Tag Archives: law enforcement

Saving Public Resources and Protecting Our Most Important Resource: Children

Cross-posted from Huffington Post and DailyKos.

Education, public safety, and the economy: three vastly complex issue areas that time and again are proven to be inextricably linked.

By doing what it takes to keep kids in school in every corner of our state, we can save literally billions of dollars in public resources and greatly improve public safety.

Most of us in law enforcement have known this for many years. As San Francisco’s District Attorney, I see the direct impact of what happens when kids don’t stay in school; young lives are lost to street violence or prison at an appalling rate, our state loses more resources and our communities are less safe.

The wake-up calls keep sounding. The California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara just published a devastating report exposing the impact of high school dropouts on California’s economy. The report concludes that high school dropouts account for a disproportionate amount of juvenile crime. By contrast, graduating from high school results in a 17% reduction in violent crime and a decrease of approximately 10% in property and drug-related crimes. The juvenile crimes committed by dropouts cost California $1.1 billion per year. Add in social and medical costs, lost income taxes and associated economic losses, and the report estimates that dropouts cost the state more than $24 billion per year.

To close the horrendous budget deficit this year, California lawmakers reduced the public school system budget by $4.3 billion. Failing to educate our children and lower dropout rates is a recipe for disaster, and the price will be paid by communities and individuals victimized by crime. The direct connection between education, crime and victimization is clear. Harvard sociologist Bruce Western and Becky Pettit found that the cumulative risk of death or imprisonment by age 30-34 nearly triples for men who do not finish high school. Fourteen percent of white men and a staggering 62% of black men who don’t finish high school are dead or in prison by the age of 30-34.

What can be done? Plenty.

First, dropout prevention has to start early. The problem should be red-flagged when children first become habitual truants. Nationwide, 75% of all truant children will eventually drop out of school. In San Francisco, we found that 10% of all students are chronic truants and 40%, or more than 2,000 of those truant students, are in elementary school.

That’s right. Elementary school.

So we targeted that problem and partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District to combat school truancy.

At the time, many people asked why the city’s chief prosecutor was worried about the problem of school attendance. My answer was simple, and as our partnership now enters its fourth year, the reason remains the same: a child going without an education is a crime and it leads to more dangerous crimes. My job is to protect the public and combating truancy is a smart approach to crime prevention. We can either pay attention now, or pay the price later.

So every fall I send out letters to parents across San Francisco letting them know that truancy is against the law and that I will enforce that law. During the school year, prosecutors from my office hold mediations with parents and truant students at schools across the city to reinforce this message and urge them to get help to improve their children’s attendance. We asked business and faith leaders to engage with the city’s schools to provide mentors and resources. We opened a stay-in-school hotline and coordinated support services for families needing help. In most cases, attendance improves. But when it does not, my office prosecutes parents in a specialized Truancy Court we created that combines supervision and services for those families. To date, I have only had to prosecute 20 parents of young children for truancy.

Our groundbreaking strategy has worked. The majority of parents who have been brought to Truancy Court have dramatically improved their children’s attendance in school. But the effects of the strategy ripple far beyond these families. In the last year alone, truancy among elementary school students dropped by an average of 20%. In this new school year, my office will work closely with school district staff to expand our strategy to include high school age chronically truant students.

We have the tools that can start solving this problem. But first, we have got to commit to a bipartisan agenda that is smart on crime. The lesson for those of us in law enforcement is that we have to embrace our responsibility for crime prevention and engage in the serious business of helping to build healthier communities.

Preventing truancy does more than protect public safety. It protects precious public resources in the midst of California’s worst economic crisis in history. If ever there were a time to reassess how our state spends public resources, the time is unquestionably now.

Let’s start a serious dialogue about our collective responsibility to change the odds for children and youth. I urge you to contact your local District Attorney, school board and other elected officials about this problem. And please let me know what else I might have left out, how else we can work to solve this problem. Kids will either get an education in school or in the streets. The fabric of our community, and the future of our economy, depends on our ability to ensure that education happens in class.

Harris is the author of Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer.

