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Posts from the "LASD" Category


Milton Olin’s Killer Escapes Charges. A Broken System Cries for Change.

Last night, Brenda Gazaar broke the story in the Daily News that the District Attorney will not be pressing charges against Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood, who struck and killed Milt Olin from behind with his car while Olin was riding his bicycle in the bike lane. Olin, a former Napster executive and lawyer, was riding legally and safely in the bicycle lane on the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway in Calabassas.

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Reaction from safety advocates, critics of the scandal-plagued Sheriff’s Department and bicyclists was swift on social media. The department’s internal investigation showed that Wood was typing non-emergency messages on his on-board computer when his car veered into the bicycle lane at high enough speed to strike Olin and send him flying over his handlebars.

I share their outrage, and the investigation into Wood’s killing of Olin has been under fire from the moment the Sheriff’s Department declined to pass the investigation off to the California Highway Patrol, but the burden of proof to convict a peace officer who kills someone with a vehicle is so high that even a well-ordered investigation may have yielded the same results.

The system is broken.

Maybe a review of the D.A. will overturn the initial ruling and a criminal trial will occur. Even if that’s the case, there’s going to be a high standard for Wood to face justice.

The system is broken.

Gazaar explains: Read more…


LASD Sheriff Strikes and Kills Cyclist in Bike Lane with Police Cruiser


Milton Olin Jr., from his LinkedIn account.

Milton Olin Jr., former chief operating officer of music-sharing site Napster and Hollywood Attorney, died Sunday when his bicycle was struck by a Sheriff’s Deputy’s patrol car at the 22000 block of Mulholland Highway. LASD confirms that Olin was in the bicycle lane at the time of the collision.

Both the driver and bicyclist were traveling east on Mulholland at the time of the crash. The LASD Cruiser has a cracked windshield, suggesting that the car hit Olin from behind at a high rate of speed. The LASD reports that the windshied was cracked when Olin’s body was thown onto the Hood. Olin was pronounced dead at the scene.

At this point, the Sheriff’s investigating the crash have not released the name of the driver, who was on duty and not responding to an emergency call at the time of the crash. The deputy was taken to the hospital for cuts and bruises. As one would expect when a cyclist is killed by unsafe driving, there have not been charges filed.

As a quick experiment, I ran a News Google search on “Milton Olin.” As you would expect, dozens of stories detailing how he was killed by a Sheriff’s deputy immediately filled my screen. I ran the same search but added the word “suspect.”

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 10.34.00 AM

Surprise, surprise.

Read more…


“You Don’t Belong Here:” Reverse* Profiling. Yep, it’s a Thing.

Meet Sahra (mixed-race) and her bike, both of whom are apparent menaces to society. (photo: Sarah Nikolovska)

“Hi,” a voice alongside me said tersely.

I turned my head to see a Sheriff’s car rolling slowly down 92nd Street in Watts with me.

The white deputy in the passenger seat who was sizing me up appeared highly displeased with whatever conclusion she had come to.

They were way too close, I thought.

Something was up.

“Do you need something?” I asked, figuring it was best to get right to it.

“No, we’re just saying ‘Hi,’” she said.

“Bullsh*t does not become you,” I thought, as the car swerved suddenly for the curb, cutting me off without warning and surprising the hell out of me. Had I been going any faster, I might actually have flipped my bicycle over their front end.

The white deputy got out and began aggressively firing questions as she moved closer to me.

“What are you doing here?”

“Are you on parole?”

“Are you on probation?”

“Have you ever been arrested?”

“Are you sure you’ve never been arrested?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Do you have any identification?”

“What are you doing here?”

Her level of aggression was so wildly disproportionate to the situation that it took me a second to get my head in the game.

My first thought was, “Calm down and take a step back, sister. You can’t possibly be serious.”

She was so inappropriately aggressive, in fact, I actually started laughing when she asked me if I had ever been arrested. I couldn’t help it — it was like being verbally assaulted by a cartoon character. Or a kid playing cops and robbers. Or a really bad actor in a terrible B movie.

“So this really is how y’all do it, huh?” I thought. “It goes down exactly like everyone says it does. This is freaking amazing.”**

She was not nearly as amused as I was.

She now had her hand ready for action on her belt at her hip and her partner (a Hispanic woman) had gotten out of the car and was standing behind her, off to my left.

