U.S. Dept. of Justice admonishes Los Angeles Sheriff for numerous Constitutional Violations
By Martin Hill
LibertyFight.com
July 2, 2013


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Note: I realize the irony of the feds, who are probably the most egregious violators of human rights worldwide, admonishing anyone. However, this information is important because it informs people about how to invoke their rights with when dealing with police and their right to refuse illegal searches, etc. Traffic stops are probably the most common way that the average person interacts with law enforcement. Education is the key to defending your liberties. [Also see our Beating traffic ticket Archives and our Archive of filming cops.]


The U.S. Department of Justice has released a strongly-worded condemnation of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, outlining a laundry list of Constitutional violations and abuses against the citizenry. On Friday, June 28, 2013 the Justice Dept. released Findings on the Antelope Valley Stations of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The investigation was originally launched in August 2011 and resulted in an agreement between the Justice Dept. and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, in which the law enforcement agency agreed to "Negotiate Broad Changes to Policing and Section 8 Enforcement."

The Justice Dept. Press release stated that the feds and police "have reached preliminary agreements to make broad changes to policing in the Antelope Valley and to the enforcement of the Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly known as Section 8)." The DOJ notes that police "engaged in a pattern or practice of stops, searches, and seizures and excessive force in violation of the Constitution and federal law. In addition, the Justice Department found a pattern or practice of discrimination against African Americans in its enforcement of the Housing Choice Voucher Program in violation of the Fair Housing Act."

Their findings included the fact that "African Americans, and to a lesser extent Latinos, are more likely to be stopped and/or searched than whites, even when controlling for factors other than race, such as crime rates." In addition, they condemned "The widespread use of unlawful backseat detentions violating the Fourth Amendment and LASD policy; A pattern of unreasonable force, including a pattern of the use of force against handcuffed individuals" and "Inadequate implementation of accountability measures to intervene on unconstitutional conduct has allowed these problems to occur." The proposed changes include "Revision of LASD's policies, directives, training, and practices so that stops, searches, and seizures by Antelope Valley deputies are consistently conducted in accordance with the law."

The most interesting documents are a 46 page letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez dated June 28th, and the Statement of Intent signed by Perez and Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca on June 27th. LibertyFight.com has reviewed these documents and following are the most relevant and revealing aspects of these matters as it pertains to all Americans and their rights when dealing with police. The 46 page letter including its numerous admonitions to police for unconstitutional abusive conduct is a precise example of how government should work.

The parts we find interesting are the sections on illegal police searches, illegal detainments and searches of drivers and passengers at traffic stops without warrants or probable cause, illegal automobile searches, illegal use of force, and how police routinely fail to investigate citizen complaints. One way they do this is simply take verbal complaints which aren't even considered official complaints thus preventing the possibility of officer discipline. This is why it's imperative for people to file official written complaints when they encounter police misconduct.

The letter begins by pointing out that "effective policing is undermined if deputies do not respect the rights of the individuals they serve." They continue "Our investigation demonstrated reasonable cause to believe that LASD Antelope Valley deputies engage in a pattern or practice of misconduct in violation of the Constitution and federal law in a number of ways." They explain "We found, for example, that Antelope Valley deputies, in violation of the law, routinely detain community members, including domestic violence victims and minor traffic offenders, in the backseats of patrol cars without any individualized assessment of danger or suspicion." Continuing, the DOJ notes "While most of these incidents appeared contrary to LASD policy, some LASD policies and practices appear to permit and even encourage deputies to use force that is out of proportion to the threat of harm presented." The DOJ notes police need to obey the 4th Amendment, reminding them that "Certain factors by themselves -including nervousness, suspicion of drug use, race, and presence in a high crime area -are insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion." They add "Consent can make a warrantless criminal search constitutionally valid. However, valid consent to a search must be truly voluntary. Consent to search - criminal or administrative -cannot be established by "mere acquiescence to a claim of lawful authority." This is particularly true where the overwhelming display of authority removes the ability to meaningfully consent. See United States v. Marshall, 488 F.2d 1169, 1188-89 (9th Cir. 1973) (finding consent not voluntary when resident answering door was confronted by several officers who rushed the door with drawn guns. Any indication ofconsent would have been "in response to an overwhelming display of authority under the compulsion of the badge and the guns."). The DOJ adds "We have reasonable cause to believe that LASD's Antelope Valley deputies engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional law enforcement activity that reflects unlawful bias and that violates individuals' rights not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, including the use of unreasonable force."


The DOJ continues "While society entrusts law enforcement officials with the authority to use force, the Constitution places limits on this power to ensure that it is not abusively used against the very people that officers are sworn to protect." They add a point about impounding cars: "A recent California Attorney General opinion provides guidance that cars belonging to unlicensed drivers do not have to be automatically impounded. Cal. Attorney General Opinion, No. 12-301, May 3,2012, at p. 15."

