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.

Did the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence Go Too Far?

Lee Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff

I wonder a lot whether public servants have completely lost sight of their purpose. Last September the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence completed its report on L.A. County jails with a host of recommendations that the sheriff has committed to implement such as a new Assistant Sheriff for Custody Division; a new Internal Investigations Division to investigate all injuries to inmates; a new Inspectional Services unit to ensure custody personnel compliance with sheriff policy; recommended that Special Counsel Merrick Bobb,  Office of Independent Review Michael Gennaco, and the Ombudsman, Board of Supervisors (BOS) creations all, rolled into a single Office of Inspector General reporting to them. There are winners and losers under these arrangements that purportedly are to reduce violence in jails perpetrated by deputies.

The sheriff of course wins because the BOS are ever willing to throw money at whatever law enforcement problem that surfaces. Nowhere but in county  law enforcement is mismanagement, incompetence, and lack of vision handsomely rewarded with surveillance cameras, more personnel, additional programs (Education Based Incarceration), and no doubt plenty of other things not made public. Oh yea, a new jail is coming soon to replace new county, the dungeon known as Men’s Central Jail. I worked inside of CJ for seven years through floods caused by faulty plumbing and electrical blackouts: It stinks and everyone inside eventually converts positive for TB. CJ is cruel and unusual punishment for workers and inmates alike. There is no remedy short of demolition if indeed L.A. County needs replacement jail beds despite voices that advocate more schools instead of jails. Sorry, EBI is as close as you’ll get on that one.

The BOS win, at least until the next election. Some had called for an Inspector General all along and is probably the main reason for forming the Citizens’ Commission in the first place. They avoid firing useless units by rolling them all into one and sticking a new high paying position  on top purportedly to do what their other creations was unable to do. As usual, they miss the point of civilian oversight albeit expensively. The inefficiency of piling shit on top of shit is what fuels small and anti government conservative rhetoric.

The prison industrial complex of businesses win: those that supply the sheriff with services and supplies from inmate food, toilet paper, books, clothing, medicine, and whatever the department needs for continuity and maintenance of 18-20,000 male and female inmates: construction contractors and a plethora of consultants.

Unincorporated patrol areas theoretically could gain if deputies now housed in the jails are pushed to the streets in favor of using Custody Assistants in the jails. This proposal has been in place for twenty years but never fully implemented thanks to visionless and weak management and overly influential deputy unions. There is a caveat to this potential win however discussed below.

Losers are easy to identify. That’s you if you pay property taxes locally.

With all of the Commissions’ talk of accountability, little is likely to be achieved, especially in the jails without (r)evolution of the entire department. Part of the reason is that no one knows what jail accountability looks like. What does appropriate or reasonable use of force look like? If workers are to be held accountable for jail service performance, will standards be established that are specific enough to be measured? Will employees have a chance to provide input on these standards, not necessarily through unions? What about the voice of inmate customers? All of the pro bono attorneys from respected law firms, staff, interns, and volunteers didn’t have a describable clue. Interestingly, the commission included no inmates or former inmates that could give first hand experience of county jail life. Of course, current or former inmates might not fall within some definitions of citizens. The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails weren’t invited to the table either. The practice of excluding service recipient or customer input from audits, reviews, and reports have ramifications in other policing activity as well. More on that later.

County unincorporated areas could be real losers when problem deputies end up on the streets. Contract cities could also have this problem. Face it, they have had plenty of practice with excessive force on black and brown jail inmates in the jail which is the same population they are likely to see on the streets. And, as the Citizens’ Commission points out, no one was disciplined for the jail problems, scapegoat maybe, but not disciplined. To find a disciplined jailhouse deputy is as hard as getting L.A. County District Attorney Jacqueline Lacey to file criminal charges against deputies for murder such as the case of Jose Delatrinidad who was shot in the back seven times last November. Alarmingly, no Citizens’ Commission was formed to review the hundreds of police killings over the past five years, a sizable number by sheriff deputies.

What’s the Vision?

What the Citizens Commission failed to do, and what the clueless BOS are incapable of doing, is describing a vision of what sheriff services should look like. This is especially true for jails and patrol, the two most problematic areas. They present no alternative mission statement and produce no ideal goals. Instead, they defer to sheriff developed core value, mission, and creed statements that offer little direction and are no more than words on a plaque or fliers on a bulletin board. While requiring better supervision, as well as a willingness to discipline, fire and prosecute deputies who violate rules and laws will help, we need to go much deeper.

The Commission offered no vision statement that generates purpose and meaning, which is the real starting point. A vision is a picture of what the organization wants to become. It is context for decision making and every big decision that LASD makes should move it closer to its vision. For example, the Compton4COPS vision statement is for Compton to become a city where women and children can walk any street safely at any time day or night. The sheriff needs a vision that can be embraced by all employees and the public. Here’s one from Newport News PD: To take a leading role in making Newport News a place where people want to live, work and play.

Of course, no one wants to make the jail a place where people want to live, work, and play so I’ll only talk about Patrol/Detective Operations that service 9.8 million people.

A mission explains how the organization will achieve the vision and helps the organization to focus on what’s important to carry out everyday activities. The sheriff’s mission statement reads: Lead the fight to prevent crime and injustice. Enforce the law fairly and defend the rights of all, including the incarcerated. Partner with the people we serve to secure and promote safety in our communities. Yep, and they’re able to leap tall buildings in a single bound too. Every deputy is not a leader. Also, the best leaders know how to lead from behind. Communities would benefit greatly if more deputies were simply great team players with other organizations.