Sh*t was getting real. Read more…


Meet Sheriff Teufel, the Social Media Star Who Can’t Figure out Sharrows

Hi everyone, meet Officer Teufel, a social media star from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Teufel’s claim to fame is not only mis-understanding traffic laws as they relate to bicyclists, but riding dangerously close to a cyclist to mis-explain the law and giving a baffling counter-intuitive explanation for what a Sharrow is.

Now to be fair, the Sheriff doesn’t ticket or physically harass the cyclist/videographer but his repeated attempts to shout explanations at the cyclist does make for at least an amusing video.

The fun really starts at the 1:14 mark when Teufel instructs the cyclist, who is riding directly through the middle of several Sharrows, to ride farther to the right. For those interested, you can watch an SUV run a red light just seconds before Officer Teufel defends the right to drive quickly to their two-wheeled oppressors.

As is true with many officers, Teufel confuses the traffic requirement that cyclists “ride as far to the right as practical” with “ride as far to the right as physically possible.” Of course, the Sheriff doesn’t seem impressed with the cyclists’ pleas that he is following the law, he continually harasses the cyclist with warnings not to impede traffic.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition succinctly explains the difference between what Teufel thinks is the law and what is actually the law. Read more…


A Tale of Two Communities: New Security Measures at USC Intensify Profiling of Lower-Income Youth of Color

This is what stopping teens can look like. Mikey, Jonathan and George/Jorge were frisked for weapons on Ave. 50 and York Blvd. in Highland Park last spring. They were stopped while waiting for friends. Note: the photo is not from South L.A., as many of the youth I spoke with wished to remain anonymous. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

“What you got on you?” the 15 year-old girl says the cops pulled up alongside her asked as she walked along Vermont one night.

Bundled up in her boyfriend’s jacket to stave off the chilly air, she didn’t realize that they were actually talking to her until she heard one grumble, “Fucking Mexican!” and repeat the question.

Now she found herself both amused and pissed — not only were they messing with her, she’s Salvadoran.

“I was like, ‘Dayum, for real??’” she laughed as she recounted the incident to me over a plate of fries at a little restaurant not too far from where she had been stopped.

She was just going to the market, she told them. She didn’t have anything on her.

“Well, you just look [like you're] bad,” she says the cops told her before pulling away.

“Geeeez-us,” I groaned, cradling my head in my hands.

I had spent the last month and a half moving up and down the streets around USC, speaking with lower-income black and brown male youth (aged 14 – 25) about the encounters they have had with officers from the LAPD and USC’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). Every single one of the approximately 50 youth I had randomly approached for an interview told me multiple stories about getting harassed, insulted, stopped, and sometimes even frisked and handcuffed by both DPS and the LAPD.

But I hadn’t expected to hear a story from her.

She’s tiny – maybe 4’10” tall on a good day – and she’s been working hard to stay out of trouble. In fact, she had recently moved up to the USC area to get away from the craziness and drama of the streets in Watts, where she had lived for the last several years. There, she was stressed from having to constantly watch her back. Her new neighborhood seemed so peaceful in contrast.

“You realize there’s a Harpys clique just up the street, right?” I laughed, pointing over my shoulder.


She had never even heard of that gang. The only trouble she had had was with the cops. But it didn’t faze her, she said, waving me off dismissively. That kind of thing is normal.

Rites of Passage in the ‘Hood


“Happens all the time.”

“It’s like a rite of passage.”

All across Los Angeles, these are ways that a lot of youth of color from lower-income communities describe being stopped, questioned, searched, or, on occasion, falsely accused of misdoing and arrested or even brutalized by the police. Such incidents are so prevalent, in fact, that I’ve had to postpone meeting up with people that wanted to tell me their stories about enduring harassment in order to finish this article. The list of friends, acquaintances, and random people I’ve encountered that regularly experience this kind of discrimination is actually that long.

Most strikingly, although all describe hating how disempowering, humiliating, and even traumatic it can be, and that it feels like the police prefer sweating them to keeping them safe, they tend not to think of getting stopped as anything out of the ordinary.

It sucks, they tell me, but it comes with growing up in the ‘hood.

Until recently, many of the residents – young and old — in the neighborhoods around USC might have felt no differently. They were used to being scrutinized by both the LAPD and DPS, monitored by some of the now 72 cameras USC has set up on and around campus (watched 20 hours a day by LAPD and round the clock by USC), and observed by the more than 30 security ambassadors positioned on campus and throughout adjacent neighborhoods.

“We know [LAPD and DPS] are going to slow down [their cars] when they see a group of us standing out here like this,” an older black gentleman said of himself and his friends as they chatted in front of his home under the watchful gaze of cameras posted up on Normandie Ave.

