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Getting it wrong: Continued misreporting on the Rampart scandal

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/21/2011 @ 02:45 PM

NPR reporter Mandalit del Barco’s recent story, “Finance Probe Raises Ire Among Some LAPD Officers” is wrong when it comes to the Rafael Perez scandal.

Del Barco claims, “Rafael Perez was the central figure of the 1990s LAPD corruption scandal. He and more than 70 anti-gang unit officers in L.A.'s Rampart Division were found to be planting evidence, framing and even shooting alleged gang members.”

The truth is that, after all was written and investigated, the Rafael Perez scandal resulted in only four convictions – and only two of which were for corruption. And, as a result of Perez’s lies, a federal court upheld a $15 million jury award for three Los Angeles police officers who were falsely arrested and prosecuted.

The Perez case involved individual officers whose wrongdoing was mischaracterized in an effort to taint all LAPD officers. We abhor officer corruption even more than people claiming the moral high ground do, because every officer ends up paying the price for those who failed to uphold their sworn oaths.

Continued misreporting of the Rampart events is unfair to the falsely accused officers, and especially to those still on the job protecting the public. When news stories on widely reported incidents get it wrong, we are compelled to point out what really happened.

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The use of deadly force

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/20/2011 @ 11:40 PM

In the wake of the Reginald Doucet Jr. shooting, some community members have asked how it is legal for a police officer to use deadly force against an unarmed man.

Police officers have a difficult job that becomes even harder when a suspect resists arrest and puts up a fight. In this case, Mr. Doucet was trying to disarm the officer; therefore, the officer did not have to delay deadly force until the suspect had the officer’s gun firmly in hand.

Officers may use force to overcome resistance, effect an arrest or prevent a suspect’s escape. Officers can use deadly force to protect their lives and when facing an individual who is using force that can cause serious bodily injury, including loss of consciousness and broken bones.

When an officer feels his life or the life of another person is in imminent danger or under threat of serious injury, the officer may use the force necessary to stop that assault. Under California law (Penal Code section 196), peace officers may use deadly force in the course of their duties under circumstances not available to members of the general public. Police officers are mindful, however, that certain limits on the use of deadly force apply to peace officers. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in the case of Scott v. Henrich (9th Cir. 1994) 39 F.3d 912, delineated the circumstances under which deadly force may be used:

…police may use only such force as is objectively reasonable under the circumstances. An officer's use of deadly force is reasonable only if “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” All determinations of unreasonable force “must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation."

But irrespective of laws that apply to deadly force by police officers performing their duties, the law of self-defense is available to any person. Homicide is justifiable in accordance with California Penal Code 197 “when resisting any attempt by a person to commit great bodily injury on or kill any person.”

What has been lost in these groups’ questions and allegations is the basic fact that every person dictates the degree of force an officer uses. If officers are in a fight to protect their gun or avoid losing consciousness, they have no other option. We, as a society, must support them.

If a suspect takes or attempts to take an officer's gun, he has sent a clear message that he intends to murder that officer and possibly others, and must be stopped for the safety of everyone. Whether the aggressive suspect is under the influence of a controlled substance, alcohol, or has a mental illness; if successful, the target of the suspect’s attack will be dead nonetheless.

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The loss of Bill Eaton

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/17/2011 @ 12:13 AM

It's with heavy hearts that we grieve the loss of Captain Bill Eaton, who recently passed away after a grueling battle with cancer.

Over his near 22-year career in LAPD, Captain Eaton was respected for his talents, ethics and leadership. He was a mentor and friend to many within the Department and the community. With the many successes over his career, he was never more proud than he was as a father to his two boys.

Bill never let his rank affect him as a person. Whether he was a P III in Newton or the Captain III in Van Nuys, he treated people with respect and dignity and kept a fair and open mind. Never was he too proud to call and seek advice before making decisions, because while he was firm when he needed to be, he never acted with an intent to maliciously slight or disparage anyone.

The Board of Directors, attorneys and staff of the League extend our condolences, thoughts and prayers to his children, family, loved ones and friends, all who will clearly mourn a substantial loss in the passing of Captain Eaton.

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Yet again, tragic and predictable consequences of a broken parole system

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/14/2011 @ 11:50 AM

Deputy Mohammed Ahmed

On Tuesday night, Los Angeles County Deputy Mohammed Ahmed was shot in the face by career criminal Nestor Torres, who was on the streets of East Los Angeles after being paroled last September for the fourth time in three years. This is the latest in a long string of incidents in which a parolee with a violent criminal history takes advantage of a dysfunctional parole system to gain early release and then shoots an officer.

