Tag Archives: police

Stopping the “Death Clock”

Over the course of a career, firefighters are relentlessly exposed to a hellish mix of toxins. These exposures put firefighters at a substantially greater risk of getting cancer — a reality documented in more than 80 peer-reviewed medical studies. Law enforcement officers – regularly exposed to toxins and often without breathing apparatus – pay a similarly heavy price.

Sacrificing your life to slow-motion poisoning from job-related exposure isn’t as dramatic as dying in a fiery instant, but for firefighters and police officers, it is every bit as noble and heroic.

For their families, time is especially important. Every day spent fighting for life is also another day with the family … another day with the hope of a cure. While they fight, stricken officers have the comfort of knowing that, should they die, their survivors will enjoy a modest safeguard in the form of workers’ comp death benefits.

But, believe it or not, those safeguards come with an expiration date.  

Because of a provision created in 1913, a firefighter or police officer stricken with job-related diseases must die within 240 weeks of his or her diagnosis in order for survivors to qualify for the death benefit. If a stricken officer lives one day longer than 240 weeks, their spouses and children lose out.

Closing this cruel loophole is at the heart of Assembly Bill 1373, Assembly Speaker John Perez’s measure that won overwhelming bipartisan approval in the Legislature last week.  AB 1373 narrowly modifies this 100-year-old “death clock”, extending the cutoff to 480 weeks while ensuring that the benefit goes to immediate dependents.

Sadly, a lot of active firefighters and police officers who are diagnosed with job-caused illnesses don’t get to test that limit – they die before it hits. But in the relatively few cases where modern medicine extends life, this outdated limit imposes a heartbreaking penalty on the survivors.

Last year, in the midst of a heated ballot campaign and under intense lobbying by special interests like the League of California Cities, Governor Brown vetoed similar legislation, citing its potential cost. With those concerns addressed, AB 1373 is back on the governor’s desk.

If you have just a minute, please go to this page to watch a short video and, if you’re so inclined, sign a petition urging the governor to sign AB 1373.

The Senate and Assembly votes to approve AB 1373 were overwhelming and bipartisan. Supporters included the full spectrum – from “fiscal wonks” to “big spenders.”  They understood that it’s not about unions, or firefighters, or police officers. It’s about families who shouldn’t be punished because their loved one didn’t die fast enough.

With more than half a decade of public safety downsizing under our belts, California first responders are no strangers to the tight budget times. But with or without the cost figures, basic humanity suggests that spouses and children shouldn’t be forced to pay a penalty for hoping that a loved one stays around a little longer.

Please urge Gov. Brown to sign AB 1373.

San Jose PD arrests Occupy participants at 3 am

Tom on the Occupy San Jose legal team sent this out the morning of October 21, 2011:

At 3 am 8 police officers (on overtime?) and 5 police cars arrested and transported to county jail the protestors outside city hall in San Jose.

One person in a wheelchair was cited and released the others were all taken to jail in apparent violation of PC 853.6(i).

More important, all of their belongings were taken by the Police.  Because of cutbacks, the SJPD property room is not open until Tuesday.

IF the individuals taken to the jail are not released today, they will have to stay in custody until at least Monday, and probably Tuesday.  

This was clearly a coordinated, well-thought-out plan. The day was picked (Friday morning) on purpose and the confiscation of the food, money, and tents was no accident.  

Please remember that the city has, on at least two other occasions, allowed people to “occupy” the city plaza area when they have been in agreement with the content of the protestors’ speech. Here, since the city was threatened by the content of the speech, the city has chosen to selectively enforce the ordinance.

The ordinance itself is probably unconstitutional because it does not contain a process for granting a waiver of the fees associated with free-speech rights.


Daniel M. Mayfield

Carpenter and Mayfield

Phone (408) 287-1916.  Fax (408) 287-9857

San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Must be Transparent in Officer-Involved Shootings

After spending my career working to identify and implement the most effective public safety strategies, I have seen one constant – the community is safest when the police and prosecutors earn and keep the public’s trust.

