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We never forget our mission

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/03/2013 @ 01:21 PM

The mission of the Los Angeles Police Protective League is to vigilantly protect, promote and improve the working conditions, legal rights, compensation and benefits of Los Angeles police officers. Because of that mission, we pay especially close attention to actions anywhere that threaten those benefits, including our members’ pensions.

It is no secret that what happens in one part of the state can quickly spread to Los Angeles. That is why we have watched with great interest the case of the Pacific Grove Police Officers Association et al. v. City of Pacific Grove – a case resulting from a voter initiative that tried to change the vested pension rights of police officers.

With long-established case law including several California Supreme Court cases on the officers’ side, we were pleased but not surprised to hear the initiative was invalidated. The judge in that case has issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the city from “taking any action to implement, enforce, or give any effect” to the initiative.

Judge Thomas W. Wills of the Monterey County Superior Court ruled that the initiative violated the contracts clause of the California Constitution by capping the city’s contribution toward police officers’ pensions.

“The employees were told that they were to receive retirement benefits under a CalPERS administered plan with an employee cost set at a fixed percentage of their salary,” Judge Wills ruled. “The fluctuating portion would be borne by the employer.” The city violated the constitutional prohibition on impairment of contracts by essentially flipping those roles, the judge ruled.

The judge reaffirmed case law, holding that an “officer has a right to earn a pension on the terms promised him or her upon employment,” with the right commencing when employment begins. That right, wrote the court, cannot be taken away “by Charter Amendment, ordinance, council resolution or voter initiative,” without something of equal or greater value than the pension benefit being given in exchange.

This ruling sends the message to politicians and misguided individuals that the California and U.S. Constitution protect promised pension benefits. Those people will not be deterred; we have already read of a proposed initiative seeking to rewrite the California Constitution to remove public pension protection from the contracts clause. They should heed the lesson of Pacific Grove; the hard-earned pension benefits of the men and women who protect and serve their communities are not to be tampered with, and efforts to do so will be hard fought.

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

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Cause for great concern: L.A. is safer but our officers are not

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/26/2013 @ 04:58 PM

LAPD SWAT teams search along Washington Boulevard in the Mid City area on June 25, 2013, for a suspect who shot at two detectives near the Wilshire LAPD station early that morning. Police closed 25 square blocks for hours during the search. (David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)

LAPD SWAT teams search along Washington Boulevard in the Mid City area on June 25, 2013, for a suspect who shot at two detectives near the Wilshire LAPD station early that morning. Police closed 25 square blocks for hours during the search. (David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)

L.A. crime rates may be going down but as the events of Tuesday revealed all too painfully, violent crimes against police officers are going up.

Four officers were shot at in two separate attacks on Los Angeles law enforcement, leading to a massive manhunt in one case and a SWAT response to a barricaded suspect in the other. Of the four, three were struck, including an officer who was shot in the face.

The terrible day began around 4:45 a.m. when two LAPD Wilshire detectives were ambushed as they entered the parking lot of the Wilshire Area. The officers escaped serious injury and returned fire. They were taken to the hospital, treated and soon joined their fellow officers in hunting for the attacker.

Later Tuesday night, in what seems to be an unrelated case, an LAPD officer assisting in a probation check near South Los Angeles was shot in the face. He was hospitalized in stable condition and underwent surgery. A probation officer suffered a minor graze wound to his leg and was treated at the scene.

We are outraged and worried that an increasing number of criminals in our city have no qualms about brutally attacking and killing officers. What has always been a dangerous job has gotten a lot more dangerous of late.

On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the U.S. every 57 hours, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Thankfully, the four officers shot on Tuesday are survivors of the violent, unprovoked attempts on their lives. They knowingly put their lives on the line when they went to work on Tuesday. L.A.’s streets and neighborhoods are safer today than they have been in decades, but our officers are not. Even as these recent attacks on officers have transpired, Governor Jerry Brown has been fighting an ill-advised Supreme Court order to reduce the inmate population in California by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of 2013. Should Gov. Brown’s attempts to avoid this court order continue to be struck down by federal judges, every law-abiding citizen should be very worried about what the prison reduction requirement could portend for public safety in our city and country.

