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Cause for concern?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/13/2010 @ 02:00 PM

We don’t wish to be alarmists, and we hope our concerns turn out to be unfounded as the year progresses, but it is a bit unsettling today to find Los Angeles on a short list of cities reporting increases in murders so far this year. The other major cities reporting that murder is on the rise are New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, according to a USA Today story.

Some good news is that overall violent crime is down 13 percent in Los Angeles so far this year – but murders are up from 102 last year to 111 this year. Our concerns are heightened by decreased police coverage on the streets due to restrictions on police overtime, officers being forced to take time off and officers increasingly performing administrative duties because of vacant civilian positions.

Former Chief Bratton put it most clearly when he commented that every time a person is murdered, it not only takes an emotional toll on the family and the community, it cost about $1 million in economic damage to society. A Rand Corp. study released earlier this year showed the unmistakable correlation between police coverage and crime. As the size of a police force increases, crime – and the costs associated with it – go down. Moreover, Rand’s analysis showed the benefits of having additional officers and preventing crime significantly outweigh the personnel costs of the officers.

As police know all too well, crime tends to increase with summer temperatures. We sincerely hope the troubling trend in murders in Los Angeles turns out to be a statistical aberration. But we can’t help being uneasy.

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Skobin tapped for VP of the Police Commission

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/06/2010 @ 03:38 PM

We applaud the election of Alan J. Skobin as vice president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners. Skobin, who is now in his second term, was first appointed by Mayor James Hahn in 2003 and reappointed in 2005 by Mayor Villaraigosa. He has brought invaluable experience and insight to the commission at a critical time in the history of the LAPD and the city.

Commissioner Skobin generously devotes his time and expertise to serve the public and police officers. Last year, he spearheaded the creation of the LAPD Purple Heart award, which is now awarded to the families of officers killed in the line of duty and to officers who sustain traumatic physical injury during an on-duty tactical situation. He was also the driving force behind the successful effort to acquire new ASTRO radios for officers.

Commissioner Skobin has also been a reserve deputy sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 30 years, reaching the rank of reserve chief. His experience includes patrol, the detectives unit and administration. He has also served on the LAPD's Valor Awards Evaluation Committee, and has received the coveted Distinguished Service Award from the Sheriff’s Department for his overall service. Prior to joining the Sheriff’s Department, he served as a reserve police officer with the San Fernando Police Department for eight years, attaining the rank of sergeant. He is also a graduate of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Federal Bureau of Investigation Citizen’s Academy.

Commissioner Skobin’s Department liaison and committee assignments include Use of Force, Anti-Terrorism, Transportation and Traffic, the Police Reserve Program, Valley Bureau and Operations. He previously served as a commissioner and vice president of the Los Angeles City Board of Transportation Commissioners. He is also vice president and general counsel of Galpin Motors, Inc.

The League looks forward to continuing its excellent working relationship with Vice President Skobin and we congratulate him on his election to this leadership role.

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State parole authorities scramble to locate wrongly released inmates

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/04/2010 @ 04:37 PM

When the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced in May of 2009 that the state would be relying on a computer program called the Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument (PVDMI) to decide which parole violators would be returned to prison, we objected – warning that the programs’ real purpose was not to increase public safety, but to cut costs by lowering the prison population. Many other groups familiar with the criminal justice system were opposed to the PVDMI program, too, because it removed the most important element in evaluating the danger of an individual: human judgment.

San Quentin State Prison in California

Sure enough, the PVDMI system has been used to avoid sending parole violators back to prison. The program has already been shown to have serious flaws in classifying inmates, incorrectly labeling hundreds of them as “non-serious” felons when in fact many of them have disturbing and violent criminal histories. A Sunday San Diego Union-Tribune article revealed that some of the early releases include Steven Frank Corral, arrested for felony spousal abuse; Isaac Villa, released from prison after raping a girl under 16; and Miguel Olea, who held a 17-year-old girl in his room against her will for days, raping her repeatedly.

The Department of Corrections achieved a public-safety double whammy when they started releasing inmates in January 2010. In addition to early release, the prisoners were placed on non-revocable parole – meaning they would neither be supervised nor returned to prison for a parole violation. Corrections spokesman Gordon Hinkle bizarrely announced that non-revocable parole was an incentive program for local law enforcement to capture and convict these inmates when they committed new crimes. We denounced both the releases and the modifications to the program.

