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Video: Vigil Calls on D.A. Jackie Lacey for Justice for Slain Cyclist Milt Olin

Watch Nathan Lucero’s excellent short video documenting last week’s ride and vigil for justice for Milt Olin. Streetsblog readers are familiar with the sad story of how, on December 8th, 2014, Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood, while typing on his on-board computer, ran over and killed cyclist Milton Olin.

In late August, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey decided not prosecute Wood. For the time being, L.A.’s streets are a little more dangerous for everyone.

The story is not over yet. See the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition website for details on how you can contact D.A. Lacey and urge her to prosecute Deputy Wood.

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Eyes on the Street: Milton Olin Ride and Vigil Demands D.A. Justice

Milton Olin Ride passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday’s Justice for Milt Olin Ride #rideformilt passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Yield to Life, and Ghost Bikes hosted a ride and vigil for Milton Olin. Olin was bicycling in a Calabasas bike lane when County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood drove into the bike lane and ended Olin’s life. The sheriff was distracted, typing a non-emergency message on his on-board computer. Last week, eight months after the crash, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute the killer, stating that Wood’s distracted driving constituted “reasonable behavior.”

Yesterday’s ride started at the crash site in Calabasas, and rode 30 miles to the D.A.’s headquarters in downtown L.A. Roughly 75 riders were on the ride as it entered downtown, and the number swelled to roughly 125 for the vigil at Grand Park.

LACBC submitted this letter (read it – it is excellent and thorough in outlining appropriate measures to prosecute Wood for his deadly behavior) and are encouraging others concerned to write to D.A. Lacey to demand she prosecute Olin’s killer. The D.A. can be reached at webmail@da.lacounty.gov.

For links to media coverage of yesterday’s ride and vigil, check these articles from SBLA headlines: CBS, ABCLA Times, LA Register, and Daily News. See also earlier SBLA coverage of this outrageous killing and the inexcusable lack of prosecution. More photos after the jump.  Read more…

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Tonight at 7: Damien Appears on Which Way L.A. Discussing the Milt Olin Crash

wwla

At 7 p.m. this evening, cyclists will be pedaling to the County District Attorney’s Office for a vigil honoring Milt Olin. Olin is the cyclist killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood while cycling legally in a bicycle lane along Mulholland Highway in Calabasas on the afternoon of December 8th.

At roughly the same time, KCRW’s news/talk show Which Way L.A. will air an interview with local public safety officials and myself discussing the crash, the investigation, the D.A.’s decision not to press charges, and where we go from here. There’s no word on who else will be joining Warren Olney and myself, but I’m sure we will have a lively discussion.

(UPDATE: I just completed the interview. I was joined by LADOT Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery and David Teater of the National Safety Council.)

The interview will be broadcast at 89.9 on the F.M. dial and at the KCRW website. We will provide a direct link to the interview in tomorrow’s “Today’s Headlines” post.

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Metro Board Will Discuss Sheriff Audit Reports and Shortcomings on Thursday

Thursday at noon the Metro Board is holding a workshop on the recent audit of the security contract it has with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The unit of the LASD that handles the contract is known as Metro Transit Services which has an online presence on Facebook, Twitter and nixle.

To read the report, click ##http://www.scribd.com/doc/238287478/Los-Angeles-County-Sheriff-s-Department-Contract-Audit-Report-May-2014##here.##

To read the report, click here.

In 1997 Metro’s Police Department was replaced by a partnership of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Then in 2003 when it was due to be renewed LASD was able to freeze out the LADP and take over the entire contract, which they have held since that time via periodic renewals. For the period of July 2013-June 2014 LASD received $83,855,638 for the contract.

Earlier this year, I was elated to learn (via this comment made by taipan85 to my piece on the Metro fare restructuring proposal) that an audit was underway in response to a motion (#21) made in June 2013 by then Metro Board member Mel Wilson. At that time, Wilson was chair of the Metro Finance, Budget and Audit Committee. Wilson stated that in the prior year various troubling Sheriff’s Department items came before his committee, so he decided that a thorough audit was called for to see if other aspects of the LASD’s performance were similarly inadequate.

The establishment of the partnership and then the LASD getting the entire contract were during the years I attended Metro Board meetings. As I watched this unfold, it became clear that the entire process was extremely political and had little to do with providing the best policing services for Metro patrons. The audit and the follow-up peer review, facilitated at the request of Metro CEO Art Leahy, by the American Public Transportation Association (a trade group), confirm my long-held suspicions of how poorly the LASD has been fulfilling the contract.

It is dismaying that the staff report for the meeting Thursday glosses over the depth of the problems with claims of recent improvements and opportunities. This begs the question: would these recent improvements have occurred if Wilson had not requested the audit? Read more…

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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 Calabasas.

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…

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

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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…

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“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…

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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…

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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.

“Huh?”

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

“Normal.”

“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…

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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…