Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Police Arrest Dozens To End Ferguson Protests In Downtown L.A.

By Richard Winton, Kate Mather, Angel Jennings, Tre’vell Anderson, Samantha Masunaga, Marisa Gerber, Brittny Mejia, Ruben Vives, Taylor Goldenstein and Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

A large demonstration against a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager ended early Wednesday morning in downtown Los Angeles when police officers in riot gear surrounded a group of several dozen protesters.

At about 12:45 a.m., Los Angeles police told the group they were under arrest and ordered the crowd to sit down. Two police buses arrived near the intersection of Temple Street and Broadway. A police spokesman said the arrests were made on charges of disorderly conduct.
The LAPD also arrested 33 protesters at the intersection of Flower Street and 9th Street, according to Capt. Martin Baeza.

It was not immediately clear how many total arrests were made. Up until the late-night incident, the LAPD had arrested just four people in connection with the demonstrations. The California Highway Patrol had also arrested four people in connection with multiple attempts to block local freeways.

The crowd marked the remnants of a large rally outside LAPD headquarters that splintered into roving groups that had disrupted traffic in the area throughout the night. Tuesday’s protests began in South L.A. at about 3 p.m. and steadily moved east to the 110 Freeway. The majority of protesters were peaceful, but some became unruly as the night wore on.

After protesters caused repeated freeway, road and rail closures, they spread out throughout downtown and caused mayhem for motorists on local roads.

More than 100 protesters meandered through the streets and sidewalks near L.A. Live, briefly closing down traffic at Georgia Street and Olympic Boulevard. Nearby movie theatre Regal Cinemas locked its doors, allowing only customers with tickets inside. Police officers in riot gear formed human walls to block protesters from disrupting traffic on the freeway.

Another group outside LAPD headquarters began to march south on Main Street, then headed west on First Street toward Broadway. They left a handful of protesters behind, who drew chalk messages on the sidewalks and wrote anti-LAPD graffiti. A few gathered in a tight circle and sang freedom songs, their voices bouncing off of tall buildings.

Protesters briefly shut down the 101 Freeway in both directions after they placed barricades and metal debris on the road. Motorists trying to escape the jam flooded onto side streets in downtown Los Angeles. As cars packed Cesar Chavez Boulevard, a small group of protesters lay down where the street intersects with Grand Avenue, causing another traffic jam.

Some protesters jumped on a police cruiser near the Hall of Administration on Temple Street and posed for pictures. One of them was detained. A group of about 20 protesters sat down on Temple Street, forcing a truck to reverse and drive along Grand Avenue.

One officer was injured when a protester hurled a bottle of frozen water that struck the officer’s head, an LAPD spokeswoman said.

A small group of demonstrators seemed to be seeking confrontations with police and frequently tried to move the protests onto freeways to disrupt traffic. At least one patrol car appeared to have been defaced with graffiti.

Members of the crowd tried to stop fellow protesters from getting violent, shouting at them to stop.

Throughout the night, demonstrators clashed with each other about what form their protests should take. Some suggested heading to Beverly Hills, while another group split off and walked in a totally different direction.

Elan Lee, 27, watched a man throw a plastic bottle and asked him to stop. A group of men began to argue with her, telling her that both peaceful and violent protests are necessary.
“It was just seeing how mad he was,” Lee said, tears welling. “It made me sad to see someone so angry. … I don’t want throwing a bottle to cause the media to say protests are violent because they’re not.”

Lee, a downtown resident, said she understands the anger but she thinks there’s been enough violence.

“I just want a peaceful movement,” Lee said. “Enough is enough.”

Others felt that some protesters were simply taunting police to collect accolades on social media, where multiple demonstrators were posting pictures.

“Half of this protest I feel like is baiting cops … sort of about proving who you are against the police,” said Wilder Bunke, 21, of Hollywood, who was critical of actions by some in the crowd. “The modern-day “… the police” isn’t shooting a cop, it’s posting a picture of yourself posing with a cop car on Facebook or Twitter.”

Bunke said he felt some were demonstrating for the wrong reasons.