The DOJ also addresses the fact that "Some Antelope Valley deputies wear tattoos or share paraphernalia with an intimidating skull and snake symbol as a mark of their affiliation with the Antelope Valley stations. Though there are varying interpretations ofwhat these tattoos may symbolize, they provide an undeniable visual representation of a gulf between deputies and the community, and are an unfortunate reminder of LASD's history of symbols associated with problematic deputy behavior. "

Much of the document focuses on constitutional obligations including requirements of the 'Fair Housing Act,' and the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights has 'authorized the filing of a complaint in federal district court against the County of Los Angeles' and other government entities for alleged violations of federal law.'

Included in the excerpts below are some outrageous examples of documented L.A. County Sheriff behavior and illegal activity, as documented by the U.S. Justice Dept. It's all interesting and revealing, but the most interesting parts are highlighted in bold. Keep in mind that these are what we consider relevant excerpts. You can read the letter in its entirety by clicking on the original link below. Following the DOJ's letter are excerpts from the agreement that the L.A. Sheriff signed. The 'Statement of Intent' letter, which "The United States and Los Angeles County will seek entry of this Agreement as a court-enforceable order," begins with typical blanket denials of all wrongdoing by the L.A. Sheriff, noting "The County contends that there is no such pattern or practice of constitutional or federal law violations, but agrees that the findings identified by the United States are issues of great importance to the County, LASD, and the Antelope Valley community."


Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, LewRockwell.com, WhatReallyHappened.com, Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, Economic Policy Journal, FreedomsPhoenix, Haaretz, Veterans Today, Educate-Yourself.org, The Wayne Madsen Report, Devvy.com, Rense.com, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Jonathan Turley blog, National Motorists Association, RomanCatholicReport.com, Republic Broadcasting Network, WorldNetDaily, Dr. Kevin Barret's Truth Jihad radio show, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 TV Los Angeles, Strike-The-Root.com, DavidIcke.com, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI AM 640, Antiwar.com, IamtheWitness.com, The Press Enterprise, Redlands Daily Facts, BlackBoxVoting, The Contra Costa Times, Pasadena Star News, Silicon Valley Mercury News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, L.A. Harbor Daily Breeze, Whittier Daily News, and many others. Archives can be found at LibertyFight.com and DontWakeMeUp.Org.


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http://www.overdriveonline.com/team-driver-to-law-enforcement-dont-wake-me-up/

NEW! I know you're busy. Here is the SHORT VERSION: Short and sweet, cut to the chase. Cops can not wake you up when you're in the sleeper and demand ID. If you're confused about this, read this page. If you're still confused after reading it, you're a lost cause.
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http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/antelope_findings_6-28-13.pdf

Dear Sheriff Baca: The Civil Rights Division has concluded its investigation ofthe Los Angeles Sheriffs Department (LASD) regarding allegations of unconstitutional conduct by deputies at two stations located in the Antelope Valley cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, California. LASD pledged complete cooperation throughout the investigation, and began taking immediate steps to proactively fix the deficiencies identified in the investigation. Since the conclusion of the investigation, LASD has additionally memorialized its commitment to implement further reform efforts by entering into a Statement of Intent, which broadly outlines remedies that will be negotiated in a final Settlement Agreement. We found that LASD' s Antelope Valley stations have engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory and otherwise unlawful searches and seizures, including the use ofunreasonable force, in violation ofthe Fourth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Title VI. We found also that deputies assigned to these stations have engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against African Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The LASD policies we reviewed were, for the most part, consistent with constitutional policing. However, our investigation showed that these policies are not consistently followed, and that some types of policy violations are routinely tolerated. This tolerance for misconduct occurs in part because the accountability measures LASD has in place are not effectively implemented in the Antelope Valley. We found that LASD must do more to ensure that deputies adhere to policies, and that supervisors and commanders provide appropriate redirection, guidance, and accountability when errant conduct occurs.

LASD leadership's clear recognition that effective policing is undermined if deputies do not respect the rights of the individuals they serve, alongside the robust accountability infrastructure that LASD already has in place, including two forms of independent civilian oversight, is cause for optimism... We have great confidence that we and LASD leadership share the same goals of reducing crime, ensuring respect for the Constitution, and building public confidence in LASD's policing in the Antelope Valley.

The Antelope Valley lies approximately 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California, and includes the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale along with unincorporated areas. LASD is the primary law enforcement agency for the Antelope Valley, and the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale contract with LASD to provide law enforcement services through two stations that are each independently operated by a captain. A total of approximately 400 sworn LASD deputies are assigned to these two stations...

In Lancaster and Palmdale, some residents have been vocal about their opposition to the increase in the number of voucher holders, particularly the increase in the number of African American voucher holders. Residents' statements about this increase have included thinly veiled references to their Section 8 neighbors' race, including references to the neighborhood "growing darker" and "the creeping darkness." Social media sites and public message boards provided a platform for numerous community members to voice their opposition to the influx ofAfricanAmerican Section 8 voucher holders in the Antelope Valley, including but not limited to a Facebook Page titled "I Hate Section 8." By way of example, on one such site, one citizen wrote, "My earlier prediction that the entire LA county section of the Antelope Valley is being 'ghettoized' has been confirmed by a tour of the area this week .... I see 'creeping darkness' even on the west side as well." On another site, a June 2012 post included racist lyrics from a song entitled, "Nigger, Nigger," which was written by a white supremacist in the mid-1960s in response to the civil rights movement. Sites like this one not only facilitated biased speech against African-American voucher holders, but also the targeting of specific voucher holders. In 2010, an LASD deputy took photographs ofluxury vehicles in a home's garage during a Section 8 compliance check, and sent them to the administrator of the "I Hate Section 8" Facebook page. Subsequently, the family'S home was vandalized with the message, "I hate Section 8 you fucking niggers," scrawled on their garage door, and the family'S son had urine thrown on him as -4the perpetrator yelled, "Dirty Section 8 nigger." The family relocated from Palmdale back to inner city Los Angeles for fear offurther harassment. The "I Hate Section 8" Facebook page was removed immediately after this incident.

II. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

Policing practices in the Antelope Valley reflect, and unfortunately contribute to, a harmful divide between some ofthe more long-standing, primarily white residents ofthe community, and newer, more often non-white arrivals to the Antelope Valley. Our investigation demonstrated reasonable cause to believe that LASD Antelope Valley deputies engage in a pattern or practice of misconduct in violation of the Constitution and federal law in a number of ways, including:

  • Pedestrian and vehicle stops that violate the Fourth Amendment;
  • Stops that appear motivated by racial bias, in violation ofthe Fourteenth Amendment and federal statutory law;
  • The use ofunreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and
  • Discrimination against Antelope Valley residents on the basis of race by making housing unavailable, altering the terms and conditions ofhousing, and coercing, intimidating, and interfering with their housing rights, in violation ofthe Fair Housing Act (FHA).'


Our analysis of stop and search activity in the Antelope Valley revealed biased law enforcement activity, as African Americans and, to a lesser extent, Latinos, are more likely to be stopped or searched than whites in the Antelope Valley. Despite the belief that more aggressive law enforcement practices are warranted due to recent fluctuations in crime rates in the area, there is no apparent public safety explanation to justify this pattern of racially disparate stops and searches. The higher rate of searching African-American pedestrians, for example, has not correlated to a higher discovery rate of contraband. In fact, in Lancaster, the contraband seizure rate is about 50% lower for African Americans than for whites.4 Additionally, even using regression analysis to control for a variety of factors, we found that for offenses where law enforcement discretion is especially high, African-American pedestrians in Lancaster are 25% more likely to be stopped than whites.

...We found, for example, that Antelope Valley deputies, in violation ofthe law, routinely detain community members, including domestic violence victims and minor traffic offenders, in the backseats of patrol cars without any individualized assessment of danger or suspicion. We found that deputies use unreasonable force against handcuffed detainees who do not pose threats to the deputies or to the public. Notably, the vast majority of the use of force incidents that involved handcuffed subjects were against people of color. While most of these incidents appeared contrary to LASD policy, some LASD policies and practices appear to permit and even encourage deputies to use force that is out of proportion to the threat of harm presented.

Though LASD's policies are generally consistent with constitutional policing, we found that systemic failures in the application of these policies and procedures in the Antelope Valley -especially those related to accountability -have allowed unconstitutional policing to persist and have fueled the distrust of LASD by Antelope Valley's African-American and Latino communities. For example, despite LASD's comprehensive protocol for responding to, classifying, and reviewing civilian complaints, deputy violations of policy in civilian interactions rarely result in any meaningful response from LASD. Of all the 180 misconduct complaints, called "service comment reports," made by civilians over a one-year period in the Antelope Valley, only one was ever formally investigated as an administrative investigation. That case resulted in criminal charges being filed against the involved deputy. Among the other 179 complaints, handled as informal service reviews instead of formal investigations, were complaints of significant misconduct, including complaints of unreasonable force and discriminatory policing. The classification ofthese investigations as "service reviews" is significant. Only complaints that are elevated to a formal administrative investigation, as opposed to an informal service review, may result in discipline. This means that during this one year period, only one personnel complaint filed by a civilian was considered serious enough to be elevated to an administrative investigation (as serious misconduct must be investigated via administrative investigation rather than via service review) so that discipline was even possible. As discussed further below, LASD minimized the seriousness ofdiscrimination complaints by failing to investigate any as a serious complaint that could potentially result in discipline.

The unlawful practices we identified undermine LASD's legitimacy and foster distrust within the community, especially with African-American and Latino residents. Such distrust perpetuates a divide between deputies and residents, making law enforcement efforts less effective and unnecessarily escalating daily encounters between deputies and community members.

On August 19,2011, we notified LASD of our investigation, which was brought pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,42 U.S.C. 14141 (Section 14141), and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,42 U.S.C. 2000d (Title VI). These laws authorize the United States to file a legal action when it has reasonable cause to believe that a law enforcement agency engages in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or laws ofthe United States.

