Tag: LA Times

LA Times Takes Aim at LASD Misconduct and Peace Officer Bill of Rights

The Los Angeles Times has published four hard-hitting articles in the last three days taking examining misconduct by Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs, taking square aim at changing California’s police officer privacy laws.

It is unclear whether the Times has made this a priority by itself or whether it is being secretly encouraged by Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who has been angling to undermine the Peace Officer Bill of Rights for years. McDonnell has been unsuccessful in his quest under existing law, so perhaps he’s going about it another way. After all, it was less than a year ago that PPOA President Brian Moriguchi called for an investigation into whether Sheriff McDonnell or his “Constitutional Policing” or media handlers intentionally and illegally leaked personnel information to the Times(Was this crime investigated?)

Here is a good legal analysis of the issues.

Then again, some of those accused of misconduct are part of McDonnell’s own command staff, who have apparently been granted grace not afforded to ordinary deputies.

On the other hand, it’s also unclear whether the Times is finally revisiting McDonnell’s absurd claim, and the Times’ prior agreement, that he has single-handedly engineered a “sea change in culture” within the LASD despite his deep unpopularity within the organization.

Here are the articles the Times has come out with since Thursday:

Thursday: An L.A. County deputy faked evidence. Here’s how his misconduct was kept secret in court for years

Thursday: You’ve been arrested by a dishonest cop. Can you win in a system set up to protect officers?

Friday: This L.A. sheriff’s deputy was a pariah in federal court. But his secrets were safe with the state

Saturday: Why do some L.A. sheriff’s deputies have matching skull tattoos? It’s a question Compton residents have been asking for years

*          *          *

LASD.News’ Opinion: We don’t know whether officer privacy laws / the Peace Officer Bill of Rights needs to be changed or not. As easy as it is to get information about people these days, and with a bloody history of officers being followed or confronted at their homes, there are certainly safety reasons to preserve POBR.

While the Times has identified many cases of real or alleged misconduct it would have liked to know about, and defense attorneys would have liked to know about–we don’t think it has established that the prior misconduct was actually relevant in the subsequent cases. For example, in the first story, the Times cites many lawyers and criminal suspects who would have been glad to use the deputy’s prior misconduct to angle for a lighter sentence or dismissal, when their actual guilt and the evidence in their cases does not seem to be in doubt.

As a journalistic and opinionated outfit ourselves, we understand the Times’ desire for access to officer personnel files. (Are journalists offering up their personnel files, too? Will LASD “executives” be wearing body cams?) But we are not yet convinced that the desired transparency will benefit anyone other than reporters who want to tell interesting stories, criminals who want to get out of jail, and the defense attorneys who want to help them. We look forward to the Times’ editorial board’s big reveal as to what exactly they are proposing.

Everyone makes mistakes in their life and career. While police officers have tremendous public trust placed in them and misconduct should be dealt with, criminals and their attorneys are looking for whatever will establish reasonable doubt in the least intelligent member of a jury. Or suggest to a busy deputy district attorney that a slam-dunk case will become a hassle and should be dismissed or pled.

Allowing criminals, defense attorneys and reporters to go on fishing expeditions through officers’ past and cherry-pick tidbits that benefit their own agendas will have many consequences which should be fiercely debated.

 

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Eight LASD and Election Updates

It’s been a busy few days in LASD and election news and we have summarized a few of the bigger updates for you here:


Lindsey Feeds The Troops at West Hollywood Station

Bob Lindsey randomly showed up at West Hollywood Staton with food the other night, like some sort of sheriff superhero. Here’s a little video of it Lindsey put out on his Instagram. We asked the Lindsey campaign for the backstory and they said he had just wrapped up a successful fundraiser nearby, had a bunch of leftovers and thought the deputies would appreciate the chow. Amazing.


Another Inmate Accuses a Deputy of Sexual Assault
Despite Jim McDonnell’s assertions that he has cleaned up and turned around LASD, yet another jail inmate has come forward alleging they were sexually assaulted by a deputy while in custody in the last couple years. This is at least the third or fourth such case LASD.News has reported on. In fact in this instance, the inmate alleges the assault occurred after LASD brass was already aware the deputy may have been preying upon inmates while in custody. And in related news, LASD.News reported several weeks ago that the department has dismally failed to comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.


