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Growing use of bath salts prompts warning

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/19/2012 @ 01:59 PM

Image: WCBS 880

(Image: WCBS 880)

Bath salts were a “trending topic” in social media this week. Contributing to the cyberspace chatter was news of a recording released by the LAPPL. Deutsche Bank executive Brian C. Mulligan was caught on tape telling a Glendale police officer he snorted white lightning, a type of bath salts, and that he believed a helicopter had been trailing him. The dramatic revelation undercut the banker’s $50-million brutality claim against two LAPD officers.

To be clear, the illicit “bath salts” we are talking about are not the cosmetic products sold in bath, beauty or drug stores for use in bath water. Those products are safe to use as directed, according to the authoritative website drugfree.org.

We are alerting you to the growing use of synthetic bath salts drug being pushed as white lighting, white rush and Hurricane Charlie. It causes severe and potentially fatal side effects. Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of L.A. County’s Department of Public Health, said in a warning issued this week: “Bath salts are particularly dangerous in that not much is known about what goes into the drug and even less is known about what people are capable of while on this drug.”

Dr. Fielding warned of harmful risks to users and an increased potential for others (read: LAPD officers) to be harmed if someone near them is high on the drug. The drug can cause kidney and liver failure, seizures, increased suicide risk and even death, according to Fielding. Other side effects include sweating, chest pain, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, violent behavior and mental illness. Symptoms of abuse can include lack of appetite, decreased need for sleep, self-mutilation and severe paranoia.

Officials nationwide are alarmed by the dramatic increase in use of bath salts. According to an L.A. Times story, U.S. poison control centers report that calls related to bath salts increased dramatically from zero in 2009 to 6,138 last year. In response, President Obama signed a federal ban on the drug’s three active ingredients, and halted smoke shops and gas stations from selling bath salts.

As with so many illicit drugs, it’s difficult to shut down the supply where there is growing demand. We submit Brian Mulligan as a testament to that reality. In the process he has unwittingly become the poster boy for just how dangerous this drug can be.

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

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Criminal cases that go unnoticed

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/09/2012 @ 04:50 PM

Valerie Allen

Valerie Allen. (ABC7)

On the heels of a $3.2 million judgment against LAPD for tasing and shooting Valerie Allen, a bipolar woman who attacked officers with a sharpened construction stake, the media did not report on a similar case where the Crimes against Peace Officers Section of the DA’s office successfully obtained a guilty verdict.

Officers are called upon to assist with mental illness daily; the vast majority of which are resolved without incident. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and sometimes split second decisions must be made.

In 2009, two LAPD officers, a training officer and a probationary police officer only a short time out of the academy, could have been killed. The officers were called to a house to by the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to assist with a psychiatric hold.

When the officers arrived, the defendant, who was quite agitated and repeatedly threatened to attack the officers if they did not leave, confronted them. Since the DMH had placed the defendant on a hold for danger to self and others, the officers could not simply leave, but called for additional officers. With DMH workers witnessing the events, the officers repeatedly attempted to calm the situation and assist DMH with their hold. Before additional officers could arrive, the defendant aggressively advanced toward the officers, and the probationer fired the Taser at the defendant. The defendant pulled the Taser wires from the prongs in his chest and threw them back at the officers, threatening to “bash the officer’s face in.” The defendant then fled to a bedroom where his mother had taken refuge.

Fearing that harm could come to the defendant’s mom, the officers gave chase. Once in the room the defendant attacked the officers, striking both of them. During the fight, he began to choke one of the officers, and the partner attempted to use a carotid restraint to subdue the defendant. As the carotid restrain was applied, the young officer was able to partially pull the larger and stronger defendant from his partner, but the defendant reached back and pulled the officer’s weapon from his holster.

The probationary officer deflected the gun, which was now pointed in the direction of his partner when the defendant fired the pistol. The probationary officer regained his pistol, cleared a malfunction and then shot the defendant twice. The officer who was choked also was able to have enough room to shoot the defendant. The defendant was rushed to the hospital by paramedics and treated for three gunshot wounds.

On October 5, 2012, a jury convicted Dwayne West of multiple crimes, including assault with a semi-automatic firearm on a police officer, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury on a police officer, resisting an officer by force and resisting an officer and removing the officer’s firearm. Despite having mental illness, the jury rejected claims that the mental illness justified the defendant’s criminal conduct. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict as to one count of attempted murder of a police officer, and hung 11 to 1, the majority in favor of guilt.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Frank Tavelman from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office’s Crimes Against Peace Officers Section (CAPOS). CAPOS is a special unit within the DA’s office that is responsible for prosecuting the murder, attempted murder, and serious violent assaults against police officers. The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19, 2012. The DA still has to determine if they will seek a new trial on the attempted murder count.