“I support the protest, I support this stand against police brutality and the institution of racism, but the antics of protesters are what delegitimize the protest as a whole.” he said.

Demonstrators said they were combating a sense of defeat and helplessness after the grand jury’s decision.

“Even though this might not do anything, being silent is much worse,” said Dylan Farr, 22, of Glendale.

His sister, a doctoral student at USC, was with him.

“I am angry and I feel powerless to change the way things are,” said Brittany Farr, 26. “It feels good to register my frustrations in a public way.”

Protests took a different form at Holman United Methodist Church, five miles from L.A. Live, where clergy and community groups called for peace and for collaboration.

More than 60 people from various faiths and ethnicities gathered in the church’s social hall about 7:30 p.m. to talk and pray about systematic change.

“I am disappointed, disturbed, but yet still determined … that we can display righteous anger, but do that in a constructive way,” said Kelvin Sauls, the senior pastor at the church.

“This moment and these moments we’ve had must become a movement,” he said.

In San Diego, several hundred protesters shut down a portion of Interstate 15 in the City Heights neighborhood for about 30 minutes Tuesday night. The crowd was moved off the freeway by San Diego police and CHP officers.

At least one person was arrested. There were no immediate reports of injuries or property damage.

A second protest march took place in downtown San Diego without incident.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

LAPD Study Focused On Small Part Of Discipline System

By Richard Winton, Kate Mather, and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — The officers were blunt in their assessment of the Los Angeles Police Department’s disciplinary system: It was unfair and needed to be fixed.

“It’s all about who you know,” wrote one of more than 500 officers and civilian employees who participated in a written survey conducted by the LAPD. “It seems that people with more time on (the job) get more of a break,” wrote another.

The criticism was documented by LAPD officials who examined the agency’s discipline process in the wake of the Christopher Dorner shooting rampage last year.

But the review analyzed only a narrow segment of the LAPD’s expansive system for investigating and disciplining officers.

The report, which took 20 months to complete and was to be presented to the city’s Police Commission on Tuesday, focused mostly on officers sent to hearings for possible termination or lengthy suspensions after being accused of serious misconduct.

The review looked for disparities in whether officers of certain ranks, gender, or race were ordered to the hearings and ultimately penalized, concluding that data showed there was little merit to the complaints of bias.

Left unexamined, however, was the vast majority of the LAPD’s misconduct cases, which are handled by officers’ commanders.

The president of the union that represents the department’s roughly 9,900 rank-and-file officers dismissed the report Monday as a disappointment.

Tyler Izen was critical of what he said were efforts by officials to blame officers’ concerns on their poor understanding of how the discipline system works.

“They are saying the employees don’t get it … I think (officers) are afraid they are going to be fired,” he said. “I would like to see all the raw data because this report doesn’t tell me much.”

Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Commission, acknowledged that some officers believe the discipline system favors those with connections. But he praised the report, saying that it did a good job of analyzing claims of bias based on gender, rank and ethnicity. He said it would have been impossible to quantify all the complaints of disparities in punishments.

“You’ve got a perception that if you’re a friend of the chief’s, then all of the sudden it’s better,” Soboroff said. “You can’t quantify that. How do you do the statistics on that? So that’s a perception issue for the chief to work on. Nobody else but the chief. And he knows that.”

The concerns officers expressed during focus groups convened for the survey were briefly summarized in the 46-page report. The rest of the document was devoted to an explanation of how the discipline process works, a detailed statistical analysis of the rank, gender and race of those involved in misconduct investigations and a brief discussion of some planned changes meant to improve the system.

The most significant statistical finding showed that the ethnic, gender, and rank breakdown of officers sent to disciplinary panels for termination or lengthy suspensions roughly matched the demographics of the LAPD as a whole — a conclusion that department officials emphasized to rebut officers’ notions of bias. Officials acknowledged in the report that they did not conduct any “empirical analysis” on how officers were punished.

“The report was never intended to answer all of the questions raised about the disciplinary system, but it is a significant step toward answering the concerns about bias based on gender, ethnicity, and race,” said Arif Alikhan, a special adviser to Beck who oversaw the report since joining the department earlier this year. “This is an ongoing process and the Department will continue to work to improve the system with feedback from our employees.”