LA Times Lists Why McDonnell Is A Terrible Sheriff–Then Endorses Him Anyway
The troubled and out-of-touch Los Angeles Times, building upon its three-time endorsement of Sheriff Baca, endorsed McDonnell for a second term as sheriff.  In what is probably the least enthusiastic, most nose-pinching endorsement in its history, the Times wrote:

“Poor communication leaves the department aloof from the public. Workforce problems (low morale, an inability to hire) persist. As other law enforcement leaders around the nation assert leadership in solving pressing criminal justice issues, such as smarter bail policies and diversion programs for less serious criminals, McDonnell sometimes appears to be leading California’s forces of reaction and retrenchment. Changing times call for the leader of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department to take a central role in mapping out forward-looking public safety practices that emphasize rehabilitation and diversion from arrest and incarceration for people suffering addiction or mental illness; but the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is not currently among the groundbreakers.

There has been a discomfiting array of deputy misbehavior or worse on McDonnell’s watch. Consider, for example, the deputy alleged to have raped inmates at the women’s jail in Lynwood; the video of the deputy ignoring a call of “shots fired so he could talk on the phone to his girlfriend; the offensive racially charged emails sent by the sheriff’s then-chief of staff; the succession of shootings of unarmed men; the continuing deaths at the county jails; the charges against a sergeant for demanding sex in exchange for time off; the questionable purchase by an assistant sheriff of a car seized from a drunk driving suspect.”

All of this IN AN ENDORSEMENT!

And that’s without even mentioning the numerous instances unethical conduct, incompetence and wasteful spending detailed on this site.

Yet, nonetheless they endorsed this clown. Despite his abject failure to meet the expectations the Times set of him in their 2014 endorsement and their inability to make any case whatsoever for him this time around. Though the Times suggests they did not endorse Lindsey or Villanueva because they lack a broad plan for the criminal justice system, this does not stand up to basic scrutiny: both candidates have debated their plans at length in public forums (including this weekend) and on their websites; McDonnell has no plans posted to his website, has no social media presence, and has refused to participate in debates.

In our view, refusing to participate in debates should be disqualifying.

That this endorsement also comes on top of McDonnell’s refusal to participate in debates (including this weekend’s second and final ACLU-sponsored debate) or outline a vision for the future (while his opponents have) makes it all the more pathetic.

Should Bob Lindsey or Alex Villanueva prevail in the election despite the Times’ endorsement for someone they have nothing good to say about, it will truly call into question the Times’ credibility and relevance on LASD matters going forward.


Lindsey On Chinese-American TV
Bob Lindsey was on Chinese-American TV recently. That community is extremely concerned about the rising crime rate in Los Angeles County and the Department’s strained relations with the community. Here’s a link to that.


Lindsey and Villanueva Ads and Endorsements
Ads and endorsements for Bob Lindsey started popping up on the radio, on billboards along major highways, and in mailboxes countywide. Alex Villanueva was also endorsed by some more Democrats.

ALADS Newsletter Recap
The April edition of the ALADS Dispatcher newsletter is out. Here are the key take-aways:

  • Do not talk to supervisors about anything because they cannot be trusted under the McDonnell regime–though ALADS isn’t doing anything about it (p. 8)
  • LASD has long had a problem with deputies (and command staff) driving under the influence of alcohol and this continues to be an issue. Discipline is being stepped up, so everyone should be policing themselves and each other. While ALADS isn’t doing anything to protect you from Jim McDonnell, they are looking out for you on this–including providing free Uber/Lyft rides around the holidays–so this is a story you should read and that should be briefed. (p. 13-14)
  • ALADS has made dozens of endorsements for the June 5 election, without the need for 33% of deputies to sign off on them–except for in the race that effects you the most. (p. 29)
  • The Department continues to be short 1,500 deputies. (p. 32)
  • Congratulations to LASD Academy Class 427!  Hopefully not too many of you have already been relieved of duty pending termination.  (p. 64)
  • ALADS met with Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander to discuss an effort to repeal Propositions 47 and 57. (Englander is a big McDonnell supporter and his brother, last we heard, does ALADS’ PR work.)
  • Despite not taking a stand in the race for sheriff on the grounds that doing so might cause McDonnell to retaliate during contract negotiations, ALADS seems to have made no/little progress with the county. (p. 81)
  • The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June or so on a case which will make it easier for deputies to drop ALADS for its failure to represent you. (p. 81)
  • ALADS discourages deputies from using personal body cameras, presumably because the department does not have a good record of dealing with its personnel in good faith.


Transient Arrested In Robbery-Turned-Murder in Rolling Hills Estates
An arrest was made in the murder of Susan Leeds, who was stabbed to death at the Rolling Hills Estates Promenade mall. According to detectives, Cherie Townsend, a 39-year old transient from Victorville, stabbed Leeds during a robbery in the mall’s parking garage. This is noteworthy because robberies have increased nearly 200% countywide under Sheriff McDonnell’s “leadership”, according to LASD statistics procured by department watchdog Surruo.com.


