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Hope on the horizon for body armor law

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/18/2010 @ 12:57 PM

body armor

We are greatly encouraged that the California Supreme Court has agreed to review the Second District Court of Appeals’ outrageous decision to overturn the 10-year-old law barring those convicted of certain violent felonies from possessing body armor. As we said at the time, the decision of the appellate court put police officers at greater risk and the law needs to be reinstated.

Attorney General Jerry Brown agreed and convinced the Supreme Court to review the decision. We will be petitioning the Court for permission to file a “friend of the court” brief supporting a reversal of the decision by the Court of Appeals. Swift corrective action by the high court would restore the protection that law enforcement needs and deserves.

The case arose when LAPD officers stopped Ethan Saleem in 2007 while he was out on parole after serving time for voluntary manslaughter. Saleem was wearing a 10-pound, military-style vest labeled "Body armor, fragmentation protection," which he was not allowed to possess because of his violent felony conviction.

The state law was passed following two famous incidents: the 1994 killing of San Francisco Police Officer James Guelff, murdered by a robber wearing body armor; and the notorious North Hollywood shootout that saw 11 LAPD officers and six civilians wounded during a prolonged exchange of gunfire with two bank robbers clad head to toe in assembled body armor.

We urge the California Supreme Court to move quickly to throw out the appellate court’s decision.

On a related track, we are closely following legislation seeking to reinstate the state law and provide a crystal-clear definition of body armor. With the support of L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley and California Sen. Alex Padilla, that measure has been approved by the state Senate and is pending in the Assembly. We urge the Legislature to quickly complete action on this bill and the Governor to sign it into law.

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Fighting for your pensions

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/15/2010 @ 05:33 PM

Over the last few days, a number of politicians have proposed the elimination of defined benefit pensions for new government employees and have forced them into 401K-style retirement plans. In addition, these politicians have proposed increasing all current public employee contributions by 10%, raising the retirement age to 65 and doubling the vesting period from five to 10 years. These comments have been made in general context, but as far as we know, there is nothing stated that will exempt police and fire from the proposed changes.

The real crisis in this country is not the defined benefit plan (pensions) that most public sector employees contribute to, but reliance on these defined contribution plans for retirement that most private sector companies have set up for their employees. Defined contribution plans (401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, employee stock ownership plans, and profit-sharing plans) are destined to leave most Americans either retiring into poverty, or working until they die.

Defined benefit plans for LAPD officers have been around since June 7, 1899, and have proven to work. The Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension system, since the economic downturn, is currently 96.2% funded. Members contribute up to 9% of their bi-weekly pay, which adds up to $120,287,911 for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Even with this sizable amount, the majority of the money needed to fund the pension systems comes from investments not contributions by the City or police officers.

The real crisis is the jerry-rigged defined contribution system, which sprung up from a tax loophole in the 1980s. As private companies abandoned their defined benefit plans, they pushed employees into defined contribution plans. Their employees were now forced to take both the risk of investment, along with longevity risks---the chance that they would outlive their assets.

The most sobering news came this week from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which is the leading organization that surveys Americans and their preparations for retirement. A staggering 54% of Americans have less than $25,000 saved for retirement. Less than half of all Americans are aware of how much money they will need to save for retirement. As the era of defined contribution plans has grown, Americans are realizing that they cannot afford to retire. Defined contribution plans work great for millionaires, or maybe even for those with high salaries. However, the past century has proven the efficacy of defined benefit plans, with tens of millions of Americans comfortably retiring under these pension plans. As defined contribution plans stagger into their third decade of existence, evidence points to the failure of providing Americans with any semblance of a secured or dignified retirement.

If one believes that Americans should retire in poverty, then they will also agree with elected officials who believe that the era of defined benefit plans is over.

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Another career criminal caught with body armor

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/10/2010 @ 11:15 AM

In December, a California appellate court ruled that the 10-year-old law banning possession of body armor by anyone with a violent felony conviction was unconstitutional because the “average person” wouldn't be able to tell which types of bulletproof vests were prohibited. Scarcely two weeks after the court struck down body armor ban, the real world provided yet another example of the absolute necessity of the law.

Maybe Ezra Hooker Sr., a felon with a lengthy criminal record (19 arrests and four convictions), had heard of the decision before he led LAPD officers on a high-speed chase on several freeways on January 4, 2010. After all, during the chase he threw a sawed-off rifle out the window of his car, which he doubtlessly was aware he was prohibited from possessing. He was likely fleeing police because he was also aware that (allegedly) pointing said rifle in a woman’s face was a violation of the law. But with the highly publicized court ruling weeks earlier, Hooker didn’t need to worry about discarding his body armor since possessing it wouldn’t add to his rapidly mounting legal woes.

As we – and the dissenting judge – pointed out in our sharp criticism of the court ruling, the original law did not leave violent felons in a state of confusion about what constituted body armor.