The department’s mission statement is not widely understood or acknowledged. In other words, it is lost on the workforce and that employees had nothing to do with its development might be a contributing factor why it is not universally embraced. L.A. County’s overall mission reads: To enrich lives through effective and caring service. That’s okay from an overall service perspective but the sheriff can do better. For example, back to Newport News PD: To work in partnership with citizens and government to provide excellence in police services. Or this from Prince William County: The mission of the Prince William County Police Department is to enhance the quality of life by providing police services through shared responsibility with the public. Note how the last two mission statements reference the customer base while the sheriff’s focus is insular.

A new set of core values for LASD employees to embrace could become a driving force for organizational norms and priorities. The goal should be to establish a set of core values that would be owned and lived by employees, ultimately becoming the organization’s foundational tenets of daily behavior and decision-making. The core values must underpin the mission statement and emphasize productivity, responsibility, innovation, dedication, and ethical actions.

The current set of values reads: As a leader in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, I commit myself to honorably perform my duties with respect for the dignity of all people, integrity to do right and fight wrongs, wisdom to apply common sense and fairness in all I do and courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and bigotry in all its forms. This sounds more like the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. That’s a great thing for folks recovering from alcohol and other drugs but not so great for multifaceted public organizations. As an example Venice, Florida offers this: Be trustworthy, acting with the utmost integrity. Be truthful and dependable. Make impartial decisions, free of bribes, unlawful gifts, and financial or other personal interests that impair judgment or action. Be fair, extending equal opportunities and due process to all parties in matters under consideration. Demonstrate respect for all persons.

LASD would need to involve a large number of employees in the process of coming up with new core values but it is best to leverage the buy-in and engagement of workers. Again, from Prince William County PD: …is responsible for protecting constitutional guarantees and impartially enforcing the law. We believe that integrity is the basis of public trust and that honesty and equality in the delivery of police services is essential. We commit ourselves to uphold these values and to foster cooperation and respect within our community.

The sheriff’s creed or motto reads: My goals are simple; I will always be painfully honest, work as hard as I can, learn as much as I can and hopefully make a difference in people’s lives. The Newport News, VA Police motto: Committed to our community. The sheriff’s creed points inward, Newport’s, outward. Get it? I’d like to see more demonstration of the sheriff’s commitment to communities, especially in Compton, Willowbrook, and So. L.A.

Do you think there is a clear public benefit to revisiting sheriff’s vision, mission, creed, and core values?  The public or maybe a commission with real public tie-in can lead it. This is the starting points commissions fail to address which serve to maintain the status quo in the long run. When LASD leadership adopt and internalize revamped vision, mission, and core values by walking the walk and talking the talk, the rest will follow. It is easy to benchmark and measure progress toward achieving a new vision.

Sheriff Reorganization

A sheriff sergeant told me that all the department really did was rearrange boxes on the organization chart rolled out in May. While I don’t totally agree with that assessment, I fully understand that he means that the sheriff really does not intend to change, particularly from outsider’s recommendations.

On the other hand, contrary to the sergeants opinion now is the opportune time for the sheriff to change substantively and measurably for the better. The new reorg is a great start for an agency that hates change. Sheriff Leroy Baca has had the benefit of constant community engagement during his years as head man. Unlike Sherman Block, he is popular throughout L.A. County because he engages the entire county and has had the opportunity to hear from most elements of an extremely diverse population including the dreaded gang member. He is routinely approached by citizens and non-citizens because he is approachable. He is one of, if not the most approachable elected official in Los Angeles. Because of this, he gets firsthand the concerns of residents.

There is no other institutionalized means by which sheriff’s get the kind of input that Baca has received over the years; not town hall meetings; not city council meetings; and certainly not Tuesday BOS meetings and block club meetings in places like Compton. His management and leadership skill of the sheriff’s department is being tested right now however. With that opportunity, he has a chance to catch up and even surpass what William Bratton accomplished with the LAPD.  It will take five years to install a solid change foundation, it took Bratton  about six.This opportunity is far more relevant to the 9.8 million people in the unincorporated areas and some contract cities that have had issues with sheriff’s services in the past, like Compton, Willowbrook, South Los Angeles, Palmdale, and Lancaster, when compared to the problems of 18,000 jailed inmates.

Baca has done some things that flew in the face of industry and convention. For example, the past twenty years has seen the whole field of alcohol and other drug use professionalize to the point that it is now a useless extension of the criminal justice system where the goal for users is not total abstinence. Some so-called substance abuse counselors believe it’s alright to drink beer and smoke weed personally.  Many people think that marijuana use is harmless. Moreover, prescription drugs are a bigger problem than even deadly designer drugs.

In June 2011, the Baca allowed the Foundation for a Drug-Free World to conduct training courses at his headquarters. Attendees like me received certification as a Drug-Free World Prevention Specialist. Except for nicotine, we were taught about the effects of all drugs including alcohol and prescription drugs. That’s the kind of thing that goes against the grain of and direction of the rest of L.A. County services that is beholden to the pharmaceutical industry’s medical psychiatric model. He has also been known to support the twenty one principles contained in The Way to Happiness, a secular program used successfully in the life skills component of the Teen Intervention Program (TIP) for which I am Communications Secretary. Principle number eight is Do Not Murder, for example.  A good move would be to use Learning How to Learn and Study Skills for Life from Applied Scholastics in the EBI program. In the people business one has to get good tools where you can find it regardless of who gets pissed off. What I find is the one doing the most hollering and jumping up and down is the one doing the least to improve the community.

Who Really Gets Empowered?

Making Los Angeles County Law Enforcement Accountable was the workshop topic at the January 19, 2013 Empowerment Congress Summit promoted by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. The summit accomplished at least two things: it provided a forum for L. A. City mayoral candidates and helped roll out the Citizens’ Commission jail report. Nothing empowering was involved and no one that could really affect sheriff policy and practice attended. Many resident policing issues were raised but there was no further discourse and the promised follow up never happened. Many of the attendees were not residents of Los Angeles City and would not participate in the vote for mayor. In other words, that was time wasted. Since there was no serious effort to address workshop issues, that time was wasted too. The Gun Violence Prevention workshop fared no better according to those that attended it.