CA-50: Sheriffs Raid Busby Fundraiser

An exceedingly strange story out of the San Diego area.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a fundraiser for Francine Busby, who previously ran for the deeply-Republican Fiftieth District (editor’s note: it’s not that deeply Republican, Obama won here 51-47) and came close to winning in the 2006 special election and subsequent regular election, was raided by sheriffs after an unnamed neighbor made a noise complaint. Busby now calls it a “phony” noise complaint, and the article says that multiple neighbors said there was no great noise at all.

Here’s the twist: The fundraiser was hosted by a lesbian couple, and shortly before the sheriffs came a particular neighbor had shouted anti-gay slurs at the assembled crowd. “It was a quiet home reception, disrupted by a vulgar person shouting obscenities from behind the bushes,” Busby says.

As one neighbor told the paper: “We didn’t hear anything until the sheriff came, with eight patrol cars and a helicopter.”

The sheriff’s department claims that somebody kicked an officer. By the time it was over, multiple people were pepper-sprayed, one of the hostesses was arrested, and the whole neighborhood got to see quite a scene.

One of the officers defended the department’s conduct — turning the blame on the candidate: “The place got out of hand. If Francine Busby was there, why not take a leadership role, step up, and nip this thing in the bud?”

There’s more detail at this Daily Kos diary from arodb, who was there.  I like the part where the police department blames Francine Busby for their own failure to recognize that no noise violation was taking place inside the fundraiser.

I’m trying to get some more information from the campaign, will bring it when I have it.

UPDATE: TPMDC interviews Francine Busby about this incident, and basically, she singles out the homophobic heckler for creating the noise that brought the cops to the scene:

“You could hear his voice very clearly, it was loud. But as far as the actual words, I didn’t hear them,” Busby explained. “I heard my name, and obviously derogatory words. Other people heard profanity, and somebody heard something about gays, as well.” It should be noted that the event was hosted by a lesbian couple.

“The deputies were telling people that they were taking statements from, that the call came in about noise from a Democratic rally, or Democratic demonstration,” said Busby. In fact, she said, she had last spoken at about 8:30 p.m., and the police arrived an hour later when most of the attendees had left. “It was a nuisance-noise call, because there was no noise, and the fact that it was described as a Democratic rally or demonstration indicates to me that this person was calling for his own political motives.”

The LA Times reports that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will open an investigation into the incident, particularly the use of pepper spray.

Governator and Republicans’ Raid On Cities Will Cut Hundreds of Local OC Cops

(Crossposted from Orange County Progressive where we’re getting pretty damned tired of the Republican’s lies.)

PhotobucketAlready facing dramatic budget cuts from drops in sales tax, hotel tax, and property tax, local cities will need to cut public safety – cops on the street. It’s the lion’s share of their budget, and they’ll need to cut into law enforcement to cover Republican plans to raid local government revenues.

Orange County cities will lose the equivalent of 600 cops on the street for one year, not counting money that will be lost by county sheriffs.

After voters rejected one more round of fiscal chicanery, we’ll finally be paying for the effects of the Governator’s decision to cut the car tax, and the Republican elimination of the California estate tax.

Other than prisons, the payment for these irresponsible tax cuts is the only area of the budget that has shown real growth in the last decade.

Paying for these tax cuts and the profligate borrowing to support them now costs California over $7,000,000,000 (That’s seven billion) a year. Rather than admit mistakes, California’s worst governor ever is now preparing to “borrow” 2 billion from local government.

And Republican legislators are still peddling the same stale lies that Arnold sold about billions of savings a year from waste and fraud. They’ll find that about the same time OJ finds the real killer.

Below the flip, is the city by city breakdown of the Republican raid on local government. A city will save around a $110,000 a year for each patrol officer they cut. Cities have strict limitations on how they raise and spend funds. They can’t pay for law enforcement with higher water rates or building fees, and they have already made deep cuts to everything except public safety.

And as you wait for that emergency response that doesn’t come when you call 911, ask yourself why California isn’t taxing oil companies the same way Texas and Alaska do, or why we don’t have a state estate tax that is fully deductible against Federal estate taxes, like Ohio and New York.

And hey, you’ve got a little extra time to really celebrate that cut in the car tax that John and Ken demanded.

Estimates of cost of 8% raid on local law enforcement budgets, by City.