According to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, Ahmed and his training officer were on patrol Tuesday night on North Brannick Avenue, near Floral Drive, when they spotted a man and a woman inside a car parked in a red zone. The deputies approached the man and a struggle ensued.

Sheriff’s Department officials said in their release that the suspect shot Ahmed in the face, and the training officer returned fire. The deputy and the suspect were both taken to County-USC Medical Center. Thankfully, Deputy Ahmed does not appear to have life-threatening injuries, although doctors fear he may lose sight in the injured eye. His partner suffered only minor injuries. Career criminal Torres was pronounced dead at the hospital, his life of crime halted.

Torres was a reputed gang member who went by the monikers "Demon" and "Neto." He was sentenced in 2004 to seven years in state prison in connection with the shooting of two men in a liquor store. They were shot for making the mistake of complimenting his tattoo.

Nestor Torres

Nestor Torres

He was initially paroled in November 2007. Since then, court records show, he was re-arrested and returned to custody four times on a variety of drug and firearm violations. His parole discharge date was still nine months away – September 8, 2011 – when he committed his final criminal act.

According to Los Angeles Times reporters Robert Faturechi and Andrew Blankstein, Deputy Ahmed had been on the beat for just a few weeks, learning the ropes in a rough stretch of the Eastside with a veteran deputy. A Somali immigrant, 27-year-old Ahmed was seen as a promising young deputy in the department. He supported his six younger siblings and mother with his salary.

We wish Deputy Ahmed a speedy recovery and hope he can fulfill his wish to return to duty as soon as possible. At the same time, we have to once again lament the fact that a parolee with a propensity to commit violent criminal acts was on the streets of Los Angeles instead of prison, fully serving his original sentence. It’s a contradiction to public safety to re-release parolees who have already been re-arrested because of new crimes. The system is set up to create new victims for repeat offenders – this time the victim was a Sheriff’s Department deputy.

We again ask, how many law enforcement officers and innocent people have to be hurt or killed before parolees who commit new crimes are sent back to prison to serve their entire original sentence?

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Los Angeles police officers take to the airwaves

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/11/2011 @ 06:53 PM

The Los Angeles Police Protective League has started airing a “Public Safety First” radio campaign on ESPN radio in Los Angeles. The messages, covering a broad range of law enforcement related topics, will air throughout the day and during Lakers games.

The radio spots will highlight a variety of public safety issues but will regularly focus on the importance to public safety of having a fairly compensated and adequately staffed Los Angeles Police Department. With such valid concerns about the City’s challenging budget situation, the League is acting constructively and proactively to ensure that vital public safety jobs are preserved.

Over the course of the next year, the campaign will also spotlight the anniversary date of LAPD officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the city. LAPD Officers face enormous risks every day. While the City is safer than it has been in nearly four decades, in today's urban environment, policing has become more complex and dangerous, and yet these exceptional men and women continue to take on the responsibility of policing above and beyond the call of duty.

The broadcast schedule of the League’s messages, along with the January radio spots can be found at LAPD.com, behind the ESPN logo.

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Law enforcement fatalities: a cause for concern and a call to action

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/03/2011 @ 02:05 PM

The New Year begins with a disturbing report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The nonprofit organization that tracks police deaths reported preliminary information last week showing a 37 percent increase in line-of-duty deaths over the number of officers killed in 2009. Within 48 hours of the report’s release, two more officers were killed, raising the total line-of-duty deaths for 2010 to 162. The news is particularly perplexing and troubling because the data runs counter to local and national trends that have violent crime falling to levels not seen in a generation.

Traffic fatalities were the leading cause, with 73 officer deaths, while firearm fatalities jumped 20 percent from 49 deaths last year to 59 in 2010. Most alarming were the incidents in which multiple officers were gunned down. These so-called ‘cluster killings’ accounted for nearly 20 percent of all fatal shootings.

A variety of explanations have been offered for the rise in deaths, from budget cuts that have fewer police working longer hours to more distracted and dangerous drivers. Memorial Fund Chairman Craig Floyd points to the existence of criminals who don't think twice – or are even eager – to kill an officer of the law. Weak penalties may also be a factor: an Atlanta man accused of gunning down a Georgia state trooper December 27 had just been released from jail two weeks earlier, and jail records show it was not the first time he had tried to flee from police.

Dale Mann, director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the law enforcement community is frustrated with weak punishments for serious crimes and the fact that cop killers rarely get the death penalty. "But by the grace of God, it could've been me and a hundred others," Mann said. "People are shooting police officers like it's nothing. One of the reasons is because they're not getting the death penalty for doing it. If they do, it'll be 30 years [before execution] and you'll have to remind the public what it's about."

