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State high court decision a win for victims’ rights

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/07/2013 @ 12:47 PM

We are never shy about calling out the State Supreme Court when it hands down a ruling we think is detrimental to the rights of police officers or will threaten public safety. But when the justices show good judgment and common sense in an issue we care about deeply, we are delighted to give them a shout-out.

The latter has happened in the case of Michael Vicks, imprisoned since 1983 for a string of violent felonies. Vicks argued that since his crimes occurred before Marsy’s Law was enacted, he was entitled to a more advantageous schedule of parole hearings than the law now allows.

Voters enacted Marsy’s Law – known officially as the California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 – as an amendment to the state’s Constitution and certain Penal Codes. A very fine piece of legislation, it protects and expands the legal rights of victims of crime and grants parole boards far greater powers to deny inmates parole.

Prior to the law’s passage, for example, an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence and found unsuitable for parole had the right to a new hearing within five years if convicted of murder, or within two years if convicted of lesser crimes. Under Marsy’s Law, the delay between hearings can be as long as 15 years.

Vicks was found unsuitable for release in 2009 based on the “horrific” nature of his crimes, the results of his psychological examinations and his lack of “insight” into his crimes. Citing Marsy’s Law, the parole board wisely voted to delay his next hearing for five years. Vicks argued that Marsy’s Law constituted an ex post facto law when applied to felons like himself whose crimes pre-dated the law.

According to Metropolitan News-Enterprise, in rejecting that argument on Monday (March 4), Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote for the Court that there was no ex post facto violation because the law does not increase the punishment for a crime. “In light of the circumstances of his kidnapping offenses, such as the movement of the victims, the sexual assaults, and the use of a firearm, it appears under the matrices governing the calculation of his base term that he would be required to remain incarcerated even if he were found suitable for parole at this time.”

In passing Marsy’s Law in 2008, the voters of California sent a clear message that has now resonated all the way to the State Supreme Court. We applaud the justices for an important ruling upholding the wishes of California voters. In so doing, they are protecting law-abiding citizens throughout our state by keeping inmates like Michael Vicks out of our society.

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Gloria Romero uses Dorner to suggest officers open personnel files

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/04/2013 @ 12:44 PM

Gloria Romero

Gloria Romero

The victims of Christopher Dorner’s murderous rampage had barely been laid to rest when former state Senator Gloria Romero took to the pages of the Orange County Register to declare that police disciplinary hearings should be immediately opened to the public.

Apparently, Ms. Romero is still smarting over her failed last-minute legislative maneuver in 2007 to push legislation that would overturn a Supreme Court decision regarding police officers’ personnel hearings. Romero and her supporters, including the ACLU, tried to overturn a California Supreme Court ruling that allowed the hearings to remain closed to the public.

Romero and her supporters engaged in deceitful mudslinging against the LAPD to try to get the bill passed. The successful opposition of the LAPPL and other law enforcement unions helped derail her bad idea, but she continues to distribute misinformation about LAPD officers to help get her bill passed.

When we opposed this bad piece of legislation, what was apparent then was that the bill could not pass on its merits. Instead, she needed a group for the public to hate, and she decided LAPD officers would be that group. It is also evident she is still bitter that law enforcement unions statewide opposed her legislation to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in the case known as Copley Press v. Superior Court.

Romero, of course, could care less about the privacy rights of the individual officer in the hearing. She failed to acknowledge in her op/ed that an officer who is the subject of the hearing can waive their right to a closed hearing and open it to the public and media. While Romero now claims that she merely wants the public to know why disciplinary action was taken against an officer, her legislation in fact sought to open all hearings to the public regardless of the outcome. The stripping of privacy rights to allow complaints against officers, no matter how frivolous or unsubstantiated, to be made public was rightfully rejected by the California Legislature.

When the public sees LAPD officers, they see people who are willing to lay their lives on the line for others. They don’t see people they should hate. The fact is, police officers have tough, physical jobs and misconduct complaints are a fact of life because the criminals themselves file many false complaints!

Proper oversight is essential to preventing and punishing police misconduct, but officers who have not been charged with a crime should not have their reputations tainted. Board of Rights hearings, as done in Los Angeles, ensure peace officers are held accountable while also protecting their privacy and safety. Furthermore, in criminal cases, upon an adequate showing, judges routinely release names of complaining witnesses who have made a complaint against a police officer who is now a witness in a criminal case to a defendant’s attorneys for impeachment purposes.

