Southern California breaking news and trends

LAPD's fingerprint backlog would cost $3 million to analyze

Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)

LAPD has a backlog of over 3,500 fingerprints related to property crimes and cold case murders that've yet to be analyzed.

Staff reductions at the Los Angeles Police Department's Latent Fingerprint Unit have led to a backlog of unanalyzed prints. Earlier this summer, the department announced that it would ration prints and analyze only those from violent crimes and would allow area stations to fastrack prints from a small number of property crimes each month. At the time, the department's backlog was preventing new cases from going forward. 

Now, LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, head of the Detective Bureau, has a better sense of exactly what that backlog looks like. Albanese told the Police Commission on Tuesday that the department has sifted out those unanalyzed prints that could still be relevant in open cases. The deparment found 793 from 2010-2011, 2,012 from this year, and 674 from cold case homicides. 


LAPD Chief Charlie Beck responds to wrongful conviction of LA man

John Edward Smith

Rina Palta / KPCC

John Edward Smith, moments after walking out of law enforcement custody for the first time in 19 years. Smith was exonerated of a 1993 murder charge in an L.A. drive-by shooting.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck responded Tuesday to the case of John Edward Smith, a man wrongfully convicted of murder and attempted murder in a 1993 drive-by shooting in the Mid City neighborhood. Smith was exonerated Monday and walked out of Men's Central Jail that evening a free man for the first time in 19 years.

Smith's 1994 conviction was based on a single eyewitness identification. Months after the incident, the second victim of the drive-by, who sustained serious injuries, pegged Smith as the shooter. That witness later recanted his testimony, saying police had pressured him into fingering Smith, who was at that time a member of a street gang.

"I have been briefed on the facts of this case," Beck - who was not chief at the time of the incident - said in a statement. "As a result, I have directed Gerald Chaleff, our Special Assistant for Constitutional Policing and former criminal defense attorney, to form a team to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of this case." 


LAPD releases composite sketches of Los Feliz predator



LAPD has released composite sketches of the suspect they believe is responsible for a wave of burglaries and sexual assualts in Los Feliz that began in March.

Multi-unit buildings and single family structures along and near Los Feliz Boulevard were targeted, and police say the suspect entered through doors or windows, taking computers, money, jewelry and clothes.

The suspect also targeted single women, making sexual contact with several sleeping victims during a number of the break-ins, said officials. 

Echo Park-Silver Lake Patch published the photos Monday, and reports the incidents occurred "in the rectangle formed by Los Feliz Boulevard, Seneca Avenue, Riverside Drive and Griffith Park Boulevard."

LA Weekly published the Community Notification on Monday and reports that officers connected the string of break-ins and assaults when a woman came forward in August after realizing a dream she thought she had was actually a real attack. 


Neighborhoods respond differently to LAPD meetings on use of force


Andres Aguila/KPCC

LAPD officials continue to meet with community members in the wake of high-profile use of force incidents.

LAPD is in the middle of hosting a series of community meetings following three highly publicized use of force incidents in recent weeks. At Tuesday's meeting of the Police Commission, commissioners who've attended such gatherings across the city said that some meetings have been fairly sedate (such as in West L.A.) while others (like at the 77th Street Station in South Central) have given venue to considerable discontent.  

Wednesday night's meeting at the Bethel AME Church with gang interventionists from the Ceasefire program, saw an amicable but pointed crowd. 

The group has been meeting there nearly every week since its formation almost seven years ago at the funeral for Stanley "Tookie" Williams at Bethel AME. 

Ceasefire member Sister Herron said the group prefers to talk about its primary goal, reducing gang violence in L.A.'s most troubled neighborhoods. But the group also feels compelled to take the police department to task on behalf of the people of those neighborhoods when anger flares over use of force.


Inspector General will review LAPD ArtWalk response

Eric Zassenhaus/KPCC

Los Angeles police officers and Occupy LA protesters clashed at July's ArtWalk, leading to 17 arrests and four injuries.

LAPD's oversight agency will review police response to protesters and general crowd control measures used during the July 12 ArtWalk in Downtown Los Angeles. That night ended in what's been widely (and neutrally) described as a "melee" - members of the crowd threw rocks and other items at police, and officers responded with rubber bullets.

The night reportedly went sour when police arrested people who drew with chalk on sidewalks near 5th and Spring Streets. Officers said the chalkers weren't only vandalizing sidewalks,  they were obstructing the sidewalks and forcing ArtWalk patrons into the streets.

At least some of the chalk artists showed up to protest a general police crackdown on sidewalk chalking. Before July 12, police had arrested eight people for chalking at the site of an ongoing anti-gentrification protest outside the offices of the Central City Association. There, police said, protesters were drawing on public and private property, and local business folk had called in to complain.