Alikhan said a wide-ranging search for bias in the discipline system would have meant trying to re-create and then compare the thousands of formal complaints filed against officers each year. Every case, he said, can conclude with department officials reaching any one of seven findings, while guilty officers face eight different types of penalties. Suspensions can range from one to 65 days.

“Such an analysis would be very challenging and beyond the scope of the department’s ability,” Alikhan said. Reviewing a sample of cases was also not feasible, he added.

Police Chief Charlie Beck launched the review after the February 2013 shootings by Dorner, a former LAPD officer who was seeking revenge for what he saw as his wrongful firing by the department. After Dorner killed the daughter of a retired LAPD captain and her fiance, he killed two police officers and wounded others during a massive search that lasted 10 days.

In a rambling online document, Dorner claimed that he had been the victim of racial discrimination within the department and a badly biased discipline system.

Though Dorner’s actions were roundly condemned, his allegations about LAPD discipline struck a chord among many officers who were also unhappy with how punishments were meted out.

Capt. Peter Whittingham, an outspoken critic of Beck who has sued the department over retaliation that he claims he suffered for refusing to fire an officer at a discipline hearing, said the report was “deeply disappointing.”

“I thought this was an opportunity for real transparency and for the department to show it really wants to address the core issues raised by officers,” he said.

Questions about discipline had dogged Beck before Dorner surfaced. The chief clashed repeatedly with members of the commission over what they saw as the chief’s tendency to give warnings to officers guilty of serious misconduct and the department’s track record for handing down disparate punishments for similar offenses.

That concern was reinforced in March when the Los Angeles Times reported on the case of Officer Shaun Hillmann, the son and nephew of retired LAPD officers Beck knew. After Hillmann was recorded outside a bar uttering a racial slur and then lied about it to investigators, Beck overruled recommendations to fire the young officer and, instead, gave him a lengthy suspension.

Despite not reaching a conclusion about the fairness of punishments, officials did announce in the report plans to start using a so-called penalty guide when deciding on discipline. The guide, which will act like the sentencing guidelines judges use, is meant to instill consistency as it gives commanders the penalty they generally should mete out for various types of misconduct.

AFP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

LAPD Sergeant Defends Role In Handcuffing ‘Django Unchained’ Actress

By Kate Mather and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles police sergeant Monday defended his role in handcuffing and detaining an actress who alleged she was mistreated because of her race, saying he responded to a routine call that escalated when the woman refused to identify herself.

The Los Angeles Police Department has been criticized for Thursday’s detention of “Django Unchained” actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend, celebrity chef Brian James Lucas, in Los Angeles’ Studio City section. Lucas wrote on Facebook that the police had acted as though the couple had been engaged in prostitution because Lucas is white and Watts is black.

But LAPD Sgt. Jim Parker, who responded to the call, said the thought “never crossed his mind.” In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Parker said he approached the couple because they matched a 911 caller’s description of two people having sex in a car parked on Radford Avenue.

“I wanted to go get coffee. I figured I could take care of this call and go get coffee and that was it,” Parker said, calling the incident a “long, drawn-out drama.”

“I was trying to ID them and leave — nobody wanted them arrested for having sex in public,” he said. “But then she went into her tirade.”

Lt. Andrew Neiman, a department spokesman, said officers contacted Watts and Lucas after receiving a 911 call complaining that a couple were having sex in a parked car on the street with the door open. The 911 caller described the couple as a black woman wearing a shirt and floral shorts and a white man with a black tank top, Neiman said.

Lucas and Watts did not return calls or text messages Monday from the Times, despite previously agreeing to an interview. The couple told CNN they stood by their actions and believed they did nothing wrong. Watts said she did not regret refusing to hand Parker her ID.

“I still feel strongly like I didn’t have to,” she said. “I feel that it raises awareness. I’m thankful for the experience. Not to say that I feel like I have to go through it again. But it’s causing a lot of discussion.”

