NEWS of the Day - January 30, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - January 30, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From Los Angeles Times



Newton: LAPD's impound dilemma

A proposal by Chief Charlie Beck to clarify the way police handle cars they impound from unlicensed drivers reopens a larger, historic question: Who's in charge of the city's police?

by Jim Newton

January 30, 2012

At first glance, a proposal by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to clarify the way police handle cars they impound from unlicensed drivers doesn't sound controversial. But his proposal touches one of the city's hot-button issues illegal immigration and it reopens a larger, historical question: Who's in charge of the city's police?

Under Beck's plan, police officers would be given guidelines for when they should impound the cars of unlicensed drivers for 30 days a penalty that can impede a driver's ability to work and cost him or her almost $1,400 and when they should instead merely hold a car until a licensed driver can pick it up. Factors such as the driver's record and the seriousness of the violation would dictate which approach would be employed and presumably discourage arbitrary and unequal treatment. His approach would conform to state law and court decisions and, as he told me last week, ensure that LAPD practice reinforced its broader policies regarding the fair treatment of those it cites or arrests.

None of that has anything directly to do with illegal immigration; the rules would apply to anyone driving without a license for whatever reason. But because so many unlicensed drivers in Los Angeles are immigrants in the country illegally and therefore unable to secure a driver's license, this proposed change in policy would have special ramifications for the city's immigrant community. As a result, immigrant groups have cheered it, while law-and-order types have bitterly opposed it. At a recent San Fernando Valley meeting, hundreds of critics turned out to denounce the proposal.

Beck's approach strikes me as humane and sensible. What's problematic is whether this really is his call to make. After the videotaped beating of Rodney G. King incensed the public in 1991, city leaders recognized the importance of reasserting civilian control over the department. The mechanism, forged by the Christopher Commission and codified by voters, was to give greater power to the city's civilian Police Commission. Today, the chief has authority to run the department he hires, fires, disciplines and deploys the force while the commission sets broad policy, effectively acting as a board of trustees.

What Beck is proposing is a matter of intense public interest; it would significantly affect the actions of police officers; and debate over it has polarized the city partly along racial lines. It's hard to imagine a matter more squarely in the area of policy. Moreover, the LAPD already regards this area as a policy matter. Take this 2010 report by the commission's inspector general: "We noted some confusion among officers, supervisors and adjudicators regarding the current department policy on impounding vehicles of unlicensed drivers." Note the specific use of the word "policy."

Richard Drooyan is the president of the Police Commission and a veteran of the police reform debate in Los Angeles, having served as a lawyer to the Christopher Commission and been a leading advocate for the improvement of city and county policing. In this case, he says, the jurisdictional issue is a close call. "The argument for us to do something is that this is a matter of intense interest to the community and we're the eyes and ears of the community," he told me last week. And the argument against? "We don't want to micromanage the chief."

Drooyan is an exceptionally capable commission president. But the trouble with the balancing act he's attempting is that it invites critics to conclude that the commission is ducking the question. Jack Dunphy, the pseudonymous officer who often writes about the LAPD, complained that the commission is hoping to let Beck carry the load to shield itself, the mayor and the City Council from public outcry. "Clearly it was the hope of all involved that the change would shimmer into permanence while escaping public scrutiny," he wrote recently. I don't often agree with Dunphy, but this time he's got a point.

There's yet another subtle political calculation. If the commission enacts the change, the City Council could veto it (10 members of the council can take a matter away from a commission and reject it). If Beck makes the change, the council can't do anything.

It's easy to see why supporters of this change in policy would prefer for Beck to implement it himself. It's tempting but wrong. The authority of the commission was hard won over many years. It shouldn't be squandered now, even if the chief would handle that responsibility with care.




L.A. County's broken jails: What's the fix?

No one disputes that L.A. County's jails are broken. But asking taxpayers to spend $1.4 billion without having a clear understanding of what is needed to solve the problem is irresponsible.

January 30, 2012

Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to apply for a $100-million state grant to help build a new jail. That's great. The cash-strapped county certainly needs the money. And the overcrowded jails are surely in need of an overhaul.

Men's Central Jail, for example, is bursting with inmates. The aging facility has been described by the American Civil Liberties Union as a "modern-day medieval dungeon" and by a federal judge as "not consistent with basic human values." Twin Towers, a downtown Los Angeles facility built in 1996 to ease overcrowding, has, by contrast, nearly 1,000 empty bunks because of staffing shortages. And the north facility at Pitchess Detention Center that once housed 1,600 detainees now holds just two inmates another casualty of budget cuts.

Whether the state will provide the funds is unclear. What is obvious, however, is that no one at the county level not Sheriff Lee Baca, not Chief Executive William T Fujioka, not even the supervisors has a sensible plan in hand for how to solve the system's broader problems.

Fujioka's office submitted a $1.4-billion plan in November to build two new jails and retrofit a third; it was ultimately voted down by the board. In making the recommendation, neither Fujioka nor Baca undertook any kind of comprehensive study to determine whether everyone in the jails actually belongs there, or whether cheaper and more effective options exist, including alternatives to incarceration for low-level pretrial inmates. The plan would simply have taken the same number of detainees and housed some of them in new facilities.