What Does Empowerment Really Look Like?

True empowerment and engagement won’t be televised but will take the form of ground level up action like that of Rosie Delatrindad, wife of Jose who was killed late last year. It does not wait for or require government definition, approval, organization, or sanction. The response to the George Zimmerman verdict, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring are three examples. Rosie and 130 other people, mostly residents from Compton, signed a March 12, 2013* petition letter developed by Compton4COPS. I thank those who did sign it which was everyone I spoke to.The letter to Baca called for a reorganization of the sheriff’s department. The main thesis is visible and measurable community engagement  by the whole of the sheriff’s department, not just him and importantly, accountability to residents directly, not through another BOS pile of smelly stuff.

The Compton4COPS letter calls on the LASD to accept as real that fear and distrust of law enforcement is a major barrier to effective policing in places like Compton, Willowbrook, South L.A., Palmdale, and Lancaster.  The LASD must take a leadership role—there’s that word again— by finding ways to overcome the level of distrust. Increased trust will lead to safer communities; better communication; focus on problems identified by the community; and, less use of force litigation. The sheriff is asked to expand his role beyond law enforcement in three ways; 1. By elevating crime prevention and community trust building within the organization 2) engaging the community often and differently, and, 3) accept that resident distrust of deputies and police in general is real. Distrust is exacerbated by media accounts of county jail problems and deputy involved killings.

Baca was asked to reorganize the Sheriff’s Department to put emphasis where it is needed most, satisfying the policing needs of residents. Specifically, creation of two high level units or bureaus is prescribed; Crime Analysis, Prevention & Community Trust Bureau (CAPCTB) and Quality Measurement, Policy Development & Control Bureau (QMPDCB).

The primary charge of CAPCTB is to analyze crime problems, particularly as identified by the community serviced, public dumping, sex trafficking, and hate crimes for example, and design and implement corrective strategies. This bureau will also focus on developing and executing strategies to build trust for law enforcement within communities such as Compton. The LASD needs to develop a comprehensive information outreach and feedback program loop. This will help LASD assess if customer service is good, bad, or indifferent.

The QMPDCB will focus on developing transparent service quality measures based on his department’s mission and strategic goals. If crime control and reduction is a primary goal, adding other objectives to the policing tool bag will sit favorably with communities such as Compton. For example, in addition to arrest, response times, and clearances, station personnel’s effectiveness could also be measured by:

  • Number of problem‐solving meetings held with local businesses & community groups
  • Number of new initiatives from partnering with business & community
  • Measures of citizens’ feelings of safety in their neighborhoods

Clear and understandable policies with actionable and measurable performance indicators will go a long way with improving internal accountability and answer three fundamental questions: How are we doing? Why are we doing it? And, what should we be doing? The recommended organization flow is attached.

Second, rules of community engagement should be clarified and probably redefined.

Historically, rebellions or riots have occurred that were sparked by police activity in communities from Dade County Florida to Alameda County California. Who can forget Los Angeles in August 1965 and April 1992? The charge of the CAPCTB will be to create new engagement rules and new images of policing to offset beatings, fire hose, and canine images from policing tactics used in the past. Strategies will need to be developed for engaging diverse groups and population segments such as youth, seniors, and especially young adults in places such as Compton.

Third, we must all accept that distrust of police is a major impediment to productive relations between law enforcement and communities such as Compton. A few bad deputies inform community perception of the majority and this is not something that is overcome with Public Relations units. It is usually how deputies go about their daily job that determines trustworthiness. Questionable police shootings are the most blatant deterrent to building community trust among other derogating behavior toward residents.

The proposed organization chart shows the additional units placed directly under the sheriff, above the under sheriff.

Sheriff Baca’s March 21, 2013** letter responded to the petition. That letter references another document, Public Trust Policing – Partnering with the Communities We Protect,*** and refers us to work with the Compton Sheriff’s Station captain. The document touts what the sheriff considers its public trust programs but falls short of establishing any sort of baseline by which to measure changes in community trust levels. It is not clear what audience the booklet was intended for or its purpose. With a budget approaching $3 billion the onus for trust building devolves to the LASD. Besides, to effect positive change in Compton requires a revamping of the whole of LASD as described above and in the March 12 letter. That’s the only way to ensure continuity with constantly changing sheriff personnel, including captains.

I’ll reiterate, I am indeed saying that the LASD must change its style of policing entirely if it hopes to better serve communities such as Compton, Willowbrook, South L.A., and, possibly Palmdale and Lancaster. If this can be done without affecting sheriff county-wide services and jails, so be it. Some other cities might be 100% satisfied with sheriff’s services and have few problems with distrust, so why change the wheel instead of one bad lug nut? The answer is that: 1) historically rebellions and riots are more likely to be ignited by police behavior and that in turn adversely affects the whole county, socially and economically and, 2) passage of Measure I in April locks the sheriff into Compton forever (or until the voters overturn it). It might be wise for the sheriff to develop mechanisms to access more segments of the community to determine the validity of perceptions expressed in this and other reports.

To his credit, Sheriff Baca boldly rolled out a new flatter organization structure in May. It was published in that month’s edition of Star & Shield, below. The new org shows custody or jails as an entity under an assistant sheriff all to its self. That’s a good thing. It also shows the new Internal Investigations and Inspectional Services units all reporting directly to him. Those are good things too but seem too narrowly focused on jails. Patrol and Detective operations report to the sheriff through an assistant sheriff. That’s good because patrol might be able to now establish its own identity and direction. Besides, that is where the average person is most likely to come into contact with sheriff’s services.

