Police Arrests Plummeting Across California, Fueling Alarm and Questions

In 2013, something changed on the streets of Los Angeles. Police officers began making fewer arrests. The following year, the Los Angeles Police Department’s arrest numbers dipped even lower and continued to fall, dropping by 25% from 2013 to 2015. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department also saw significant drops in arrests during that period. The statewide numbers are just as striking: Police recorded the lowest number of arrests in nearly 50 … [Read more...]

Friends in Court: The Growing Impact of ‘Participatory Defense’

Ramon Vasquez was facing the threat of a lifetime in prison when he stood trial for a 2008 murder he didn’t commit. “The only number I heard in court, was ’80 years.’ Like, I might get 80 years if I was convicted,” recalled Vasquez, a San Jose, Calif. delivery-truck driver. Vasquez, then 29, knew the evidence proving his innocence was out there. But neither the expensive private lawyer his family initially hired but couldn’t afford nor the court-appointed he wound up with (who urged … [Read more...]

When Warriors Wear the Badge

William Thomas, a retired Newark police sergeant, left his home in a body bag. To his dismay, he was still very much alive. A team of cops and medical technicians had strapped his limbs together, stuffing his body into a mesh sack to restrain him after he tried to fight them off. Six hours earlier, Thomas, a decorated narcotics investigator and a veteran of the New Jersey Air National Guard, tortured by post-traumatic stress disorder acquired in Iraq, had downed a fistfull of prescription … [Read more...]

Justice Springs Eternal

This wasn’t how the story was supposed to end. After almost 50 years of relentless prison-building in the United States, of aggressive policing and a war on drugs that goes after our most vulnerable citizens, the movement for a more merciful criminal justice system had begun to seem, if not unstoppable, at least plenty powerful. In 2015, the number of American prisoners declined more than 2 percent, the largest decrease since 1978. By 2014, the incarceration rate for black men, while still … [Read more...]

Who Should See LAPD Bodycam Video?  

Respond to the Survey - Make Your Voice Heard!! Justice Not Jails applauds Police Commission president Matt Johnson for inviting the public to weigh in on the question of releasing police bodycam video. When the city first started equipping officers with the cameras two years ago, we denounced the policy of leaving it entirely up to the police chief whether to release video (apart form court-ordered releases). We said that leaving it to the chief's discretion runs totally counter to the goals … [Read more...]

Crime Hotspots Need Investments, Not Just Policing

Anti-crime strategies should try to fix what makes hotspots prone to violence. On the last day of 2016, a solemn procession made its way across Chicago. Hundreds of mourners and their supporters marched together, carrying 762 wooden crosses — one for each victim of the year’s terrible homicide toll. Had the marchers ended the demonstration by planting those crosses at the site of each murder, they would have clustered in a few areas of the sprawling city, creating a haphazard array of … [Read more...]

When Police Kill • Policing Without Permission

Two Books Argue the Case for Police Reform From Within It is, to hear the new president’s posse tell it, an exceptionally dangerous and thankless time to be a police officer in the United States. In the streets, we are told, there is a “war on cops,” fired up by the activists of Black Lives Matter. In the corridors of Washington, liberals want to deny law enforcement the powers they need to keep us safe. The media runs endless video loops of a few police shootings of civilians, and the Justice … [Read more...]

Can Policing Really Change?

Ten Lessons From the DOJ’s ‘Pattern or Practice’ Bias Probes The first consent decree ordered under the  Justice Department “pattern or practice” program to investigate local police departments for violations of constitutional rights was signed 20 years ago.  There’ve been 30 settlements with departments since that first Pittsburgh agreement in 1997. It’s therefore an appropriate time to assess the program’s  impact. What has it achieved? Has it effectively reduced police … [Read more...]

Metro Approves $646M Annual Multi-Agency Transit Policing Contract

At last Thursday’s meeting, the Metro board approved a new five-year multi-agency transit policing contract. For the past decade, transit policing had been done by the L.A. County Sheriff Department (LASD.) Under the new contract transit policing will be done by LAPD, LASD, and Long Beach Police Department. When the proposal first came to the board in November-December 2016, it was $547 million annually: L.A. Police Department – $370 million – 68 percent L.A. County Sheriffs … [Read more...]

Minor Crimes, Major Challenges

Responding to minor crimes is arguably one of the most critical activities of any police department. Given that low-level arrests also clog the nation’s courts and jails, it is remarkable that this police function has received so little public attention.The resource demands are certainly substantial.  These enforcement actions also provide opportunities to reduce crime and enhance public trust.  In addition, they pose considerable safety risks to the responding officers. By any measure, … [Read more...]