The investigation was conducted by two Civil Rights Division sections: the Special Litigation Section and the Housing & Civil Enforcement Section. The investigation involved a review of over 35,000 LASD documents, including, but not limited to, policies, training materials, use of force reports, arrest reports, civilian complaint files, and operations plans. We also conducted a six-day long site visit to Palmdale and Lancaster, and interviewed numerous LASD command and line staff, rode with patrol deputies, toured the Antelope Valley stations and reporting districts, interviewed local government officials, and met with other relevant government agencies. While on-site, we held two community meetings that were attended by hundreds of community members, and conducted outreach efforts to interview additional community members. In total, over the course of the entire investigation, we interviewed approximately 400 community members in-person and by telephone. In reaching our findings, we worked closely with two police practices consultants with extensive experience in police practices and systems of accountability, as well as an expert who conducted statistical analyses ofLASD's search and seizure data ofnearly 49,000 pedestrian and vehicle contacts for the entire calendar year of 2011.


IV. LEGAL STANDARDS
A. Fourth Amendment
1. Searches and Seizures The Fourth Amendment guarantees "the right ofthe people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend.
IV. The Fourth Amendment permits law enforcement officers to briefly detain individuals for investigative purposes if the officers possess reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1,21 (1968). Possessing reasonable suspicion requires an officer to be able to articulate more than an "inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or 'hunch' of criminal activity," but also "specific, articulable facts which, when considered with objective and reasonable inferences, form a basis for particularized suspicion." Id. at 27; United States v. Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (emphasis in original). Certain factors by themselves -including nervousness, suspicion ofdrug use, race, and presence in a high crime area -are insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion. See, e.g., Moreno v. -10Baca, 431 F.3d 633, 642 (9th Cir. 2005) (nervousness in a high crime area); United States v. Hernandez, 489 Fed. Appx. 157, 159 (9th Cir. 2012) (nervousness, "suspicion ofdrug use or a conclusory statement about officer safety do not provide the reasonable suspicion necessary to conduct a search for weapons"); Miller v. City ofSimi Valley, 324 Fed. Appx. 681, 684 (9th Cir. 2009) ("persons ofa particular racial or ethnic group may not be stopped and questioned because of such appearance") (quoting Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d at 1134 n.22). Warrantless searches are "per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment -subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions," including searches incident to valid arrests. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967). Searches ofvehicles are unreasonable when there is no officer safety reason for the search, such as when individuals are already handcuffed and the search is unlikely to uncover evidence ofthe offense underlying the arrest. Gant v. Arizona, 556 U.S. 332, 337-38 (2009) (vehicle search following arrest for suspended license unreasonable); United States v. Cervantes, 678 F.3d 798, 802 (9th Cir. 2012) ("police may search an automobile and the containers within it where they have probable cause to believe contraband or evidence is contained.") (quoting California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565, 580 (1991.

Consent can make a warrantless criminal search constitutionally valid. See Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177,181 (1990); United States v. Graham, 480 Fed. Appx 453, 454 (9th Cir. 2012). However, valid consent to a search must be truly voluntary. Consent to search criminal or administrative -cannot be established by "mere acquiescence to a claim of lawful authority." United States v. Shaibu, 920 F.2d 1423, 1426 (9th Cir. 1990). This is particularly true where the overwhelming display of authority removes the ability to meaningfully consent. See United States v. Marshall, 488 F.2d 1169, 1188-89 (9th Cir. 1973) (finding consent not voluntary when resident answering door was confronted by several officers who rushed the door with drawn guns. Any indication ofconsent would have been "in response to an overwhelming display of authority under the compulsion of the badge and the guns.").

A. LASD's Antelope Valley Stations Engage in a Pattern of Unconstitutional Stops and Searches, Unreasonable Force, and Biased Policing
We have reasonable cause to believe that LASD's Antelope Valley deputies engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional law enforcement activity that reflects unlawful bias and that violates individuals' rights not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, including the use of unreasonable force.
These practices violate the Fourth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fair Housing Act, and Title VI. Our investigation uncovered an apparently unjustified disparate impact of stops and searches of African Americans and Latinos, as well as a practice of racially biased enforcement ofthe voucher program, unlawful backseat detentions, and a pattern of stops and searches without adequate legal justification.

Discretionary Offenses. The data also shows a clear racial disparity for African Americans when stopped for offenses where law enforcement discretion is greatest. Such charges include offenses such as crossing against a traffic light, jaywalking, failing to yield right ofway, or walking on the wrong side of the street. Controlling for possible intervening factors discussed above, we found that an African-American pedestrian in Lancaster is over 25% more likely than a white pedestrian to be stopped for a discretionary offense. A large number ofthese stops, for minor offenses such as jaywalking, also resulted in questionable pat downs and consent searches.

Over and over again, we heard disturbingly similar accounts of Antelope Valley deputies pulling over African-American and Latino pedestrians and drivers, searching their persons and/or cars, and releasing them without a citation or any information about why they were initially stopped.... It is thus clear that LASD spends significant resources, in terms oftime and community trust, conducting searches that turn up nothing.

Deputies Unnecessarily Detain Residents in the Backseat of Patrol Cars in Violation of LASD Policy and the Fourth Amendment
Generally, an individual would not expect to be detained in the backseat of a patrol car when stopped for a minor vehicle infraction or while an officer writes a citation. Similarly, a victim of domestic violence who has dialed 9-1-1 would not expect that the responding officers will confine her to the backseat of a patrol car as if she were a suspect. Unfortunately, many Antelope Valley residents have come to expect this unnecessary and unlawful treatment from LASD deputies as a matter ofcourse. LASD documentation indicates that Antelope Valley deputies conduct hundreds ofbackseat detentions every year. 14 Backseat detentions also are frequently associated with complaints against deputies: of 180 civilian complaints received in a one-year period, at least 30 involved backseat detentions.