Aliso Viejo 554,818

Anaheim      6,138,968

Brea      1,001,355

Buena Park    1,554,929

Costa Mesa    3,323,548

Cypress        945,132

Dana Point 826,114

Fountain Vly  1,243,587

Garden Grove  2,472,808

Huntgton Bch  5,138,564

Irvine      4,675,400

Laguna Beach  2,144,012

Laguna Hills    843,608

Laguna Niguel 1,651,854

Laguna Woods 169,090

La Habra      1,256,796

Lake Forest   1,370,493

La Palma 328,096

Los Alamitos 286,361

Mission Viejo 2,551,393

Newport Bch   6,085,147

Orange      6,085,147

Placentia     1,040,888

RSM     603,962

San Clemente  2,176,959

San Juan Cap 873,525

Santa Ana     5,710,116

Seal Beach 710,782

Stanton        448,675

Tustin      1,643,816

Villa Park 158,447

Westminster   1,203,779

Yorba Linda   1,571,299

Total (not including County cuts) $66,789,468  

Mayor Villaraigosa’s Good Week

I consider Antonio Villaraigosa’s term as mayor to be generally a disappointment.  Brought into office with a lot of hope and even more hype, Villaraigosa has certainly made his way around the city, the nation and the world, appearing at every event from the biggest gala to random neighborhood picnics, but he hasn’t gotten a whole lot done other than commandeering the school board.  It’s as hard to govern Los Angeles as it has California, but the energy and enthusiasm Villaraigosa has for the job seems to be an end in itself, and it certainly isn’t channeled into an agenda that can be at all considered progressive.

However, this has been a pretty good week for him.  He started by presiding over his first same-sex marriage, which may have been a political calculation but still reflects his abiding belief in equality, so I applaud it.  Then, he announced his support of a half-cent sales tax hike to fund mass transit.  Big-city mayors are obviously sensitive to transit issues, but Villaraigosa is making sure they are prioritized.  This could be a reaction to a Metro Board study that showed on-time rates to be among the worst in the nation.  The Metro Board has hired ten more supervisors in response to that, and yesterday they drafted the proposal for the sales tax increase for the November ballot as part of a 25-year plan.  If Villaraigosa, who sits on the Metro Board and appoints three other members, can make himself the poster child for expanded transit, and transform LA from a car city to a more vibrant transit culture, he will have left a positive legacy.  

Finally, Villaraigosa’s LAPD successfully fought a court challenge over its policy banning officers from “initiating contact with people for the sole purpose of learning their immigration status.”  It’s a resource question but also one about the kind of city we want to be, one that is humane and respects the dignity of our people or one like an Eastern Bloc nation constantly asking everyone for their papers and engages in ethnic profiling.  The LAPD now has the legal right to continue their policy.

The Mayor certainly has higher aspirations, and with some more weeks like this, he may actually deserve them.

Law Enforcement Unites Behind Pougnet for Palm Springs Mayor

This is an email forward that I just received from the Steve Pougnet for Mayor Campaign.  (Full disclosure, the Desert Stonewall Democrats, of which I am a member, has endorsed Pougnet for Mayor of Palm Springs.

Palm Springs — In a united show of support, the City’s police and fire organizations have overwhelmingly voted to endorse Steve Pougnet for Mayor.

“One of Steve’s top priorities as Mayor will be fighting and reducing crime in our eighborhoods. As a member of the City Council he has been a stalwart supporter of law enforcement. The officers of the Palm Springs Police Department strongly endorse Steve Pougnet for Mayor,” said Troy Castillo, President of the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association.

Steve Pougnet is a visionary leader who has shown great courage to make the tough decisions and to tell the people the truth. The Palm Springs Fire Safety Unit Local 3601 is proud to endorse Steve for Mayor,” said Jason Loya, President of Palm Springs Fire Safety Unit
Local 3601

“To be a truly great city, Palm Springs must keep its neighborhoods, streets and schools safe. The people of Palm Springs deserve a Mayor
who will fight to see that our police and fire departments have the resources to do the job,” said Pougnet.

Pressure Points on Budget Passage

(And check out KQED’s forum (MP3) with Sens. Perata and Ackerman. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

No matter what, it does not appear likely that we are going to get a budget (leaving aside the tax breaks for a moment) that is any better than what the Assembly agreed to.  Everybody is now maneuvering to put pressure on the Republicans in the Senate to pass it.  So what are the pressure points?