Police officers need to feel secure about their personnel records. We take enough risks as it is; our private information should not become another liability. Romero’s 2007 legislation failed because our campaign for officers’ rights won over her campaign slogans and lies.

It is sickening that Romero attempts to use the murder rampage of Dorner to resurrect her failed legislation. To even hint that, had his hearings been open there would have been a different outcome—again, he had the option of an open hearing—is truly standing on the bodies of the dead to make a political point. Romero recognized the idiocy of that argument at the end of her piece, claiming that while it might not have prevented the Dorner murder spree, open hearings would let the public feel there was a fair evaluation and just discipline. That argument had no merit in 2007; it has no merit today.

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

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Protect Los Angeles

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 03/01/2013 @ 04:51 PM

In just a few days, you will be asked to make an historic vote, not only for the next mayor of Los Angeles, but also for Prop A, which will give the next mayor and the City the resources it desperately needs to keep our neighborhoods safe. Police officers and firefighters are asking you to join us in voting YES on Prop A.

Over the last five years, Sacramento has taken more than one billion dollars from the City of Los Angeles that goes toward vital City services, including fire, police and 911 emergency services. In addition, Sacramento has taken money that would be used to maintain youth gang prevention and after school programs, remove graffiti, as well as fix potholes and sidewalks.

After years of the most devastating economic downturn in a lifetime, the City of Los Angeles has been plagued with years of severe budget deficits. This year is no different; despite a significant reduction in the City’s workforce and reforming the pension system, Los Angeles faces a budget deficit of more than $200 million that further threatens our most essential services.

Cuts to fire, police and paramedic services are not an option if we want to maintain the current level of protection for our neighborhoods and families. Like so many other cities, Los Angeles has been forced to make cuts to keep the budget balanced. Those cuts have not only been to services like tree trimming and road repair, but to our police and fire departments as well.

Watch to see why Los Angeles leaders such as former Los Angeles Police Officer and Councilmember Joe Buscaino and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck support Prop A.

We have seen the benefits of crime reduction. If Proposition A fails, we’re going to risk increasing crime in the Los Angeles area.

Proposition A will ensure that everyone pays their fair share, including businesses and the millions of tourists who visit Los Angeles every year to shop, eat and attend events.

Proposition A will cost the average Los Angeles resident about $30 per year, and by law, the tax cannot be applied to food and medicine. Proposition A requires annual independent audits, public review of expenditures and most importantly, these funds cannot be taken away by the state and will only be used to maintain vital City of Los Angeles services.

Click here to view an overview of Prop A. We urge you to protect our firefighters, police officers, paramedics and vital City services – Vote YES on Proposition A.

Paid for by Los Angeles Police Protective League’s (LAPPL) Public Safety First Political Action Committee, 1308 West Eighth Street, Suite 400, Los Angeles. Additional information is available at ethics.lacity.org.

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

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No ‘compassionate’ parole for cop killers – no exceptions

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/19/2013 @ 04:51 PM

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Lt. Al Stewart

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Lt. Al Stewart

CHP Officer Larry Wetterling

CHP Officer Larry Wetterling

Forty years after his unspeakable crimes, a triple murderer and double cop killer is requesting a “compassionate release” from state prison. When Gerald Youngberg requested a “medical parole” last year, we successfully weighed in with letters of opposition. Today, law enforcement agencies and organizations throughout California are strenuously opposing parole of any kind for Youngberg. The League is joining the effort and encourages others to do the same before his March 19 hearing.

In 1973, Youngberg took the lives of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Al Stewart, CHP Officer Larry Wetterling and gas station attendant Robert Jenkins in execution-style murders. He was sentenced to death, but his sentence (along with hundreds of others’ sentences) was overturned in the mid-1970s when the California Supreme Court declared the state’s version of the death penalty unconstitutional.

Youngberg has been denied parole 11 times. In 2012, he withdrew a request for a medical parole in the face of massive law enforcement opposition. When his latest attempt at freedom takes place at a Board of Parole Hearing in March at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, we can (and must) make that number 12.

The request by Youngberg for a compassionate release is the same strategy attempted by Gregory Powell, convicted cold-blooded killer of LAPD officer Ian Campbell in the famous onion field case. Powell wanted another chance at getting out of prison because he had cancer and he believed that fact should justify a compassionate release from prison. Never mind that he showed Campbell absolutely no mercy and tried to murder Campbell’s partner Karl Hettinger that same night in that same onion field.