That’s why I read with real concern that the San Francisco District Attorney’s office would not produce reports related to officer-involved shootings pursuant to a recent public records request from NPR-affiliate KALW.

As a former Police Commissioner, I have been briefed in closed session on the details of officer-involved shootings. But the public knows very little about these incidents. My fellow Commissioners and I often heard complaints from community members about how little public information was released about officer-involved shootings. This lack of transparency breeds distrust.

In all officer-involved shootings, the DA’s office conducts an independent review to determine if there is criminal liability. If such liability is found, the DA presses charges, which are public. But when the DA determines that there is no liability, it is equally important that the DA publicly explain the reasons for its decision.

As such, the District Attorney’s office should issue a very detailed report on every officer-involved shooting in which it does not file charges and should make the report publicly available on its website. The report should detail the facts, the law and the reasons for the decision not to file charges.

This kind of complete transparency will make the job of our police and prosecutors much easier by building trust between law enforcement and the community – making it more likely that community members will work in partnership with police and prosecutors, and that victims and witnesses will come forward to testify.

San Francisco is lucky that we are served by rank and file police officers who are second to none. Publishing detailed reports that clear officers when they acted within the law can dispel public misconceptions about what actually happened.

Of course, officers’ privacy rights need to be respected and investigations cannot be compromised. But once an investigation is complete, and an officer has been cleared, it is imperative that the District Attorney’s office share its findings with the public.

This is the standard that is already being applied in communities throughout California. The District Attorney’s office in San Diego, hardly a bastion of liberalism, actually lists these cases on its website. Many other counties – including Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno – also make them matters of public record and available on request.

Building trust with the community is the key to enhancing public safety. Let’s not violate that trust by refusing to release documents that the public has the right to see.

David Onek is a Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice, former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission and candidate for San Francisco District Attorney.

Never Again: BART and the Need For Civilian Oversight

Note: I work for the Courage Campaign

Still vivid in my memory is the night in March 1991 when I stayed up to watch the KTLA News at Ten for their breaking news, which turned out to be a shocking video of the LAPD beating the hell out of a guy they’d pulled over – Rodney King. It came against the background of rampant police brutality under the leadership of Darryl Gates, and even as I watched the video I knew that the public reaction would be furious.

At least Rodney King survived the attack. Oscar Grant did not. When he was shot and killed by a BART police officer on New Year’s Day it revealed an ongoing lack of accountability from the BART police toward the public they serve. As the San Francisco Bay Guardian noted BART police have been involved in two other shooting deaths that appeared unjustified in recent years.

At yesterday’s BART board meeting activists demanded the creation of an oversight board along with other measures to reform BART and bring the officer who killed Oscar Grant to justice. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and Senator Leland Yee have proposed legislation at the state level to mandate BART create such a board.

If that effort is going to be successful, the public needs to mobilize behind the creation of a civilian oversight board – that has real teeth – for the BART police.

That’s why the Courage Campaign is asking our members to sign a letter supporting the creation of an oversight board for BART. Our effort is cosponsored by ColorofChange.org.

Oscar Grant deserves justice, and the officer who shot him needs to be held accountable. We also need to work to ensure that this horrible event never happens again on the BART system. A civilian oversight board is a necessary step in that direction. Properly implemented, it can mandate changes in BART police methods, and provide the public transparency and accountability in police actions. The board can help get to the bottom of controversies and rebuild trust that is clearly lacking.

The civilian oversight board won’t solve the problems alone. But it is a necessary part of the long-term solution.

The email we sent out today is reproduced over the flip.

Dear Friend,

Never again.

I’m sure you’ve seen the shocking video.

On January 1, Oscar Grant — already subdued by police and lying face down — was shot in the back and killed by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale station.

BART’s failure to take direct action and immediately investigate this tragedy has fueled community outrage. As a resident of San Francisco and frequent BART rider, I was deeply disturbed, as were my fellow Courage Campaign staff members.