While there are many valid reasons to conduct backseat detentions, the widespread use of backseat detentions without individualized justification constitutes a pattern or practice of unreasonable seizures under the Fourth Amendment. Temporary detention of an individual during the stop of an automobile, even if only for a briefperiod and for a limited purpose, constitutes a 'seizure' of 'persons' under the Fourth Amendment. Whren, 517 U.S. at 809-10; Torres v. City a/Madera, 524 F.3d 1053, 1055-56 (9th Cir. 2008) (officers' conduct governed by Fourth Amendment where individual was handcuffed and placed in back ofpatrol car). In each instance, "[ t Jhe length and scope ofdetention must be justified by the circumstances authorizing its initiation," and an officer must be able to articulate specific facts and rational inferences drawn from those facts that a person may have committed or is about to commit a crime. Pierce v. Multnomah Cnty., Or., 76 F.3d 1032, 1038 (9th Cir. 1996); United States v. Garcia-Acuna, 175 F.3d 1143,1146 (9th Cir. 1999)(quoting United States v. Sutton, 794 F.2d 1415, 1426 (9th Cir. 1986)). LASD routinely fails to make constitutionally required determinations of criminality, threat, or risk when placing individuals in the rear ofpatrol cars. Improper use of this tactic undermines LASD legitimacy by frightening and humiliating the people that deputies are sworn to serve and reflects an apparent presumption that every person encountered presents a criminal threat.

Not only is the indiscriminate use of backseat detentions unconstitutional, it also violates LASD policies that mandate judicious use of this practice.....A Palmdale Unit Order from 2001 notes that backseat detentions are "not generally appropriate for traffic citation issuance or non-investigative contacts." ... Recognizing the constitutional consequences of abuse, LASD's Advanced Training Bureau Bulletin warns, "If the procedure is overused, or used in inappropriate situations, the courts may take this valuable tool away from law enforcement."

During one encounter, according to an LASD use offorce investigation, two Palmdale deputies handcuffed and detained a domestic violence victim in the back of a patrol car for no articulated reason. The apparently unjustified detention of the victim agitated the domestic violence suspect, which then led to a physical struggle between the suspect and deputies, who deployed a Taser on him. This use offorce in turn upset the victim, who began to kick the window of the patrol car. In response to the kicking, a deputy sprayed the victim in the face with O.C. spray. Not only did the backseat detention itself constitute an unlawful seizure, but it may have been a poor choice tactically, as it escalated the situation and led to risk ofinjury to the deputies, two significant uses offorce, and vehicle damage, all ofwhich may have been entirely avoidable.

According to another LASD investigation resulting from a civilian complaint, two Palmdale deputies stopped a car for a broken license plate light and detained all three passengers without apparent justification. All three people were asked to exit the car, and two ofthem the driver and a Latino male -were detained in the backseat of a patrol car while the deputies checked their identification. According to the complaint, one of the deputies sarcastically commented he was surprised that the Latino male had valid identification. The investigation demonstrated that the deputy failed to document any "compelling justification" for the backseat detention despite policy requiring an explanation if two or more deputies are present. In fact, the deputy failed to document that the backseat detention had even occurred at all. The civilian complainant agreed to resolve the complaint with the deputy through informal dispute resolution, so LASD never formally determined whether the deputy's conduct was outside of policy. In a similar incident, a Lancaster deputy conducted a pat down search and backseat detention ofa young African-American female after stopping her for failing to use her headlights and having tinted windows. The deputy removed the woman from the car, directed her to place her hands behind her back, and conducted a pat down search. The deputy then placed the young woman into the backseat of the patrol car. During the complaint investigation, the deputy stated that the pat down and backseat detention were justified because the young woman became upset. The deputy offered no facts that would explain how the woman's emotion -a reasonable human reaction -rose to such a level that necessitated the deputy's intrusive actions. Rather, the deputy's decision to order the driver to exit her car, pat her down, and then endure backseat detention without adequate justification would be expected to escalate the interaction unnecessarily. Unjustified backseat detentions contribute to tension and diminished trust between Antelope Valley deputies and the community.

We laud LASD for the steps it has taken to eliminate unlawful backseat detentions since we alerted it to this practice at the end of our on-site visit. But LASD's policies regarding backseat detentions have been routinely ignored for years with impunity.

4. Deputies Detain Individuals Without Adequately Articulatiug Reasonable Suspicion The Fourth Amendment requires deputies to have reasonable suspicion before detaining individuals. See e.g., Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d at 1129. LASD policy additionally requires each deputy to articulate the factual basis for each pedestrian or vehicle stop in his or her patrol log. The policies specifically state that nervousness, furtive gestures, prior arrests, high crime area, or the fact that the suspect does not appear to fit the general ethnic make-up of the area are not factors sufficient to demonstrate reasonable suspicion. Our review found, however, that many log entries do not describe facts sufficient to support the predicate ofreasonable suspicion required for a detention under Terry, or other legal authority. Deputy log entries instead provide conclusory statements such as: "persons acting suspiciously," "925" (internal LASD radio code for "person acting suspiciously"), or "hanging out in narco area."

