Who for Sheriff?

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Todd Knows COP

In my opinion, the best candidate for sheriff is Todd S. Rogers, M.A. and here’s why.

I had to complete a thesis project for my first Master’s Degree from CSULB in 2005, Key Performance Indicators for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the City of Compton. I needed a committee member in addition to three Occupational Studies Department academics. I wanted it to be someone on the sheriff’s department. I wanted a department member for several reasons since my task was to measure the receptiveness of Compton Sheriff personnel to the idea of community-oriented policing of which I’m a strong advocate. I needed access to station personnel and I didn’t want to blindside the department since I could have chosen someone from another agency, active or retired. It would be difficult enough for me as a civilian to navigate this through the department, and it was [civilian is what we were called then but the new adjective is professional staff]. I wanted someone with some sensitivity and understanding of community-oriented policing and I wanted someone with high enough rank that would garner internal respect. I wanted someone comfortable with research and academia.

I searched the literature high and wide and came across a paper done by Todd Rogers, A blueprint for community policing: Reinventing the wheel not necessary (in Law and Order: The Magazine for Police Management, 43, 116-121, March 1995). He was captain of Carson Station and the only department member I could find that had explored community policing beyond the money grab that President Bill Clinton initiated when he was in office. I continued to dialog with Captain Rogers after he agreed to serve as my committee member and in a 2005 personal email communication to me he wrote:

It has been my experience that if COP [community-oriented policing] is only embraced by the “special units,” negative ramifications will include:

1. Animosity between the special COP units and patrol

2. Non-COP personnel will “learn” that COP is not their job and, therefore, not operate from a community-minded orientation. This can, in effect, undo all of the good work done by COP deputies.

3. Members of the community will “learn” that the COP deputies are the good deputies and the non-COP deputies are the bad, or not nice, deputies.

I do not believe it is appropriate that a culture be established wherein deputies are allowed to “chase the box” without any accountability relative to at least being supportive of COP concepts. [See page 36 of Key Performance Indicators]

Rogers went on to say that “programs come and go. . . . COP itself is an overriding philosophy and a way of doing business that should permeate every level of the organization”

That was nine years ago and Rogers may have changed but I doubt it. It’s been as long for me but I’m more in favor of customer centered, community-oriented policing than ever. Some would have you believe that this service model has become passé, old, and focus has shifted in some ways backward since 911 but I suggest COP was never tested in urban L.A. County.  Sure, Bill Bratton engaged and involved community members but left the job incomplete. It can’t work if never implemented. Where some small aspects of community-oriented policing were tried, naysayer disinformation, or fear, resulted in one writer suggesting it was “over policing.” What is over policing? A cop on every corner? We don’t have that. Does it include the ubiquitous surveillance cameras now in public parks, intersections, and everywhere else? We do have that.

Over policing is dumb policing and community-oriented policing is smart, efficient, and effective at building trust and increasing feelings of safety. When someone talks about community policing (the term of choice for many law enforcement and other officials), ask them to define it before you let them ramble on too long. If the answer is about saturation patrols, crime rate statistics (E.g number of prostitute arrests), Town Hall meetings, block clubs (“eyes and ears”), and Crime Stoppers, hit the reject button. If you are not a part of defining it, it’s not community-oriented policing.

If I’m wrong, oh well. But if I’m right this is exactly the kind of progressive thinking not emanating from Board of Supervisor offices now, ever. The needed reforms will only come from within and will not be imposed from the outside of LASD no matter how many Inspector Generals are installed or commissions created. In other words, reform must permeate every level of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The questions for candidates is simple: What is your vision for the sheriff’s department? How will you gain the trust of law abiding residents of Compton, Watts/Willowbrook, South L.A., Lancaster, and East L.A. and on and on?

There was one other thesis project completed on the sheriff’s department by J.M Neblett while at Cal Poly Pomona that evaluated the level of satisfaction for law enforcement services for Industry station. For such a learned organization, LASD does not study itself. I did: twice. OMG.

Todd S. Rogers for Los Angeles County Sheriff.

