October 08, 2020

By City News Service

 

A report released today by USC found that people of color across all Los Angeles County neighborhoods were stopped by police at higher rates than other groups, and that Black people were stopped and arrested three times as often as whites and Latinos.

The report found that police-initiated contacts decreased drastically at the beginning of the last decade and then rose slightly after 2016, and that certain neighborhoods, including South Los Angeles, saw pronounced increases after 2015, although stop rates decreased on average.

Meanwhile, the report also showed evidence of those same communities' increasing reliance on police, including a steady increase in 911 calls by community members to law enforcement agencies over a seven-year period.

Calls for service were defined as the number of 911 emergency calls made by community residents per 1,000 people in the neighborhood, while police stops were defined as the number of police stops of a vehicle or pedestrian per 1,000 people in the neighborhood.

“The fact that LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) and other participating agencies were willing to pull back the curtain, to be transparent and share their data, and participate in and understand the findings – which, in some instances, are not very positive – is a huge step,” said the report's co-author, Erroll Southers, director of the USC Safe Communities Institute and a professor of the practice of national and homeland security at the USC Price School of Public Policy.

“Building trust and nurturing legitimacy on both sides of the police- citizen divide are the foundational principles we were hoping to facilitate with this research and community engagement effort,” Southers said.

 

The researchers used data from the LAPD to analyze the frequency of community-police interactions while considering who initiated contact and how often that contact took place.

“One of policing's greatest challenges is helping the public understand crime and disorder in the context of their lives. After all, better policing is as much about reducing the incidence of crime as it is reducing the fear of crime,” said Lt. Christopher Chase of the LAPD's COMPSTAT computer statistics division.

Chase noted that the Neighborhood Data for Social Change initiative – launched by the USC Price Center for Social Innovation, the USC Safe Communities Institute and Microsoft – helps the public to access the public safety data, and said the LAPD is “committed to helping the public interpret it so it can draw proper conclusions and form good policy.”

The report marks the culmination of the first year of the initiative, which included listening sessions with community members, law enforcement, nonprofit and government organizations to determine what public safety meant to various groups and where there was common ground, according to the report's co-author, Gary Painter, director of the USC Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute.

Participants in the listening sessions expressed the harmful psychological impact of racial profiling by law enforcement and the lack of investments in community programs, education and health services, particularly in South Los Angeles, according to researchers.

“Going beyond looking at traditional crime data, our process involved listening sessions with community members, law enforcement and nonprofit and government organizations to figure out what public safety means to these various groups and where there was common ground,” Painter said.

The events of the last decade have elevated the urgent need for police reform and greater public trust, brought to the forefront by high-profile police killings, protests in cities around the world and movements including Black Lives Matter, according to the report's authors.

“Arguably, never in the history of the United States has there been a more opportune time for law enforcement and communities that consist predominately of racial and ethnic minority residents to resolve to improve these essential relationships,” Southers said. “I believe that what we've learned will help rebuild those bridges between these agencies and the communities they serve, with safe communication and interaction that necessitate transparency and accountability.''

Category: News

October 08, 2020

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

Hip-hop icons Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris, Jeezy and R&B star Monica are highlighted in new ads unveiled Oct. 1 by the campaign of Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Released just two days after an embarrassingly disturbing presidential debate in which President Trump was perceived by many as exhibiting a lack of decorum, the Biden ads titled, “Our Voice, Our Vote,” focus on Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists.

Messaging also highlights the word, “Choked,” a term used by Trump when he compared the shooting of a Black man in the back to choking in a game of golf.

“Our Vote, Our Voice” is expected to run nationally with a concentration in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and North Carolina.

In a release from the campaign, Biden’s camp notes that Trump’s choosing to address many of the issues that Black Americans have faced historically with just 39 days remaining before Election Day, is a clear indication that the health, safety and wellbeing of Black communities have never been a priority for the president.

The campaign further noted that Trump’s plan for Black America, which he outlined during an Oct. 1 event is “an obvious distraction from the fact that he spent the last four years advancing anti-Black policies, derailing progress made by our nation’s first African American president, and ignoring the existence of systemic racism.”