The apparent lack of concern for articulating any basis for suspicion for even more intrusive detentions was striking. For example, a deputy ran a warrant check of two individuals in a high narcotics area, with no additional facts noted, except that it turned out the individuals were "just talking." Behavior that constitutes "common conduct exhibited by the population at large" is insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion. United States v. Adler, 70 F.3d 121, at *1 (9th Cir. 1995) (unpublished) ("hunching" over in an open-air phone booth is not uncharacteristic public behavior and insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion).

5. Deputies Use Unreasonable Force
While society entrusts law enforcement officials with the authority to use force, the Constitution places limits on this power to ensure that it is not abusively used against the very people that officers are sworn to protect.
Unfortunately, based on our review of the 326 Lancaster and Palmdale use offorce reports originating between August 1, 2010, and August 1, 2011; all 180 civilian complaints filed during the same period; policy and training materials; and interviews with Antelope Valley deputies, command staff, and community members, we find reasonable cause to believe that LASD is engaged in a pattern or practice ofunreasonable force in the Antelope Valley.Although we found that force was used unreasonably in a number ofways, we focus below on two practices that were particularly prevalent: the use ofunreasonable andlor retaliatory force against handcuffed individuals and the unnecessary use of fist strikes to the head and face of handcuffed individuals. We uncovered numerous instances in which the inappropriateness of the force used was readily apparent from the face of the report, and each incident mentioned in this section is based upon the involved deputy's own words describing the event.

(2) Retaliatory Force Against Handcuffed Individuals
We find that LASD deputies in the Antelope Valley use unreasonable force in retaliation for being treated disrespectfully. Deputies routinely use OC spray against individuals who act out in nonviolent ways, even when the individual is handcuffed and does not pose a threat. The language used by deputies to describe these incidents in use offorce reports often sounded so canned that reviewers had to check to confirm that they were not rereading reports they had previously reviewed. As reprehensible and provocative as some expressions ofdisapproval towards officers are, including profanity, racial slurs, or spitting, such behavior cannot alone justify using force. Properly trained police officers are expected to exercise a higher degree of restraint than would the average citizen. See Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451, 462 (1987); see also Johnson v. Campbell, 332 F.3d 199,213 (3d Cir. 2003) (detainee's words "son ofa bitch" to police officer were not fighting words). Indeed, the credibility oflaw enforcement rests in part upon the belief that officers respond based on the rule oflaw, not upon emotional impulse, no matter how justified those emotions may be.

A Lancaster deputy punched another handcuffed woman in the jaw while three other deputies held her down. The individual had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and, while handcuffed, was placed in a holding cell without being properly searched for weapons or contraband. A sergeant then directed three LASD deputies and a custody assistant to conduct the search. Upon entering the cell, the woman yelled, refused to comply with orders, and began to kick her legs at the sergeant and one of the deputies. Two deputies secured the woman's legs as a third deputy held her on the mat. During this search, the woman continued to yell and jerk her head around. One of the deputies who had secured her legs was kneeling on the woman's back and struck her once on the jaw with his fist. Though the woman was exhibiting resistive behavior, a punch to the face under the circumstances was unreasonable, especially when considering the fact that four deputies -each 200 pounds or more -were holding down one woman who weighed much less than 200 pounds.


LASD recognized that this use offorce was problematic. During the "training and tactical review" of this force incident, the supervisor advised the deputy who had punched the woman of the possible hazards associated with using personal weapons and striking boney areas of the body. The watch commander counseled the deputy regarding available options when dealing with handcuffed individuals and spoke with him regarding his duty to control emotions during stressful circumstances. This informal counseling session was documented in a Unit Performance Log Entry, however, no formal discipline or accountability measures resulted from this incident. Two months later, a Training Unit lieutenant also reviewed the incident, and found that "continued control holds may have been a better choice," and that the "use of a strike to the face of a female handcuffed drunk was not likely the best option available." He continued by noting that an uninvolved individual's review of the video could result in a questioning of "the necessity ofthe 'punch' to the face." This review should have resulted in formal finding that the use offorce violated LASD policy and led to formal discipline accordingly. The tepid language used by multiple reviewers to describe a clear instance ofunreasonable force reflects the reluctance we found to hold deputies accountable when they commit even clear violations of LASD policy.

LASD policies further recognize that this police-community partnership depends in part on fair treatment, and how the department responds when people complain about mistreatment. In practice, however, the misconduct complaint investigation systems in place in the Antelope Valley fails to live up to these words, undermining community trust in and respect for the LASD through an unacceptable tolerance of biased and discourteous conduct. LASD gives too little credence to claims of misconduct originating from the community, and these claims are not being recorded in a manner that facilitates meaningful assessment of individual and unitwide conduct.