We are not surprised that the media did not cover this story but rather focused on sensational cases like Valerie Allen’s. In the Allen case, we applaud Chief Beck for telling reporters, “She attacked them (the LAPD officers) with a sharpened construction stake. I don’t expect my officers to be hurt or killed by someone before they act. I stand by the actions of our officers completely.”

We are sure that this is not the last we will hear of this case. The defense attorney for Mr. West, Leo Terrell, also represents this newly convicted felon in a civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD related to the same incident.

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

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Proposition 34 paradox

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 10/01/2012 @ 10:15 AM

What’s one thing that law enforcement and at least some of California’s 725 death row inmates agree on? The answer is we both oppose Prop. 34 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Really – read on.

Prop. 34 would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without possibility of parole. The LAPPL has joined with the greater law enforcement community in strenuously opposing the proposition.

Now an attorney who has represented a number of death row inmates explains in a San Francisco Chronicle story how convoluted legal procedures surrounding capital punishment in California have caused most of the death row inmates to oppose Prop. 34 as well.

A recent survey by the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley found that 42 percent of likely voters would repeal the death penalty while 45 percent would retain death as a punishment. Thirteen percent of likely voters are still undecided, giving interest groups on both sides of the measure incentive to press their cases through Election Day.

If Prop. 34 were to pass – and it is our fervent desire that it not – current death row inmates would have their sentences reduced to life. In the process, they would lose access to state-funded lawyers for habeas corpus. Habeas corpus allows inmates to challenge their convictions or sentence for reasons outside the trial record – typically, incompetent legal representation, misconduct by a judge or juror, or newly discovered evidence.

Therein lies the reason some death row inmates are urging would vote against Prop. 34 – had they not lost the right to vote when they were convicted.

The proponents of Prop. 34 omit the reasons for the high costs of capital punishment in California. The costs are not inherent to the penalty, but rather, the result of deliberate and improper delaying by penalty opponents.

Since passage of Proposition 8 which allowed for the death penalty, the California Supreme Court has been governed by the U.S. Constitution in deciding death penalty cases. The 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, which reviews death penalty cases, are governed by the same body of law. Other federal circuit courts such as Texas and Virginia have no trouble expeditiously deciding death penalty appeals using the exact same law that applies to death penalty cases in California. If the death penalty system is broken, it is because federal judges, defense attorneys and legislators opposed to the death penalty do everything in their power to hinder and obstruct implementation of the penalty in California. Their maneuvers have included failing to provide funding for appellate attorneys and delaying the filing of legal briefs to avoid approving a death penalty verdict.

Families who have lost loved ones to murderers, along with the public at large, deserve honest arguments from California’s capital punishment opponents. Citing deliberately inflated costs to pass Prop. 34 isn’t one of them.

Prop. 34 is another one of those ballot measures that could go either way on Nov. 6. That is why everyone who supports “No on 34” must be sure to vote. We again urge you to exercise your right to vote – and encourage your family members and friends to join you in helping to defeat Prop. 34.

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

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Help Stop The Parole Of Three Unremorseful Cop Killers

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/21/2012 @ 08:15 AM

EDWARD BYRNE Rookie slain in 1988.

We know you are busy, but what we are asking will only take a few minutes and can make a huge difference in keeping three cop killers in prison.

Here’s the background: In 1988, New York City Police Officer Edward Byrne, newly assigned to the 103rd Precinct, was sitting in a patrol car guarding the house of a family who had defied a major drug dealer and agreed to testify against him. At approximately 3:30 a.m., four armed men (Philip Copeland, Scott Cobb, Todd Scott and David McClary) crept up on both sides of the rookie officer’s vehicle. One of the suspects knocked on the passenger window to distract Byrne as the second suspect ran up to the driver’s side window. Without uttering a word, he opened fire into the car and executed Officer Byrne by shooting him five times in the head. Officer Byrne was rushed to Mary Immaculate Hospital where he died of his wounds, just a few days after his 22nd birthday.

Three of the four convicted cop killers are up for parole in November 2012. We’re asking you to send letters to the Parole Board(s) in opposition of their parole.

The World Wide Web makes it easy to make a difference. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Visit the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association website (www.nycpba.org).
  2. Click on the “Keep Cop Killers in Jail” icon.
  3. Follow the on-screen directions to send letters opposing the parole of these cop killers.

Be sure to send an e-letter for all three convicted cop killers - Phillip "Marshall" Copeland, Scott Cobb and David McClary.

In January when this cop killer sought and was rejected in his bid for a furlough to attend his grandmother's funeral Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said, “This cold-blooded cop killer denied a young police officer, Edward Byrne, every good and enjoyable thing that life held in store for him when he was assassinated Edward for no other reason than being a police officer. It is an outrage that this miscreant’s request for a furlough should get any consideration at all. He deserves no better treatment than he gave Officer Byrne.” Those same sentiments hold true as these convicted cop killers are up for parole in November.

