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Job candidates shunning the LAPD is a cause for concern

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/07/2010 @ 03:15 PM

It is counterintuitive that in this challenged economy, applications to join the LAPD as police officers are down by 30 percent.

As reported in the LA Weekly, only 9,232 people applied to become LAPD officers last year compared to 13,202 the previous year. This should be cause for inquiry and concern by the Chief, the Mayor and the City Council. After all, the quality of recruits accepted for Academy training is in direct proportion to the size of the candidate pool. The larger the pool, the higher the caliber of applicants chosen to join the finest police department in the world. With unemployment the highest it’s been since the Great Depression and some 300 sworn positions open in the Department, one would think the candidate pool would be at record high levels.

To stimulate thinking in understanding and addressing this issue, we offer ideas for why some men and women in the job market are having second thoughts about even beginning the application process:

  • Entry level pay for new hires has been cut by 20 percent. Current officers have already made other significant concessions.
  • Ongoing news media reports on the City budget crisis and elected officials calling for city worker pay concessions and reduced pensions and benefits have combined to make a City government job less attractive than it was just a year or two ago.
  • Police work is dangerous. But now, more than at any time in recent memory, police officers are under attack. Activists are blasting police for doing their jobs the way they were trained to do them. And, increasingly, we’re dealing with officers literally under attack - often by early release prisoners or parolees the system has lost track of. The recent story of a parolee taking aim at three LAPD officers with an assault weapon before he was shot and killed heightens the anxiety about the realities of city policing.

It may be tempting for city leaders to rationalize the decline in LAPD job applicants. But we suggest a more thoughtful approach is in order – in the long-term interests of our city and the police force that protects its residents. If this is an early warning sign, Los Angeles needs to heed the warning and take corrective action.

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Los Angeles Times Story Threatens Safety of Key Witness

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/28/2010 @ 02:31 PM

“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

The Los Angeles Times would do well to consider that famous quotation of former United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in reviewing the paper’s factually accurate and well-written coverage of the case involving the murder of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Escalante by members of the violent Avenues street gang. (Driver in deputy's slaying provides details of attack in testimony, 9/23/10).

It is a universally well-known fact that it is extremely difficult to get people to cooperate in gang cases by testifying in court. Understandably, witnesses often have deep fears of retaliation by other gang members. That didn’t dissuade Times Staff Writer Victoria Kim from exercising extremely poor judgment in reporting the names of witnesses who testified at the trial. The Times even named a 15-year-old boy who is trying to disassociate himself from the dangerous and often retaliatory Avenues gang. He cried several times on the witness stand while testifying against the alleged shooter and an accomplice. Inexplicably, the article discusses his testimony at length, yet never mentions more material and relevant evidence that officials had obtained jail recordings, wiretaps and other confessions from the defendants in the case. Why not?

Here is a question for the Los Angeles Times: Why was it important for the public to know the name of the witness who testified? His name added nothing to the story and, in fact, the overwhelming majority of the people who read it would not know him. However, that name did have significance to the scant few who did know him, and with potential troubling consequences we outlined above. Further, if the purpose of the story was to tell the readers the strength/weakness of the case, shouldn’t the public have been informed of the additional evidence which bolstered the case?

Through her careless reporting, Kim and the Los Angeles Times handed a “green light list” to the Mexican Mafia and other Avenues gang members, needlessly compromising the safety of the witnesses named in the article. We join LAPD investigators, Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies and the District Attorney’s office in being appropriately outraged by what we see as a serious lapse in journalistic judgment and ethics.

There is an old saying, “Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel” and some have suggested that we not upset the Times with such a critical blog. Our view is simple: freedom of the press allows the Los Angeles Times to report what happens in a court of law. However, the simple question that apparently was not asked by Ms. Kim was, how does what she included and decided to exclude from this story advance readers’ understanding and evaluation of this case?

Going forward, we implore the Times to consider the safety of the witnesses in their coverage of gang member trials.

* Click here to read the LA Times’ response to this Blog story.

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A teachable moment: public pressure shouldn’t override officer safety

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/10/2010 @ 04:30 PM

When the Chief of Police reacts to public pressure, you can hope for the best but sometimes end up dealing with the fallout.  Tuesday’s press conference and Department press release was a case-in-point.