“This is not the leadership and accountability that Black Americans have been asking for. Ironically, during the first presidential debate of 2020 – Donald Trump already forgot that he had a Black agenda that he clearly doesn’t care about,” according to Biden’s camp, adding, “If Trump had any interest in racial justice, he could have done something over the past 3 years.

In 2016, he asked Black Americans ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’ Turns out the answer was everything. Trump has failed in responding to COVID-19, creating jobs, supporting affordable healthcare, addressing mental illness, and much more. It’s been almost four years and Black America has not moved forward under his watch. Now, he’s begging for our votes.”

“It’s important to remember that this administration has remained virtually silent on all issues affecting Black communities, while Vice President Biden and Senator Harris continue to speak with real people and stand up with them in their fight for justice, equity and opportunity.

“As a reminder Joe Biden and Kamala Harris got into this race to advance progress on racial equity – while being clear about defeating a racist president who continues to lie every day about a pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black Americans.”

 

President Trump “has been in office for nearly 4 years and the results have been devastating for Black Americans,” stated Kamau Marshall, Biden’s director of Strategic Communications.

“Trump continues to make more empty promises. Black voters won’t fall for it. While President Trump fans the flames of race and division, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will bring Americans together to advance racial equity and root out systemic racism,” Marshall continued.

Campaign officials railed that Trump has failed America and his policy is nothing more than empty promises.

 

“Vice President Joe Biden said it best: ‘we need a comprehensive agenda for African Americans with ambition that matches the scale of the challenge and with recognition that race-neutral policies are not a sufficient response to race-based disparities.’

 

“As a reminder Joe Biden has a plan for Black America that will lift every voice along with a plan to build back better by advancing racial equity across the American economy. Now, more than ever, we need a president that understands the difference between words and actions.”

Category: News

October 08, 2020

By City News Service

 

The city of Los Angeles was ordered by a judge today to pay $2.5 million in sanctions stemming from protracted litigation over the botched rollout of a Department of Water and Power billing system in 2013.

The new system, which led to some customers being wildly overbilled while others weren't charged at all, sparked years of litigation, a multimillion-dollar class-action settlement and an FBI probe that included searches of the DWP and the City Attorney's Office.

Following the settlement of the class-action ratepayer lawsuit, the city of Los Angeles sued consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, essentially blaming the company for the failed rollout of the billing system and looking to foist financial responsibility on the firm. The class-action settlement was generally valued at $67 million, but a DWP document obtained by the Los Angeles Times indicated that associated costs would raise the price of the resolution to about $300 million.

The city's litigation against PricewaterhouseCoopers, however, fell apart last year, when the city abandoned the lawsuit, citing the FBI probe and the subsequent unwillingness of witnesses to testify in the case. Dropping the suit left the city on the hook to cover the cost of the class-action settlement.

Earlier this year, attorneys for PricewaterhouseCoopers filed court papers seeking sanctions against the city, saying it “misused the discovery process” in multiple ways, including “misrepresenting and concealing key facts from the court” to avoid disclosing documents, ignoring a court order to produce a witness, failing to produce various documents and providing false or evasive testimony. The company requested roughly $8 million in sanctions for what it called “egregious discovery abuse.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle on Tuesday ordered the city to pay $2.5 million in sanctions. According to the Daily Journal, Berle ruled in court that the city and its lawyers had committed “serious abuse” in terms of discovery, and “this serious abuse merits considerable sanctions.”

The City Attorney's Office issued a statement Tuesday saying, “We strongly disagree with the court's ruling, and when we have the transcript and signed order, we will review them carefully to ­evaluate all our positions."

Daniel Thomasch, an attorney representing Pricewaterhouse­Coopers, called the $2.5 million in sanctions “the consequence of the pervasive discovery abuse by the city and its counsel throughout this politically motivated litigation.”

“The city's discovery abuse was the direct result of its attempt to hide from the court and ratepayers its prior participation in the filing and settling of a sham consumer class-action, which was part of the city's multi- year effort to shift the blame for DWP's own billing failures to PwC,” Thomasch said in a statement. “Today's ruling comes after the city's complete surrender on the merits of its baseless case against PwC, and vindicates the rule of law by holding the city and its lawyers accountable for their egregious abuses.”