Emails from you and your friends and family around the country, not just New York, will help ensure parole is denied for these three cop-killers. The family and friends of Officer Byrne, and our fellow officers in New York will appreciate your support in this important matter.

We thank you for taking time from your busy day to help make a difference.

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

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Remember Timothy Joseph McGhee: Vote NO on 34

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/20/2012 @ 09:09 AM

Timothy Joseph McGhee at his sentencing in 2009. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Timothy Joseph McGhee at his sentencing in 2009. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Timothy Joseph McGhee boasted in rap lyrics about his hatred of police and his love for killing.

He was convicted of attempted murder for a July 4, 2000, ambush of two LAPD officers who were chasing Toonerville gang members. He laughed in the courtroom when he was sentenced to die in January 2009. He has been awaiting execution on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

On August 30, prison officials said he used a handmade weapon to attack two guards as they returned him to his cell from a shower. The guards received cuts and wounds on their heads, necks and arms.

Voters would do well to remember McGhee in November when they consider Proposition 34. This proposition would eliminate the death penalty in California and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Californians approved the death penalty in 1978. California is one of 33 states authorizing it. A Field Poll conducted in 2011 showed that 68 percent of Californians approved of execution as a punishment. Now, the attempt to overturn the death penalty – orchestrated by the ACLU and its allies – as a budget-saving measure is an outrageous insult to crime victims and their families.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos makes perhaps the best case for retaining the death penalty: “Whether or not to seek the death penalty is probably one of the most serious decisions I have to make as a district attorney. I have nothing but respect for the entire process, and just as much respect for our victims and their families who didn’t have a choice. They didn’t get to say goodbye to family members.”

Vote NO on 34. For more information visit voteno34.org.

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

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Televised live police chases – the new bloodsport?

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/13/2012 @ 12:22 PM

Over the past few days, media coverage of police chasing dangerous felons in the southland have put thousands of people, including dozens of police officers, in extreme danger. Police chases and the aftermath are certainly newsworthy, but the recent live television coverage has had the feel of a sporting event – with accompanying colorful commentary. In these situations, the responsibility lies with the suspect for not submitting to arrest, the public to stay out of the way, the officers to use good judgment when in pursuit and the media to limit its coverage. We aren’t questioning the news value – when it’s over – and in some cases as a warning for public safety, but many times, and clearly in the latest incident, live coverage endangers the public.

On Tuesday, live television coverage of an LAPD pursuit of a murder and carjacking suspect nearly resulted in the viewing public being “treated” to the sight of that criminal attempting to kill police officers, and then falling to the ground after being struck by return fire. What exactly is the value to the public, more importantly our young people, to witness this event live and in high definition?

Yesterday brought live broadcasts of armed robbers being pursued by Los Angeles County Sheriffs from Santa Clarita all the way to the south end of the city. As commentators breathlessly announced the locations of the pursuit, citizens poured from their houses to watch the spectacle. The armed robbers threw cash out of the car during the chase, resulting in people dashing into the streets to collect the money and hundreds of people converging on the vehicle at the end of the pursuit. The coverage added to the chaos, which resulted in needless additional risk to the Los Angeles County deputies, Los Angeles police officers and the public, in what was already a dangerous situation.

Live television coverage of the chase only exacerbated the situation, as people watching were alerted to the direction of the pursuit and flocked out of their homes to gawk or grab some of the discarded money. Pursuing sheriff and LAPD units then had to contend with people in the street as well as the criminals they were chasing. The media coverage was similar to that of a sporting event. Without the live coverage, far fewer people would have known about and become involved in this chase, tried to grab the stolen loot and put themselves in harm’s way.

Lengthy coverage of cars being pursued by the police up and down the streets and highways in the hopes of some dramatic conclusion may gain viewers for the stations, but for the sake of public safety, news organizations should report on police chases in as much detail as they want when the chase concludes.

If the media recognizes a need to warn viewers of a pursuit for the sake of public safety, it should do so with a conscious decision to limit the live coverage for the same reason. Otherwise, the news broadcast “money shot” isn’t reporting, it’s irresponsible.

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

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Prison realignment: Troubling trend points to need for fixes

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/11/2012 @ 08:45 AM

October 1 will mark the first anniversary of the prison realignment legislation signed into law by Governor Brown. With nearly a year’s worth of data, it is not too early to assess whether the law, heralded by prisoner-release advocates, in fact reduced the prison population and stopped the revolving door of inmates cycling into state prison without endangering public safety.

Approaching the one-year anniversary, we can say that the realignment verdict is in and it is troubling!