LASD Reserve Deputy Present for Recent Palmdale School Shooting
LASD Reserve Deputy John Johnston was working his day job as a school teacher when the recent Palmdale school shooting happened. LASD brass apparently tipped off the media as to his status as a reserve and NBC 4 has the story.

 

Four Years Ago, the LA Times Endorsed McDonnell For Sheriff. How’s He Doing?

Four years ago this weekend, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Jim McDonnell to be Los Angeles County Sheriff. We appreciated that endorsement at the time and voted for McDonnell. But after four years and $14-or-so billion dollars, we thought it was time for a progress report.  (Daily News, we’ll get to yours next!)

“Los Angeles County voters are soon to pick a new sheriff…and it’s hard to overstate both how unusual and how momentous that is,” the Times said at the time. With no entrenched incumbent running or embraced by LA’s political kingmakers, “this new state of affairs, with voters rather than power brokers or the law enforcement establishment setting the Sheriff’s Department’s course, may turn out to be permanent. Or it may be a mere interlude in a long and continuing history of entrenched incumbency and unaccountability.”

Four years later, the situation is the same. With McDonnell’s political relations far weaker, voter financial support a quarter what it was then, and no felon to run against, the incumbent is not entrenched or strongly supported by LA’s political kingmakers. Moreover, given McDonnell’s aggressive lack of campaigningrefusal to participate in debates, and stonewalling the media—including the Times on public record requests, the current sheriff’s election strategy indeed does appear to be: entrenched incumbency and unaccountability. In fact, we believe the voters retain their power to drive needed reform.

“Either way, the decision voters will make…comes at a crucial time, culminating a period of rare public scrutiny of the Sheriff’s Department’s management, hiring, spending, internal discipline, candor and, especially, use of force against jail inmates and visitors,” the Times continued. “The election decision will have an impact for years to come.”

Here again, we are in much the same place as we were four years ago. While serious uses of force by deputies against inmates are down in the jails, serious problems continue, while assaults by inmates are way up. Though crime is down in some areas, it’s up significantly in others—while McDonnell himself has recently said that crime statistics are inaccurate and do not reflect crimes which, post Proposition 47, people are simply not reporting because they have lost confidence in the justice system to do anything about them.  Little progress has been made in expanding the department’s mental health teams–including improvements which could have been implemented immediately, such as having them respond with lights/siren to mental health crises rather than long after patrol deputies have arrived.  While McDonnell cites understaffing as an excuse, that has not prevented him from dramatically up-staffing his personal office, including assigning himself 6-8 drivers and numerous aides.

Worse, McDonnell has been accused of manipulating or selectively promoting crime stats. As this site has reported exhaustively, spending by the sheriff on the perks of his office is out of control (herehere and here), particularly when the Department is significantly over its budget. Hiring remains unable to keep up with attrition and the sheriff appears uninterested in the reasons why (a position echoed by Brian Moriguchi just last week).

“The pivotal question before voters is whether they believe the department is emerging from a chaotic but limited period in which professional standards broke down, and that with Sheriff Lee Baca’s departure and the continuing implementation of reforms urged by a citizens commission, it is now well on its way to recovery; or if instead it is continuing on a decades-long path that promotes cliques, secrecy and abuse, and needs a sweeping and dramatic change in culture,” the Times asked four years ago.

Here, the results are also underwhelming. While deputy cliques were broken up by the criminal cases and by Interim Sheriff Scott, Sheriff McDonnell has surrounded himself with loyalists of Paul Tanaka (see: here and here).  Though we get this because many of those loyal to Tanaka were talented, competent leaders impatient with the department’s drift under an often distracted Sheriff Baca, many have also shown tremendous ability to insulate and manipulate the sheriff: now, just as then.  And now, just as then, the sheriff has been all to happy too embrace comforting fantasies.

While deputy sheriffs are being investigated and terminated at astounding rates (often on flimsy evidence and with significant, reportedly at times fatal consequences on their lives), as the Times itself has reported, the sheriff has promoted ambitious “executives” with questionable judgment and relationships with the truth.

All the while, a number of McDonnell’s hand-selected leaders have resigned in disgrace (here and here) and while reports of serious misconduct by deputy sheriffs–including recently hired deputy sheriffs–remains alarmingly high (herehereherehere and here).  Meanwhile, many former deputies and leaders are suing the sheriff/county, including former Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers, who is alleging retaliation.  Certainly, if the Times was suggesting four years ago that LASD needed a “dramatic change in culture,” other than an internal chilling effect, that has not occurred.

“But if the department’s problems are not that recent or simple — and the evidence is overwhelming that they are not — what is needed is a candidate with the law enforcement credentials, the integrity, the backbone and the skills to march the deputies, their leaders and their culture through a rigorous and soul-searching reinvention, all while raising performance standards and recommitting the department to transparency and humane and constitutional treatment of suspects, inmates and the public at large,” the Times argued.