“They always do.”

His friends nodded solemnly.

Since the implementation of new security measures around USC following two shootings in the area last year, however, things have apparently become more intense than “normal” for some. In particular, the stepping up of DPS patrols on and around campus combined with the arrival of 30 officers to the Southwest Division to conduct high visibility patrols and “more frequent parole checks on local gang members” (the $750,000 worth of personnel costs which were paid for by USC) have put everybody on notice.

Neighbors (and, most recently USC students of color, apparently) really began to feel the shift in tone with the beginning of the fall semester, when the new measures went into full effect.

The reason? Despite DPS’ use of “video patrol” techniques and the LAPD’s use of cutting-edge computer-generated models to aid in predictive policing, the methodologies behind the identification of suspicious behavior or candidates for “parole checks” appear decidedly unsophisticated.

And aggressive.

Black and Latino youth report that officers from both the LAPD and DPS regularly pull up alongside them and verbally accost them with a barrage of questions. Read more…


Metro Diary: Three Trains, a Tourist, Some Eager-Beaver Sheriffs, and a Former Foster Child…All in the Space of an Hour

The Willowbrook Station, looking South. (photo: sahra)

Whenever I travel in and out of LAX, I do my best to Metro my way there.

It requires a forty-minute walk, three trains, and an airport shuttle ride for me to go one way. But, it’s cheap and, remarkably, it all goes down in less than two hours. And, it is never dull.

For one, I get to watch new arrivals stumble their way through the TAP machine at Aviation.

This time, it was a lawyer from Toronto who hung back from the crowd that lunged for the single TAP machine near the elevator, where we were dropped off.

I hadn’t actually taken a look at this ticket-vending machine (TVM) before because I always reach the platform via the stairs at the east end of the station, where the shuttles usually stop. This TVM had none of the semi-helpful maps and informational posters (if you are an English speaker) present by the base of the stairs.

The lawyer hoped that watching other people go through the motions, he’d figure it out.

He didn’t.

He reassured me later that he would have gotten the hang of it with a little more time. He rides public transit a lot, he said.

Having watched him try to navigate the system, I wasn’t so sure.

He was going to have to take three trains (Green, Blue, Purple) and maybe a bus in order to get himself close to LACMA, and didn’t realize that meant that he would need to pay several separate fares. That part wasn’t in the directions his friend had sent him.

He stared at the screen and looked back at the directions on his phone. Buy a card or add a fare? He looked at me.

It dawned on me that while Metro has made it somewhat easier for frequent riders to navigate the system with recent changes to the menus, those shortcuts may make it more challenging for newbies.

As found during a recent Metro-run focus group, people don’t look at the information on or around the machine itself, they focus on the screen and the menus, assuming those will provide answers at some point. It would therefore make sense if the first screen greeting users also had a static list of fun, helpful tips such as “Each Train Requires a Separate Fare!” “ALWAYS Touch Your Card to the Blue TAP Circles at the Turnstiles or Validators Before Boarding!” or “Seniors Get Discounts!” It would also help if the “help” option was, instead, an interactive “information” option that took you to a list of things you could get more specific information about, such as transfers, fares, maps, passes, basic how-to stuff, timetables, and so forth (instead of the achingly slow and not particularly helpful scrolling screen it is now).

Things got fun at the Rosa Parks station, where we descended into the bottleneck that is the stairs to the Blue Line Platform to find a couple of Sheriffs waiting for us. They checked everyone that came through, making people anxious because the delay meant they were going to miss the train or buses they could see waiting below. At least they didn’t have the canines with them. Read more…


LASD Continues Campaign of Intimidation Against Metro Customers

First rule of LASD, don't take pictures of LASD.

Earlier this week, a Streetsblog reader, let’s call him Anthony, sent the email at the bottom of this post and the picture above. To wit, Anthony noticed “at least 8″ sheriffs at fare gates checking TAP Cards as well as a k9 unit. When he stopped to take pictures, he was harassed by another member of the LASD, and then threatened with basically false arrest.

Given the events of the past eight days, its possible the Sheriffs were on edge, but the pattern of intimidating (and sometimes attacking) Metro patrons is far too common. Since Metro seems completely unwilling to do anything about this, in fact the transit agency often helps the scofflaw law enforcement agency cover up its misdeeds, its no surprise that a member of the Sheriff’s would have no issues or shame harassing someone for taking pictures.

