is that he spend his last waking moments deprived of freedom. We urge you to keep this unconscionable criminal behind bars for the public safety of all Californians.”

Also opposing his release was Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. "To have released the man who kidnapped and callously executed Officer Ian Campbell would have been a travesty of justice," Cooley said in a statement.

In the face of a massive show of unity from the City government and the law enforcement community, the Board of Parole Hearings came to the right decision when it issued its recommendation. It found that "The conditions under which the prisoner would be released or receive treatment pose a threat to public safety.” So we also take this opportunity to thank the Board of Parole Hearings for listening and making the right decision.

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

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Redefining 'low-level, non-violent’ for the sake of public safety

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/20/2011 @ 10:16 AM

He had a long criminal history that included assaults, firearms possession and making criminal threats; but under the state’s new prison realignment law and parole programs, Lloyd Anthony Holbrook was classified as a ‘low-level, non-violent’ offender not requiring parole supervision. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Blankstein documented Holbrook’s most recent encounter with law enforcement, an arrest by U.S. marshals who took him in for making terrorist threats after a half-day standoff with LAPD’s SWAT.

Many were surprised that with a rap sheet like his, Holbrook wasn’t being supervised. Parole officers weren’t tracking his movements or making sure he complied with his parole conditions. Information from federal sources reveals that after his arrest, he admitted to being off his medications for several days and instead, ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol, despite a prior DUI arrest.

Holbrook is only the latest addition to the growing list of ‘low-level, non-violent’ offenders who, once paroled, turned out to be highly dangerous and harmful to society. Part of the reason this is happening all too often involves the list of 500 criminal code sections responsible for classifying an offender as ‘low-level, non-violent.’

According to the California District Attorneys Association’s website, more than 20 offenses that most people would consider serious or violent fall into the low-level, non-violent category. Among them are killing or injuring a police officer while resisting arrest; involuntary manslaughter; vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated; participating in a lynching; possession of weapons of mass destruction; possessing explosives; threatening a witness or juror; and using arson or explosives to terrorize a health facility or church.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley summed up the incomprehensible in a recent Associated Press story: “Realignment casts too wide a net in defining ‘low level offenses.’”

Sound judgment and common sense are clearly lacking. Virtually all law-abiding Californians would consider these types of crimes anything but trivial. They’d expect individuals convicted of these crimes to serve their full terms in prison, not in a county jail. And most people would want parolees’ movements tracked upon their release and the assurance that authorities are enforcing parolees’ compliance with their parole conditions.

The criminal justice realignment governing incarceration and parole is a bold experiment that has many of us in the law enforcement more than concerned about the potential consequences – unintended or otherwise – on public safety. Adjustments will undoubtedly need to be made as we learn from experience, but a good start would be eliminating from the list of criminal code sections those crimes that by no stretch of the imagination can be considered ‘low level, non-violent.’ And because this is a clear matter of the public’s safety, we also suggest this be done as soon as possible.

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Would-be ‘good governance’ watchdog’s troubled history with the truth

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/12/2011 @ 11:07 AM

David Crane

David Crane

Self-described pension expert and venture capitalist David Crane is apparently eager to keep his name in the public light. Crane is back, this time attaching himself to two other wealthy people seeking to influence California politics.

According to a Sacramento Bee story, Crane has announced he will fund the campaigns of legislators who have the “courage” to tackle the major issues facing California. Unsurprisingly, Crane and his wealthy associates have their own idea of what constitutes political courage when confronting our state’s problems.

Crane worked for Governor Schwarzenegger, who commissioned a study by graduate students at Stanford University to examine public pension system's unfunded liabilities. The students used an absurdly low discount rate to measure the unfunded liabilities of the systems, resulting in a high unfunded-liability number that grabbed headlines. Although that discount rate has been rejected by the Government Accounting Standards Boards, a prominent rating agency, and public plan actuaries, Crane raced out and touted that number in repeated op-ed pieces.

The issue of public pensions is a prime example. That David Crane and company are now calling for “honest budgets” and an end to “deceptive accounting” is amusing because it’s hard to think of any report or study that engaged in more creative accounting in the recent past than the Stanford study.

It was Crane who made the fuzzy math claim that the State of California’s public pension costs soared 2,000% since 1999. The deception lay in Crane’s cherry-picked starting point for the comparison, using 2009 when the state’s contribution to the pension fund was the lowest in decades because it took a ‘pension holiday,’ meaning it used assets in the fund to substitute for its contribution. Picking any other year as a starting point would have destroyed this claim.

Crane may be trying to recast himself as a “good governance” watchdog, but his actions and troubled history with the truth speak much louder than his words.

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No “compassionate release” for a cop killer

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/06/2011 @ 05:35 PM

Ian Campbell

Los Angeles Police Officer Ian Campbell was killed by Powell in 1963

Convicted of the murder of on-duty Los Angeles police officer Ian Campbell, whom he kidnapped and later executed, “Onion Field” killer Gregory Powell was sentenced to death. That sentence was then reduced to life in prison with possibility of parole when the Courts struck down California’s death penalty in 1972.

For those who may have forgotten the horrific crime, on March 9, 1963, Ian and his partner, Karl Hettinger, were assigned to Hollywood Division. Ian and Karl stopped a car with two suspicious people, Gregory Powell and Jimmy Smith. Ian and Karl did not know that Powell and Smith were both armed and looking for a liquor store to rob. As Ian approached the car, Powell took Ian as a hostage. Karl surrendered his gun under the threat that if he did not, Ian would be killed. Both officers were kidnapped. Ian was forced to drive at gunpoint with Karl in the back seat. They were taken to a deserted onion field near Bakersfield where Powell executed Ian. As Ian lay on the ground, Smith shot him four times. Karl managed to escape. Both Powell and Smith were arrested within twenty-four hours of the murder. Joseph Wambaugh wrote the book, “The Onion Field” about Ian’s murder.

Now, however, Powell wants another chance at getting out of prison. He has cancer, and believes that fact should justify a “compassionate release” from prison. Never mind that he showed Ian Campbell absolutely no mercy and tried to murder Campbell’s partner Karl Hettinger that same night in that same onion field.

Apparently, Powell and his attorney fail to comprehend the meaning of the phrase “life in prison.” Put simply, it means that unless granted parole, you will stay in prison for the remainder of your natural life, and die in that prison, whether by cancer, a heart attack, or old age. Powell is not a suitable candidate for parole, as demonstrated by the 11 separate denials for parole since 1972.

Given that, Powell’s life sentence is not a sentence of “imprisonment until a terminal illness develops.” It should be expected that the inmate will stay and die in prison. It defeats the purpose of a life sentence if, at the end of life, cold-blooded murderers like Powell are let out so their last days can be spent in comfort. Part of the deserved punishment for his brutal crime is that he spend his last waking moments deprived of freedom.


Read the statement from Valerie Campbell Moniz, daughter of Officer Ian Campbell, given during Gregory Powell's parole hearing last year .

LAPPL President Paul Weber is interviewed on CBS 2 News about the Onion Field Killer, asking for an early release from prison because he is dying of cancer.


Many have asked where they can send letters to voice their opinion regarding Powell's release. You can send letters to:

California Board of Prison Terms
c/o California Men’s Colony

P.O. Box 8101
San Luis Obispo, CA 93409-8101

Re: Gregory Powell, CDC# A-57622

NOTE: Although the letters may not be received in time to all be read by the parole board, if a large number are received, it will send a clear message to them that we do not want him released!.

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