It should be expected that Youngberg will remain and die in prison. It defeats the purpose of a life sentence if, at the end of life, murderers like Youngberg are let out so their last days can be spent in comfort. Part of the deserved punishment for his brutal crime is that he spends his last waking moments deprived of freedom.

Youngberg stands convicted of a callous triple murder, including the murder of two peace officers. To release someone who has committed the murder of a peace officer – let alone two, both of whom were apparently execution-style killings – is unacceptable under any circumstances.

The LAPPL encourages community members to oppose the alteration of Gerald Youngberg's sentence. Letters opposing Youngberg’s parole should reference “Penal Code 3550 Parole Hearing for Gerald Youngberg, Inmate Number B50097” and be sent to:

High Desert State Prison
Attn: C&PR/Records Office –Board Desk
475-750 Rice Canyon Road
P.O. Box 750
Susanville, CA 96127

Board of Parole Hearings
Attn: Jennifer Shaffer
PO Box 4036
Sacramento, CA 95812-4036

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

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Sheriff’s Dispatcher’s Performance During Big Bear Shootout

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/15/2013 @ 12:12 PM

The past week has been emotionally wrenching for all Southern California law enforcement personnel. While we responded to the inhumane and morally indefensible violence caused by disgraced former officer Christopher Dorner, we joined with the entire community in expressing our grief. As our thoughts and prayers are now offered to families and friends of those whose lives were taken so suddenly, we also want to thank the unsung Sheriff’s dispatcher whose actions lessened the death toll and helped scores of officers and deputies in harm’s way during the shootout in Big Bear.

Listening to the police radio traffic of the Big Bear shootout, you hear, “pop, pop, pop. pop, pop.” There are too many shots to count. Several minutes into the radio traffic, you can hear, the female dispatcher broadcast, “Shots fired. Officer down.” Later, a second, “Officer down,” followed by, “Automatic fire coming in-bound,” and “Officers still down in the kill zone,” can be heard.

The chilling audiotape makes one thing clear: the civilian dispatcher did an outstanding job. She performed flawlessly during this critical tactical incident. Her calm and professionalism most certainly saved officer lives. Being a police dispatcher is harder than most people think. In this case, the dispatcher fulfilled her duties with unfailing focus, composure and expertise.

The incident underscores the essential role played by the dedicated emergency services dispatchers nationwide. These behind-the-scene professionals constitute a vital link to police officers every time officers leave their stations. Our dispatchers are always listening; we are always reliant upon them to broadcast our locations, respond to our routine requests, and when we need it, they become our lifeline.

We gratefully acknowledge the efforts and essential contribution of all emergency services dispatchers, but especially the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s dispatcher for her work during this harrowing siege.

UPDATE: We have received unverified comments below that indicate the Dispatcher's name was Elaine Barrie. Elaine's husband is an active Deputy Sheriff and apparently was en route to assist in this incident. She apparently did not find out until later that he was safe. We believe that makes her calm and professional demeanor even that much more remarkable.

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

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Caution urged in limiting law enforcement’s access to email

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/13/2013 @ 04:51 PM

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) passed by Congress back in 1986 requires police to obtain a subpoena issued without a judge’s approval to read remotely stored emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old. But the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, doesn’t think that’s sufficient. He wants to “update” the act to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before obtaining stored emails and other forms of electronic communication.

Leahy tried unsuccessfully late last year to attach his email privacy measure to a video deregulation bill, but Republicans blocked it due to concerns that the requirement would impede police investigations.

Technology companies such as Google are lobbying to change the law to require a search warrant before turning over content to law enforcement. Google said it gets about 1,400 requests a month from U.S. authorities for users’ emails and documents. It wants the content stored on cloud services to have the same legal protection as documents stored on a hard drive or in a filing cabinet. Twitter, meanwhile, reported that requests from governments worldwide for information about its users increased nearly 20 percent in the second half of 2012.

Sen. Chuck Grassley recently said, “While I agree with the business and privacy groups that there is merit to harmonizing the legal requirements for obtaining emails with a search warrant, we would be abdicating our duty if we did not examine the concerns raised by federal, state, and local law enforcement.”

If the act does indeed need revisions to reflect advances in technology over the past quarter century, such revisions need to be carefully considered so law enforcement agencies can continue to readily obtain the information they need to fight crime, and so investigations aren’t slowed or impeded. Senator Grassley may have said it best when he noted, “we should work to ensure we strike the proper balance between privacy and safety – just as we did in 1986 when we first passed ECPA.”

