Every month we have Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in our studio to discuss issues facing the LAPD.
In his opening speech of his reign, the new president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Steve Soboroff, has vowed to make technology a priority for the force. He wants small video cameras mounted in all patrol cars and on officers’ uniforms to record interactions with the public that could be controversial, a move that Chief Beck has indicated he’s in support of.
Other topics we address with the Chief will include the LAPD’s push for tougher penalties for people involved in hit-and-runs, the impact the Trust Act could have on policing in Los Angeles, and the bill on the governor’s desk that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a drivers license.
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Q: What are your views on allowing undocumented resident to have driver's licenses?
A: "It does change the dynamic, and I am not at all opposed to looking at our policies regarding impounds and seeing if we need to change them. As I said the devil's in the details. It depends on who will become eligible for drivers licenses. There's also another issue. I need to see the judges written opinion on special order 7, because police officers always have latitude on what section to cite, what law to use to make an arrest under, as do the DAs and what they charge and the city attorney and what they charge. I want to make sure that the judges decision doesn't limit that because that's one of the basic tenets of police work."
Q: Will cracking down on hit-and-run drivers, revoking licenses, and extending statutes of limitations help fix an ongoing problem with these cases?
A: "We hope it will. The statute of limitations is an issue in some cases. I think the focus on hit and runs is a good thing. A hit and run is a decision people make after they're involved in an accident. What we're trying to do is change that decision making, so the increase in penalties, increase in our prosecutions, any increase in enforcement, all of those things are good at changing decision points. One of the other things that will help change the decision point is AB 60. When people are licensed, they're much less likely to run from a minor accident than someone who is unlicensed."
Q: What are your thoughts on the state bill prohibiting local jails from holding arrestees for longer so ICE can get them for immigration violations?
A: "LAPD does not ignore all detainers, we ignore some detainers for minor crimes, misdemeanors and the like. The vast majority of people that ICE requests a detainer on, we honor, but those that we think are in custody for minor crimes and should be released if they're eligible to post bail we release. What will happen with the TRUST Act remains to be seen, I have not seen the details of it. The last iteration of it did not allow the issuance of detainers for people that were in custody prior to conviction. I didn't agree with that and the Governor knows I don't agree with that. We've had a long discussion about it and I'm hoping that this version will take that into account."
Q: What do you mean detainers of people in custody prior to conviction?
A: "What I mean is an individual is arrested for, say, a sex crime, a serious crime or a robbery...they're still eligible for bail, and if they meet bail they are released from custody. If ICE issues a detainer prior to their arraignment or prior to their conviction, normally we'll hold them for ICE, if they're eligible. I want to make sure that this version of the TRUST Act doesn't inhibit that. I think that they have allowed us to honor detainers after review by the court, the initial review by the court which is something we do on every arrest well within the 48 hours."
Q: So your concern is that these are greater flight risks if you release these people on bail there's more of a chance that they're going to disappear?
A: "Particularly those that are of interest to ICE. Those are the ones that are the most likely to abscond."
Q: TRUST Act would add categories of child abuse, burglaries, to list of reasons for a detainer. What are your thoughts on these additions?
A: "That of course is the whole purpose of our wanting to modify this bill is to make sure that the right people are subject to detainer and those that commit minor crimes are not. The purpose of ICE and their secure communities program is to get the worst of the worse deported. We want to help them do that, but I don't want to break up families by deporting people at the low end of criminal behavior. Not everybody that gets arrested is a chronic criminal and not everybody that gets arrested is a gang member, and I don't have any interest in holding those people any longer than the law requires me to hold them and I don't have any interest in getting them deported.
Q: So ICE is coming after people for fairly minor infractions, looking to deport them?
A: "Less and less. Since we changed our policy, we have had to refuse very few detainers because ICE modified the individuals that are requested detainer on because they know our policy. I think it's a good thing in that we're working in cooperation with them to try to get at the right people. There are only so many seats on the bus for deportation and you want to get the right people on.
Q: What is the department's policy on enforcement at dispensaries?
A: "Medical marijuana is legal in California if you have a doctor's note and if you are complying with the other pieces of the law. I don't know the specifics of this particular incident, but we are beginning to do enforcement based on the city's new ordinance and people will see that."
Q: What are your thoughts on the proposed program to put cameras on police officers?
A: "When Mr. Soboroff got the appointment he asked me what some of the departments priorities were and I told him in-car video and body cameras are a huge priority, but we've been unable to secure funding because of the city's budget crisis.
"We have funding working its way through the city's budget process for another phase of in-car video, to enable us to get most of the city up and running with in-car video, but our body cameras have been very limited. Mostly restricted to things that officers purchase on their own or that we get through small grants or other donations because there is no money for this program. So commissioner Soboroff...went out and talked to significant donors who are going to find the program. I couldn't be more enthusiastic about it."
Q: You've said you're expecting the 11th straight year of declining crime in Los Angeles. What's the current pace?
A: "We're on pace to have a five-percent crime reduction this year overall. That includes property crime and violent crime. So far this year we're down about 10 percent in violent crime and about 3.5 percent in property crime. Homicides are down by about eight percent, so it's a good year and people should remember that that's in top of last year, which is the best year that the city has had in over five decades, relative to the overall numbers of crime. I'm not talking per capita, I'm not figuring in the expansion of the population, I'm talking about raw numbers of crime."