But bigger and more expensive jails aren't the only solution. A 2011 study of Los Angeles County jails by the Vera Institute of Justice makes that clear. The report suggests that a significant number of detainees are being held in county jails for failing to pay traffic fines or court fees. It costs up to $140 a day to house an inmate, according to the report hardly a cost-effective sanction for such minor offenders. The report also found that some pretrial detainees are held far longer than needed not because they pose a safety risk to communities but because they are simply too poor to make bond. The sheriff has discretion to release them with ankle bracelets.

No one disputes that the county's jails are broken. But asking taxpayers to spend $1.4 billion without having a clear and comprehensive understanding of what is needed to solve the problem is irresponsible.



From Google News


Family plans to appeal convictions in 'honor murders'

by Paula Newton, CNN

Kingston, Ontario (CNN) -- Three members of an Afghan immigrant family, who were found guilty of murder in what the judge called "a completely twisted concept of honor," intend to appeal their convictions.

A Canadian jury on Sunday convicted Mohammed Shafia, 58; his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42; and their son, Hamed, 21, of first-degree murder in the deaths of Shafia's three teenage daughters and his first wife in his polygamous marriage.

Sunday's verdicts followed a three-month trial, in which jurors heard wiretaps of Shafia referring to his daughters as "whores" and ranting about their behavior.

All three were sentenced to life in prison immediately after their convictions, with no chance of parole for 25 years.

A lawyer for the son, Hamed, told Canadian Press his client and the client's parents will file an appeal, but did not say when.

In announcing the verdict, Judge Robert Maranger told the court it was "difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous crime."

"The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your twisted notion of honor, a notion of honor that is founded upon the domination and control of women, a sick notion of honor that has absolutely no place in any civilized society."

Outside the courtroom, Gerard Laarhuis, the chief prosecutor in the case, called it a "good day for Canadian justice."

At least one Shafia family supporter interrupted Laarhuis with shouts of "lies" and called the verdict a "miscarriage of justice." But others cheered the verdict as Laarhuis continued.

The three Shafia sisters -- Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 -- were found dead inside a car that plunged into the Rideau Canal in Kingston on June 30, 2009. Shafia's first wife, 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad, also died.

The verdicts came on the second day of deliberations for a seven-woman, five-man jury in Kingston, about 280 km (175 miles) west of the family's home in Montreal. There was no immediate comment from defense attorneys.

Prosecutors said the girls' father, mother and brother all plotted to kill the four women in an "honor" murder. Investigators claimed that hours of wiretapped conversations reveal a premeditated plan to punish rebellious, Westernized daughters and their permissive advocate, Rona.

Shafia and Yahya admitted on the stand that they were upset with Zainab for running off to marry a Pakistani man they hated, that Sahar wore revealing clothes and had secret boyfriends, and Geeti was failing in school and calling social workers to get her out of a home in turmoil.

Prosecutors argued that under instructions from his father, Hamed Shafia used the family Lexus to ram the other family car carrying the women into the canal. The shattered headlight on the Lexus, they claim, matches the damage on the rear bumper of the family Nissan in which the women were found dead.

Investigators also believed the victims might have died before they hit the water, because they were unable to escape despite their seat belts being unbuckled and the car being submerged in just 7 feet of water.

In the three-month-long trial, Shafia testified, "My children did a lot of cruelty toward me," as he wept openly on the stand. He went on to say he believed his children "betrayed" him by dating and he did not hide his anger, saying a father would never expect that kind of behavior from this daughters.

In taking the stand, Shafia swore to tell the truth on the Quran and he again invoked the holy book to say Islam does not condone killing people to preserve a family's honor.

In a direct response to a question from prosecutor Laurie Lacelle, Shafia said, "To kill someone, you can't regain your respect and honor. Respected lady, you should know that. In our religion, a person who kills his wife or daughter, there is nothing more dishonorable. How is it possible that someone would do that to their children, respected lady?"

"You might do it," Lacelle calmly replied, "if you thought they were whores." Shafia had used that term in a conversation captured by wiretaps.

Investigators played hours of the wiretap recordings in court, alleging many conversations involving the three suspects prove they were plotting murder. In some of the most shocking conversations, Shafia launched into a rant about his daughters' behavior.

"I say to myself, 'You did well. Would they come back to life a hundred times, you should so the same again,'" he says. And in another played in court and translated from the Afghan language Dari, he says, "May the devil defecate on their graves! This is what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?"

Shafia and his lawyers tried to explain that his shocking words are traditional expressions in Dari that should not be translated literally. But the jury also heard from an expert witness on honor murders -- a term CNN is using in the interest of clarity rather than the more common "honor killings" because the latter phrase does not properly describe the alleged crime.

That witness, University of Toronto professor Shahrzad Mojab, said that in some families, honor is worth more than life.

In an interview with CNN, Mojab said that many times, honor crimes are calculated acts that involve more than one family member.

"There is a very important difference between honor killing and violence against women in the form of domestic violence. It is plotted, it is premeditated." Mojab said.

"What we need to understand is that the male power and the male desire for the control of the woman's body and the woman's sexuality -- the honor resides in that sort of understanding and the ownership of women's body and sexuality," he said. "So when that is being presented in a way that is not acceptable to the social norm, then the only way the honor can be restored is by purifying that. And the purification is through blood."