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

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Public safety gets top billing in 2013 California Legislature

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 02/11/2013 @ 12:07 PM

A wave of new bills was introduced as California lawmakers reconvened at the State Capitol on Jan. 7 to start their legislative year. A number of them are of particular interest to law enforcement and deserve a close watch.

We applaud Senator Ted W. Lieu of Los Angeles for introducing a bill making it a felony for parolees to cut off GPS-aided ankle bracelets. Lieu cited data showing a two-thirds jump in parolees who illegally remove ankle-mounted monitoring bracelets.

“An increasing number of California parolees are cutting off their GPS monitoring devices because they’re convinced little will happen to them,” Lieu said in press release explaining the need for Senate Bill 57. “By making this crime a new felony, we can only hope these former prisoners, most of them either convicted sex offenders or hard-core gang members, will have second thoughts to roaming freely among the public with zero oversight.”

Senator Noreen Evans meanwhile, moved quickly to propose other needed legislation that would update a 1870s rape provision to cover impersonation of other bedmates. A man impersonated his female victim’s boyfriend in order to have sex with her while she was sleeping. His conviction was overturned by a state appeals court in Los Angeles earlier this month on the technicality that current law only allows someone to be convicted for rape for impersonating a spouse.

SB 59 will change the word “spouse” to “sexually intimate partner,” expanding the definition from what Senator Evans calls “an arcane law that could let a rapist go free. “Rape is a violent crime that should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Evans. “Justice cannot be conditioned on the victim’s marital status.”

As you might expect several new bills were introduced in an effort to crack down on guns and ammunition in the wake of last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed. This is part of a trend on the local, state and federal levels to try to make substantive changes in gun laws while public interest is high.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner proposed Assembly Bill 48 requiring sellers of ammunition to be licensed and for purchasers to show identification. The Department of Justice would be required to notify local law enforcement of large-quantity purchases over a five-day period by an individual who is not a peace officer. It would also ban the manufacture, sale or import of any device that enables a gun to fire more than 10 rounds at one time.

Last month, Sen. Kevin de León proposed legislation to require ammunition buyers to purchase annual permits that would cost about $50. The process would include a yearly background check. Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, proposed a measure to permanently prohibit various mentally ill Californians from ever buying a firearm.

Last year, some 800 laws were enacted by the California Legislature and signed into law. That suggests the bills introduced in the first two weeks of the new year are just the beginning of a robust legislative session for 2013. We shall keep a close eye on legislation pertaining to law enforcement.

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

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Clearing the way to change a bad law

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 01/07/2013 @ 02:11 PM

A friend of law enforcement in the California Legislature, Senator Ted Lieu, turned to Twitter to call attention to a California Senate policy long in need of change. We are glad he did.

Senator Lieu’s tweet was prompted by a case in which a rapist was set free on a technicality. The Assembly tried to fix the problem in 2011 but the legislation to do that died in the Senate Public Safety committee because of the ROCA policy.

“ROCA (Receivership/Overcrowding Crisis Aggravation) was started by Senator Gloria Romero in 2007,” Lieu said in a follow-up email to the LAPPL. “She essentially held up every single bill that might increase a felon’s prison time by even one day.

“Her reasoning was that this was necessary to alleviate prison overcrowding. One problem is that ROCA is a blanket approach that does not distinguish between a rapist and a drug user, or a murderer and a thief. Regardless of the heinousness of the crime, any new felony or increase in penalties will never even be allowed to come up for a vote.”

The issue came to light anew on January 2 when the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles cited a 19th century law in overturning the conviction of Julio Morales, who in 2009 had entered a darkened bedroom where a woman was sleeping and had sex with her. The 18-year-old woman said she initially mistook the defendant for her boyfriend, who had left earlier, but resisted when she realized it wasn’t him. Police said Morales admitted the woman probably wrongly assumed he was her boyfriend.

The 1872 law says that obtaining sex with another person by trickery is rape only if the victim is married and if the man pretends to be her husband. The court said it ruled reluctantly and appealed to the Legislature to change the law. Another court also put the Legislature on notice of the law’s anomaly 30 years ago, but legislators failed to act, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Changing this law should be a high priority of the new legislative session in Sacramento. The ROCA policy of the Senate that has gotten in the way of rationalizing California’s Penal Code must be set aside to allow it to happen.

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

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