1) Get Arnold engaged in a productive way.  The man has barely been in town let alone meeting with legislators to speed up the process.  And the last time he actually showed up he set things backwards.  Arnold needs to find a way that he can actually communicate with his fellow Republicans.  Sweet talk them, promise them goodies.  Whatever.  It is his responsibility to get them to play ball and the press needs to hold him accountable.  Matt Jones:

Where’s Gov. Schwarzenegger been during the last two days as lawmakers sweat it out in Sacramento over the state budget impasse? Arnold has been in southern California, not talking about the state budget, but pimping a dead in the water (excuse the pun) plan to build expensive new dams and water systems around the state. (Note: the Governor’s water plan has been rejected in the State Senate).

In fact, yesterday the Governor didn’t even talk about the budget yesterday. And what’s worse, the mainstream press is letting him get away with it. Only one question was asked yesterday by a reporter after the Governor concluded his remarks.

2) Start pressuring individual Republican Senators.  The first target by the Education Coalition is Senator Jeff Denham.  The are holding two press conferences today, one of which is at his district office.

Local education leaders, parents, school board members, and school employees will be joined by Superintendent Jack O’Connell at a news conference today to urge Denham and other Republican state senators to pass the budget. According to a press release from the education coalition, “schools are struggling to plan their budgets … The Senate should make passing a state budget a priority so that our schools and students have the resources they need.”

Denham is considered one of the more moderate members of the Senate Republican Caucus. He also harbors statewide office ambitions (he has opened a campaign account for LG). Being on the wrong side of education groups — as well as law enforcement — could potentially doom his chances of moving up the political ladder.

Is Denham your Senator?  Here is his contact info, should you feel inclined to give him a call and encourage him to stop his obstructionist behavior.  Sacramento 916-651-4012 email form on his Senate website.

Law enforcement groups are gearing up too.  They know that their funding will be on the chopping block, if Republicans get their way.

Anyone else know of any targeting going on? There needs to be two Republicans voting for the budget in order for it to pass.  Tomorrow the Senate takes up the budget again.  Soon the state is going to have a hard time paying its bills and employees will have to get loans instead of paychecks. 

The latest out of the Republicans is that they want to cut a bunch of smaller programs to try and reach their goals.  They still haven’t laid out exactly what they would be.

That Other Mayor

I don’t write a lot about Mayor Villaraigosa; I don’t live in the city, and I get the sense that Antonio wants everyone to know he’s there without necessarily knowing what he does, which makes it frustrating to try to gauge.  But this is an interesting article about the promise that he had matched with the difficult reality of this last year.  His eye appears to be off the ball of improving the lives of Los Angelenos, and toward the crystal goblet of higher office, and it shows in the work he’s done.  He’s very active in pressing flesh (it’s almost a permanent campaign) and tackling high-profile projects like the school takeover and LA Live development downtown.  But substantively, I think this list of accomplishments are a little thin.

Villaraigosa and his senior aides acknowledge the recent disappointments but prefer to see them as minor bumps overshadowed by the mayor’s accomplishments on education, public safety, mass transit, the environment and city budgeting.

They say, for example, that he deserves credit for balancing the city’s books and dramatically reducing a $295-million structural deficit — by more than $200 million — amid declining revenues.

They also speak of his successful effort to win an increase in trash collection fees to hire 1,000 additional police officers, saying the city is well on its way to meeting the goal as the rate of violent crime — including gang homicides — drops.

They single out his efforts this year to tackle gang crime by devoting more money to suppression and prevention programs.

And they point to Villaraigosa’s securing billions of dollars in state bond money for mass transit projects — including carpool lanes on the 405 Freeway — and an aggressive expansion of the Department of Water and Power’s use of alternative energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A lot less than meets the eye here.  There’s still a deficit.  The reports on gang violence and police protection has been tempered by the MacArthur Park riot and the fact that LA County still has 120,000 gang members.  I resent the focus on carpool lanes on the 405, and mass transit projects are actually stagnating, plus MTA had to raise its fees last week.

Villaraigosa is succeeding in the sense of setting himself up for the Governor’s mansion by taking on the big issues even if he doesn’t really move on them.  I don’t know if residents of the city will look back fondly on this time, however, thinking they had a champion for them at City Hall.  I’d welcome another perspective, however.