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Going Google raises serious concerns

By Paul M. Weber on 08/06/2009 @ 04:45 PM

If we needed another example of how slow and antiquated the City of Los Angeles’ computer system is, we got it shortly after Michael Jackson died. City leaders decided to reach out to the public for contributions for the public memorial service at Staples Center. Residents were directed to the city website to make their donations to help pay for city resources. It didn’t take long for the website to crash and it was down most of the day.

We know Los Angeles needs to modernize its information technology to properly manage the records of the nation’s second-largest city. The trick is figuring out what business model is best for providing the necessary computing capability while still protecting the large volume of sensitive information transmitted and stored by LAPD and other municipal agencies.

One of the options being considered is to replace the city’s e-mail and records retention system with a service provided by Google under a $7.25-million contract. According to a report submitted to councilmembers, responsibility for protecting the internal data and public records would be shifted from the city to Google.

The League is very concerned about records being housed on computer networks outside of the city. Our concerns are well-founded and understandable, given that government and corporate computer network breaches have become more prevalent over the past several years. Just recently, Twitter acknowledged that hackers were able to access confidential information stored with Google.

This is a complex technological issue that demands careful study and planning by the city. Before the city introduces an outside entity into the chain of custody, sufficient safeguards need to be in place to secure confidential information. We will be closely monitoring this issue for the security of both our members and the sensitive information they access on a daily basis.

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Massive prisoner release – our worst nightmare

By Scott Rate on 08/06/2009 @ 10:19 AM

A three-judge federal panel* announced a decision on Tuesday imposing a cap on the prison population that will force the state to release nearly 43,000 prisoners over the next two years.

The specter of 27,000 prisoners being released early for budget savings was bad enough, as we have been warning about for the past three months. The number 43,000 is simply staggering and wholly unacceptable.

This dangerous decision cannot go unchallenged. The LAPPL calls on Attorney General Jerry Brown to immediately appeal Tuesday’s ruling. The decision is an intrusion by federal courts into the affairs of the state that will lead to a major degradation of public safety while further eroding the state’s precarious economy.

*It is noteworthy that one of the judges who wrote this opinion was Stephen Reinhardt, the most reversed judge in the nation by the U.S. Supreme Court. He is frequently reversed 9-0, meaning that his rulings are far outside the bounds of reason and precedent. While we are not predicting a 9-0 reversal, we believe the Supreme Court will find Judge Reinhardt’s logic to be as poor in this case as in his numerous other reversed cases.

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Reflections on a tragic day in 2005

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/04/2009 @ 04:43 PM

On Monday, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu dismissed a lawsuit filed by the mother of a toddler accidentally killed during a 2005 SWAT standoff with the child’s father. While no one disputes that the situation was a horrible tragedy, the ruling was a clear and decisive legal victory for the LAPD, the SWAT team and the residents of Los Angeles. Judge Treu ruled that police officers have the discretion to use deadly force and that based on the evidence, a jury could reach only one conclusion: that the officers acted reasonably.

The SWAT officers who arrived on the scene in 2005 found a gun-toting madman using his daughter as a shield while indiscriminately spraying bullets in the neighborhood and at the officers who had already responded to the location. Faced with what many have characterized as an impossible situation, the officers used their training and expertise in an attempt to save not only the life of the child, but also the mother, the stepdaughter and countless citizens in the area. They should be commended for their courage and valor, and we should all be reminded that the person solely responsible for the tragedy of that day was the child’s father.

The LAPPL extends heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the Office of the City Attorney, specifically lead Deputy City Attorney Christian Bojorquez and the team from the Police Litigation Unit, along with the LAPD civil investigator, Officer Pete Whipple and the Civil Investigation Unit, for their diligence and dedication in defending the SWAT officers involved in this tragic case. By standing strong and refusing to settle the wrongful death lawsuit, the legal team has validated that officers did their absolute best in a volatile and desperate situation, and that the child’s death was a consequence of the incomprehensible and irrational actions of her father.

(In May of this year, officers at the scene that day were awarded the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor. Click here to read the story ).

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26th Annual National Night Out expected to be largest in L.A. ever; 47 community events planned

By Brian Johnson on 08/03/2009 @ 03:30 PM

The LAPD is going all out to support the 26th Annual National Night Out (NNO) program with the wholehearted support of the LAPPL.  A total of 47 community events are planned this Tuesday in neighborhoods across the city. Click here to download a listing of all the events from the LAPPL website.  Information on events in other cities can be found on the NNO national website.

National Night Out is part of a year-long community building campaign designed to:

     ·     Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness
     ·     Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs
     ·     Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships
     ·     Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back

Along with the traditional outside lights and front-porch vigils, L.A. is joining with cities and towns across the nation to observe National Night Out with a variety of special citywide and neighborhood events, such as block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, visits from local law enforcement, safety fairs and youth events.