Mann has a very valid point. If you share his frustration, consider speaking out at the victim impact hearing for cop killer Michael Alston (NYSID#0:3 521538N, DIN#: 93A0704) to be held on Friday, January 7, 2011, in New York. NYPD Sergeant Keith Richard Levine was off duty, driving through Manhattan on his way home, when he saw an armed robbery happening at an ATM machine. Three individuals were robbing one man when Sgt. Levine sprung into action, stopping his car and giving chase on foot.

In a recent letter to PoliceOne.com, Sgt. Levine’s father, Mike Levine – a retired 30-year veteran of law enforcement – wrote, “During [the] chase and gunfight, Keith was killed by a man named Michael Alston. Alston, at the time he killed Keith, was on the street again after having been twice convicted of homicide in New York City. Killing my son I think now officially qualifies him as a serial killer, and we can't even estimate how many homicides he's gotten away with.”

Incredibly, the New York Parole Board has decided that Alston should be set free – free to kill again. With his possible release looming, the law enforcement community across our nation needs to come together and let our feelings be known. You can send a letter of opposition to the release of Alston via the New York State Board of Parole’s website.

We’ve blocked the release of cop killers before, and we can do it again. Through our individual actions, we can achieve a collective result that clearly serves the best interests of the family and fellow officers of Sgt. Levine, as well as the law enforcement profession and our society.

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DUI checkpoints amount to safer roads for everyone

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/29/2010 @ 03:15 PM

As millions of Californians hit the roads during the holiday travel season, some of them will be driving while drunk. So it’s only logical that seasonal spikes in drunk driving be met with stepped up DUI enforcement. But now, some community groups are suggesting that local law enforcement is putting up sobriety checkpoints for the sole purpose of confiscating the cars of unlicensed drivers.

This is not the case; the purpose of these checkpoints is to keep our roads safe. Claims that the State of California made $40 million in profit in 2009 are absurd and not supported by a single fact. The truth is, DUI checkpoints cost money to carry out. Local law enforcement is fortunate to receive funding for the checkpoints from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), which designated 2010 as the “Year of the Checkpoint.”

Sobriety checkpoints are an important safety tool. As Chief Beck aptly explained to LAist.com, checkpoints are intended to change the behavior of those who drink and drive. And indeed, these checkpoints, by increasing enforcement and raising public awareness, bring down the number of traffic collisions caused by drunk drivers. In all cases, checkpoints operate in accordance with guidelines mandated by California Supreme Court decision Ingersoll vs. Palmer.

Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, detailed in a report titled Unlicensed to Kill, found that nearly two-thirds of drunk drivers in fatal crashes are seriously intoxicated, with a blood alcohol content higher than .15. In addition, 20 percent of fatal crashes involve at least one unlicensed driver.

A second AAA report found that unlicensed drivers accounted for five to ten percent of the driving population, but nearly 20 percent of all fatal driving accidents – a disproportionately high percentage compared to their numbers in the general driving population. The same study showed that accidents involving unlicensed drivers were more than twice as likely to have a fatal outcome.

The prevalence of impaired and unlicensed drivers on California roads puts all drivers at greater risk of injury and death, and creates an undue financial burden for the state.

There is good news, however. Since 2006, when OTS and law enforcement began directing increased funding toward sobriety checkpoints, alcohol-impaired fatalities have declined substantially – down 26 percent. Between 2008 and 2009 alone, DUI deaths declined by 7.6 percent in California.

The holiday season should be about good times with family and friends, and responsible celebrations that don’t endanger lives. The proven results of DUI checkpoints make them an invaluable tool for making the roads safer for everyone.

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Sending you good tidings at this special time of year

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/23/2010 @ 12:15 PM

The League’s Board of Directors wishes you and your families the very best during this holiday season and throughout the coming New Year. We hope that you can find time to set aside the demands of your busy lives and share in the joy of the season with your loved ones.

The holiday season is a time to reflect on the many blessings in our lives and to remember those who most enrich us. It is also a time of year to give a helping hand to those in need as they struggle with unemployment, financial hardship or illness.

This is also a time to remember the brave men and women in uniform who defend our country in distant lands. Those of us fortunate enough to celebrate the holidays at home should keep in our thoughts and prayers our brothers and sisters serving in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere – especially our fellow LAPD officers whose military reserve units are deployed. We are reminded by the loss of our own, Officers Robert "RJ" Cottle and Joshua J. Cullins, and so many others who have given their lives, that the bravery and dedication of our troops keep our nation free and our country safe.

As you and your loved ones enjoy the traditions of the holiday season, we send you good tidings and wish you a safe and happy New Year.

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