We were pleased, of course, that Chief Beck publicly defended and praised the three bicycle patrol officers who confronted the knife wielding man in the Westlake District on Sunday. The Chief said the officers had only about 40 seconds to take decisive action in the quick-moving emergency situation. It was textbook police work by the three officers who share 20 years of experience on the force.

However, we were taken aback and not at all pleased with the Chief’s sudden decision to reveal the names of the three officers involved, specifically identifying the officer who used deadly force in defense of life.

With emotions running high among some residents, precipitating open rancor and violence toward LAPD officers, it was neither the time nor the place to disclose such sensitive information. Logic and sound policing principles should have carried the day, allowing time for calm to return to the neighborhood first. At the very least, the officers involved were entitled to know in advance that their names were being made public. Moreover, the Department should have performed a threat assessment of the risk to the officers and their families before disclosing such information to the public.

The hasty disclosure of the officers’ names, accompanied by the release of additional information by an “unnamed” LAPD source regarding prior officer-involved shootings, are frustrating reminders that public considerations always seem to overshadow officer safety and privacy concerns.  It is difficult to ask the rank-and-file to trust a department that has a propensity to mishandle sensitive information - whether it is improperly storing confidential files in unsecured parking lots, accidentally posting internal reports on the Internet, or purposely disclosing officer information to the media.

In response to the Department’s failure to follow its own policy and procedures regarding release of private information, the League has filed a class action grievance on behalf of our members. We cannot forget that LAPD officers, who put their lives on the line everyday to protect the public, deserve better treatment than what they’ve received this week.

The buzz phrase “teachable moment” clearly applies to this situation---we hope that the Department recognizes the error they committed in imprudently and prematurely disclosing the names of the officers involved in the Rampart shooting and vows to place officer safety above political expediency in the future.

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Los Angeles Police Protective League reaction to protest

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/07/2010 @ 10:27 AM

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 bicycle officers with that knife in an attempt to kill them.

Likewise, any person, whether or not they speak English, or who has had too much to drink, should understand that threatening officers with a knife will result in a swift and appropriate response by police, and if necessary, it will include the use of deadly force. It was precisely that combination of behavior on the part of Manuel Jamines on September 5 that precipitated his death.

Various community “activists,” including the Revolutionary Communist Party, are attempting to gin this shooting up into a controversy, agitating a small handful of others to conduct “protests” of this shooting. The pathetic attempt to excuse the armed advance on the responding officers by claiming the man “did not speak English” only highlights the inanity of the “protest.” For the record, the officers gave him commands in English and Spanish, not that it matters because getting drunk and threatening bystanders and then LAPD officers with a knife is dangerous and self-destructive in any language.

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, then that individual is solely responsible for whatever the consequences may be.

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LAPPL Endorses Proposition 23

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/31/2010 @ 04:07 PM

This November, California voters will face Proposition 23, a ballot initiative that would temporarily suspend California's global warming plan, including curbing gas emission mandates in an effort to improve the state's jobless rate. Although AB 32 was intended to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it’s quickly becoming clear that all it will actually reduce are jobs and local public safety budgets.

Yes on 23

Until the state is back on track and our economy is healthy again, we strongly support Proposition 23, and according to an August Los Angeles Business Journal survey, we're not alone. The Journal revealed that most voters would support the job-boosting initiative by 58%, compared to 38% who would not support the bill.

On closer examination, AB 32 would, in reality, beget the loss of an additional one million jobs – not to mention cost the City billions in fancy regulations for electricity, natural gas, gasoline and diesel, vehicle costs and new homes. We understand that loss in government revenue means one thing: less funding for our law enforcement services and communities. Meanwhile, we know the current cuts being made to the City's budget are already taking their toll on LAPD.

How can our community know we are here to protect them if we continue to cut more hours worked by officers? We urge our members to vote YES on this ballot measure, which would save additional severe cuts from being made against our much-needed law enforcement services.

While we want to do our part for global warming, now is not the time to slap the City with reduced revenues and increased energy costs. The League cannot afford – financial or public safety wise – to jeopardize its top and only priority – safety of its police officers and the citizens we serve. Go to www.yeson23.com for more information on Proposition 23.

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Play ball! Frank McCourt hits one out of the park for the LAPD

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/30/2010 @ 11:35 AM

It's understandable if LAPD officers citywide are humming, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." That's because at the Eagle & Badge Gala on Saturday, August 21, LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt promised complimentary game tickets for LAPD officers and their families. A man of his word, McCourt delivered 10,000 vouchers to the LAPPL last week - each one good for four free tickets to a game on September 17, 18 and 19 or October 1, 2 and 3.

