Reuters on the phenomenon of police harassment of local political opponents (earlier here, here, etc.) By no means are the reports limited to California:
There also have been allegations of intimidation by police in Cranston, Rhode Island.
On Jan. 9, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung announced that state police will take over an investigation into a flurry of parking tickets issued in the wards of two council members. The pair claim the tickets were issued as retribution after they voted against a new contract for police that would have given them a pay raise….
Major Robert Ryan, a spokesman for the Cranston Police Department, said: “The matter is under investigation, and pursuant to law enforcement’s bill of rights, no-one is going to comment on this.”
As readers may recall, those high-sounding “law enforcement bill of rights” gimmicks serve mostly to entrench law enforcement personnel against consequences or accountability for misbehavior, and thus have less than nothing to do with the Constitution’s actual Bill of Rights. More: Radley Balko.
We termed the lawyers’ arguments “creative,” but a jury apparently found something to be persuasive about them: it acquitted the two police officers in the beating death of homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas, and prosecutors are planning to drop charges against a third officer. [Los Angeles Times]
Last year we linked a report about a series of unfortunate events that kept happening to elected officials in Costa Mesa, Calif. after they resisted negotiating demands from the city’s police union. One saw his supporters’ businesses harassed by cops, while another was picked up on a bogus DUI charge phoned in by a private eye with ties to an Upland, Calif. law firm, Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir, known for extremely aggressive representation of police unions around California.
Now the Lackie, Dammeier firm is in turmoil following a raid on its offices by the Orange County District Attorney’s office. Former Costa Mesa councilman Jim Righeimer, target of the bogus DUI report, and council colleague Steve Mensinger have also alleged in a lawsuit that the law firm’s private investigator attached a GPS device to Mensinger’s car. Lawyers for the two believe the device allowed the investigator to trace the pair’s whereabouts to the bar, allowing for the called-in DUI report which failed when Righeimer produced evidence he had consumed only a couple of Diet Cokes. Mensinger “said the device was affixed to his car during the entire 2012 election season and came to his attention only when he was alerted by the Orange County district attorney’s office.” [L.A. Times, more] The Orange County Register reported: “Mensinger and Righeimer are strong supporters of reforming public pensions and privatizing some city services. … Besides Mensinger, [investigator Chris] Lanzillo is also suspected of following former El Monte City Manager Rene Bobadilla to his home in June 2011, according to a police report obtained by the Orange County Register.” And more recently: “Though they made no admissions, lawyers for the law firm and Lanzillo argued in court papers that placing a tracking device on Mensinger’s truck wouldn’t be an invasion of privacy.” The Costa Mesa police union, also named as a defendant, says in a separate filing that it wasn’t involved with any GPS-tracking plan. [Daily Pilot]
That’s not the only trouble facing the firm: “A statewide police defense fund is no longer sending [it cases] after a forensic audit uncovered triple-billing, bogus travel expenses and ‘serious acts of misconduct.’” [Orange County Register] According to press reports, the firm is in the course of dissolving.
Many of them aren’t so nice, especially in California which incentivizes access complaints with $4,000 minimum per-violation damages as well as entitlement to attorney’s fees. “According to [defense attorney James] Link, more than 3,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in L.A. County in the last three years — more than 1,700 of them by attorneys Morse Mehrban of L.A. and Mark Potter of San Diego’s Center for Disability Access.” One of Potter’s prolific clients, Jon Alexander, formerly of Utah, might displace George Louie as the poster guy for controversial ADA litigants. [L.A. Weekly via Doherty]
Explaining how Kelly Thomas came to meet his gruesome decease called for some creative lawyering from defense attorneys John Barnett and Michael Schwartz, who often represent California law enforcers charged with misconduct [OC Weekly, disturbing images]
Also: Why let accused cops delay answering questions after an episode of alleged excessive force? To let them shape their story? [Scott Greenfield on new Dallas policy] And on the brighter side: Radley Balko, the nation’s premier reporter on police and prosecutorial abuse and someone regularly linked in this space, is joining the Washington Post. [Poynter]
If a private employer tried to pull this kind of thing I expect there’d be an outcry:
Glendale school officials have hired a Hermosa Beach company to monitor and analyze public social media posts, saying the service will help them step in when students are in danger of harming themselves or others.
And with a private employer, you’d be there by your own choice.
“Air quality regulators, citing pollution and health risks, have proposed removing more than 800 fire pits that dot the coastline of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.” [Ian Lovett, New York Times]
Los Angeles: “As LAUSD agrees to pay out 30 million dollars to the families victimized by the Miramonte Elementary School teacher molestation scandal, FOX 11 investigates why school districts seem to have such a difficult time firing teachers who’ve committed lewd acts.” Even the teacher charged with committing mass sex crimes in the Miramonte case managed to get a $40,000 payout from his district to quit. The powerful California Teachers Association (CTA) managed to scuttle a modest bill by Sen. Alex Padilla to streamline dismissals in extreme cases. Instead, it’s backing an alternative measure that reformer and former Sen. Gloria Romero describes as a joke that “wouldn’t really do anything.” [KTTV; CTA's side]
“…so we can avoid negative coverage?” [NBC Los Angeles on LAPD enforcement of law against unauthorized animal selling]
Steven Greenhut at Reason summarizes an extraordinary story from Costa Mesa, Calif. broken by Orange County Register reporting here, here, and here. Long and the short of it: if you get on the wrong side of certain police unions politically, be on your guard against trumped-up DUI charges and a range of “gangster cop” behavior.
A local woman says wi-fi emanations from new “smart” parking meters in Santa Monica, Calif., have caused her various health injuries including tightness in her neck and an ear infection that took antibiotics to heal. She wants $1.7 billion: “I know it seems a little big,” [Denise] Barton said, “but they can’t do things that affect people’s health without their consent. I think that’s wrong.” [Santa Monica Daily Press, LAist]