What LASD needed four years ago was an inspiring leader who could retain what made the institution great—and beloved in most of the communities (and particularly contract cities) in which it operates—who had the vision to chart a compelling future and the judgment and charisma to effectively sell it.

Other than causing everybody to fear for their jobs, McDonnell isn’t marching anybody anywhere. The only soul searching is about what other lines of work people might want to get into. Deputy productivity is way down, morale is at a historic low and transparency is worse than ever—with our media sources telling us that LASD is stonewalling on and selectively responding to public record requests at this very moment.

Indeed, because of his refusal to be transparent, to allow the community in, McDonnell was arguably the villain of KPCC’s recent REPEAT podcast which focused on the department’s controlling and politicized conduct in handling deputy-involved shootings.  In one memorable moment (in episode 5), when reporter Annie Gilbertson asked McDonnell why deputies involved in shootings were being assigned menial tasks, he cut her off and dismissed her like a child.  Yet, she was right and he was wrong.  And this is a bit of a thing with him.  We wonder if he apologized…

And as for “constitutional policing”, while it is mainly true and certainly positive that inmates are not being routinely abused, department employees are. In fact, immediately upon entering office Sheriff McDonnell instituted policies barring subordinates from disagreeing with him, he is extremely controlling about speaking to the media, he has made materially false statements to the media about transparency, and no progress has been made on body cameras. Indeed, this site was formed as a response to the Department’s lack of accountability and transparency. The internal and external hunger for those things is evident in the nearly 40,000 hits the site has received in just six weeks.

“It is also important to note [McDonnell’s] long relationship with community groups, including law enforcement critics. Repairing relationships between the Sheriff’s Department and the communities it serves must be a priority, not merely as a nice complement to strong leadership but as an essential component of it,” the Times wrapped up.

Yet, McDonnell’s community relations have atrophied tremendously in just four years. He recently disrespected our African American community by no-showing at a First AME church event and, after receiving the support of Hispanic churches four years ago, he dropped off their radar until just weeks ago when his representatives reportedly came calling for cash. Just two weeks ago, McDonnell blew off both the ACLU of Southern California and KPCC’s Frank Stoltze, no-showing their debate and failing to even respond to the invite.

“This is a department that for decades has been inadequate to the task of constitutional policing and jailing. It needs a reboot. It needs McDonnell.”

LASD needed all of those things four years ago. It still does. McDonnell was the right choice at the time; he had the most experience, the most gravitas, and he wasn’t going to federal prison. In the job itself, however, he has choked. He has failed to deliver the transparency and community engagement he promised. He hasn’t done a good job of keeping the public, inmates or his own personnel safe.  

McDonnell has held himself and those around him to one standard and everyone else to another.  We were excited to see what an outsider could bring to LASD four years ago.  But it hasn’t worked out.  McDonnell’s Father Knows Best attitude has not worked inside the nearly 170 year old LASD.  Never having worked in a sheriff’s patrol car (nor having pursued the opportunity to do so since arriving), he has no idea how it is different from an LAPD one. Never having worked in a custody environment, he has no credibility in attempting to lead those who do. He has been proudly incurious about how the department functions and how it is fundamentally different from other places he has been.

McDonnell is LAPD command-and-control; LASD, from its roots, has always been about empowering the deputy sheriff on the street, and letting them grow as leaders. LASD’s problems stem from bad leadership, not bad intentions.  Being the sheriff is more than putting on a tan shirt and green trousers; it is a presence which inspires people to follow.  McDonnell expects people to follow him because of his experience elsewhere, and his rank, yet when good men and women get hurt in his service, he is seldom to be seen.  This is widely noticed and is not the sort of thing a leader can recover from.  Enduring change at LASD can only occur from the bottom up, as instilled by somebody the rank and file want to follow.

McDonnell, long ago, wore out both his honeymoon and his welcome and is now unable to drive further change.

In a separate editorial two years ago, the Times said McDonnell deserved a bit more time to get the train on the tracks and moving again.  He deserved “a bit more patience.  For now.”

As we noted at the top, the Times argued four years ago that LASD needed to get away from simply recycling incumbents.  And as we’ve seen, the sheriff has consciously avoided making an affirmative case for his reelection, deliberately relying on inertia.  This isn’t the accountability we were promised.  To not even see the incumbent participate in the debate, to make his case for the future–the contempt of it all–it’s a deal-breaker for us.  Our patience is up.

People are losing their confidence in the system. People are getting hurt. People are getting killed. LASD desperately needs (and wants) a reboot.

But someone else is going to have to do it.