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To Protect and To Serve

August 23, 2006

Re "Officer Injured in Rifle Attack," Aug. 14


On Aug. 12, I said goodbye to my wife and kids and went to work like any other day. I am a police officer for the city of Los Angeles. I work Hollenbeck Division. That evening, two events occurred that were distressing for me. Early in the night, my partner and I chased a man who was trying to evade arrest on domestic violence warrants through the Ramona Gardens Housing Projects. His girlfriend, the alleged victim, was present during the arrest and was extremely angry. She called us "corrupt pigs," among many choice words. She did not understand that we were simply doing our jobs. A few hours later, my partner and I conducted a traffic stop for a burned-out headlight. The passenger in the car met us with a hail of bullets from an AK-47 assault rifle. Again, we were just doing our jobs.

ADVERTISEMENT Neither event will deter me from going to work every day and serving the community of Hollenbeck Division in a professional and compassionate way. I am proud to be a police officer, and I work with some of the finest police officers in the world.

Like me or not, respect me or not, shoot at me or not, I will keep doing my job.

JOHN C. PORRAS

Los Angeles


CHIEF'S MESSAGE – August 2006

One of the most difficult jobs of any law enforcement organization is to build trust with a skeptical public.  By its very nature, policing is a job of enforcement.  Cops are considered bad guys because they force people to follow the law.  While what we do doesn’t always make for good public relations, our job is vital to preserving a free democratic society.

Everyday, the men and women of this Department are working hard to foster and gain the trust of the communities we work with.  Through a commitment to transparency and positive institutional change the Department continues to restore community confidence in the LAPD and markedly reduce crime.  These changes would not have been possible without a workforce comprised of civic-minded individuals committed to best practices in policing.

But to truly fulfill our vision to make LA the safest big city in the nation, I need more talented, hard working, dedicated cops.  Over the past several years my goals for the Department have remained the same – reduce crime and the fear it instills, fully implement the Consent Decree, and prevent and respond to acts of terrorism.  Now, I’m adding recruitment as my 4th goal.   

Over the next five years, the LAPD will be hiring 1,000 recruits, beginning with 650 new hires in fiscal year 2006/2007.  As we work to achieve recruitment and other Department goals we must remember that community partnerships built on trust will effect long-term social change in this City. It is my belief that transparency in our day-to-day operations inspires public support.  But transparency goes both ways.  We need to know, in a way that is not filtered through the media, what the public thinks about the job we are doing.

A few months ago the Department launched this new blog as a web-based tool to serve as a window into the LAPD.  As an online, interactive journal used to deliver real-time, unfiltered information, it has done a number of things to promote transparency.  It has allowed the Department to respond to criticism or misrepresentations without having our responses edited; it lets us gauge the public’s pulse; and it encourages that two-way communication.

Since its May launch, the blog has had over a 100,000 visits, averaging almost 2,000 daily.  In its brief existence, more than 500 comments have been generated in response to Department postings.  The Department reviews comments to ensure that they do not contain inappropriate remarks or profanity and they do not appear on our web log until approved.

At the outset, this blog’s primary purpose was to engage a local audience in open dialogue about current events.  It has done that and more.  Throughout the country and around the world—from the United Kingdom to Mexico—bloggers are blogging.

In May, for instance, a major counterfeiting-operation shutdown in Downtown Los Angeles prompted a flurry of discussion. During the two-day raid, officers seized $18.4 million worth of counterfeit designer-brand merchandise.

Regularly monitored by our command staff, sworn and civilian personnel, this blog item prompted our own people to participate in the online discussion.  Deputy Chief Mark Leap, Commanding Officer, LAPD Counter Terrorism Bureau, replied to a blogger who questioned the operation’s merit.  Deputy Chief Leap wrote, “Since September 11th, law enforcement in general, not just the LAPD, has linked counterfeit goods to terrorist funding… [These] investigations have resulted in disruptions of [terrorist activities] and should continue to be the focus of the LAPD.”

Another news item that generated many comments was the shooting of LAPD Officer Kristina Ripatti on June 3.  Bloggers expressed concern, empathy, and encouragement for Officer Ripatti, who suffered serious wounds after being struck twice by gunfire.