Conceivably, the items contained in our March 12, letter to Baca could occur within the far right portion of the chart under the assistant sheriff over Administrative/Professional Standards. I say this because that is where crime analyst reside and, hold your breath, there is a new box called Continuous Improvement Unit. That’s huge.

Since none of the reorganization was accompanied by narrative, it remains to be seen if the sergeant’s comment about rearranging boxes is valid. Because there is no narrative, we cannot see around or through the huge elephant in the room: the level of community involvement and engagement. Is customer service an integral part of the mission? The sheriff must overcome a common refrain about its complaint process: 1) “They ain’t gonna do nothing anyway,” and 2) Complaint initiation is unfriendly and discouraging.  In Compton Station there is actually a Plexiglas counter barrier that separates the worker from the public to exacerbate the problem. The sheriff needs to determine community expectations of the sheriff’s department and its role in the community, and develop policy that matches those expectations. The Patrol/Detective Operations must learn and then fully implement community-oriented policing.

The way that deputies go about their jobs in places like Compton, Willowbrook, Athens, Lancaster, Palmdale, and South L.A. will determine the efficacy of the reorganization. Another way to accelerate real change is for LASD to seek Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) accreditation. CALEA, an independent entity, that was founded in 1979 through the joint efforts of the International Associations of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Sheriff’s Association and the Police Executive Research Forum. CALEA allows LASD to transparently police itself from within.

The Commission is charged with administering an accreditation process unique to law enforcement agencies in the United States and several foreign nations. The ultimate goal of the process is to increase the professionalism of law enforcement agencies.

Of course, citizens’ commissions, Inspector Generals, Board Deputies, and all others fail to address issues raised here. Why?

That’s my take on it. I welcome your feedback.

LASD Reorganization May 2013

*Lee Baca final (Autosaved)March 12 letter

**Baca response to Cpt4COPS

***Public Trust_LASD

 

Compton Raped, Repeatedly

Pissed

In April 2000, it took three votes, Omar Bradley, Amen Rahh, and Delores Zurita  to disband the Compton Municipal Police Dept. In June 2010, it took three votes, Eric Perrodin, Lilly Dobson, and Barbara Calhoun to attempt a CPD comeback. In April 2011, the comeback failed due a lack of budget amendment votes.  The one common thread to this 13 year policing odyssey is that in neither instance was the Compton community included in the discussion or decision making process.

In 2001 Bradley was ousted. In 2003 Zurita and Rahh were not re-elected. Calhoun subsequently was voted out in 2011. Will there be more incumbent ousters in 2013?

Once again without any community discussion about policing, 4000 signatures were gathered from Compton voters to place Measure “I” before the voters that reads:

“All police powers as prescribed by Federal and State law that can be carried out by a Municipal Police Department shall be provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the City of Compton. The city shall annually budget funds to cover the cost for Los Angeles County Sheriff Department services.”

The proponents, primarily the sheriff deputy union ALADS and a former Compton city clerk would have voters believe that sheriff services in Compton is being threatened and that Measure “I” is the best solution to “Keep the Sheriff in Compton.”

In reality, Compton voters are asked to lock in sheriff’s services and jobs to the extent that it can choose no other option regardless of whether the city can afford it or if service quality is substandard or inappropriate. None of the other 42 cities contracting with the sheriff has such a law on its books and probably never will.

The LASD has a dubious service history in Compton. For example station deputy Mark Fitzpatrick was convicted of sexual assault on women; Captain Bernice Abram of Carson station got in on the Compton action by helping Compton drug dealers;  deputies fired 120 shots at Winston Hayes in East Compton; Deputy Gabriel Gonzalez was convicted in 2006 of raping three women while on duty in Compton and surrounding areas; Bryant Hunter was killed by deputies that shot at him through their own vehicle windshield; Sean O’Donghue filed false reports; the killings of Avery Cody  Jr. in 2009 and Jose Delatrinidad late last year in neighboring Willowbrook by Lynwood deputies. The influence of Lynwood deputy behavior on Compton and Willowbrook go way back. Sometimes, although rarely, deputies are fired for misdeeds as in the case of Arthur Jones.

Despite the stings, the problem of prostitution goes unabated along the once commercially thriving Long Beach Blvd due to the sheriff’s inability to arrest and prosecute johns, the sex trade customer. Some even question the validity of the so-called hate crime that supposedly occurred in Compton not long ago and how the incident appeared on the front page of the L.A. Times the same day, January 26,  as the protest rally of the sheriff deputy killing of Jose Delatrinidad late last year. On top of everything, a sizable number of residents simply don’t trust deputies.

Only in Compton can a dastardly deed such as Measure “I” even be contemplated and it points to the failures of municipal leadership since Walter R. Tucker III days. What city in its right mind would permanently lock in a contractor? Such an act defeats the choice option that comes along with time limited agreements and narrows the menu of policing service options available to city to the sheriff’s offerings.

Disincorporation

Is measure “I” the first step toward disincorporation of Compton as a city? What’s to stop the next or even the same proponents from coming with another signature gathering to replace fire department services, Emergency Medical Services, and public works? Don’t think it’s possible? Who would have thought 13 years ago that Compton would still be grappling over the issue of policing?

The Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) looked at Compton and several other southeast cities, Lynwood, Cudahy, Maywood, Bell, Commerce, Vernon, and South El Monte in 2008 and prepared a report that asks the question: Is there a better way to govern the area?

Would Compton be better off under the County of Los Angeles completely? This might be the solution, albeit a sad one, if residents want potholes filled, streets resurfaced, trees trimmed, sewer and water lines replaced, parks maintained and manned and, of course, law enforcement from the sheriff.

