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Chief’s Message September 2012

The month of September marks the beginning of fall and the exciting start of the new school season for many young children, but it is bittersweet because we will always remember the innocent civilians and our first responder brothers and sisters who lost their lives during the tragic September 11th terrorist attacks.  Despite the passage of 11 years, this loss still resonates with us today.   Although, it motivates us to continue our fight to prevent current acts of terrorism both domestically and abroad.

In the years since the attacks, the LAPD has developed some of the leading counter-terrorism strategies and tactics in the nation. Programs such as iWatch have been nationally recognized and implemented in other cities throughout the country.

Recently, we also hosted the Joint Counter-Terrorism Awareness Workshop in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counter-Terrorism Center and the FBI.  The two day seminar brought together 350 regional first responders and private sector representatives from the Los Angeles area to share information and discuss some of the latest strategies and tactics to identify and combat terrorist activity.  This collaboration between local, state, federal and the private sector partners will ultimately help safeguard our region.

The war on terror is one that will continue indefinitely, as we are always targets to those who view us as the enemy.  We must continue to be vigilant and unwavering in our commitment to keep the people in the City of Los Angeles safe and we must take proactive measures in order to prevent attacks before they occur.

Officer Safety

Your safety is my number one priority and I want to stress the importance of not over-driving when working in the field. Traffic related collisions are one of the leading causes of injuries to officers.  While I understand you want to get to the scene of a radio call or incident as quickly as possible, it should never be at the expense of arriving safely.  Over-driving can put you, your partner, and the public in dangerous predicaments where injuries or even fatalities can occur.  Please drive safely and always wear your seatbelt because I want nothing more than for all of you to make it home unharmed to your family at the end of your shift.

In addition, I want to remind you we are quickly approaching the end of the year.  As a result, officers tend to accrue more expenses and have many more responsibilities occurring in their personal lives.  The combination of these things can cause increased stress levels that can potentially have a negative effect on your personal and professional life.  Fortunately there are a number of resources available to you including the Los Angeles Police Relief Association, Los Angeles Police Protective League and Behavioral Science Services. Take advantage of these resources if you find yourself in a difficult situation because help is always readily available.


At the end of this month the second phase of the 405 expansion will occur and a portion of the freeway that connects the Valley to the West side will be shut down for an entire weekend.  When the first phase was completed last year, we were able to avoid traffic gridlock and public hysteria by successfully working with our state and local partners to make the community aware of the pending closure.   For this expansion phase, we also have been working with our state and local partners for months in order to coordinate our efforts to avoid “Carmageddon.”   Many individuals have been working diligently on the planning and strategic phases and I want to thank those of you involved in this cumbersome process.

Weight Loss Challenge

For the past couple of months many of you have been exercising diligently and watching your diet all in the name of competition and good health.  Likewise, many divisions and sections have organized group exercise sessions, dietary instruction, and offered motivational messages with the hopes of taking home the title of weight loss champions. With the challenge now in its final stages, I urge you to continue with your beneficial changes and good habits you developed in order to apply them to a permanent lifestyle of wellness. The benefits of your hard work are noticeable and I sincerely appreciate your hard work and inspiring spirit.

For those of you who might have missed out on this year’s challenge, it’s not too late to begin a workout regimen and develop healthy habits of your own.  Personal wellness should be a lifelong undertaking as the benefits are countless. Congratulations to all of this year’s participants on your accomplishment and I wish you continued success as we move forward.

History of West Los Angeles Area

West Los Angeles Station provides service and protection to over a quarter of a million people, stretching over sixty-five square miles. West Los Angeles Division began its life in 1922 when it was known as “Sawtelle Division” due to its location on Sawtelle Boulevard.  The current West Los Angeles Division, located on Butler Avenue, is in the heart of West LA and was constructed and dedicated in 1974.

West LA is home to some of the most valuable real estate in the United States.  It also the home of many internationally recognized individuals in the entertainment and business community.

Fallen Heroes of West Los Angeles Area

Two West Los Angeles Police Officers made the ultimate sacrifice.