Similarly, a “Los Angeles Daily News” editorial titled, “Lowered Standards,” prompted rapid-fire dialogue.  The article referenced a proposal by Councilman Bernard Parks. The policy sought to reinstate a zero-tolerance mandate that would disqualify police officer candidates with any history of drug use.

In this instance, the blog allowed me to comment on the proposed policy and the subsequent “Daily News” article.  It gave me the opportunity to explain that our standards have, in fact, increased—in many respects—but that we have a practical and flexible hiring approach.  My response generated almost 30 comments. 

The torrent of e-chatter truly testifies to the blog’s success. Though the Department reserves the right to withhold comments that contain profanity or other inappropriate material, it does not shy away from posting criticism.

As this blog matures we will continue to expand its content, including sections for each geographic area.  Transparency, either through the media, our website—LAPDonline.org—or the LAPD Blog, helps us to connect with people in the communities we protect and serve. As we connect we are fostering trust and building the kinds of community relationships and partnerships that we need to be a successful and respected law enforcement organization.

WILLIAM J. BRATTON
Chief of Police


COMPSTAT Citywide Profile

Crime Statistics August 19, 2006

VIOLENT CRIMES
                   2006             2005         % Chg

Homicide                                302                325           -7.1%
Rape                                       573                600          -4.5%
Robbery                                9,069             8,373           8.3%
Agg Assaults **                      9,178            10,090         -9.0%
Total Violent Crimes          19,122           19,388        -1.4%

PROPERTY CRIMES

Burglary                               12,403           13,613         -8.9%
BTFV                                    18,805           21,105       -10.9%
Personal/Other Theft            17,221           19,812       -13.1%
Auto Theft                           15,332           16,989         -9.8%
Total Property Crimes       63,761           71,519       -10.8%


Young Mother Killed in Drive-by Shooting

Nr06384 Los Angeles:  A 17-year-old mother of two was killed in a drive-by shooting yesterday evening, August 22, 2006, behind her residence at the Estrada Courts in East Los Angeles.

About 5:00 PM, Jacqueline Rodriguez was standing behind her home in the 1300 block of Glenfield Court when a dark car drove by and fired gunshots.  Detectives believe the intended target was a 17-year-old man, who was standing next to Rodriguez.

"Apparently, this guy saw it coming because he took cover as the gunfire erupted," said LAPD spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vernon.  "The bullets hit Jacqueline, whose back was to the gunman."

Rodriguez died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the head.

The apparent, intended victim did not claim any gang affiliation, but he is refusing to cooperate with detectives.

Witnesses described seeing three men in a black compact car drive down Glen Court behind Rodriguez's home.  The gunman stuck a handgun out the rear passenger window and fired when the car came to a stop.

"Detectives are hoping someone will come forward with information in light of the especially tragic circumstances of this young mother's death," Vernon said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detectives Joe Precido or Lupe Ruiz at 323-526-3006.  On weekends and during off-hours, call the 24-hour toll free number at 1-877-LAWFULL (1-877-529-3855).


Officer-Involved Shooting of Armed Suspect

Los Angeles: A man who pointed a gun at police was injured Tuesday during an officer involved shooting in the Exposition Park Area of Los Angeles.

On August 21, 2006, around 5:00 p.m., Southwest Area Gang Enforcement Detail (GED) officers were conducting a gang investigation when they were confronted by a gunman in the 1100 block of Exposition Boulevard.

Officers surrounded the residence and placed themselves along side the building.  Officer Anthony Ariaz and his partner were standing to the rear when the gunman (later identified as Benjamin Smith) jumped out of a window holding a handgun.  Smith ran through a parking area toward Officer Ariaz.  After ordering Smith to drop the handgun, he refused and pointed the handgun at Officer Ariaz.

Officer Ariaz fired resulting in an officer involved shooting.  Smith continued running toward an adjacent parking area when he turned and again pointed the handgun at Ariaz, resulting in a second shooting.

Smith was seen climbing over a wall and was discovered seconds later lying face down with the handgun beside him. 

Smith was taken into custody and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital where he was treated for a gunshot wound to his right kneecap.  He was later booked at County USC Medial Center for assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

Officers recovered a 9mm handgun at the scene.

Police Officer Anthony Ariaz, 35, has been with the Los Angeles Police Department for 11 years.