Attorneys for Pricewaterhouse­Coopers last year raised accusations of fraud and double-dealing by attorneys hired by the City Attorney's Office in the litigation. The firm contended that the city hired attorney Paul Paradis as a legal consultant in its lawsuit against the company – while Paradis was at the same time representing a DWP customer suing the city in the class-action lawsuit.

PricewaterhouseCoopers argued in court papers that the arrangement with Paradis was made specifically to secure a more favorable legal outcome for the city and DWP.

While the city denied wrongdoing, it subsequently canceled $30 million in contracts it had awarded Paradis for legal services and efforts to correct the billing system issues.

Paradis and the city both denied any wrongdoing. An attorney for Paradis told the Los Angeles Times last year that Paradis stepped down as special counsel for the city to focus on “cybersecurity work” he was doing for the DWP.

The allegations contributed to a July 2019 FBI search of the downtown DWP headquarters and the City Hall East offices of the city attorney. The City Attorney's Office acknowledged at the time that the searches stemmed from the handling of the class-action litigation and the lawsuit against Pricewaterhouse­Coopers, and said the office would “cooperate fully” with the probe

Category: News

October 08, 2020

By City News Service

 

City Attorney Mike Feuer today declared a “victory” for Los Angeles and a national coalition of local governments and civil rights organizations after a federal judge ruled in their favor to maintain the 2020 U.S. Census ending date.

The coalition, which includes the city of Los Angeles, sued the administration in August after it was announced counting would end Sept. 30.

The order was made late Thursday in the Northern District of California by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, and requires the U.S. Census Bureau to continue to count people through Oct. 31 despite the Trump administration's attempt to change the end date to a month earlier.

“The court's ruling is a victory for everyone who relies on an accurate census count for key federal funding and fair political representation,” Feuer said. “Outreach and counting must continue through October, and Judge Koh made it utterly clear that she will not tolerate any further Trump administration efforts to cut this vital process short.

“The administration must stop playing games with this fundamental constitutional requirement and ensure the hard work of counting every American is accomplished.”

The order also increases the time the Census Bureau will have to compile its data from 4 1/2 months to 8 1/2 months, which was part of the census plan devised in April.

 

Shortly after last Thursday's issuance of the preliminary injunction, the Trump administration filed a motion to block the court's ruling. An appeals court could still take up the matter.

Feuer told reporters last Friday that he is “confident” that even if the ruling goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will be upheld because it was so “thorough and well-reasoned.”

Earlier this week, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration's request to set aside Koh's preliminary injunction while it is on appeal.

In April, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its early stages and stay-at-home orders had been issued in certain regions across the nation, the Census Bureau announced it would extend the deadline for people to respond to Oct. 31.

But on Aug. 3, the bureau shortened the deadline to Sept. 30.

Last Thursday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the Los Angeles region's response rate to the census was at 57.5% – far below the last census count in 2010 when 68% of residents responded, and below this year's state average of 65%.

Garcetti called Koh's ruling a “victory” for fairness in obtaining the resources and representation that Los Angeles needs.

“The administration, let's be very clear, if it had ... its way, would have had in place a plan that would have almost assured an undercount in hard-to-count places, like here in Los Angeles,” Feuer said.

Prior to filing the suit, Feuer issued a demand letter to the U.S. Census Bureau seeking confirmation that it was changing direction and implementing the rushed plan instead of the COVID-19 plan.

Feuer said four former U.S. Census directors told him the compressed timeline would “result in seriously incomplete enumeration in many areas across our country.”

Los Angeles was joined in filing the lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of the United States, National Urban League, Black Alliance for Immigration, the cities of Salinas and San Jose, and Harris County, Texas, Court Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.

According to National Public Radio, the latest ruling by Koh came after days of confusion sparked by a one-sentence tweet from the Census Bureau that Koh called “(perhaps) the most egregious violation” of the preliminary injunction order she issued last week.

The bureau released the tweet minutes before the judge began a virtual conference Monday about the lawsuit that said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the bureau, had announced Oct. 5 as a “target date” for ending all counting efforts.

Category: News

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