NNO 2008 involved 37 million people in 15,449 communities from all 50 states. NNO 2009 is expected to be the largest ever in L.A. and across the nation.  Find an NNO event in your neighborhood and get involved in this worthwhile and effective police-community partnership. We’ll see you there!

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Another Tragedy of Parole

By Paul M. Weber on 08/01/2009 @ 12:01 PM

Below is a story from the July 30th edition of the Fresno Bee. The story highlights the latest failure of the Parole Violation Decision Making Instruments (PVDMI) currently being implemented by the Schwarzenegger’s Department of Corrections. The PVDMI system is being used to avoid sending parole violators back to prison in order to save money, instead of protecting public safety.

The LAPPL has said it many times, but it is worth repeating, the PVDMI system is seriously flawed. Sandra and Gary De Bartolo are the latest victims of our state’s cost saving ideas. We need to continue to ask the Governor why people like Leroy Anthony Johnson are out on the streets instead of behind bars.

See my highlights in the story below that illustrate the failure of the our state’s current cost savings efforts.

Fresno suspect freed before Kerman killings Johnson was released from parole hold at Fresno Co. Jail.

By Marc Benjamin and Pablo Lopez / The Fresno Bee

Suspects

FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
From left, Leroy Anthony Johnson, 42, Dawn Marie Singh, 34, and Jose Alfredo Reyes, 19, are suspects in the July 22 slayings of Gary and Sandra De Bartolo of Kerman.

Leroy Anthony Johnson was released from Fresno County Jail because, officials say, the amount of marijuana he was accused of possessing is not enough to trigger a return to prison under parole guidelines.

A Fresno man accused of killing a Kerman couple and seriously injuring a Southern California businessman in separate knife attacks was released from a parole hold at Fresno County Jail two weeks before the first attack, jail records show.

Leroy Anthony Johnson, 42, was arrested June 30 on a parole violation and released two days later, records show. Johnson is suspected of slashing the throats of Sandra and Gary De Bartolo of Kerman on July 22 and of stabbing Philip Neiman at a Fresno motel on July 16.

Fresno police had booked Johnson into jail on suspicion of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, records show, leaving the case for the state parole division for a follow-up investigation.

JOHN WALKER / THE FRESNO BEE
Jose Reyes appears in Superior Court on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Johnson's co-defendant, Jose Alfredo Reyes, 19, appeared in court Thursday, but his arraignment was delayed until Aug. 6 when Johnson and a third defendant, Dawn Marie Singh, 34, will enter pleas. They have been booked on suspicion of murdering the De Bartolos. Reyes, wearing shackles and a red jail jumpsuit, said in Fresno County Superior Court that he agreed to the arraignment delay. He then returned to jail, where he is being held on more than $1 million bail.

County records show Reyes, previously arrested on a vehicle-theft charge, was released from Fresno County Jail on July 20 because of jail crowding.

The three suspects could face the death penalty or life in prison, if convicted, because prosecutors allege the killings occurred during a robbery and burglary.

After Thursday's hearing, attorney Michael Idiart, who represents Reyes, said his client was innocent of murder because Johnson killed the couple. Once Johnson killed the first victim, Reyes ran out the back door, Idiart said.

According to court records, Johnson and Reyes had gone to the De Bartolo home to obtain 20 pounds of marijuana. Authorities found a marijuana-growing operation with high-powered bulbs and a ventilation system in the home, according to a search warrant. Because no pipes or other drug paraphernalia was found, law enforcement officials determined that marijuana was being grown for sale and was not being used by the De Bartolos.

Johnson was released from jail this month, said Larry Robinson, a state parole supervisor in Fresno, because the amount of marijuana he was accused of possessing typically is not enough to trigger a return to prison under state parole guidelines.

THE FRESNO BEE
Sandra and Gary De Bartolo were found slain in their Kerman home on July 22.

Had Johnson been carrying a weapon when arrested, he would have gone back to prison, Robinson said.

The local parole division sent Johnson's case to the Board of Parole Hearings, which recommended that he complete a drug education class. That decision was forwarded to the local parole office on July 16, the same day police say Johnson slashed Neiman at a Motel 6 on Blackstone Avenue.

Neiman's wife, Joan, said her husband has been advised by legal counsel not to comment about the case. She said her husband is recovering from injuries to his face, neck and chest. Johnson was convicted in 1998 of assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 13 years. Court records said he stabbed another man with a metal rod in an attempted robbery on Aug. 1, 1997.

He had two robbery convictions in 1985 and, under the three-strikes law, could have been sent to prison for 25 years to life, a recommendation that was made by the Fresno County Probation Department. But a judge dismissed the two earlier strikes because of Johnson's youth in 1985 and because the 1998 conviction came 13 years later, court records said. Johnson was released from prison in December and placed on parole, Robinson said

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A loophole in a new law

By Scott Rate on 07/29/2009 @ 03:22 PM

REUTERS/Jeff Topping Muslims and members of Interfaith Groups gather for a congregational prayer service and rally in a park opposite US Airways headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., on Dec. 1, 2006, following the removal of six imams from a flight at MSP.