For nearly two years, we have pointed out on numerous occasions the serious flaws embedded in the legislation. With its only emphasis being the last crime committed, “Post-Release Community Supervision” inmates can have prior convictions for serious offenses, such as murder or sexual offenses – and many do, but it just happened that was not their latest criminal conviction.

“Beyond having dangerous offenders in California’s communities, there has also been an undeniable increase in overall crime in the state, including violent and property crime, in such cities as Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Lancaster, San Francisco, Redding, Chico, Antioch, and in Kern County,” according to a news release issued last week by the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

The last overhaul of California’s criminal justice system was sold as a way to get more dangerous felons into treatment and out of the vicious cycle of crime, prison and more crime. So far, that has not been the case. Mid-year statistics from the City of Los Angeles were mixed. Although the overall the number of burglaries, auto thefts, and other types of thefts fell by 1 percent throughout the city, several areas of the city saw significant increases.

In areas patrolled by the LAPD’s Central Bureau, for example, thefts rose by 9 percent. The Department’s South Bureau also had increases. Not surprisingly, there was a direct link to the realignment law that explained this increase. Chief Beck told the Los Angeles Times that offenders receive less supervision and assistance programs after being released and are more likely to commit new crimes. And, many of those who would otherwise have been in prison reside in these two bureaus.

Crime is up in Downtown and LAPD Captain Horace Frank said, “We see the same people that we’re arresting over and over again going to jail and coming right back. We believe a lot of that has to do with AB 109.”

Another sign of realignment’s failings can be seen by the high percentage of criminals sentenced under realignment not showing up for counseling appointments. While law enforcement agencies are doing everything they can to successfully implement realignment, the fact remains that Los Angeles County’s realignment progress reports are not encouraging.

With realignment leading to increased criminal activity, the LAPD moved 150 officers from patrol or other assignments in order to deal with the state’s prison realignment plan. Combined with the restrictions on paid overtime, there is now a lessened police presence throughout the city, resulting in a negative effect on response times to 911 calls.

The impacts of realignment are being closely monitored statewide. The early returns are less than promising, and public safety is increasingly being put in peril. There are many shortcomings and flaws that state lawmakers and the governor must fix.

One common sense fix is to evaluate who is eligible for “realignment” based an inmate’s total arrest and conviction record – not merely the last offense for which he or she is incarcerated. The other flaws, unfortunately, will only continue to surface as more citizens fall victim to those who, just one year ago, were appropriately housed in state prisons.

We are not delusional – realignment is here to stay. We look forward to working with elected officials on solutions to lessen the burden on local governments.

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

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STOP the Special Exemptions Act - NO on Prop 32

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 09/03/2012 @ 04:08 PM

Police officers, firefighters and the rest of California’s middle class will be silenced if big corporations have their way this November.

Prop 32 is NOT what it seems. It was intentionally written to create special exemptions for billionaire businessmen, giving them even more political power to write their own set of rules.

Prop 32 exempts secretive Super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporate special interests and billionaire businessmen to support their favored candidates and defeat their enemies. Corporations already outspend labor 15 to 1 on political expenditures nationally and 3 to 1 in California; public safety cannot afford to lose our voice in local communities and state government.

Prop 32 will silence the collective voice all the organizations that advocate on behalf of public safety – those of us who stand on the front lines to fight for our public safety system every day. If corporate special interests are allowed free rein to do as they please, we will see public safety issues we care about the most pushed to the side. Issues like:

  • Police Officers Bill of Rights
  • Working conditions and safety
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Attracting top level recruits
  • Retaining experienced officers

Prop 32 is NOT what it seems. The special interests funding Prop 32 are targeting the voices of public safety professionals today, and next they’ll target the issues we care about most. Many of the top donors to the ‘Yes on 32’ campaign have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to roll back our pension benefits. That’s why the League has joined dozens of other public safety associations to oppose Prop 32. It’s bad for public safety and bad for California.

Don’t believe the lies of Prop 32 supporters. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Prop 32 claims to bring reform to the political process – but Prop 32 will not take money out of politics. Like many so-called attempts to “clean up the mess in Sacramento,” the proponents of Prop 32 ignore the fact that full and complete disclosure of the source of campaign funds is the only real way to give voters the information they need to make up their minds.
  • Prop 32 exempts Super PACs and independent expenditure committees, and does nothing to prevent anonymous donors from spending unlimited amounts to influence elections.
  • Prop 32 doesn’t tell you that employee contributions to political campaigns are already voluntary under existing law today. The Constitution guarantees everyone that right.

Every leading government reform group in the state, including the League of Women Voters and California Common Cause, opposes Prop 32 because it’s not real reform. While Prop 32 claims to be “paycheck protection,” it is really paycheck deception.

Tell your family and friends and please Vote NO on Prop 32 to protect policies for all Californians, not just the corporate special interests. For more information and to get involved please visit LAPD.com.

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

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