Unfortunately, this tragedy is not a first for the BART police force, which has been accused in the past of using excessive and unnecessary force in two other shooting deaths. In this case, however, multiple cell phone videos have been released revealing the shocking events that ended Oscar Grant’s life.

One way we can bring justice to Oscar Grant and heal the community is to make sure his horrifying death produces long-overdue change — change that may prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.

Unlike most police departments around the country, BART police are not subject to a civilian oversight board. For years, Bay Area citizens have called for BART to create one — like the boards that have improved accountability and police conduct in so many other communities.

But BART has refused.

Never again. Last night, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and Senator Leland Yee promised to introduce legislation requiring BART to create a civilian oversight board. While this is a significant step in the right direction, we must ensure that the legislature passes a strong bill.

Will you join the Courage Campaign and our friends at Color of Change by signing on to our letter thanking Ammiano and Yee for their legislation — and demanding that the leglislature pass a bill with the strongest civilian oversight possible?


The officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant must be held accountable. But that alone will not ensure this never happens to any other BART rider again.

Public accountability is the foundation of justice. At a time when public trust in the BART police is at rock bottom, a citizen oversight board would provide the community vigilance that BART is currently evading — and that has allowed BART’s past impunity to fester.

As Tom Ammiano and Leland Yee point out, “unlike the San Francisco Police Commission, BART lacks any real means for the public to air their grievances regarding police conduct or for an independent body that can propose corrective actions.”

Never again. Please sign our letter to Assemblymember Ammiano and Senator Yee supporting their call for a BART police civilian oversight board and demanding that the bill provide the strongest citizen oversight possible. With your support, we can ensure that Sacramento legislators, the BART board and the BART police department understand our community’s demand for justice in the memory of Oscar Grant:


We grieve with Oscar Grant’s family. And, along with our friends at Color of Change, we stand with the community in determination that his death will bring real change — the kind of fundamental reform that will prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.

Thank you,

Eden James

Managing Director

Oscar Grant Shooting Protests In Oakland

KTVU Channel 2 and other Bay Area stations have been showing video of, and the SF Chronicle are reporting about angry protests in Oakland over the horrific BART police shooting of unarmed man Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day:

A protest over the fatal shooting by a BART police officer of an unarmed man mushroomed into a violent confrontation tonight, as a faction of protesters smashed a police car and storefronts, set several cars on fire and blocked streets in downtown Oakland….

The protest started peacefully shortly after 3 p.m. at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, where BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant of Hayward to death early New Year’s Day. BART shut down the station well into the evening commute, although the demonstration there was peaceful.

However, shortly after nightfall, a group of roughly 200 protesters split off and head toward downtown Oakland, prompting the transit agency to close the Lake Merritt station.

Oakland Police Officer Michael Cardoza parked his car across the intersection of Eighth and Madison streets, to prevent traffic from flowing toward Broadway and into the protest. But he told The Chronicle that a group of 30 to 40 protesters quickly surrounded his car and started smashing it with bottles and rocks.

More at Daily Kos. It includes this YouTube video showing how Oaklanders have lost faith in the police – taunting arresting officers “why don’t you shoot him?” and “pigs go home.”

I’ve specifically tried to avoid calling this a “riot” and oversensationalizing this, because the protest’s turn shouldn’t take away from the real story here, which is the growing intensity of public outrage over the obviously unjustified shooting death of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station by BART officer Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle has refused to answer questions about the shooting, and BART police have apparently been VERY slow to get information.

The shooting death, and the public outcry, may well be predictable outcomes of three decades of militarizing the police, limiting and eroding fundamental Constitutional protections of individual rights, and a deliberate decision by many Americans to simply abandon cities like Oakland to their fate.

When police officers feel they can act with impunity, the public loses faith in their honesty and their ability to fairly offer justice. Police brutality and even murders have become all too commonplace in many American communities. And let us not forget that many of the practices of Guantanamo Bay were first tried out in American prisons.