Police Officer Fred Early, EOW March 23, 1973 - succumbed to a gunshot wound from a confrontation with a burglary suspect.

Police Officer Michael McDougal, EOW January 19, 1975 - was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Significant Events in West Los Angeles Area

West Los Angeles has been the scene of some of the City’s most famous and infamous crimes:

* The death of  Marilyn Monroe in Brentwood
* The Manson murders in Benedict Canyon
* The murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman in Brentwood
* The rape arrest of Roman Polanski in Bel Air
* The murder of Ennis Cosby on the 405 Freeway at Skirball Center Drive
* The murder of Playmate of the Year 1979 Dorothy Stratton
* The murder of Dag Drollet in Bel Air with the arrest of Christian Brando
* The Manslaughter of Michael Jackson in Holmby Hills

It is with honor and pride that the officers and civilian employees protect and serve the West Los Angeles community.  Together we make West L.A. a great place to live and work.

Stay safe out there and always look out for each other.

Labor Day Weekend in the San Fernando Valley “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”

Los Angeles: Despite the fact that every driver should know it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle or motorcycle while impaired, thousands of people get behind the wheel each year with blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher.

In fact, more than 10,000 people died in crashes in 2010 that involved a driver or motorcycle rider who had a BAC of .08 or higher.  That’s one person every 51 minutes who died needlessly in a crash that likely could have been prevented if alcohol hadn’t been involved.

During the 2010 Labor Day weekend (6p.m., Sept. 3 – 5:59 a.m. Sept. 7) 147 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving drivers or motorcycles riders with BACs of .08 or higher.

That’s why the Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Traffic Division is joining nearly 10,000 law enforcement agencies and other highway safety partners nationwide to support the intensive crackdown over the Labor Day holiday that will target anyone driving impaired.  Efforts in the San Fernando Valley will include saturation patrols.  If you are caught driving impaired you will be arrested and you will face serious consequences.

During the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” crackdown from Friday, August 31, 2012 to Monday, September 3, 2012, impaired drivers will be targeted and arrested.  Valley Traffic Division is taking aggressive steps to decrease the number of impaired-driving fatalities in the San Fernando Valley, which in 2012 year to date has accounted for 2 fatalities and 588 DUI related traffic collisions.

Captain Ivan Minsal, Commanding Officer of the Valley Traffic Division stated, “We support law enforcement cracking down to remind people that if they plan to drink, to never get behind the wheel.  The consequences from impaired driving are deadly serious.  Even if no one is killed, people caught driving impaired face jail time, loss of their driver’s licenses, and numerous financial consequences – such as attorney fees, higher insurance rates, court costs, lost time at work and the potential loss of their job.”  Sergeant Arturo Gomez, Assistant Officer-in-Charge of Valley Traffic Division’s Driving Under the Influence Unit stated, “If you’ve had too much to drink, make sure you can rely on a sober, designated driver to get you home safely or arrange to take a cab or bus so you do not become a statistic.”

No one ever imagines - when they are getting ready for an evening out - that they will be involved in an impaired driving crash. But it happens thousands of times every year.  "The numbers, and more importantly, the experiences of thousands of victims, tell us that impaired driving continues to be a significant problem in our country that is preventable," said Captain Minsal. "We encourage everyone to be part of the solution by planning ahead.  It takes just a few minutes, but it can save you and your loved ones from a lifetime of grief."

Impaired driving creates serious consequences.