35I. LASD Complaint Classification Undermines Effective Accountability
Our review showed that, at least in the Antelope Valley, LASD overuses the service review process in a manner that undennines accountability. LASD's Antelope Valley stations have a practice ofresolving nearly all civilian complaints ofmisconduct at the unit level through "service reviews" rather than as formal administrative investigations -in the one-year period we reviewed, all but one ofthe civilian complaints ofmisconduct were resolved as service reviews. Even misconduct allegations that are required by policy to be investigated by LASD's Internal Affairs Bureau (lAB) are instead handled as service reviews. The distinction is significant, as discipline may not be imposed when a complaint is resolved via service review, even where the misconduct is found to viola te LASD policy. In addition, service comment review resolutions are tracked differently and in a manner that makes it more difficult to identify and respond to problematic trends in officer conduct... The impact of this failure to conduct administrative investigations, and thereby preclude the potential for any discipline, is particularly striking considering the types ofallegations that were substantiated when they were investigated as service reviews, and the complaint histories of the involved deputies, for example:

  • A deputy was found to have engaged in behavior that was inconsistent with policy and training after a civilian complained that the deputy inappropriately contacted a domestic violence victim, whom he had met while on duty, to flirt with her and to try to begin a personal relationship. Given the seriousness ofthe allegation, the station should have referred this complaint to the Internal Affairs Bureau. Further, during the one-year period we reviewed, this deputy had received an additional complaint, that did not result in discipline, for allegedly telling a female burglary suspect, "Don't think by showing your tits you're gonna get out of this." The deputy was not disciplined because both complaints were kept at the service review level. In addition, despite the similarities between the two complaints lodged against this deputy, he was not identified as a candidate for the department or unit-level performance mentoring program. (A further description ofthe performance mentoring program is described below in Section IILC.)

The handling ofthese complaints also demonstrates the high bar civilians must meet when alleging discrimination. Absent an admission or recording, witnessing deputies invariably state that they "did not hear" offensive language, and, as discussed above, the deputy's version is always credited over the civilian's account. Even in the complaint described above, where the supervisor reviewed a video, he only found that the employee's behavior "could have been better." To ensure that LASD sends a consistently strong message that racially biased language will not be tolerated, and to hold deputies who use such language accountable, the Antelope Valley stations must refer all allegations ofracially derogatory language to the lAB for administrative investigation and must substantiate complaints where a preponderance of the evidence supports the allegation.

We found evidence that complaints of racial bias among LASD deputies have merit. One supervisor stated directly to DO] officials that he thought all African Americans who recently moved to the Antelope Valley were gang members. This statement helps explain the view of another African-American complainant who commented that he felt deputies viewed all African Americans as criminals. We heard this same sentiment -ofbeing stereotyped and criminalized -repeatedly expressed during our meetings with African-American and Latino community members. In sum, LASD's handling of civilian complaints of discrimination in the Antelope Valley is deficient to the point that, rather than acting as an effective accountability mechanism, it reinforces deputy misconduct, including bias.

In the Antelope Valley, the practice of impounding vehicles whose drivers are unable to produce a valid drivers' license has an extreme disparate impact on the African-American and Latino population... The toll that this practice takes on communities of color is particularly troubling given the hundreds of dollars required for release of the vehicle, the impound period imposed, and the fact that it is often difficult to maintain a job or attend school or work training in this part ofthe County without access to a vehicle. Though we did not assess the appropriateness ofindividual vehicle impoundments, given the impact this has on the quality oflife for minority residents ofthe Antelope Valley, and on LASD-community relationships, we urge LASD to use the practice only when necessary to serve a "community caretaking function." Cal. Veh. Code 22651 (h)(1). A recent California Attorney General opinion provides guidance that cars belonging to unlicensed drivers do not have to be automatically impounded. Cal. Attorney General Opinion, No. 12-301, May 3,2012, at p. 15.

We heard several complaints from Latino small business owners that their calls for service were routinely not addressed in a timely manner. For example, one Latino business owner of a clothing store alleged that his calls for service are not addressed in a timely manner. He stated that his business has been broken into nine times over the past four years, but deputies have only responded to his calls for service twice. A failure to provide basic law enforcement services to certain communities, if substantiated, could potentially rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

We heard multiple accounts of probation and parole compliance checks during which Antelope Valley deputies subjected family members and companions to degrading and potentially unlawful conditions. In one particularly egregious instance, an elderly woman was forced to sit in her yard in the winter while deputies conducted a probation compliance check for a family member. This is reminiscent of deputies' treatment of an elderly couple during a 2007 compliance check. We also heard several accounts ofdeputies searching the companions of probationers or parolees, even though they lacked any suspicion that the companion had engaged in criminal activity.

We heard multiple accounts ofday laborers being cited for loitering while soliciting employment in public places in Lancaster. Solicitation is a form of expression protected under the First Amendment, meaning that there are limitations regarding the restrictions the state can place on an individual's attempts to look for work. See Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 945 (9th Cir. 2011); Valle Del Sol Inc. v. Whiting, 709 F.3d 808, 828 (9th Cir. 2013). We caution LASD against any activity that unlawfully restricts the rights of day laborers soliciting employment.


