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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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Federal judge’s ruling vindicates actions of LAPD in officer-involved shooting

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 05/03/2013 @ 10:01 AM

Abdul Arian, 19, appears to be pointing a gun at Los Angeles police officers before they shot him to death on the 101 Freeway in Woodland Hills on April 11, 2012. Image from KCBS/KCAL video.

Abdul Arian, 19, appears to be pointing a gun at Los Angeles police officers before they shot him to death on the 101 Freeway in Woodland Hills on April 11, 2012. (Image from KCBS/KCAL video)

A ruling by a federal judge this week reminds us again of the crucial role the City Attorney’s Office has in the criminal justice system.

The tragic shooting of a 19-year-old Winnetka man unfolded on live television in April 2012 after LAPD officers tried to stop him for erratic driving on the 101 Freeway. Although it turned out Abdul Arian was not armed and carrying only a cell phone, the video shot by news crews showed him getting out of his car at the end of the pursuit and taking a shooting-type stance toward pursuing officers just before they opened fire. Moreover, during the late-night pursuit, Arian called 911 and told a dispatcher he was armed and prepared to shoot officers.

Despite the circumstances, the victim’s family filed a $120 million wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD. Thankfully, in response to a motion by the City Attorney, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner dismissed the lawsuit on Monday, April 30, ruling that there was “no triable issue of material fact” as to plaintiffs’ claims of wrongful death, excessive force, civil rights claims, negligence and battery. It was a welcome decision and vindication that the officers’ actions were completely justified.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said the case was a “tragic episode” for the Arian family and the LAPD. “That being the case, the residents of the city of Los Angeles should not have to pay for something the police were totally justified in doing” Trutanich told City News Service. “There was a perception of grave threats to the officers at the time.”

We are once again grateful to the Police Litigation Unit, specifically Assistant City Attorney Denise Mills, for their diligent work and presentation of a compelling case in defense of the officers, and to Judge Klausner for a decisive ruling upholding the right of LAPD officers to act in defense of the public and themselves.

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

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The failure of California’s prison realignment

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 04/16/2013 @ 03:22 PM

Another day, another prison realignment horror story.

Los Angeles Times' Paige St. John reported Thursday that the increase in fugitive sex offenders in California, since the state changed key prison policies, is more than double that was previously believed. Citing data released by corrections officials, St. John reported a 65 percent rise from October, 2011 to January 1, 2013 in warrants issued for paroled sex offenders who were tracked by GPS units and went missing.

As shocking as that statistic may be, no one should be surprised. As we have been lamenting for the past 1½ years, California’s controversial experiment in transferring supervision of prisoners from the state to local agencies is a clear and present danger to public safety.

Want more evidence? Ask Fontana Police Chief Rod Jones. He witnessed two cases in a one-week period of violent crimes committed in his community by hardened criminals who were transferred from state prison to county jail only to be set free because of insufficient bed space to house the inmates.

The Press-Enterprise reported Fontana police and a CHP officer responding to a report of a man beating a woman at a Fontana park-and-ride facility on April 7. The man, identified as David Mulder, was shot and later pronounced dead at a hospital, while the woman died of multiple stab wounds.

Mulder had recently been released from state prison as a Post Release Community Supervision offender, as a part of AB109, the Public Safety Realignment Act. He had prior convictions for narcotics-related charges and was released from prison in September, 2012. Mulder failed to comply with his PRCS terms and, on March 25, was sentenced to 30 days incarceration. He was released from jail eight days later on April 2 and placed on an electronic GPS monitoring system by the San Bernardino County Probation Department due to being homeless.

“This is yet another glowing example of the failure of California’s prison realignment,” Chief Jones said. “Dangerous prisoners that belong in state prison continue to be released early, time and time again, to return to our communities and endanger our families and friends. Had Mulder remained incarcerated, on either recent occasion, for his full sentence, this woman would still be alive and this entire incident would not have occurred.”

Just a week earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported that another felon released under the realignment program allegedly raped a woman in a Fontana motel room. Juan Francisco Aguilera had previous convictions for grand theft auto, drug possession, receiving stolen property and robbery.

You can learn more about realignment by visiting Keep California Safe, which provides factual information about the law and links to stories about failures of the law. This law was meant to ease overcrowding in California’s prisons, but is instead causing huge problems at jails on the local level.

Prison realignment was a deeply-flawed concept from the outset. It clearly isn’t working as intended and must be fixed. The only question is how many more citizens will be victims of violent crimes in the meantime.

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

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