    * The tragedies and costs from driving impaired do not end with potential death and injury.
    * Driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle while impaired is not worth the risk.  The consequences are serious and real.  Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be significant.
    * Drunk driving violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court costs, car towing and repairs, and lost wages due to time off from work.
    * Refusing to take a sobriety test in many jurisdictions may result in the loss of your driver’s license and enhanced penalties.  Not to mention the added embarrassment, humiliation, and consequences after informing family, friends and employers.
    * Please remember that Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.  Designate your sober driver before the Labor Day week-end parties begin.
    * The Los Angeles Police Department’s - Valley Traffic Division recommends the following easy steps for a safe Labor Day Weekend:
    * Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.
    * Before drinking, please designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home.
    * If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation so you are sure to get home safely.
    * If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement by calling 9-1-1.
    * And remember, if you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

For more information, please contact Sergeant Arturo Gomez at 805-559-9637, or Valley Traffic.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Operating Illegally Arrests Made and Evidence Seized

Los Angeles: Detectives from Topanga Area Narcotics Enforcement Detail (NED) served a search warrant at a medical marijuana dispensary in the west San Fernando Valley that resulted in two arrests, a cache of narcotics, money, and other evidence of illegal drug sales. On Tuesday, August 28, 2012, around 3:00 p.m., Topanga Area Narcotics Enforcement Detail detectives converged on a commercial marijuana dispensary in the 21100 block of Ventura Boulevard. The search warrant was obtained after an investigation into the illegal sales of marijuana from the dispensary. Arrested were 21-year-old Anna Woods of Thousand Oaks and 22-year-old Carmen Hsieh of Los Angeles. Both were booked for Possession for Sales of Marijuana and booked into Valley Jail Section. They are each being held on $20,000 bail. Additionally, investigators will be seeking an arrest warrant through the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for one additional suspect who was not present when the search warrant was served. Investigators recovered approximately $1,000 in cash from the dispensary and approximately 10 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $30,000. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Topanga Area Narcotics Enforcement Detail Detectives, Detective Carlos Figueira at 818-756-4850. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.

100-Year-old Driver backs into Pedestrians

Los Angeles: On Wednesday, August 29, 2012 around 2:30 p.m., a 100 year old driver ran off the road and collided with 14 pedestrians in front of Main Street Elementary School at dismissal time. A total of 11 children and three adults were transported to local hospitals. As of today, only three children are still hospitalized but are expected to recover.

The driver of the vehicle had a valid license, insurance and had no evidence of intoxication. Due to the nature of the accident the driver was referred to the Department of Motor Vehicles for re-examination. The driver claims that his vehicle had mechanical failures that prevented him from stopping the vehicle. This vehicle was impounded and a mechanical inspection will be conducted by Motor Transport Division.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact LAPD Central Traffic Division Detectives at 213-972-1825. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to www.lapdonline.org, and click on "Webtips” and follow the prompts.

Illegal Firearm Purchaser Fights with Police While Being Taken Into Custody

Los Angeles: A man observed making an illegal firearm purchase fought with police while being arrested and was struck in the head with a Department issued shotgun by an officer during the struggle.

On August 22, 2012, around 10:35 a.m., detectives and officers assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Gang Homicide Division (CGHD) were assisting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by conducting a controlled gun buy operation in Pacific Area. LAPD uniformed Metropolitan Division officers and Air Support Division also offered support and assistance to the operation.

A suspect, 37-year-old Robert Tidwell, had just completed a firearms purchase and was leaving the area when he was confronted by uniformed officers. Tidwell ran from officers but was caught in a parking lot in the 7400 block of La Tijera Boulevard. As officers were taking Tidwell into custody he failed to comply with the officer’s commands and he struggled with the officers trying to handcuff him.

During the arrest one officer struck Tidwell once in the head with the shotgun he was carrying. The suspect was taken into custody and the officers immediately called for medical assistance. Los Angeles City paramedics responded and transported the suspect to a local area hospital where he was treated and released for booking. No officers were injured during this incident.

Force Investigation Division responded and are investigating this incident.

The investigation will ultimately be reviewed by the Chief of Police, the Office of the Inspector General and Board of Police Commissioners for compliance with the Department’s use-of-force policy which states that an officer’s use-of-force actions must be objectively reasonable. Additionally, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division will conduct a comprehensive review of the facts of this use of force.