Whatever happens in Oakland tonight, and in the coming days and weeks, it should hopefully become clear that America’s approach to policing needs to undergo a fundamental change. Of course, Oakland was the scene of a similar turning point 40 years ago with the rise of the Black Panthers. We will see whether this time the right choices are made.

Republicans Admit Taxes Needed – Still Refuse To Allow Them

Dave Johnson, Speak Out California

California Republicans finally, finally submitted what they claim is a plan to attack the budget deficits, detailing specifics of the cuts they are demanding.  The plan they submitted only cuts the deficit in half, thereby admitting (but not admitting) the urgent need to raise taxes to cover the other half of the deficit.

The Republican plan guts public schools, community colleges, Medi-Cal, transit, mental health and many other programs.  And yet it still leaves half of the deficit in place.  So it isn’t really a “plan” at all.  It is just one more extremist demand that we gut public schools.

A phrase like “guts schools and programs” becomes abstract when it is heard often enough.  So what does this mean to the average Californian?  What kind of education will children receive as we push to 40 or more students per classroom?  Will they be safe if the district cannot afford crossing guards or buses?  Will any of us be safe after police and firefighters are cut back?  Do we go another decade without improving mass transit or even repairing roads and bridges?  Will epidemics spread as health care is cut back?  What about three-hour lines at the DMV?  And what happens to people’s ability to train for jobs when community colleges are cut way back?  

The Republicans demand that we sacrifice the education of an entire generation of school-aged Californians, so that a few wealthy people and corporations can become even wealthier!  Their benefactors are covered — with their kids are in $20,000-a-year private academies.  But what will this do to the economic future of the rest of this generation, and to the future of California?  They don’t care.

This process as it has unfolded over so many years has shown us that California is ungovernable until we remove the current 2/3-requirement system that allows a small group of extremists to hold the state hostage.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Town’s Going Bankrupt? Blame the Workers!

Much attention has been focused on the lovely town (I’m serious!) of Vallejo as it faces bankruptcy. In a harbinger of things to come for many California cities and counties, Vallejo’s general fund has been hit hard by the housing crash, leaving the city strapped for cash.

A city contemplating bankruptcy has many options. So it’s sad to see Vallejo – and smaller towns like Pacific Grove – blaming workers for their problems. In doing so, they repeat the same destructive policy espoused by Orange County Republicans – choosing to blame public employees and their unions for problems instead of supporting higher taxes, even at the cost of catastrophic disaster.

The first article on the Vallejo cash crunch in the Chronicle set up the dynamic, as city officials blamed workers for the problem:

[Councilwoman Stephanie] Gomes and others have blamed much of the city’s financial woes on police and fire contracts, which she says comprise 80 percent of the city’s $80 million budget.

The starting salary for a Vallejo firefighter is about $70,000 a year, among the highest in the state. Ten firefighters earned more than $200,000 each last year, including overtime, city officials said.

“Of course we value our police and firefighters and the risks they take, but their salaries are simply too high,” Gomes said. “They can afford to live in Marin and Napa, and it’s the very hard-working, blue-collar residents of Vallejo who are bearing the repercussions. It’s unfair.”

Ah, those greedy firefighters. How dare they ask for a middle-class income? What gives them the idea that they can extort such wages?

Firefighters say their earnings are high because the department is so short-staffed they’re forced to work huge amounts of overtime.

Since 2001, 30 firefighters have retired or left the department, and only three have been hired, said Vallejo fire Capt. Jon Riley, vice president of Fire Fighters Union Local 1186. And after rumors of bankruptcy began circulating, 14 more retired, fearing that their benefits and salaries would be cut, he said.

“We’re having to work an extraordinary amount of overtime,” he said. “We make great salaries, but if you’re not able to see your family, what good is it?”

Firefighters typically work 48-hour shifts with four days off between shifts. Many Vallejo firefighters are now forced to work 96-hour shifts with two days off, he said. Sleep deprivation, divorce and child-care complications are common, he said.

“I’d say morale has hit rock bottom,” he said. “But we’re still committed to providing the highest level of service to the citizens of Vallejo.”

Oh. They mean to tell us that firefighting is hard, grueling work, and that they should get fairly compensated for protecting the community?

To most of us, the firefighters’ stand is common sense. Fire protection is something you just don’t skimp on – unless you’re Orange County conservatives (more on them in a moment). And it’s not as if the firefighters are unwilling to help:

Firefighter union President Kurt Hanke told the council that the union reached an agreement late last week with city negotiators for wage cuts that would have reduced Vallejo’s deficit to zero. But he said Tanner on Monday vetoed the deal….Leaders of public safety unions say the salaries of police officers and firefighters are high because they must work large amounts of overtime because of staff shortages. The unions have offered to cut the employees’ pay if more officers and firefighters are hired.

Instead Vallejo’s leaders prefer to play hardball and blame public safety employees for the city’s crisis. And unsurprisingly, nobody in Vallejo seems to be discussing a tax increase to stave off these crippling cuts – which will not only compromise public safety, but further damage the city’s economy. Firing workers and cutting everyone else’s pay is not exactly going to help Vallejo’s restaurants and small businesses weather the storm.

Lest we think this is just a Vallejo problem, the blaming of public workers for city problems is something found statewide – a last-ditch, extremist strategy to avoid a tax increase. Here on the Monterey Peninsula, the small town of Pacific Grove has been facing a $2 million budget deficit, and recently responded by enacting drastic cuts to city services, including fire and police. Last fall the city proposed a modest tax hike to close the shortfall – which prompted users of a local discussion forum to denounce the workers in some rather absurd terms:

Why does our small town have so many firemen? I always see them parked somewhere or doing drills by the high school but not much else. Is there a reasonable explanation that I am not aware of?

How many fires does this tiny town have every year? How many tall buildings?

This town is so overstaffed by Bay Area standards (or other responsible standards) that it is truly disgusting. At least some layoffs are in the works, but the point is, PG should ALWAYS be run lean. There is not enought here to justify so many salaries.

It would not hurt to recruit people who actually have a real track record of successful leadership and money management. If you keep hiring inbred failures, you are going to continue to see a lot of red on the balance sheets.

That’s what I mean about our many firemen. I think they need to cut some of them loose. It’s silly when you go to the PG website and look at all the names for the fire dept. They are about as busy as the Maytag repairman!

In fact, a study of fire protection on the Peninsula showed that the city’s fire department is actually understaffed, but that wasn’t enough to convince folks to approve the tax – instead it was easier to blame supposedly lazy, greedy workers for the city’s crisis.

Where might all this lead? The cautionary tale is that of Orange County, where conservatives and Republicans high-fived each other in 2005 when they defeated a measure to shift already collected tax monies to help produce more fire coverage. As I explained it back in October:

Orange County Republicans campaigned hard against Measure D, a 2005 ballot proposal that would have diverted $80 million in surplus public safety funds from Proposition 172 to help properly staff Orange County fire departments. The failure of Measure D leads directly to the OCFA’s inability to quickly contain the Santiago Fire when it broke out Sunday evening….

To Steven Greenhut and the Register editorial board, the firefighters’ union is merely a greedy parasite on the public, using bureaucratic rules to claim they need more fire crews in a cynical ploy to line their own pockets.

Such is the natural outcome of an obsession with low taxes. In order to defend the untenable position that taxes must never go up no matter the need or the situation, anti-taxers have to lash out at anyone or anything that might undermine their position. If that includes public safety workers, so be it. If that means cutting back police and fire protection, so be it. To the anti-tax zealots, every man is an island unto himself.

Orange County’s experience last fall suggested otherwise. Let’s hope that Vallejo, Pacific Grove, and the rest of California learns the lesson and, like Salinas, looks to new revenue sources to provide for essential services.