LAFCO regulates boundary changes proposed by other public agencies or individuals through application. One objective is to discourage urban sprawl that is described as irregular and disorganized growth occurring without apparent design or plan.

According to its brochure, “This pattern of development is characterized by the inefficient delivery of municipal services (e.g., police, fire, water, and sanitation and the unnecessary loss of agricultural resources and open space lands). By discouraging sprawl, LAFCO limits the misuse of land resources and promotes a more efficient system of local governmental agencies.”

Under the county arrangement, instead of going to the parking-less city hall to complain, you’d travel downtown to the Board of Supervisors and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Given the findings of the LAFCO 2008 report, it’s not hard to project what the 2013 report, that’s overdue, could look like. Face it, a lot has happened since 2008 in Vernon, Bell, Cudahy, and Compton. Much of it was not good.

After reading through most of the information on the LAFCO Webpage, I’m unclear whether it has the authority to dissolve boundaries in Compton for example and annex the city with Los Angeles County. But, it occurs to me that this is one option for residents to get the kind of basic quality-of-life services that have been in decline in Compton for a long, long time. Besides, it’s unlikely that surrounding cities would agree to consolidate with Compton.

I’m just sayin’.

MEET JIM CROW: NO RESTROOMS IN COMPTON PARKS DURING PARK HOURS-Update

One quality of life basic is finding, when needed, a clean, safe, and accessible place to urinate, defecate or whatever needs to happen in a restroom. It’s not so easy in Compton especially in most public parks when “staff” is off duty and that’s why the Committee for Clean Public Accommodations during Parks Hours (The Committee) rallied Saturday morning at Gonzales Park in Compton.

The Committee called on the Compton municipality to act immediately to correct the problem of inadequate restrooms and drinking fountain amenities in Gonzales, Siebrie and other public parks so as to make them clean, safe and accessible.

The Committee believes that the absence of male and female restrooms in parks and throughout Compton goes against basic human dignity, violates California Health and Safety Code Section 118500-118505, and contributes to poor public health.

For over a decade there has been few to no operational drinking fountains and restrooms in Gonzalez Park, Siebrie and other parks throughout the city. Moreover, clean and accessible restrooms are difficult to find in both the private and public sectors throughout the city and appear worse than accommodations during the separate and unequal Jim Crow period of American history.

The absence of clean, safe and accessible restrooms is clearly a public health issue, particularly for the “restroom challenged” that is away from home and will suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available. Medical studies show the importance of regular urination, with women generally needing to void more frequently than men. Adverse health effects that may result from voluntary urinary retention include increased frequency of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can lead to more serious infections and, in rare situations, renal damage (Nielsen, A. Waite, W., “Epidemiology of Infrequent Voiding and Associated Symptoms,” Scand J Urol Nephrol Supplement 157).

One of the worst decisions ever made was to build a swimming pool at Gonzales Park between a parking lot and historic Little League baseball playing field in the late 1990s. The field is practically unusable and the outdoor restroom adjacent to the parking lot was removed and never replaced. On top of that, the pool had inadequate drainage capability which leads to another terrible decision; playing field number two has been turned into a storm water run-off pool allegedly to mitigate flooding. That leaves only the Compton Municipal Stadium, built in 1951, for baseball play at the legendary and historically significant ballpark named after Jackie Robinson.

This brings us to another important decision lapse, the blight that the stadium is allowed to become due to vandalism and faulty planning evidenced by the rock park at the stadium’s east end.

This is all part of diminishing park space in general and baseball playing area in particular in Compton. What a strange outcome, despite all of the major league baseball players that came and continue to come from or through Compton.

The Committee rallied April 6 near the gymnasium at Gonzales Park just as a Town Hall meeting was occurring inside of it by first district councilwoman, Jana Zurita. Unfortunately, to be fair, Zurita has inherited a park in decline due to past inaction and neglect by her predecessors. But, this is a situation on which legacies are built. Anyone that can forget about policing ballot distractions and dysfunctional city politics long enough to meet the needs of residents and turn Gonzales Park around should almost be canonized.

Nevertheless, she met with Committee members after the Town Hall and shared her ideas about restroom solutions. Of course, the Committee also has ideas about how best to meet restroom and its maintenance need. They promised to help maintain the restroom and agreed that the best hours for it be open is from dawn to dusk.  Liability concerns preclude park users from bringing in porta-potties according to Zurtia. The question then becomes why can’t the city do so as a temporary measure until a permanent solution happens?

The health of some Compton residents depends on the availability of accessible, clean and safe restrooms in the public places, especially parks. Restrooms advance mental and physical health, fitness, and well-being. Conversely, serious health issues result when restroom availability is compromised

Zurita explained that she would form a committee to pursue a restroom solution to include members of the protesters within two weeks (after the April 16 election of course). The Committee agreed to give her a chance and put the protest signs in storage, for now.

UPDATE – I spoke with Councilwoman Zurita on this several times and she did indeed fulfill her promise of an interim and temporary solution. Of course, a wheelchair accessible unit would accommodate some residents in the building behind it.  Zurita spoke of adding a permanent outdoor restroom to the recreation building that houses the gym. Maybe that can be done in 2013-14. People need more not less park space and accommodations in District 1, especially since Siebrie Park appears lost to water storage.  Maybe now that I have a place to pee, I can give attention to the street pits down Grandee Ave between El Segundo Blvd and Stockwell. Horrible.

 

Candidate Forums and Politics

I’m not one much for politics or politicians. After all of the promises and outright lies, most have incompetently left Compton worse off with budget deficits, poor education and public service, negative outcomes in the form of street pot holes, public nuisances and high crime, high taxes and utility bills, and, to top it off, old farts scrambling for life-long political careers have all but ignored the life blood of the community, young people.