Vandalism Suspect Pronounced Dead

Los Angeles: On August 23, 2012, around 3:05 a.m., Hollywood Division Patrol officers responded to a 9-1-1 call of a “vandalism suspect there now” at an apartment in the 5500 block of Harold Way. Witnesses reported that the suspect was yelling, breaking glass and throwing items outside his apartment window, resulting in numerous 9-1-1 calls. The suspect, later identified as 48-year-old Michael Mastrangelo, lived in a second-story apartment unit that overlooked the front entrance to the building.

When the officers arrived, they observed numerous personal belongings that included small pieces of furniture beneath Mastrangelo’s window that was strung along the sidewalk and entry way, many of which were covered in fresh blood spatter. Mastrangelo’s windows had been smashed outward with glass debris below and blood on the window sill. Mastrangelo continued throwing objects out his window despite the officers’ presence.

Fearing for Mastrangelo’s safety, both officers and their Patrol Sergeant forced entry into his apartment and confronted Mastrangelo who was completely covered with blood. Mastrangelo was handcuffed without any force being used. Within moments of being cuffed, Mastrangelo became lifeless.

Los Angeles Fire Department personnel from Rescue Ambulance No. 82 attempted to revive Mastrangelo. Mastrangelo failed to respond to emergency medical treatment and was pronounced dead.

LAPD’s Force Investigation Division (FID) Detectives responded and are investigating the in-custody death.

The investigation will ultimately be reviewed by the Chief of Police, the Office of the Inspector General and Board of Police Commissioners for compliance with the Department’s use-of-force policy which states that an officer’s use-of-force actions must be objectively reasonable. Additionally, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division will conduct a comprehensive review of the facts of the in-custody death.

Notes from the August 28, 2012 Weekly Police Commission Meeting

• Police Chief Charlie Beck said it was good to be back from vacation and doing the job he loves. He also said overall violent crime was down for the year in the City.

• The Inspector General’s report, dated August 15, 2012, relative to the review of the Department’s complaint form 1.28, investigation audit, fiscal year 2011/12, as given by Inspector General Alexander Bustamante, was approved. Mr. Bustamante said the Department adhered to the complaint policy and found the audit to be complete and in good quality.

• The Department’s report, dated August 16, 2012, relative to reporting suspicious activity potentially related to foreign or domestic terrorism – revised; and suspicious activity report notebook divider, form 18.30.03 – as given by Deputy Chief Michael Downing, was approved. Chief Downing informed the Board the Department wished to create a reporting mechanism for suspicious activity. The federal government developed a national suspicious activity report (SAR) and the Department wished to get in line with the federal model. Chief Downing said they revised Special Order 1 and defined terrorism based on the federal definition. They also separated criminal behaviors and non-criminal behaviors. Chief Downing stressed the SAR had everything to do with profiling behavior of individuals including what a person does, their actions, and if it is related to terrorist activity. The Inspector General will conduct an annual audit of the system and should there be a need, conduct audits more frequently.

• The Department’s report, dated August 24, 2012, relative to the intelligence guidelines for the anti-terrorism intelligence section – revised, as given by Deputy Chief Michael Downing, was continued until September 18. Chief Downing informed the Board they renamed the intelligence guidelines and made changes to when surveillance could be conducted in investigations. He said the Commanding Officer as well as the Chief of Police and the Board of Police Commissioners must approve surveillance request beforehand as well.

• The Department’s report, dated August 14, 2012, relative to DNA monthly report for July 2012, was approved and transmitted to the City Council.

• The Department’s report, dated August 23, 2012, relative to the transmittal of the report for funding for the 2012/13 Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Action (JJCPA) program, was approved and transmitted concurrently to the Mayor and City Council.

• The Department’s report, dated August 20, 2012, relative to the approval of contract no. 12112360 to present the Robert Presley Institute of Criminal Investigation (ICU) courses – July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, was approved and transmitted to the Mayor.

• The Department’s report, dated March 16, 2012, and Inspector General’s report, dated August 23, 2012, relative to the review of the Department’s quarterly discipline report for the fourth quarter 2011, as presented by Deputy Chief Mark Perez, was approved. Chief Perez informed the Board there is currently a draft of discipline guidelines awaiting review by the Chief of Police but added due to the individual and unique circumstances surrounding each case, the guidelines are general in nature. Chief Charlie Beck then intervened and said the Department will try and put something together to help the Commissioners evaluate him.