Irvine’s Crime Prevention Programs and the Crime Rate

(OK, fixed! : ) – promoted by atdleft)

Today, the FBI confirmed what CA AG Jerry Brown said in May, Irvine is one safe city. In fact, it’s the safest in the nation:

For the third year running, Irvine tops all large cities in the nation with the lowest incidence of violent crime after posting a nearly 17 percent drop in 2006, according to a report by the FBI. Reported violent crimes for the city – which include homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault – fell from a total of 151 in 2005 to 126 in 2006, for a rate of 67 per 100,000 in the preliminary posting of the 2006 FBI Annual Uniform Crime Report. (OC Reg 6/5/07)

Last time, I talked about the importance of parks and recreation.  And of course, economic factors surely weigh into the amount of crime. Given that Irvine has a pretty high per capita income, it’s not surprising to see a low rate of crime. But Irvine actually does better than similarly sized cities with higher per capita income. Take that Sunnyvale! (Ok…Sunnyvale is #2 on the AG safe city list, but that’s one slot below #1).

But something else is also at play here, that is the role of the city’s various crime prevention programs. Irvine has implemented geographic policing, neighborhood watch programs, and Internet reporting.  Follow me over the flip for more..

So for a city of about 200,000 people, how the heck does Irvine stay so safe? Well, how about the Police Department’s various programs. One such program is geographic policing.  This program gets beat officers out from behind desks and in the community, where they are visible. Irvine’s neighborhood alert has also been effective. Knowing your neighbors helps reduce crime and creates a more livable city. Or is it the WatchMail program? Can the internet actually be used as a tool to reduce crime in the community? Whatever they are doing, the Crime Prevention Unit of the Irvine Police Department is proving to be quite effective.

And clearly, it seems like Irvine has enough patrol officers to cover the entire community. And perhaps now that the Irvine Police Department now does “geographic policing”, officers really are connecting more with the community. And maybe, their Crime Analysis Unit is having some effect. Perhaps by finding out what had gone wrong, they can then work with the community to make things right. Whatever is happening, the Irvine Police Department must be doing something right.

And clearly Irvine’s Progressive Mayor and Police Chief know how tough it can be to keep such a big city so safe. Yet for the last three years, they have been remarkably successful in leading the way not just for Orange County, and not just California, but for the entire nation. From The OC Register:

“When you are the safest city in America, you have to work especially hard to maintain that position,” Irvine Mayor Beth Krom said. “This is a source of pride for the entire community.” […]

“Getting to know the people who live and work in these areas helps them to be able to identify the problems in these areas and any impacts on the quality of life,” said Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard.

And how has Irvine been able to avoid what the other major cities in Orange County are suffering from?

The national crime trends were largely echoed in Orange County, with all eight cities with populations of 100,000 or above recording increases in robberies, and a sharp decline in property crime.

There were 19 more murders in Orange County’s biggest cities in 2006 than the previous year – a jump that can be largely result of a spike in gang violence in Santa Ana, which recorded nine more murders in 2006.

However, car thefts, arsons and other property crimes dipped across the nation for the second straight year, the data show. Huntington Beach – which saw a 12.6 percent drop in violent crime – was the only large Orange County city to see a rise in property crime, recording 365 more property crimes last year compared to 2005.

Huntington Beach must now worry about property crime becoming more prevalent throughout town. Santa Ana is now facing a crisis of escalating gang violence. Up in North Orange County, the cities of Orange and Fullerton are grappling with dramatic increases in violent crisis. Take a look at the major California cities on the FBI’s list, and things aren’t looking very good not just in OC, but throughout the state.

So what is Irvine doing right that other cities in California aren’t? Are Irvine’s police services that much better? Are they doing a better job of preventing crime? Are the parks and community services really making that much of a difference? There’s a secret to Irvine’s success, and more communities should try to learn this secret to figure out how to take a real bite out of crime.