And they wonder why we have gangs.

Candidate Forums

Still, I’m a member of the Concerned Citizens of Compton (CCC), one of the few activist groups in Compton. Most of us are elderly and many are retired, some from politics and civil service. For a while I thought the organization was too close to politicians and, to an extent, it might be if accountability is not demanded from them.

The numbers of politicians coming through admittedly test the limits of my comfort because I trust them so little. But what keeps me involved is this part of the CCC mission statement “We encourage and support leadership who will serve the Citizens of Compton with unselfishness, honesty and integrity.”

That’s a tall order given Compton’s governing and political history since mayor Walter Tucker III, but hope springs eternal.

But, like the president, Marie Hollis, reminds us, “where else can you go to receive what CCC offers [real politicians and bureaucrats up-close and personal]?” The answer is nowhere. Besides, the three candidate’s forums to date, while not all inclusive of everyone running, have been interesting and informative. And, because I’m always interested in getting residents engaged and voting, they let me film them. So, there you go.

The first forum was held February 16 (video) and included Eric Perrodin, Charles Davis, and Rose Marie Downs. The second forum was on March 2 (video), and featured Satra Zurita, Lynn Rodgers-Boone, Jasper Jackson, and Aja Brown. The March 16 (video) forum was for Diana Sanchez, Craig Cornwell, Cynthia Green-Geter, Omar Bradley, and Anton Blakely. The next is April 6.

Django (The “D” is Silent)

I’m reminded of the movie Django and the character I consider the most significant, Stephen, played by Samuel L. Jackson. With due respect for the outstanding performance of Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie and the Academy Award winning performance of Christoph Waltz as Dr. Shultz, it was Jackson’s role as what we use to erroneously refer to as “Uncle Tom”  that riveted my attention.

I didn’t really want to see Django even though I like most of Quentin Tarantino’s other movies. I couldn’t fathom how anything humorous could be mined from our experience as American slave property, particularly in the hand of a white man. Spike Lee, yes, Tarantino, no.

It was after my third viewing, twice because I liked my dates and the third time watching a bootleg with my mother that I drew out a different understanding. For me the movie starts at chapter 18 where Stephen first appears.

Stephen is a House Nigger and the very epitome of what we, as Africans, thought we had come to despise. Stephen is intelligent as we see when he first appears making out a check to pay Calvin’s, his master, grain bill.

Stephen oversees plantation and household operations on behalf of Calvin’s sister. He has full control of the house and the surrounding acreage. He would never criticize and always agrees with Calvin much like many in Compton do when it comes to discussions about sheriff’s services and what deputies do in Compton. On top of that, he has a special relationship with Calvin because he no doubt raised him. In other words, Stephen was Calvin’s male nanny. Stephen is Calvin’s surrogate father and has the rights and entitlements associated therewith including the power of life and death over the other slaves.

Stephen will do anything to maintain his position in the hierarchy including maiming or otherwise killing the aspirations of other slaves. He is the anti-Harriett Tubman. I’m reminded of Stephen as I watch the political jockeying taking place in Compton.

Candidates

There are 12 people running for mayor, six for city council District 3, seven for council District 2, two for city clerk, and three for treasurer. That totals 30 people after five jobs.

I’m not suggesting that all candidates fit the Stephen mold but there is probably more of his type than Harriett Tubman’s which creates a dilemma of choice for the voters, especially when we consider the CCC mission statement above.

Who do you vote for? What candidates have the leadership and managerial skill to drive Compton out of the ditch it’s parked in? Which candidate has the sense and competence to understand that Compton is city manager oriented per charter and the lead of a skilled CM is essential? Not all Compton candidates are African [American], and that’s a good thing. But the comparison to Stephen still holds since the focus is on  character traits which transcend ethnicity, race, and gender.

Listen closely to what candidates are saying. Do they even have a grasp of Compton’s situation? Do they understand how governing works? Can any describe it or paint a picture of that understanding? Any solutions?

Does the shit make sense? If not, don’t be afraid to vote for the unfamiliar name if the ideas make sense.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION for EQUAL JUSTICE in AMERICA: Contempt-of-Cop and Excessive Force

The March 4 NAEJA meeting (video) was billed as a discussion by attorney R.J. Manuelian on Officer Involved Shootings and Excessive Force but it was really about “contempt-of-cop,” or as Special Counsel Merrick Bobb describes it “discretionary” or “obstruction” arrests.

I started reading Bobb’s reports about 10 years ago and have always liked and found them thorough, easy to read, unbiased, and pointed. He seemed to maintain integrity and not cozy-up too close to the sheriff in his role as ongoing monitor and critical reviewer of the LASD’s performance.

Bobb was a fall-back position from a fully fledged civilian review board. I’ll talk about review boards below.

Attorney R. J. Manuelian suggests what can be done to avoid being arrested and what to do if you are in trouble with the law, especially as it relates to young people. He and Walter Katz from the Office of Independent Review spoke on basic rights and the need to file complaints when officers exhibit questionable behavior.

For the sheriff, that means filing a “Service Comment Form” at the local station. There is a LASD policy that describes the complaint process and requirements

Manuelian’s comments on gang profiling suggests that innocent non-gang affiliated young people get arrested often, especially in Compton and that he will represent them when this happens. He also speaks to the illegality of trunk searches without driver consent and home searches without a search warrant that describe exactly what areas are to be searched.

The sheriff lays out from a law enforcement perspective that what should be done if stopped by deputies.

Again, both Manuelian and Katz emphasized the need to make formal complaints. The deputy “track record” is important as it relates to internal and external investigations of deputy behavior.