In regards to the sale and resale of Kimber firearms, the Inspector General looked at the Department’s report and found it to be pretty thin. He sent the investigation back with 23 specific issues to address. Deputy Chief Perez stated due to the statute of limitations the case came out early which could have contributed to the investigation not being up to par. Chief Beck then stated the Department is going to do an exhaustive investigation into the sale and resale of the weapons and determine if any federal laws or city ethics laws were violated. He said a secondary investigation will also be conducted to determine why the original investigation was not up to Department standards. Chief Beck completed his comments by stating the Department will draft a Special Order to disallow the resale of specially purchased weapons in the future. The Board directed the Department to report back regarding the Kimber issue.

Traffic Collision Takes the Life of Mother And Two Young Daughters

Los Angeles:  A two-car collision early Wednesday morning killed three people and critically injured a fourth.

On August 29, 2012, around 7:20 a.m., a 2004 Infinity that for unknown reasons, was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of Highland Avenue when it collided with the left side of a 2002 Dodge Caravan traveling north on Highland Avenue and making a left turn onto Willoughby Avenue.

The driver of the Caravan, 27-year-old Saida Juana Mendez-Bernardino, a resident of Los Angeles was driving her 4-year-old daughter, Stephanie Cruz, and 6-year-old daughter Hilda Cruz, to school. All three were critically injured.  Hilda died at scene.  Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics transported Saida and Stephanie to a local hospital where they died a short time later.

The driver of the Infinity, a 74 year-old man, a resident of Lawndale, was transported to a local hospital in critical condition.  Detectives do not believe drugs or alcohol were a factor in the collision.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact West Traffic Detectives, Detective Stephanie Banks at 213-473-0227. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247).  Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.  All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.”  Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.

Chief of Police responds to Officer Involved Use of Force Incident in Foothill Area

Los Angeles:  On August 21, 2012, Los Angeles Police Officers assigned to Foothill Area conducted a traffic stop which resulted in a use of force incident.  The officers reported the incident to a supervisor  who conducted an investigation into the incident which included obtaining a video from a nearby business.  Based upon his investigation, the supervisor became concerned, informed his command and initiated a personnel complaint.

One week later, Chief of Police Charlie Beck became aware of the incident and after reviewing the video had significant concerns about the propriety of the use of force.  He immediately removed the officers from field duties and assigned one of the officers to home.  Additionally, the Chief directed that Internal Affairs Group initiate a criminal and administrative investigation.

The Chief has mandated that the video be played at all roll calls and that Commanding Officers attend and discuss use of force issues throughout the Department.

Chief Beck said, “I have serious concerns about this incident and I believe the Commanding Officer of Foothill Area was severely deficient in his response.  Proper steps were not taken, including appropriate notifications and the removal of the involved officers from the field.  Because of these issues, I have removed him from his command and initiated downgrade procedures.  Every Los Angeles Police Officer, regardless of rank, will be held accountable for their actions.”

Missing Autistic Man

Los Angeles:  The family of Steven Collett and the Los Angeles Police Department are asking for the public’s help in locating him after he walked away from his school today and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

On Tuesday, August 28, 2012, around 1:30 p.m., Steven Collett was last seen at his school at 8218 Vanalden Avenue.  He may have tried to walk to his residence in the 7800 block of Vanalden.  Steven is autistic and does not like crowds.  His family is extremely concerned for his safety and well-being.

Steven is a 20-year-old Caucasian man, with short dark brown hair, green eyes, 6 feet 1 inch tall, and weighs 240 pounds.  He is believed to be wearing a purple T-shirt, tan shorts, green shoes and carrying a purple back pack.  

If you have seen, or have any information regarding the whereabouts of Steven, please contact the Los Angeles Police Department, West Valley Area Police Desk at 818-374-7611.  During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247).  Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.  All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.”  Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts