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Yaroslavsky on ‘Mind-Boggling’ Use of Police Chokehold

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Institute at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox 11 News about police use of force in the case of George Floyd, who died in custody in Minneapolis. Images of a white police officer with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for several minutes as the unarmed black man pleaded for help have ignited protests around the country. “There is no excuse whatsoever. There is no chief of police who could defend engaging in that kind of physical restraint when somebody is already handcuffed and submissive,” Yaroslavsky said. In his years as a Los Angeles City Council member, Yaroslavsky was outspoken in his criticism of police use of chokeholds. The tactic was banned in Los Angeles in 1982 except in circumstances that call for deadly force. “Nearly 40 years ago, we ended that chokehold, and it’s just mind-boggling to me that law enforcement agencies across the country still use it,” Yaroslavsky said.


Leap on Police Role in Enforcement of Social Distancing

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to NBC News about accusations that police have targeted minorities more than white protesters for social distancing violations. For example, demonstrators outside the Otay Mesa Detention Facility on April 11, who were protesting conditions faced by detained immigrants, received citations for violating stay-at-home orders and “unlawful use of horn.” However, no citations or arrests were reported at predominantly white beach protests a week later in Encinitas and San Diego. Authorities in San Diego and Los Angeles have enforced stay-at-home orders by issuing a few citations to protest organizers after the agencies were criticized for allegedly unequal enforcement, the report said. According to Leap, the LAPD has shown restraint in its enforcement of social distancing regulations. “The community itself is enforcing stay-at-home,” she said. “The LAPD, thankfully, they have been working with communities, especially communities of color.”


Leap Weighs In on CalGang Reform Process

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the current debate surrounding the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of CalGang, a secretive statewide database with information about suspected gang members, including their family members, nicknames and tattoos. Since only approved law enforcement has access to the database, it has been nearly impossible for those outside of law enforcement to gauge the integrity of the process or check the accuracy of its records. At least 20 LAPD officers are suspected of falsifying information used to identify gang members, putting additional pressure on the state Department of Justice to reform the system to prevent law enforcement from unfairly targeting people by race and economic status. Leap said the LAPD investigation “is the booster rocket to say this has got to be reformed and it’s got to be reformed not in a superficial way but in a meaningful way.”


Leap on Restrictive Parole Policies for Gang Members

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap was featured in a New York Times article about the restrictive parole system that makes it difficult for individuals with a history of gang involvement to ever clear their names. Kerry Lathan, who was shot in the back while picking up a T-shirt from Nipsey Hussle’s store the day the rap artist was killed, was later arrested for violating parole by associating with a known gang member. Hailed as a community icon who had turned his life around and worked with police to reduce gang violence, Hussle was still listed on CalGang, the California database of gang members. Leap said, “If someone like Nipsey Hussle is viewed as always a gang member, what is happening to the average guy who has a low-level job, who’s trying to make it, and that’s his past?” Leap concluded, “No one ever makes it off that list. No one.”


Armenta Publishes Research on Unauthorized Immigrants and Police

Amada Armenta, an assistant professor of urban planning, co-authored the research article “Beyond the Fear of Deportation: Understanding Unauthorized Immigrants’ Ambivalence Toward the Police,” which was recently published in American Behavioral Scientist. Armenta and co-author Rocío Rosales examined unauthorized Mexican immigrants’ perceptions of and experiences with police in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. While much of the existing research focuses on undocumented immigrants’ negative attitudes toward police as a result of fear of deportation, Armada and Rosales used in-depth interviews and ethnography to gain a better understanding of the immigrants’ perceptions of police. Their research article found that most undocumented immigrants are ambivalent about American police, “believing them to be both trustworthy and overly punitive.” Interviews indicated that “compared with police forces in Mexico, [many undocumented immigrants] believe that U.S. police are honest, hardworking and trustworthy.” Even those who do not hold the police in high regard may choose to trust them under certain circumstances. “Positive interactions with the police can shape immigrants’ legal attitudes such that they feel empowered to call the police for help,” the article noted. The study is a valuable addition to research on minorities’ relationships with police, which is mostly focused on the experiences of African American citizens. Armenta is the author of an award-winning book on immigration enforcement in Nashville, Tennessee, and is currently working on a second book examining the legal attitudes of undocumented immigrants in Philadelphia.


High Stakes for L.A. Sheriff, Yaroslavsky Writes

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times detailing the ongoing conflict between newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Years ago, in response to scandals surrounding the county jails, the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence created a 600-page report with recommendations for reform in order to “establish a culture of constitutional policing, and consequences for those who wouldn’t acculturate,” Yaroslavsky wrote. Many of the reforms were implemented under former Sheriff Jim McDonnell, but Villanueva “has vowed to eviscerate these reforms,” he stated. Villanueva has prompted further criticism as a result of his reinstatement of a deputy who was discharged for domestic abuse allegations. Yaroslavsky wrote, “Alex Villanueva can either get on board with the U.S. Constitution or get out of the way.”


 

Leap on Legal Dispute Between Villanueva and L.A. County

Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the legal dispute between Los Angeles County and Sheriff Alex Villanueva over the new sheriff’s reinstatement of Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan. Mandoyan was fired by former Sheriff Jim McDonnell in 2016 over allegations of domestic abuse, but was recently rehired by Villanueva, who argued that the termination was unfair. The county identified the reinstatement as unlawful and has instructed Mandoyan to return his badge and gun, but Mandoyan has refused to comply. The legal conflict “threatens what is normally a more collaborative relationship between officials,” Leap said. “This is not where the energy should be expended,” she added, noting that Villanueva should “admit his mistake and move forward.” Leap also spoke to KNX1070 radio, commenting that the case is seen as a battle of wills but should focus on whether an individual is fit for employment. 


Police Unions Object to Transparency, Newton Writes

Public policy lecturer Jim Newton recently published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times denouncing police unions’ “blanket attempts to shield [police] records.” Police shootings across the country have prompted demands for more transparency in law enforcement. A new law in California, SB 1421, requires that “records of police shootings and other uses of force be made public,” including “cases in which officers were investigated for dishonesty or sexual assault.” According to Newton, police unions are resisting the law by arguing that it “only applies to new records created after the law took effect.” Newton compares SB 1421 to other sunshine laws like the Freedom of Information Act, where access to “old documents … shed substantial new light on American history.” Newton acknowledges the special circumstances that may require withholding certain records from the public, but stresses the importance of transparency as a “crucial tool for keeping police accountable.”


Newton Pens Piece on Police Accountability

Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin lecturer of public policy, contributed a CALmatters “My Turn” commentary on proposed California legislation that would undo overly broad protection of police personnel records currently exempted under the California Public Records Act. “Senate Bill 1421 would undo a misguided effort in the 1970s to over-protect police from public scrutiny and yet preserve protections for officers who have done their jobs well,” wrote Newton, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the UCLA magazine Blueprint.