State Reps Speak Out On Shootings of Unarmed Black Males

Legislative leaders and members of the California Legislative Black Caucus gathered at the State Capitol August 2014 to highlight policies and the issues of  violence against communities of color by law enforcement.
| Photo: Courtesy of California State Assembly.

Non-guilty verdicts and decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed, black males have prompted widespread protests and calls for justice and accountability. But state representatives and the California Legislative Black Caucus agree that more needs to be done to address the thin ice that exists between law enforcement officers and communities of color.

In recent months, law enforcement agencies have been in the spotlight for incidents that left unarmed black males dead: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York City; Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; Dante Parker in Victorville, California; Ezell Ford in Los Angeles; Oscar Grant in the San Francisco Bay Area, and countless others.

"It is troubling to see so many officer-involved shootings across the country involving young men and boys of color," Assemblymember Chris Holden told KCET in an email. "While we honor the courageous work of law enforcement professionals, and understand the challenges of their job, I can't help but wonder what less-lethal option could be used to defuse a tense situation that involves minors."

In California, Cuba Announcment Seen From Varying Points of View

In California, Obama's announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. would end some Cuban restrictions and restore diplomatic relations were met with applause or condemnation, depending on political party. Many Democrats agreed with the decision, while Republicans did not.

Marta Darby, a Cuban American blogger in Orange County's Mission Viejo, aligned with her conservative brethren.

Darby is happy that Alan Gross, the American held captive in Cuba for five years, is free. But she isn't pleased about any of Obama's plans. She dislikes that the U.S. released three Cubans convicted of spying, apparently in exchange for Gross.

"It was not a fair trade," she said.

Ballot Measure to Bring LAPD Oversight Urged

A Dec. 1 protest in South L.A. that ended at the spot where Ezell Ford was fatally shot by police last August.
| Photo: Courtesy D. Solomon/Intersections South LA

Members of a neighborhood council called on a South Los Angeles-area city councilman to back a ballot measure that would create an elected oversight panel for the Los Angeles Police Department, saying the appointed members of the Police Commission are unable to hold officers accountable for abuses of power.

The nine-member South Central Neighborhood Council passed a resolution Tuesday calling on Councilman Curren Price to spearhead a ballot measure to create an elected panel with authority to make decisions on police disciplinary matters.

Cliff Smith, a member of the council, said the police department has "conspired" to withhold autopsy results on Omar Abrega and Ezell Ford, two men killed this summer in shootings by police from the Newton Division, which is in the South Central Neighborhood Council's area.

Mayor Eric Garcetti recently ordered the autopsy on Ford to be released before the end of this year.

LAPD's Plan to Use Body Cameras Met With Optimism, Skepticism

The LAPD announced plans to equip its force with the body cameras such as the one shown here.
| Photo: Courtesy of Taser International

The LAPD's plans to become the first major urban police force to equip all of its officers with body cameras has brought optimism, and raised many questions about the use of cameras and whether they will help end police brutality.

"I saw video of Eric Garner along with millions of other people and that didn't net an indictment," said Jasmyne A. Cannick, a political consultant and blogger. "I understand people's excitement and happiness, but what's going to come of it?" she asked.

The furor surrounding the decisions not to indict the police who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner has reignited a national debate about police conduct. The timing has coincided with the rise in police body cameras, which law enforcement agencies across the nation have been experimenting with. They've have been touted as protecting both officers and the public by providing an objective record of officers' interactions. In Rialto, whose officers began implementing body cameras in before many departments in 2012, officials credit them with reducing complaints against police.

Lawyers Stage Protest, Demand Changes to Criminal Justice System

Lawyers perform a die-in on the steps of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. | Photo: Courtesy Josh Kamensky

There's nothing new about die-ins, in which protesters lie on the ground and pretend to be dead, but this may be a first with this kind of theme: professional lawyers strewn across the steps of a courthouse in downtown Los Angeles -- all while rain drizzled from above.

It was the latest in recent Los Angeles protests reacting to grand jury decisions not to charge police officers over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner in New York City. Organizers estimate over 250 participated in the event at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

And it wasn't just a die-in to show support and solidarity. It came with demands.

Proposal to Limit Warrantless Drone Surveillance is Back

California lawmakers are again asking Gov. Jerry Brown to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to use drones. Last September, Brown vetoed a bill that would have required a warrant for drones, and a simialr bill could end up before him soon.

AB 37, introduced by Nora Campos (D-San Jose), on Dec. 1 is pretty much a repeat of AB 1327, which passed the Assembly and Senate earlier this year before Brown torpedoed it.

In his brief veto note, Brown wrote, "There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution."

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