The complimentary tickets represent a very generous, morale-boosting gesture from Mr. McCourt, one of three civic leaders honored at the Gala for outstanding community service. When he stepped to the mic at the Gala, we had no inkling he would honor and show his appreciation to “the men and women in blue from the boys in blue” by graciously offering 40,000 Loge and Reserve level seats.

As LAPD officers and their families prepare to enjoy a great American pastime, on their behalf we extend our sincere thanks to a great Angelino and American, Frank McCourt. May the Dodgers have a strong close to the 2010 season with LAPD officers cheering them on!

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YouTube videos for a friend and fellow officer

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/23/2010 @ 03:50 PM

He was serving his country as a Marine reservist in Afghanistan when the 15-pound roadside bomb Marine Staff Sgt. and LAPD officer Joshua Cullins was disarming exploded. Joshua suffered a concussion in the blast and when the alarming news reached LAPD’s Central Division, his fellow officers turned to YouTube to send a pair of get-well-soon messages to their friend and colleague.

As recounted in a must-read story by LA Times’ writer Bob Pool, Captain Daryl Russell remembered that one of his officers, David Marroquin, was experienced at producing videos. Marroquin proceeded to record personal messages to Cullins on video starting off with Chief Beck. Then Marroquin recruited a friend, actor-musician J. Hunter Ackerman, to write a song to accompany the get-well messages for an MTV-style music video.

The completed two-part video began streaming on YouTube late last week. The polished music video labeled "Hunter Ackerman — Welcome Home” quickly received nearly 4,000 “hits” and scores of favorable comments from viewers touched by the bravery and sacrifice of a true American hero.

It speaks volumes about Josh that his friends here at home went the extra mile to let him know how they feel about him, and to wish him a speedy and full recovery. We don’t know if the music video will win an MTV award (it should!), but it will long be remembered in the LAPD ranks as an outstanding tribute to Josh and the thousands of men and women who serve their country at home and abroad.

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LAPD at a crossroads

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/16/2010 @ 03:45 PM

In just 36 photographs and four-and-a-half minutes of narration, photojournalist Robert Nickelsberg sums up one of the most compelling and accurate portrayals of what life is like for today’s LAPD in On the Streets with the LAPD, featured on TIME.com. The multimedia slideshow takes viewers from a ride along with specialized unit officers in the South Bureau’s Southeast and 77th Divisions, to working an investigation up close with K-9 and Gang Units. The slideshow is available for viewing on TIME’s website here.

“In an era of steep budget cuts, police officers’ work just gets harder,” says Nickelsberg, introducing his dramatic program. He notes that the combination of budget cuts, elimination of overtime and forced home leaves (T/Os) are contributing to the adverse reduction of police officers’ presence in the city, particularly areas where gangs have been challenging law enforcement for three generations. He continues on to address another concern affecting enforcement efforts, which is the requirement for members of specialized units to disclose personal and family financial records beginning in March 2011. This ill-conceived requirement from the Consent Decree is already driving officers away from the gang units where, ironically, they are most needed. If you’re unaware of how budget cuts and financial disclosure are inadvertently working together to create a perfect storm for trouble in our city, this presentation will be your wakeup call.

Regrettably, the drastic budget cuts and strict financial disclosure rules currently directed at hundreds of our specialized officers, will prove a lethal combination that will likely push police work in Los Angeles toward the breaking point.

The Mayor, Chief of Police and City Council would do well to be among the first to view this powerful presentation. It would make a good opener for a City Council meeting where LAPD issues are on the agenda. As city officials watch, we hope it dawns on them that the LAPD is at a crossroads: We can continue to build on the substantial progress that has been made in the past decade, or we can begin a long, painful slide back to a terrifying time in our city’s past, recently chronicled in a Los Angeles Times story.

We urge you to watch the TIME presentation while there is still time to reverse course and build on the progress of recent years. We have come a long way, but that also means we have a long way to fall if city leaders make the wrong choices and decisions in the months ahead. Our profound thanks to photojournalist Robert Nickelsberg and TIME, for visually telling the story that needs to be told -- and understood -- before it is too late.

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