The hunt for the suspects in Tuesday’s attack on law enforcement continues as we write this blog post. We are confident that they will be arrested and brought to justice. In the meantime, the words of Chief Beck following Tuesday morning’s attack bear repeating:

“Early this morning we were – once again – reminded of the brazen, indiscriminate acts of violence committed against police officers and how inherently dangerous our work continues to be… Please continue to be vigilant and look out for each other. Take nothing for granted. Our LAPD family remains strong. We are bound by our commitment to serve and protect the community, including our brothers and sisters in blue.”

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

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Gang injunctions keep working to make L.A. safer

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/19/2013 @ 02:12 PM

Approximate boundaries of area that would be covered by proposed gang injunction.

Approximate boundaries of area that would be covered by proposed gang injunction.

Councilmember and Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti deservedly presided at the reopening last Saturday of Echo Park Lake. The much-anticipated event followed a two-year, $45 million dredging and rebuilding of the iconic recreation area that includes new wetlands, boardwalk embankments and lotuses.

Now comes the hard part – keeping the area around the beautifully-restored lake safe for kids and families, and free from gang-related crime.

That is why we were pleased that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich wasted no time in proposing creation of a 3.8 square mile safety zone around the beautifully-restored lake. The gang injunctions that create the zone are designed to keep gang members from associating with each other in the area bounded by the L.A. River to the north, First Street to the south, the 110 freeway to the east, and North Coronado Street to the west.

The state’s Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, which allowed for the creation of gang injunctions defines a “criminal street gang” to include any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons having as one of its primary activities the commission of one or more of a list of specified criminal acts; having a common name or common identifying sign or symbol; and whose members individually or collectively engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity. The six rival gangs named in the latest injunction – the Big Top Locos, the Crazys, the Diamond Street Locos, Echo Park Locos, Frogtown Rifa and the Head Hunters – have been feuding for years, endangering public safety.

Los Angeles pioneered the use of gang injunctions in the 1980s as a powerful crime-fighting tool. Since then, they have spread across the country and beyond.

Los Angeles magazine noted in a recent blog post that there are some 44 permanent gang injunctions in Los Angeles placed on 72 gangs. Some of the injunctions prohibit known gang members from traveling in vehicles together, standing together, or even possessing cell phones (certain exceptions apply) inside of the judge-approved areas mapped out by the LAPD or city attorney.

An LAPD map posted online shows all the areas current approved for gang injunctions. The area surrounding Echo Park will be a welcome addition to the map.

The city of Los Angeles owes a debt of gratitude to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for his commitment to fighting gang crime through the effective use of gang injunctions. L.A.’s streets, neighborhoods, parks and lakes are safer because of gang injunctions and similar proactive measures initiated in the city attorney’s office. We look forward to working with City Attorney-elect Mike Feuer, who takes office July 1 in the City’s never-ending quest to rein in criminal gang activity.

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

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A landmark decision puts public safety first

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 06/05/2013 @ 11:06 AM

Monday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the police practice of taking DNA samples from people who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime is a major victory for law enforcement and public safety. In upholding a Maryland law, the High Court decided one of the most important criminal procedure cases it has taken up in decades.

In the 5-4 ruling that altered normal ideological alliances, the Court ruled that the practice amounts to the 21st century version of fingerprinting. The majority ruled that DNA sampling, after an arrest “for a serious offense” and when officers “bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,” does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler applauded the decision, saying it will help “unsolvable cold cases” and can help exonerate those wrongly accused.

Of the 50 states, nearly 30 states including California, as well as the federal government currently authorize the practice. The High Court’s decision on Monday may hasten the practice becoming standard procedure nationwide as a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes. Another benefit of Monday’s ruling is that it likely will bolster California’s defense of various court challenges of the existing program to collect DNA. And looking to the near future when instant DNA testing becomes practical, DNA swabbing can play a key role in identifying a person under arrest so a judge can make an informed decision about granting bail.

California voters wisely approved the collection of DNA from many criminal suspects in 2004. The League knows from experience that DNA collection from suspects has helped solve violent crimes and it has gotten violent serial offenders off the streets, saving untold lives of innocent people.

We commend Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. for their courageous decision. Our nation and our cities will be safer for it.

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

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Council approves two projects to stimulate the economy

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/20/2013 @ 01:59 PM

In recent weeks, the Los Angeles City Council has approved two critical projects that will help boost the economy in Southern California.

The first project, the modernization of LAX also has the added benefit of improving safety. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is in the midst of a multi-billion-dollar capital improvement program at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). We strongly support modernization at LAX, including certain key improvements to the airfield, the passenger terminals and ground transportation systems that will improve safety.