As parole authorities now scramble to locate those mistakenly released inmates who are roaming our streets freely, we repeat our call to end both the early release program and the use of the flawed determination system. We have been fortunate that no innocent civilians or police officers have been killed by a wrongly released felon. We can only hope that we will continue to be so lucky until this program is discontinued.

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A lesson from Times Square

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/04/2010 @ 12:58 PM

Within hours of the car bomb incident in Times Square, LAPD held a news conference to assure the public that the Department is prepared to react in the event of a similar incident in Los Angeles. Capt. Horace Frank told reporters there was no reason to believe a bomb threat was imminent in L.A. and that there was nothing specific the LAPD is going to do beyond the normal state of continued vigilance. The LAPD, he explained, uses a "trifecta" approach to terrorist threats, which involves well-trained police officers, one of the country’s largest bomb detection units and community engagement.

(Photo: Reuters)

A big reason the incident in New York didn’t turn into a catastrophe was because police officers were nearby and able to respond quickly when a citizen reported smoke coming from inside an SUV. This incident serves as an important reminder of why we simply can’t afford to reduce the police presence on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

While L.A. officers are superbly trained, they can’t prevent a threat if there are inadequate ranks policing the city. As we have documented numerous times in the last year and a half, budget cuts have resulted in fewer police on duty.

Also, as our fellow LAPD officer “Jack Dunphy” pointed out in his blog about the incident, perhaps the LAPD needs to reconsider its decision to down-size its anti-terrorism unit – and reassign those officers to do what they were specially trained to do.

With so many possible terrorist targets in our city, it’s foolish and irresponsible to ignore the possibility of a Times Square incident. In addition to watchful residents, we need sufficient numbers of officers and specialists to prevent and react to threats. We again call on the city leadership to reject any more cuts to the public safety budget.

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Steve Cooley nominated for Golden Badge Foundation honor

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/30/2010 @ 02:01 PM

Today, an LA Times editorial endorsed District Attorney Steve Cooley for the Republican nomination for attorney general because they “have come to admire and respect him.” This is one of those refreshing days when the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Los Angeles Times agree – the LAPPL Board admires and respects him, too.

For this reason, the League Board of Directors has nominated Cooley for the Golden Badge Foundation’s Civic Leadership Award. This award is presented annually to city and county administrators who have consistently acted in the best interest of public safety and law enforcement.

The Board believes he is highly deserving of the award for his outstanding leadership of the nation's premiere local prosecution agency. During his first term, Cooley accomplished an extensive office reorganization, based on his years of experience as a trial attorney and as a line reserve police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. He has developed a team equally capable of fighting crime in the streets and in the corridors of justice, resulting in an unparalleled breadth and quality of prosecutorial efforts.

As the district attorney, he has been relentless in his pursuit of public corruption and lawbreakers within the justice system. He has not only jailed swaggering politicians whose malfeasance had gone unpunished for years, but also obtained prison sentences for crooked attorneys who were accustomed to a mere slap on the wrist or a referral to the state bar.

His emphasis on forensic sciences has helped assure the optimal use of DNA in solving criminal cases and the prosecution of cold cases. From prosecuting gang members to going after high-tech criminals, experts on Cooley's staff of prosecutors and investigators are working with front-line law enforcement to take on all challenges.

Cooley is one of four law enforcement professionals the Board has chosen to nominate for Golden Badge awards this year. LAPD Officers Orlando Diaz and Erick Hernandez were nominated for the Heroism Award and civic leader Arthur M. Kassel was nominated for the Humanitarian of the Year Award. An LAPPL press release about all the nominees was issued today.

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Keeping an eye on LAPD contracting

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/28/2010 @ 03:27 PM

As the City Council carefully examines the budget for the next fiscal year, now more than ever, the LAPD needs to watch where every dollar of its budget is going. We are watching, too. Especially when the City contracts with companies and consultants at the same time it is furloughing civilian personnel. One such action by the Board of Police Commissioners that caught our eye earlier this year was a $1.1 million contract extension awarded to Kennedy Court Reporters. The agreement covers court reporter services until October to transcribe audiotapes during criminal and administrative investigations, and record administrative disciplinary proceedings for sworn personnel, meetings of the Board of Police Commissioners and its subcommittees.

A Washington politician once remarked: “A million here, a million there. Pretty soon you are talking real money.” So it goes in Los Angeles these days. That’s why we’re watching any and all requests to buy services from outside the city. In the interest of being frugal with tax dollars and avoiding city worker furloughs, we think city personnel should be given the first opportunity to perform such work, rather than turning to expensive outside contractors.

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Rampart – the Movie

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/21/2010 @ 02:00 PM

It has been said that “a lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on.” If that’s the case, Hollywood is once again about to circle the globe with the LAPD’s reputation.

LAPD Rampart Division

We read today that there are plans to make a television movie about the “Rampart scandal.” A Daily Variety story accompanying the announcement assuredly notes that the scandal centers on the “widespread corruption” in Rampart Division in the 1990s, and that “more than 70 officers were implicated in misconduct.”

First off, we take issue with the broader characterization of a Rampart scandal, which should have been renamed long ago as the Rafael Pérez scandal. Because after all was said, written and investigated, the Rampart “scandal” resulted in four convictions – only two of which were for corruption. Also, as a result of Pérez’s lies, a federal court upheld a $15 million jury verdict for three Los Angeles police officers who were falsely arrested and prosecuted.

Now, after years of building trust and cooperation in the communities that need our officers’ protection the most, we are concerned that dramatic license will again be taken to twist the Rampart allegations into “proof” of widespread corruption in the LAPD – and that the actual facts in the Perez scandal will be glossed over in favor of what works creatively.

We note that the movie is to be based on a story by James Ellroy. If that is the case, we hope the movie will reflect Ellroy’s view of the scandal, of which he said in 2005: “…I've always characterized [the scandal] as a stick of dynamite with a wet fuse. Rampart is another of these misperceived criminal conspiracies. It's really the story of a handful of rogue, criminal cops who ratted out a wider number of untainted cops to save their own skins. And the entire event blew out of proportion into a media event that most people took to represent large-scale endemic corruption in the LAPD. In reality it wasn't that.”

We share Mr. Ellroy’s view that the Pérez case represented isolated officers whose wrongdoing was mischaracterized in an effort to taint every officer in the LAPD. We abhor corruption by police officers even more than those who claim the moral high ground (yet are willing to bend the facts to make profitable movies), because every officer ends up paying the price for those who fail to uphold their sworn oaths.

It is not fair to the innocent officers who were accused, and especially those still on the job protecting the public, to continue to misrepresent what happened at Rampart. While the substance of what Hollywood produces is fantasy, when movies based on widely reported incidents are inaccurate, we are compelled to continue to point out what really happened.

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A solemn Friday morning on both coasts
Share your remembrances of Chief Gates

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/19/2010 @ 02:58 PM

Former LAPD Chief Daryl F. Gates

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Early Friday morning, as LAPD and LAPPL officials and members were gathering at Arlington National Cemetery for the burial service for Marine Sgt. Maj. and LAPD SWAT leader Robert J. Cottle, the sad news came from Dana Point that Chief Daryl F. Gates had died.

In the thousands of words written and spoken about Chief Gates in recent days, one of the consistent themes has been his innovative approach to crime fighting and prevention. Chief Gates won national attention for instituting SWAT teams to handle crises, and those of us in Arlington on Friday morning could not help but reflect on the fact that the man who developed SWAT died on the same morning as one of the finest SWAT officers in the nation was being laid to rest.

Recently, we invited all members to share their memories and personal experiences of R.J. Today, we ask the same for Chief Gates. We want to honor the man who spent his entire four-decade career at the LAPD and was our second-longest serving chief (serving nearly as long as his mentor, Chief William H. Parker), from 1978 to 1992. Please leave a comment here on our blog. Or, if you have a longer story and/or photos to share, send them to info@lappl.org.

We shall never forget Chief Daryl Francis Gates.

04/20/2010 @ 05:00 PM - Attention: Due to a technical problem on our blog that has since been fixed, many of your tributes to Chief Gates were not transmitted to us (via our website) for us to post. We are extremely disappointed to have missed your responses and hope that you will take a few moments to resubmit your comments about this true icon of the Los Angeles Police Department. Thank you.

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