 

Baca Says Farewell to Compton

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Retired Sheriff Lee Baca was always friendly to Compton, except in Eric Perrodin’s view. So it was in the beginning, so it was in the end when he attended the February 3, NAEJA Anti-Crime committee meeting at the request of Royce Esters. Baca had attended lots of NAEJA and other meetings in Compton. Why? The contract Omar Bradley gave LASD helped. Also, he was never afraid. He was always assessable and accessible unlike many of his subordinates, some who seem to view Compton as an lawless outpost where they could get away with murder and did. Baca had to be the most popular politico in Compton including those city officials in the city that were elected by residents.

Baca, at the request of Isaac Asberry of the Teen Intervention Programvisited Hope Academy high school that was once located on Compton Blvd and Spring St. for an anti-bullying campaign. How often does a top police official visit any high school in urban Los Angeles County? Not only did he visit, he engaged the students and staff and they loved it. For most students, that was the first time they’d interacted with law enforcement other than in the back of a patrol car while in custody. Hope Academy is an alternative school for children who frankly can’t be placed anywhere else.

Baca was active with organizations of people of color and of different ethnicities and religions. He formed an interfaith group that included Hindu, Buddhist, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Scientology and other faiths. Quite remarkable. He may have gotten too close to some of the individuals. Close enough to get burned with their questionable ethics involving marijuana dispensaries and other practices.

If Baca was not afraid of a diverse L.A. County community, they were also much less afraid of him than of his deputies in places like Compton. Listen to the comments made about trust by a woman at the end of the February 3, 2014 NAEJA meeting.

Baca talked about the Education Based Incarceration program he pioneered in the county jails and how he believed that “when someone goes to jail, they should come out better, not worse.” With that thinking, he created opportunities for inmates to work toward GEDs, recovery from alcohol and other drug abuse, and to gain life skills. Let’s face it, inmates in jails of L.A. County are not the brightest lights at dusk, and their being in jail points to the failures of other institutions. Jail is the school of last resort but unless you want to give up on these people, why the hell not? Jails are schools because inmates like to talk about their crimes and circumstances while incarcerated. Many don’t have much else to talk about and believe that they can sharpen crime skills there.

I was skeptical of EBI and thought more effort should be made by real schools but many have failed miserably. The other thing to note is that Lee Baca is an educator. He has a PhD from USC and started LASD University for his employees way before EBI.

I know because I received two Master’s Degrees from California State University Long Beach through sheriff department programs. As a manager I also attended many other educational programs offered through CSUN and CSULA over the years that improved my work skills.

The sheriff’s department is in disarray and leaderless thanks in no small part to decisions made by the County Board of Supervisors with their jail commission reports and failure to articulate any clear cut policy, direction, or expectations. They don’t have a vision for policing which is why they don’t say what they expect the jails to look like at the end the trip. They have even less of a vision when it comes to policing in communities and have shown no understanding of community-oriented policing. How often has any Board member commented on officer involved killings? Board policy is retrograde when it comes to modern policing.

Notice too how the conversation about citizen oversight does not include those that interact most everyday with the police, Blacks, Browns, and poor people. Include the jails and the discourse is taking place far from Compton, Watts/Willowbrook, South L.A., Lancaster, and East L.A. and on and on. That’s Board handiwork. Also, note how the Board believed it better to recycle a former LASD sheriff deputy, John Scott as the interim sheriff. He worked for Sandra Hutchinson, sheriff of O.C., also a former LASD deputy. Who expects anything progressive coming from this arrangement? The more things change…

Has the LASD hit bottom yet? The same question might apply to the city of Compton [look at the infrastructure and service level]. My answer is no, there’s still room to drop. A new, clear, and articulated vision is needed that might look quite different from the past.

Can the Board lead such a transition? NOT. None of them are progressive enough or have the courage to push real meaningful change at this watershed moment. What’s needed will not come from commission or task force reports, Board SOP, that’s bull crap. What’s needed is advocacy for and the involvement of people that Lee Baca felt comfortable enough to engage. That starts with a conversation that up until now has not occurred.