The LAPPL joined the Los Angeles Chamber and the City Council in supporting safety, good jobs and economic growth by supporting the Los Angeles International Airport modernization plan, which will provide key transportation and terminal improvements to give Los Angeles a safe and competitive world class airport for the 21st century.

Part of the security improvements will include the “In-Line Baggage Handling & Screening System” program, which will improve and automate the security screening of checked baggage at all LAX terminals and will make travel through LAX safer, faster and more convenient. Some of the traveler benefits include more timely and efficient baggage security screening, reduced passenger congestion in the airline ticketing lobbies by relocating the checked-baggage screening machines to non-public areas, resulting in enhanced overall safety, security and service at LAX.

As the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce pointed out, “a positive vote will give LAX the opportunity to compete with the rest of the world in airport safety, convenience and efficiency. It will create thousands of jobs, dramatically improve our image and significantly increase the quality of life for local residents who use LAX.”

The second crucial project that the Council approved came after nearly eight years of analysis. Under the leadership of Joe Buscaino, the Council approved BNSF Railway’s $500 million, privately funded Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) project. SCIG will be located within four miles of the ports, allowing trucks loaded with cargo to travel a much shorter distance before transferring the containers to rail, instead of traveling 24 miles up the 710 Freeway. SCIG will support the competitiveness and forecasted growth of both ports, which handle more than 40 percent of the nation’s container cargo and account for more than a million jobs in California.

The SCIG project will create approximately 1,500 construction jobs per year over three years of construction and 22,000 direct and indirect jobs in Southern California by 2036. Qualified local applicants will receive priority for new jobs and BNSF will offer a jobs training program to assist local residents in qualifying for those jobs. SCIG will be the greenest intermodal facility in the U.S. and will feature $100 million in green technologies, clean new trucks on designated routes and funding for zero emissions technology research.

The project will result in significant air quality and health risk improvements as compared to continuing the existing uses at the site. Most importantly, like the LAX modernization, the project will help the Southern California economy.

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

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Inventing the headline number

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/17/2013 @ 01:11 PM

The playbook is familiar now—gin up a study on public pensions and government debt to be released to media outlets with a headline-grabbing number shrieking doom for public finances. The latest exhibit is a propaganda piece tossed out to the media by the anti-public employees group California Public Policy Center (CPPC) purposely inflates pension debt.

An early entrant into the invention of “studies to grab headlines” was Joe Nation and a gaggle of graduate students at Stanford. They ginned up a “study” which purported to measure the unfunded liability of public pensions in California by lowering the assumed return rates of pension fund investments. Nation used this lower rate to recalculate current liabilities of pensions, which resulted in a wildly inflated number. As intended, he grabbed headlines in California and around the nation—with far less attention paid to the deliberate manipulation underlying the “study.”

The CPPC is a newer entrant to these propaganda efforts. Driven by hatred of public employees and public employee unions, and a belief that public employees and unions are the main cause of the “downfall” of California (and perhaps, the nation and mankind as we know it), this group endeavors to influence the media through “research” and “studies.”

These guys are not amateur propaganda peddlers. Although operating a website “UnionWatch,” whose self-described mission is to uncover the impact of public sector unions on government budgets and—yes—even the “democratic process”—they know friendly plants in the media won’t cite studies carrying the “UnionWatch” label. So, the more innocuous sounding CPPC is used as the label cover for their propaganda.

Their latest effort of April 26, 2013, claims the total of California public debt is over $1 trillion. It is a classic installment in the “make up the numbers until we get the headline number we want” game run by the anti-public employee folks. Why? Well, they acknowledge the official debt calculation is a far cry from their desired headline number of $1 trillion. So, they simply went ahead and invented numbers until they got the result they wanted. Lou Paulson, president of the California Professional Firefighters may have said it best in an editorial; math should trump politics in California pension debate.

What Paulson describes in his editorial is how they increased the fixed debt cost by including as “debt” estimates of unfunded pension costs. However, the reported debt of public pensions in California calculated with their official discount rates didn’t increase the total debt to CPPC’s desired trillion-dollar headline. So, to make the pension liability larger, CPPC simply decreased the fund’s discount rate by 40 percent to 5.5 percent. Their justification: a July 2012 Moody’s statement that considered using 5.5 percent to calculate pension debt. Of course, they simply ignored Moody’s statement of April 17, 2013, that they wouldn’t be using a fixed 5.5 percent rate.