Complaint Process

Complaints are recorded in the Personnel Performance Index (PPI) and can help defense attorneys using Pitchess Motions gain access to examine a deputy’s history. I was unable to locate a concise and clear-cut description of the PPI but it is reviewed prior to promotions and transfers for deputies according to policy.

The sheriff’s Service Comment Report, or complaint form is not presently on the LASD Website but an electronic one is. There is also a phone number to make complaints, 1 800 698-8255.

Get the deputies name, time, place and day of the incident when you complain. Also, this form can be used for commendations when deputies do something noteworthy. In my opinion, positive behaviors are just as important as complaints in that it helps the community define desirable or expected behavior.

Manuelian believes that service improvement and change comes about through the complaint process and civil litigation. Others believe that civilian oversight is a solution to a community’s influence and say-so into how they are policed.

Civil litigation is fine but way to slow and the focus way too narrow. Lawsuits are expensive, consume a lot of time, and provide a remedy only in extreme cases such as what we might see with the Jose Delatrinidad killing by deputies last November or the Winston Hayes case in East Compton several years ago.

According to Walker (2002), research suggests that a strategy of suing police departments to achieve accountability and general reforms was not successful.

As a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, it was the rising cost of civil suits over misconduct that prompted the County Board of Supervisors to hire on Merrick Bobb as Special Counsel. He has investigated nearly every aspect of LASD yet the problem of distrust and confidence in deputies remains high in places such as Compton according to regular informal surveys conducted by me.

Civilian Oversight

There are four types of civilian oversight of police according to Walker (2002). With Class I systems, a separate agency investigates citizen complaints and makes recommendations to the head cop. Members are civilian appointees.

Complaints are investigated by internal affairs in Class II systems but the civilian review body examines the complaint files and makes disciplinary recommendations.

Class III systems have the police department responsible for investigating and disposing citizen complaints. If not satisfied, the complainant can appeal to the citizen review procedure.

In “auditor” or Class IV systems, police retain full responsibility for handing citizen complaints. In L.A. County the Office of Independent Review and Special Counsel Merrick Bobb do the audit function.

Oversight is fine but still does not go to the problematic core in places such as Compton where many residents simply don’t trust police. Besides, audits occur after the fact. They may be fine with reducing the overall amount of civil payouts and save taxpayers a few bucks but do nothing to improve the everyday working relationships between residents and police in cities such as Compton.

At day’s end, Compton still has problems with public prostitution, graffiti, inordinate amounts of gang activity, and poor deputy and community relationships and is the reason why I support community-oriented and problem-oriented policing. These policing styles place more emphasis on solving community problems and have the potential to go right at the problem of distrust.

Collective Responsibility

Manuelian rightfully placed a lot of the onus on families and community members for mitigating “gang” activity and its negative outcomes like murder. I go further and stress the interrelationship between families, schools, neighborhoods, municipal/county government, and economic opportunities.

If family heads work to pay bills and maintain the roof, the larger community has a support obligation. In Compton, a very youth unfriendly city, one skate park, airport program, and youth activity league aside, there is little of value for 32,000 young people under 18 years old.

There are many problems to be addressed that will take a concerted effort by everyone including police if they are willing to expand beyond a narrow law enforcement focus.

If, indeed, as the sheriffs core values assert “As a leader in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department…,” true leaders have followers. True leaders will help the community solve problems not cause them. True leaders will not just look to arrest its way through but help tackle the thornier problems faced by places such as Compton. True leaders form and work with teams with a purpose to satisfy the resident customer. True leaders don’t take the role lightly and constantly seek to improve service even when it’s uncomfortable and uncustomary.

The goal of the true leader is to have Compton become a city where it is safe for every woman, child, and man to walk the street without fear at anytime.

That’s a real game changer and the point where commerce and the city will flourish and self-image will improve.

Ref.

Walker, S. (2002) The Police in America An Introduction. Fourth ed.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION for EQUAL JUSTICE in AMERICA: POLICE INVOLVED KILLINGS

A deputy is probably more likely to be convicted of smuggling a cell phone to a jail inmate than found guilty of murder. No one at the February 4, 2013, NAEJA (video) meeting could recall when a policeman was convicted of murder when acting in the role of peace officer. Someone tried to recall Johannes Mehserle, the BART police officer who shot Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day, 2009 but he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, not murder.

The cry for help was loud and clear but whether it was heard, that’s another story and if it is true that past performance is in fact the best predictor of future performance, Lord have mercy, are we in trouble. Someone among the 150 people in the NAEJA audience actually suggested that the panelists help the attendee’s change the dynamics that allow police to kill people without ever being punished.  Fat chance.

The assumption seems to be that all police killings are justified and if not, a certain level of collateral damage is acceptable, unless of course your family member is on the receiving end.  (Another assumption is that a lower overall homicide rate is a good thing. If murders drop from 80 to 20, it’s time to rejoice. Maybe in Compton but in other cities, one murder is one too many)

Someone in the NAEJA audience offered that changing the Police Officers Bill of Rights might make it easier to convict police for murder. That Act, actually California Government Code Section 3300-3311, was passed in the late 70s to help protect officers from police management and was supported by the ACLU. The Act imposed significant changes on the state’s police departments in the way they conduct investigations involving their own personnel. The 36 year old law would have to be repealed.

Someone else asked if the Grand Jury could be used to indict killer cops. There are two types of Grand Jury, civil and criminal. The main function of the Civil Grand Jury is to investigate county, city, and joint-power agencies.  The Grand Jury acts in a “watch-dog” capacity, by examining carefully and completely, the operations of various government agencies within Los Angeles County. The Civil Grand Jury is further charged with investigating individual complaints from citizens. Conceivably, a citizen could ask the Civil Grand Jury to investigate, for example, the sheriff’s citizen complaint process and procedure. Click here to obtain the form to request investigation by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury.