The Los Angeles Police Department's Force Investigation Division is handling the investigation.  Any questions may be directed to Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.


Skid Row Drug Trade

I appreciate Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez’ frustration with the open air drug bazaar that he witnessed last Friday on Skid Row (Points West, August 19).  Imagine the frustration my LAPD officers feel every day, trying to enforce the law they are sworn to uphold and bring order to the chaos downtown, within an entire system that is terribly broken.

It is not hard to find drugs on Skid Row, and almost as easy to arrest people for it.  We arrest kids as young as 12 for selling drugs, and elderly women in their 70's for possession, along with everyone in between.  Gang members downtown hire children, undocumented workers and addicts to sell for them. Ever been to Amsterdam?  I have seen it, and its easier to find drugs here on Skid Row.

So, with drugs and drug dealers on nearly every block, why don’t we just arrest them all?  The answer is, we do.  In 2005, in the 50 square blocks of Skid Row, we arrested more than 6,000 people for narcotics violations - up from 5,600 during 2004.  If I sent my patrol officers out of the station with the orders to make drug arrests, they would all be back in no time, drug dealer and drugs in hand.  Unfortunately, it takes two officers 4-6 hours to process a drug arrest…all day if the doper is sick or injured, and most of them are.  With the officers in the station processing drug arrests, that thin line of police presence and protection is gone from Skid Row.  That’s when the knifings, assaults, street robberies and murders occur.  The drug crazed, the mentally ill, the parolees and gang members that thrive on Skid Row prey on those that are weaker and down-and-out when the police aren’t around.

Steve, the entire system is broken.  There is no incentive to stop selling drugs downtown.  Under the new “Proposition 36” rules the California voters approved, any simple narcotics possession arrest results in a court order to “get into rehab” and no jail time…for as many as 7 separate arrests.  First time rock cocaine and heroin dealers get probation when we catch them.  Second offense is 180 days in jail (the Penal Code mandates 3, 4, or 5 years).  And with the County’s early release practice, that second strike heroin dealer is out of jail after serving 10% of his sentence – only 18 days.  Third offense is 270 days (actually serving 27), and so on. System Broken.

The prisons are full, the jails are full and the courts are so busy that last month they took a plea of 120 days county jail (serving 12 days) for a major downtown cocaine trafficker who was facing an exposure of 15 years state prison time. Last week a notorious Skid Row narcotics dealer with 7 prior narcotic sales convictions was caught and sentenced again…he was placed on probation.  No jail time. System Broken.

With 10 of my best officers working undercover narcotics in the Skid Row area every day, and with the additional help of the 12 member narcotics task force we had working Skid Row all summer, as you have seen, we have hardly made a dent.  What can we do?  The 50 officers planned for Skid Row as part of Chief Bratton’s Safer Cities Initiative is a terrific start.  Then, fix the court system, put some teeth into the sentencing of repeat offenders and support Senator Gil Cedillo’s bills to make Skid Row a Narcotics Recovery Zone. 

Let’s end this mess.  Let’s shut down this open air drug market. Let’s end the culture of chaos downtown and give those addicts trying to get clean a fighting chance at recovery. 

Captain Andrew Smith
Commanding Officer
Central Area
Los Angeles Police Department


One Man Killed in Shooting

Los Angeles: Los Angeles police detectives are asking for the public's help in finding any witnesses to a shooting that occurred in Los Angeles Sunday evening.

On August 20, 2006 at about 6:30 p.m., Robert Gonzalez, a Hispanic man, 17, and his 19-year-old friend, were seated in a parked car in front of a liquor store in the 11700 block of Culver Boulevard.  Another Hispanic man walked up to the car and asked where they were from. The man then fired several rounds into the car, striking both Gonzalez and his friend.

Both victims were transported to a local hospital.  Gonzalez died a short time later.  His friend remains in stable condition.

Anyone with information is asked to call Pacific Homicide Detectives at 310-482-6313.  On weekends and during off-hours, call the 24-hour toll free number at 1-877-LAWFULL (1-877-529-3855).

The identities of callers wishing to remain anonymous shall be protected.


Missing Girl and Baby in South LA

UPDATE:  Daisy Munoz and Diego Padilla were found unharmed on Saturday.  Newton Detectives are handling the investigation. 