The only question left, is when is someone on the Metro Board of Directors going to step up and do something about Metro’s Bloody Mouth? The Metro Board of Directors regularly renews their security contract with the Sheriffs with almost no debate, despite complaints from advocates and riders that the law enforcement agency doesn’t respect passengers.

The full text of the email to me is after the jump. I didn’t edit it at all.

Read more…

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At Pro Walk Pro Bike, Activsts and Police Officers Talk About Working Together

On Tuesday, I was honored to be featured on a panel at the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference entitled, “Crash Reduction through Advocacy, Enforcement, and Support Programs.” In addition to myself, I was joined by Peter Flucke and Rebecca Resman. Since we know most Streetsblog readers don’t get to go to conferences such as Pro Walk Pro Bike, Flucke, Resman and I thought we would do our best to bring our small part of this conference to you.

Our panel was led by Flucke, a former law enforcement officer, who introduced me and Resman. For anyone reading Streetsblog for the first time I’m the editor of the Los Angeles site and have been since March of 2008. Resman is with the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA), formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

Flucke explained that while we were all coming from different directions, the thread that tied our presentations together was that we were all interested in improving the relationship between bicycle and pedestrian advocates and the police. I would be going first discussing what advocates can do to improve the relationship from their end. Next, Flucke discussed the training available to police departments, including a program he offers and another one by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Last, Resman introduced the Crash Support Program offered by ATA to victims of crashes.

Then Flucke handed over the microphone.

Streetsblog for PWPB – Police Relations (1)

Comparing New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco Streetsblog, I’m comfortable saying that in Los Angeles we have   the most positive relationship with our local police department. Obviously, a big part of that is that the local police are willing to work with us and give us straight answers to questions. As I noted in the panel, “Some of the things that worked with us and the LAPD won’t work with every department. It’s not as though our relationship with the County Sheriffs is near what it is with the LAPD.” Read more…


Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Metro’s Bloody Mouth

The cover story for this week’s Pasadena Magazine, “One Day on the Gold Line” tells the story of a middle-aged Jewish mother who was assaulted on a Gold Line train, thrown off the train, smashed into the concrete on the platform chipping her tooth and breaking her nose. When an Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Deputy arrives on the scene, he berates the woman and places her under arrest.

The deputies stand around, chatting and ignoring me even when I beg, “Please help; let me call someone,” and “I hurt so bad; everything hurts.” I squat, dripping blood and mucous. A deputy belches loudly. Another asks, “Did you call?” and the response is, “Must be a busy day for the paramedics.” Photo and text, Pasadena Weekly"

By now, you’ve probably figured out that the thugs that manhandled this woman were members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. What did the woman do to “earn” such treatment from the Sheriff’s? She couldn’t find her ticket. Eight hours after her assault, she’s released from the hospital jail,without a way to get home and a dead cell phone. When a family-member finally gets her home at 1 am, she finds the ticket where it had “slipped behind her wallet” in her purse.

Eventually, the Sheriff’s fork over nearly $200,000 to avoid trial. Reading the depositions and following the news, the victim is amazed at the brutality and cluelessness of our badged protectors.

Every six months or so, the Metro Board of Directors mindlessly re-approves the contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  Usually, the motion to re-approve the contract is on the consent agenda. The victim of this recent abuse can find no record that anyone at the Sheriff’s was disciplined for their group assault. Read more…


Commentary: Does “Locking the Gates” and All the Associated Costs Even Make Fiscal Sense?

(Dana Gabbard is a Board Member of the Southern California Transit Advocates and an occasional contributor to Streetsblog. When he opines, he does so on behalf of himself as a long-standing transit watcher. Gabbard has written about the fare gate issue several times since Metro first proposed putting up gates in 2008.)

One justification offered for the need to gate Los Angeles’ rail system is that the present “Proof-of-Payment” system is evaded by a large number of people and that gates will increase revenue collection. This presumes only gating can reduce the level of fare evasion occurring. But as shown by Tri-Met in Portland, Oregon over the past year catching scofflaws and sending the message to users that fare evasion will not be tolerated can be achieved cost effectively by increasing the number of roving fare enforcers.

Metro’s current gating plan involves dedicating 160 Sheriff Assistants (which is 60 more than we currently have for the entire Metro Rail system) to watching fare gates. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them as part of an enhanced roving fare inspection program? Consider that unlike the gate sentinels that these enforcers will be able to provide assistance aboard vehicles as they move through the system and have flexibility in targeting the stations where evasion problems are most numerous without the draconian choke point effect on patron flow patterns imposed by gating. Read more…