Felons with a history of violence who are allowed to wear body armor and are possessing weapons are a lethal threat to public safety. Case in point – Ezra Hooker. Fortunately for the responding officers, Hooker discarded his weapon during the chase and was unable to put up any resistance after crashing his car into a wall. However, had things gone a little differently, officers would have been facing a violent armed felon who, by wearing body armor, would have escalated his lethality in a potential shootout.

This latest case further underscores the message that we have been hammering home the past few months – that felon parolees released early from prison pose an avoidable danger to our communities. Hooker wasn't wearing body armor because he was going to visit his mother or look for a job. He was armed and wearing body armor because he was again engaged in his chosen profession of criminal activity.

While it is troubling enough that a person with as many felony convictions as Hooker was free to drive around our streets, we see a bigger problem taking shape. Combine the invalidation of laws tailored to lessen the danger that felons can pose once they are released with the budget cuts, court orders and legislation giving felons additional “good time” credit, and we are going to see thousands of Ezra Hookers on the streets.

The California Senate has already passed SB 408, Senator Alex Padilla’s urgent legislation reinstating the ban on the possession of body armor by violent felons. It is now in the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. We urge the Governor and Assembly to pass and sign Senator Padilla’s bill as quickly as possible. Ezra Hooker is only the latest exhibit of the need for such a law.

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A college newspaper gets it, why can’t the city’s leaders?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/26/2010 @ 03:12 PM

The city budget crisis is commanding a lot of attention in the media, as well it should. Countless news stories, commentaries and editorials have been written and broadcast locally and even nationally. One of the best-framed commentaries we’ve read on the issue appeared recently in – of all places – the Daily 49er newspaper of California State University, Long Beach.

Noting that Villaraigosa wants to keep hiring police officers even as he proposes to cut the pay of the existing city workforce, the newspaper said: “In other words, those already working for the LAPD will be punished and others would be brought in to share in the burden. Apparently, he just wants to reach his 10,000-officer quota. Doesn’t it make more sense to stop hiring? The LAPD has already carried out several cutbacks such as relinquishing overtime pay and pay for unused sick days.”

The Daily 49er nailed it and we thank them for it.

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LAPPL opposes parole for killer of LAPD Officer Daniel Pratt

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/18/2010 @ 03:40 PM

Officer Daniel Pratt
EOW: September 3, 1988

On the night of Sept. 3, 1988, Officer Daniel Pratt and his partner, Officer Veronica Delao Jenkins, were on an undercover stakeout at the Pine Liquor Store in South Los Angeles, when they heard what they thought were two shotgun blasts. They then heard rapid gunfire. Seconds later, they saw the headlights of the car that just minutes before had been involved in a gang-related drive-by shooting, leaving three people wounded. Pratt and his partner radioed their observations to communications and began their observation of the suspect’s vehicle.

A short chase ensued with Pratt and Jenkins taking cover at a gas station and adjacent car wash at Florence Ave. and Crenshaw Blvd. As Officer Pratt called for backup, the suspects’ car made an abrupt U-turn, and headed toward the two officers. As gunfire erupted from one suspect’s AR-15 assault weapon and bullets began to strike the police car, Pratt returned fire. As he fired the last round from his 9-mm service pistol, he took a fatal round, dying instantly.

The LAPPL has sent a letter to the Parole Board pleading that the driver of the car, Raylene Brooks, who was convicted of first-degree murder of a peace officer, be denied parole.

As we have said all too often in recent months, it is crucial to the security of the state of California, and to the safety of the men and women who enforce its laws, that the murderers of police officers must forfeit their freedom for life when they kill a law enforcement officer. Join us in asking that Brooks’ parole be denied and in saying a prayer for the Pratt family, whose pain will never go away.

Please submit a personal letter to the Parole Board as soon as possible, indicating that you oppose the parole of inmate Raylene Brooks - CDC W40103, and mail to the following address:

Parole Board Central Calif. Women's Facility
Classification and Parole Rep. life/desk
23370 Road 22
Chowchilla, CA 93610

We will never forget.

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Sheriff’s Department doing state’s job

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/11/2010 @ 04:55 PM

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced plans to use deputies to track parolees released from state prisons.

While we thank Sheriff Lee Baca, we agree with Supervisor Michael Antonovich who said that Los Angeles County will be “taking our law enforcement personnel, who should be out fighting gangs ... to do the state's mothering of these parolees.”

The County estimates that about 7,700 parolees are living in Los Angeles County and will be put on "non-revocable parole'' under a prison reform law that took effect in January. Sheriff Baca has said that 6,500 of those released will end up in LA County, since they are released to the jurisdiction where they committed their last crime.

California’s early release program in practice: Kevin Peterson was arrested for attempted rape less than 24 hours after release from Sacramento County Main Jail. Peterson said he was surprised he was released from jail ahead of schedule, but said, "it wasn't a bad deal."

The new law allowing for early releases has changed state law in some significant ways:

  • Felons in state prisons will have their confinement cut in half. For every six months a criminal serves in confinement, that criminal will receive an additional six months of early release credit.
  • Criminals in local jails will also have their sentences reduced. County jail inmates will now receive two days of credit for every four days served. As for state inmates, it provides one-day credit for one day served for inmates who are in reception centers (newly admitted), or on wait lists for programs or prison jobs which provide day-for- day credit.
  • For state prisoners, CDCR has begun determining which prisoners to release without parole supervision, also known as non-revocable parole.
  • Rehabilitation programs in state prisons are being gutted and 600 to 800 vocational and educational prison instructors will be given pink slips.

As a tidal wave of prisoners are released back into our community without rehabilitation services or parole supervision, we remain concerned that communities throughout California are less safe today because of this irresponsible early-release program.

We are heartened by Sacramento County Judge Loren McMaster’s order on Wednesday for a temporary halt in that county's early releases, but are concerned about the number of released state inmates who are still expected to be heading to LA County under this program.

A US DOJ study shows that 73.3% of parolees incarcerated for property crimes are rearrested within three years of their release---in fact, per the study, they have a higher re-offense rate than those in for “violent” crimes.

A tidal wave of prisoners is being released back into our community without rehabilitation services or parole supervision. Under the new law, the Department of Corrections is washing their hands of these inmates. With no parole conditions and non-revocability, these inmates will not be put back into prison until they are arrested, tried and convicted of a new crime.

The timing could not be worse for our local officials to consider police layoffs as a means of solving the city budget crisis. Local governments must maintain public safety resources to prevent worsening the effects of the recession and to put our city on the road to economic recovery.

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Congratulations, new Long Beach Chief of Police Jim McDonnell

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/08/2010 @ 12:21 PM

macdonnell

Long Beach officials made an excellent decision when they chose Jim McDonnell as their city’s 25th Chief of Police. This is tremendous recognition of Chief McDonnell’s 28 years of dedicated service and accomplishments at LAPD, and we think it also says something about how the LAPD is viewed as the gold standard for professionalism in the greater law enforcement community these days.

Chief McDonnell’s well-deserved reputation for respectful policing and effective outreach to diverse communities made him the right choice for Long Beach. We look for great things to happen there under his leadership. While we hate for him to leave our Department, we understand this is a great career opportunity for him and also foresee increased cooperation between our two departments.

On behalf of the entire membership of the LAPPL, thanks, Chief McDonnell, for your support and friendship over many years, and our best wishes for your continued success.

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Thank you, Deputy District Attorney Deann McCarthy!

By Kristi Sandoval on 02/05/2010 @ 10:35 AM

Last week, all of us in the law enforcement profession cheered when it was revealed in court that a videotape, presented as evidence by a gang member through his attorney, was fabricated to smear the good names of two honest police officers. The bogus tape aired on Fox-11 in November 2009.

The officers – assigned to the gang unit at Hollenbeck Division – had stopped the car because it lacked a rear license plate. A subsequent consent search of the vehicle turned up a handgun, which suspect Rafat “Danny” Abdallah, a previously convicted felon, was forbidden to possess.

When the tape was introduced as evidence to contradict the police report and the basis for probable cause, Deputy District Attorney Deann McCarthy had little time to examine it, but she knew something didn’t look right. As a former LAPD officer (and wife of LAPD Officer James McCarthy), her cop instincts kicked in. It was after-business hours, but she was determined to find someone who would help her prove that the video had been altered before court the next day. She was diligent – making calls all over the city, trying to find someone who would listen. She was finally able to make contact with SID video analyst Jim Hoerricks at home, who agreed to examine the video before court the next day. They met early the next morning and Jim went to work. After his forensic examination of the defense videos, the expert concluded that only one of the three relevant video segments was genuine – the one which did not display a view of the rear plate of the defendant’s vehicle. The other two segments were re-creations.

Long story short: two of the video segments had been staged to add a rear license plate to a Mercedes that didn’t have one. This was all an attempt to discredit the two involved LAPD officers and get the case against Abdallah dismissed.

When confronted with Hoerricks’ testimony, Abdallah's attorney, James Epstein, got the case continued to allow him time to get his own expert. At his next appearance, Epstein admitted in court that all except the one uncontested video segments were fabricated. Of course Epstein wanted to withdraw the bogus videos as exhibits, but at the insistence of DDA McCarthy, the altered video was admitted into evidence and the motion to suppress the gun was denied. The case is still pending, set for jury trial on April 13, 2010, and the right person will be on trial!

On behalf of all Los Angeles police officers and, indeed, the entire law enforcement profession, thank you to Deann McCarthy for her tenacity and commitment to justice that cleared the Hollenbeck officers. Also, our thanks to Jim Hoerricks for his outstanding efforts and professional expertise.

Deann went the extra mile to ensure that a defendant was not able to dupe the criminal justice system by smearing the names of two good cops. We sincerely appreciate all she and her colleagues do on a daily basis to make the Los Angeles judicial system work.

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