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Police Department is asking for the public's help in locating Daisy Vanessa Munoz,13-year-old and 18-month-old Diego Padilla, who were last seen yesterday in Central Los Angeles.

On Thursday, August 17, 2006, Daisy, a friend of the family, visited 18-month-old Diego and his grandmother at their home located in the 1600 block of 32nd Street.  Daisy asked the grandmother for permission to take Diego to a store to go buy some medicine. Daisy told the grandmother that a friend who is unknown to the grandmother was taking them to the Alameda Swap Meet located on Vernon Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard.  Daisy and Diego never returned. 

Daisy is a Hispanic girl 5' tall and weighs about 125 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair and medium built. She was wearing a white shirt, blue jeans, brown sweater and white tennis shoes.

Diego is a Hispanic baby, 2'0 tall and weighs about 30 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. He was wearing a red shirt, black pants and red/black shoes. 

Anyone with information regarding Daisy and Diego whereabouts is urged to call Newton Division at 323-846-6547.  Weekend or during off-hours the public may contact the toll free-24 hours tip line at 1-877-LAW FULL (1-877-529-3855).


Words of Wisdom for LAPD Graduating Class

Twenty-eight new Los Angeles police officers graduated August 18 at a mid-morning ceremony before an audience of family and friends. In attendance, were Chief Bratton, Department Command Staff, representatives from the Board of Commissioners and the Mayor’s Office.

Guest speaker U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honoré addressed the group of graduates. Lieutenant General Honoré shared an important story with the all-male class.

"Most of the people in our society are sheep," he said. "They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who hurt one another by accident. Then there are the wolves and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy."

"Then there are sheepdogs and I'm a sheepdog," he went on. "I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf. You are now sheepdogs and sheepdogs follow wolves wherever they go."

Lieutenant General Honoré led the Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana through Joint Task Force-Katrina. Highly decorated, he has served in a variety of command and staff positions focused on Defense Support to Civil Authorities and Homeland Defense.

The graduating officers have completed 1,035 hours of training in 32 weeks. Three lateral officers graduated with the regular recruit class, following the completion of a two-month lateral officer academy.

These officers are experienced peace officers who have been certified by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standard and Training. They have joined the LAPD after serving with other California law enforcement agencies.

The graduation ceremony was held at the Los Angeles Police Academy.


What Skid Row Offensive?

As I read the news on August 17, I was pleased to see that the Los Angeles Times is drawing much-needed attention to City homelessness.

In an article titled, LAPD’s Crime Offensive on Skid Row is Slipping, the Times raised several valid points. Regrettably, the newspaper incorrectly reported on the LAPD’s skid row offensive.

Allow me to clarify—the LAPD’s skid row offensive has not faltered because there is no such thing. The so-called offensive is instead part of a larger strategy to prevent and reduce crime called the Safer Cities Initiative, a strategic plan endorsed by Mayor Villaraigosa to address social conditions that contribute to crime.

The Safer Cities strategy seeks to build partnerships and collaborations—among businesses, criminal justice agencies, community groups, private organizations and City Departments—using the broken windows approach to develop creative solutions.

As part of Safer Cities, additional LAPD officers will be assigned to Central Division beginning in September to abate criminal activity. Additionally, the Department is working closely with the American Civil Liberties Union to reach reasonable working solutions to address an unresolved lawsuit that limits police officers’ ability to arrest people for sleeping on the street.

The LAPD remains committed to achieving its public safety goals in the skid row area. Increased LAPD presence, however, is only part of the solution.

Torie Osborn, who focuses on homelessness solutions for Mayor Villaraigosa, said it best.

"I think there are people who think that public safety is the answer to poverty and homelessness," Ms. Osborn is quoted as saying in the Times. "I don't think it is, and the mayor doesn't think it is."

"You can't ask the police to transform an entrenched community of homelessness and alienation," she went on to say. "You need medical treatment, addiction treatment, recovery beds and, most of all, supportive housing."

What Ms. Osborn proposes is the true, long-term solution to combating homelessness in Los Angeles and throughout the county. Homelessness is a social ill that we cannot arrest our way out of.

William J. Bratton

Chief of Police, Los Angeles Police Department