A 24-minute audio recording obtained by the Times and verified by a law enforcement source familiar with the incident captures the encounter. Parker can be heard asking Lucas for his ID as Watts speaks to her father on the phone. When she stops the conversation to ask what’s going on, Parker explains that he was called to the scene in response to a call of “lewd acts.”

Watts insisted the couple had done nothing wrong.

“Somebody called, which gives me the right to be here, so it gives me the right to identify you by law,” Parker said, according to the recording, which was first published by celebrity news site

“Do you know how many times I’ve been called, the cops have been called just for being black?” Watts said. “Just because we’re black and he’s white? I’m just being really honest, sir.”

“Who brought up the race card?” Parker said.

“I’m bringing it up,” she said.

“I said nothing about you being black,” Parker responded.

Watts told Parker she would inform her publicist and said she would not give her ID. At one point, she tried to get Parker to speak to her father on the phone.

Parker said that although Lucas presented his identification, Watts refused and walked away. LAPD officials verified his account.

“Thank you for bringing up the race card,” Parker said. “I never hear that.”

Parker radioed for officers down the street to bring Watts back. He told the Times that the other officers had to bring her back in their police car, given the distance that she walked, which was why they handcuffed her.

Parker and Lucas spent several minutes casually chatting as they waited for the officers to find and bring Watts back. They talked about Lucas’ work and how the couple met at a celebrity benefit. Lucas said he and Watts had been stopped before, calling it a “sensitive subject to her, the black and white.” He said she had never had a run-in with police before they started dating.

“She kind of did a similar thing,” he told the sergeant about a previous encounter. “She wouldn’t give him ID.”

Lucas said that being stopped by police was “not as sensitive to me because I understand it.”

At several points, Lucas joked with the sergeant. “You don’t want to deal with stuff like this. This is not a protect-and-serve issue,” he said, laughing.

When the other officers brought Watts back to the scene, she cried as she berated and cursed the police. She insisted the couple had only been “making out” and criticized whoever had complained.

“I bet there’s at least one person up there who’s a racist,” she said to Parker. “I bet you, you’re a little bit racist.”

In his interview with the Times, Parker, who is assigned to the department’s North Hollywood Division, said he was used to such allegations from his 25 years with the LAPD.

Watts was released after Lucas handed police Watts’ ID, and the officers determined they were not wanted on outstanding warrants. In the audio, Parker told Watts the encounter would have lasted just a few minutes had she identified herself earlier. He pointed out that Lucas, who had been cooperative, had not been handcuffed.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said an internal complaint investigation is being conducted into the matter, based on the public statements made by Watts and Lucas. He said the 911 call that prompted the stop would not be released, as the department does not release 911 tapes.

AFP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

‘Django Unchained’ Actress Detained For ‘Basic Police Work,’ LAPD Says

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles police official defended the actions of officers who detained “Django Unchained” actress Daniele Watts as “basic police work” amid claims that she was mistreated.

According to the police account of the incident, officers were responding to a 911 complaint that a couple was engaged in indecent exposure last week inside a silver Mercedes-Benz with the door open.

Patrol officers and a sergeant from the North Hollywood Division responded to the 11900 block of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City and “located two individuals that matched the description of the suspects, and they were briefly detained,” police said in a statement.

Watts and her companion, Los Angeles chef Brian James Lucas, were subsequently released after an investigation revealed no crime had been committed.

Video posted on social media shows Watts handcuffed, wearing a T-shirt, gym shorts, and athletic shoes, telling an officer, “You guys came and grabbed me … for no reason.”

“As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong,” Watts, who is African American, wrote on her public Facebook page.

But LAPD Capt. Stephen Carmona of the North Hollywood area station defended the officers, saying they were doing due diligence when they detained Watts after she did not give them identification.

“That’s just basic police work. It could be a vandalism suspect in an alley,” Carmona said. “The vandalism may be done, but they’re still going to investigate the incident.”

Still, Carmona said the LAPD would fully investigate the allegations made by Watts and Lucas, who is white.

“We take all of these things really seriously, and we’re going to ask the hard questions,” Carmona said.

Watts and Lucas did not respond to The Times‘ requests for comment. Watts’ manager, Shepard Smith, declined to comment.

AFP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!