In 2007, Congress passed a law to retroactively give individuals more protection from being prosecuted for reporting suspicious activities that could lead to acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, the law did not give law enforcement officers as individuals the same immunity from being sued, a judge ruled on Friday.

Here’s the background: The law was passed in part to scuttle a lawsuit by six Muslim imams detained at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. They had sued US Airways, an FBI agent and Metropolitan Airport Commission police for discrimination after authorities removed them from a flight in 2006. They had been praying shortly before boarding a flight to Phoenix. Once they were in their seats, a passenger sent a handwritten note to the pilot that there were "six suspicious Arabic men on plane, spaced out in their seats. All were together, saying ‘. . . Allah . . . Allah,’ cursing U.S. involvement w/ Saddam before flight – one in front exit row, another in first row 1st class, another in 8D, another in 22D, two in 25 E&F."

US Airways refused to allow them to fly. Court documents say airport police and FBI agents detained, handcuffed and pat-searched the imams, confiscated their bags, and transported them by police car in plain view of the flight's passengers. The clerics were later released when officials determined they posed no threat.

In a pretrial motion, lawyers for an FBI agent and airport police argued that the new law that gave private citizens more immunity for reporting suspicious actions at airports should also cover law enforcement officers. However, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ruled that there was no indication that Congress intended to do that.

While the FBI and airport police in Minneapolis consider appealing the decision, in the interest of flight safety, Congress may want to clarify the law legislation to specifically give law enforcement officers immunity in such cases.

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The tragedy of Lily Burk

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 07/27/2009 @ 03:07 PM

This is an unfortunate and horribly tragic example of why the LAPPL has vehemently opposed the early release of prisoners and minimizing the seriousness of parole violations as a means of reducing the state budget deficit. We are more passionate than ever about this issue because of the tragedy of Lily Burk.

We commend police officers for moving quickly to make a crucial arrest in connection with the tragic slaying of 17-year-old Lily Burk. At the same time, we lament the fact that the individual in custody had been arrested April 23rd on a parole violation. He had been released from state prison in February, where he was serving time after an arrest for petty theft with a prior conviction. Instead of going back to prison, he remained free. This is precisely the type of “low level” parolee the state no longer wants to take responsibility for.

It is painful to have to cite this tragedy as a probable case of releasing someone who needed to be in prison and not on the streets of Los Angeles. There are real life-and-death consequences to allowing criminals who violate parole to remain free. Since we first learned that early releases were being contemplated as a means to close the budget deficit, we have warned California officials that they are toying with public safety, with the long-term costs and risks to the community far outweighing any savings to the Department of Corrections budget.

Our hope is that we won’t have others suffer because of early releases, but that isn’t likely. Law enforcement will continue the fight to keep other families from having to suffer as Lily’s is; even if politicians work against us for the sake of saving money. Quite frankly, there is no price tag on a human life.

For more on the arrest, click the link below to read the Los Angeles Times story:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/07/suspect-in-lily-burks-slaying-has-history-of-violent-crimes-drug-abuse.html

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Nothing “stupid” about it

By Kristi Sandoval on 07/27/2009 @ 03:00 PM

When Sgt. Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department responded to the broadcast of a “possible break-in in progress,” I’m sure he was simply trying to do his job – protect and serve his community, as all of us in law enforcement sign up to do. Assigned to an administrative position, he could have ignored the radio call and left it for patrol officers to handle, but he didn’t – because he’s obviously a man of integrity and a law enforcement officer who takes his job seriously.

It’s a shame that by trying to investigate a person he CLEARLY had reasonable suspicion to believe was a possible suspect, Sgt. Crowley has been thrown into a national controversy by the homeowner’s ranting that Crowley is a racist. Had Crowley not taken the call and there had been an actual break-in, he would have been criticized for not doing his job; instead he has been publicly raked over the coals, called a racist and denounced by the President of the United States as acting “stupidly” for arresting the belligerent homeowner for disorderly conduct (who if you read the report, clearly created the situation). To read a copy of the police report, click here http://www.scribd.com/doc/17512830/Gates-Police-Report.

Gates arrest

While President Obama has since tried to dampen the uproar by saying he should have “calibrated those words differently,” this situation underscores how easy it is to create a controversy by rushing to judgment before knowing all the facts.

The facts in this case are simple and have nothing to do with race: Sgt. Crowley had a legal obligation to investigate the reported crime. Mr. Gates had a legal obligation to cooperate.

It’s fortunate that no violence has resulted from this controversy and we hope that public officials take this as a lesson to not make comments that can stoke racial tensions unnecessarily.

Regardless of the comments of others, there is nothing “stupid” about public safety or those who risk their lives to protect it.

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