While that 5.5 percent rate increased pension liabilities by $200 billion, it still fell short of CPPC’s desired headline of “a trillion dollars of debt.” So, more sleight of hand ensued. CPPC used Joe Nation’s fabricated discount rate of 4.5 percent to again increase pension liabilities by $1,110 billion. Having now increased pension liabilities from the official number of $138 billion to the invented number of $450 billion, the trillion dollar figure was within reach. Some made up recalculations of local debt was mixed in, retiree healthcare was added as debt—and at last the “trillion dollar” threshold was crossed! That headline number was dashed out to friendly media hacks, without a care that hundreds of billions of the “trillion dollar” debt figure was the product of outright fabrication and pure manipulation.

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

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Three ballot measures, three reasons to vote NO

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/10/2013 @ 03:21 PM

Photo: City of West Hollywood/Filckr/Creative Commons License

In addition to electing their mayor, city controller and city attorney for the next four years, Los Angeles voters will have the opportunity on May 21 to vote on three confusing and overlapping ballot measures seeking to regulate medical marijuana pot shops operating within LA city limits.

Among other things, the measures include efforts to cap the number of dispensaries, increase taxes on earnings, and standardize operation hours and distances from schools, childcare center and other sensitive locations. For help understanding the proposals, we recommend KCET’s Ballot Brief where you can find these cheat sheets for voters: Proposition D, Ordinance E and Ordinance F.

The LAPPL is in opposition to all three ballot measures for these compelling reasons:

  • Each will increase the proliferation of illegal pot shops across Los Angeles, resulting in increased blight and crime including takeover robberies and homicides.
  • Each will do nothing to overturn federal law that prohibits marijuana production, distribution and possession.
  • Each will protect the untold millions of illegal cash profits made by illegal pot shop owners at the expense of our neighborhoods and city.

Please support the law enforcement community by voting NO on Proposition D, Ordinance E and Ordinance F. Thank you for helping to keep your streets and neighborhoods safe!

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

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A dangerous public safety experiment

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/06/2013 @ 10:51 AM

Camarillo Springs fire

Camarillo Springs fire

In 2011, we said that when we preach public safety first, we mean just that. When someone dials 9-1-1, the caller is in urgent need of help from police, firefighters or paramedics, if not all three. The dispatcher who answers that call says something to the effect of “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?” Emergency is the key word here, and our city’s residents expect and deserve the fastest possible response of emergency personnel – especially when every minute counts.

We agree with the Los Angeles firefighters who have voiced huge concern over Fire Chief Brian Cummings’ experiment to prop up response time by adding 11 ambulances to the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) service by taking firefighters off of firetrucks. What the Chief is not telling the public is that with fire season just starting, as evident by the fire burning in Ventura County last week and wildfire in Glendale last Friday, his Band-Aid solution calls for taking 66 firefighters city wide off of fire trucks in an effort to add more ambulances. Moreover, this will negatively affect the fire department’s response with the appropriate personnel to the more common emergencies, like serious car accidents on our streets and freeways, many of which require LAFD to extract victims.

What the Chief is also not telling the public is that with this shuffle of fire personnel, he isn’t planning to add paramedic ambulances that provide advanced life support for the seriously injured, but only those with the ability to provide basic life support. Regardless, he’ll have more ambulances that will allow him to “stop the clock” and reduce response times. This is all just to counter to the media attention about this sensitive issue.

The transfer of firefighters is so dangerous that for the first time in the history the LAFD, the Chief Officers Association is joining United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (UFLAC), which represents the rank and file of the LAFD, in opposing this risky move. Chief Officers Association (COA) President Andy Fox called Cummings’ scheme “ill-conceived and unsafe.” During public testimony on the issue, Fox emphasized that firefighter professional standards say that light force companies need at least five people, with three of them being firefighters. Cummings is taking the number down to four, with two of them firefighters.

No one disagrees that the City needs more ambulances; however, as the COA/UFLAC Joint Position Paper on Removing Inside Firefighters makes clear, “public safety and firefighter safety in Los Angles has never been placed in a more compromising position than the one we find ourselves in now.”

City leaders need to speak up and stop this dangerous trial that puts the safety of the public and our firefighters in higher jeopardy, not to mention violates national standards for recommended staffing of fire companies in large metropolitan areas.

The men and women of LAPD and LAFD continue to pull together to protect our city despite continually diminishing resources, and we are watching to see how many of our elected leaders stand with us and put public safety first.

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

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