On the other hand, the Criminal Grand Jury may be impaneled and empowered by law to bring indictments (which are formal charges of generally felony crimes) and also to perform criminal investigations in connection with these indictments.

In Los Angeles County the Criminal Grand Jury attends hearings to weigh evidence brought by the District Attorney’s Office in order to determine on the basis of this evidence whether certain persons should be charged with crimes and required to stand trial in the Superior Court. The Criminal Grand Jury is an accusatory body and not a trial jury; therefore, the burden of proof is much lower. Specifically, the Criminal Grand Jury must decide if there is a strong suspicion the individual committed the crime alleged.

Unlike for civil cases, use of a Grand Jury in criminal cases is a tool of the district attorney, not the average John Q. Public. Moreover, the District Attorney’s Office serves as the legal advisor for the Criminal Grand Jury.

Note that D.A. Lacey was harshly criticized during the NAEJA meeting for failing to attend. Also note that the County D.A. has never brought a murder charge against a local police officer that anyone can recollect. As someone in the audience pointed out during the meeting, maybe the D.A. is simply too cozy with police and is part of the problem.

There was also much talk about the Pitchess Motion. A California Pitchess motion is a request for information contained in an officer’s personnel file. Criminal defense lawyers typically raise this motion when they believe that their client has been the victim of police misconduct. It is filed by a defense attorney to force the police to produce information about the police officers which will help the defendant and which is negative towards the police. Citizen complaints, on the job discipline and other information must be provided.

If you are arrested…and, for example, you claim that the police;

• violated your rights,

• used excessive force,

• engaged in racial profiling,

• coerced your confession,

• fabricated or “planted” evidence, and/or

• made false statements in the police report,

your California criminal defense attorney should probably file a Pitchess motion. When granted, it entitles the defense to obtain information about prior complaints (by other people) that the officer(s) engaged in the types of conduct described above.

Pitchess Motions show why filing complaints against police is so important. Theoretically, the police department or agency keeps records of complaints lodged against its personnel that should be made available under a Pitchess Motion. Whether complaints include those made by inmates against a deputy in the county jails is not known. Again, it is important that people are not discouraged from filing complaints and how they are treated when they attempt to can make all of the difference.

There are procedural requirements for filing a Pitchess Motion that must be met by an attorney. It is best that the filing guidelines be adhered to.

Looking for a defense attorney? Try the L.A. County Bar Association.

NAEJA Anti-Crime Committee meets every first Wednesday of the month at 600 N. Alameda Street, Compton 90221. For more information call (310) 608-5878.

Justice for Jose de la Trinidad March

On January 26, over 100 family members, friends, and supporters marched to protest and bring attention to Jose de la Trinidad who was killed  by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies in the Willowbrook area on November 10, 2012. The march began at the site of Jose’s killing, 122nd Street and Wilmington Ave. and proceeded south down Wilmington Ave. to Compton Blvd., turned east and ended in front of the Compton Sheriff’s Station on Willowbrook Ave.

Mr. Trinidad was the 238th person killed by police since 2007 according to Isaac Asberry, Teen Intervention Program  CEO and founder of the Wall of Shame that tracks all murders in the county beginning in 2007.

The coroner’s report says that Mr. de la Trinidad was shot seven times in the back. A witness claims that Mr. de la Trinidad’s hands were atop his head  when deputies from Lynwood Station opened fire. Pending the investigation, there has been no official word from the sheriff on the shooting other than the standard “he reached for his waistband.”

When we examine the use of deadly force by the sheriff’s department over the past year, the deaths of Jose Toloza, Steven Bromen, Gilberto Guterriez, Christopher Allen, Javier Ortiz, Juan Serna, Christian Coban and others makes one wonder if there is some form of killing competition among sheriff stations.

The de la Trinidad family and supporters will pursue change within the sheriff’s department. Some believe deputy killers should be held personally liable for their actions with the use of deadly force. I believe hiring practices, overall policing style, and leadership are major contributing factors to excessive and deadly force use. Training is a factor as is the excessive length of time deputies spend in jail house training before street assignments.

“NO” ON MEASURE I

There is a ballot initiative, Measure I, for Compton voter’s decision on  April 16, 2013  that I believe is unconscionable. Measure I takes away the city’s choice of policing by adding to the Compton Municipal Code a requirement of county sheriff (LASD) to provide policing or law enforcement services.

All police powers as prescribed by Federal and State law that can be carried out by a Municipal Police Department shall be provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the City of Compton. The city shall annually budget funds to cover the coast for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department services.”

Here we go again. First we had the ineffectual Compton PD, F Troop. Then, thanks to Omar Bradley, we were introduced to sheriff’s services in 2001. Eric Perrodin attempted and failed to bring back CPD. That was really an expensive fiasco. There is one common thread to all of this: The people of Compton had no input whatsoever, and hopefully, memory is long come April 16 when you see familiar names on the ballot. Its time to get off the dysfunctional merry-go-round.

Has anyone living in Compton ever been satisfied with either of the two? I’m not asking which of the two that you are more satisfied or dissatisfied with. No. I’m asking if you are satisfied with either the CPD or LASD service.

Most people I speak with are not only dissatisfied with policing (law enforcement) in Compton but don’t trust them either. Moreover, there is too little discussion on public safety period. If residentts feel safe, they might be more likely to shop and spend money locally. When residents feel safe, they are less likely to move away such as what happened in the 80s.

The question of trust is never asked by elected “leaders” (Bradley, Perrodin, Council) or LASD. Given that we can’t seem to live with or without police, why is the question of trust never asked? Why isn’t the question of whether Compton residents are satisfied with police services ever asked?

“NO” ON MEASURE I.