Some Antelope Valley deputies wear tattoos or share paraphernalia with an intimidating skull and snake symbol as a mark of their affiliation with the Antelope Valley stations. Though there are varying interpretations ofwhat these tattoos may symbolize, they provide an undeniable visual representation of a gulf between deputies and the community, and are an unfortunate reminder of LASD's history of symbols associated with problematic deputy behavior. LASD has assured us that the Antelope Valley stations have tried to suppress the skull and snake image while promoting the official, and more appropriate, Antelope Valley symbol. We remain concerned, however, that these unofficial images still appear widely visible throughout the Antelope Valley -just recently, the image was seen on a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot of the Lancaster's sheriff s station. Because many Antelope Valley deputies both live and work in the Valley, these insignia are perhaps more widely visible within the Antelope Valley than they would be otherwise. We encourage LASD to take stronger measures to dissuade deputies from displaying these symbols, including training to ensure that deputies understand the inconsistent and divisive message sent by deputies' apparent adoption of such insignia, while respecting their First Amendment rights.

Thank you again for your ongoing cooperation throughout this investigation. Please note that this letter is a public document and will be posted on the Civil Rights Division's website. If you have any questions, please contact Jonathan Smith, Chiefofthe Special Litigation Section, at (202) 514-5393.
Sincerely, Thomas E. Perez Assistant Attorney General http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/antelope_findings_6-28-13.pdf ABC

The following are interesting excerpts from the 'Statement of Intent' which the L.A. Sheriff signed along with the DOJ.

http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/antelope_statementofintent_6-28-13.pdf

1. Stops, Searches, and Seizures
LASD will revise its policies, directives, training, and practices so that stops, searches, and seizures by Antelope Valley deputies are consistently conducted in accordance with the law. LASD will require Antelope Valley deputies to document in their patrol logs, in electronic searchable and retrievable format, a narrative articulating specific facts and circumstances that support reasonable suspicion or probable cause for investigative detentions, pedestrian, bicycle, or vehicle stops, non-consensual and consensual searches, probation or parole searches, and property seizures. Noting a radio clearance code, or the code for the resulting citation or arrest that ultimately resulted (as required by current policy) will not be deemed sufficient articulation of legal support for the stop or search. To allow for more precise and accurate analysis of all field activity, LASD policy will specifically track bicycle stops.

LASD will revise policies and training regarding questioning individuals about their probation or parole status to ensure that deputies understand that this question may not be motivated, in whole or in part, by an individual's status as a member of a protected class, including race, ethnicity, or national origin. LASD shall document and track relevant information about all searches conducted pursuant to consent and/or probation or parole status. LASD supervisors and commanders will conduct a regular review of this documentation to determine whether there are trends and patterns that indicate potential bias, or practices that run counter to effective and efficient policing. LASD shall require that deputies document all Terry stops; all contacts that result in the request to conduct a consent search; all contacts that result in questioning about an individual's probation or parole status; and all consent searches, including searches conducted because of an individual's probation or parole status. The result of the questioning and search shall also be documented. The request to conduct a consent search and the request about an individual's probation or parole status should be reasonable, and deputies must be able to articulate the suspicion that formed the basis of the request. LASD policy will also require deputies to advise individuals of their right to refuse a consent search and to document consent in writing and audio record the consent. Supervisors shall additionally respond to the scene to approve consent searches of homes.

...LASD will provide updated training on the appropriate use of backseat detentions and continue to reinforce that backseat detentions should not be a tactic used as a matter of routine or convenience and should not be used for traffic citation issuance or non-investigative contacts.

.....In addition, LASD will pay a civil penalty to the United States to vindicate the public interest and monetary damages to any persons harmed in the course of LASD's enforcement of the voucher program from 2004 to at least 2011. The Parties will negotiate the exact amount of damages and the final Agreement will set forth the process by which aggrieved persons are identified.

..........4. Use of Force LASD will revise its use of force policies, training curricula, and any relevant directives, bulletins, or defensive tactics manuals to provide clear guidance about the reasonable use of force. Specifically, these revised materials will ensure that deputies receive appropriate guidance and training about how best to reasonably control handcuffed individuals, including providing clear direction on options available to deputies that do not include the use of force. LASD will also revise any policies and associated training about the use of force in response to individuals' failure to cooperate, and provide guidance about the use of force in response to lower level resistance. LASD will also revise its defensive tactics manuals regarding the appropriate use of head strikes and punches to the face. LASD will also revise its use of force policies and training curricula regarding communication, de-escalation, and disengagement tactics. LASD will continue to monitor obstruction-related charges and require supervisors and commanders to carefully review the narratives in use of force reports. The Antelope Valley stations will conduct regular analysis of obstruction arrests for patterns or trends.


...........5. Service Comment Reviews & Internal Affairs Bureau - LASD will revise its Service Comment Review and Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) policies and procedure manuals to clarify when civilian complaints get referred for full administrative investigations. LASD shall conduct administrative investigations of all civilian complaints alleging behavior that, if substantiated, would be eligible for discipline. LASD policy will clearly state what kinds of behavior are eligible for discipline, including discriminatory or biased conduct. LASD shall make sure that, pursuant to existing policy, IAB sufficiently investigates all complaints related to use of force and discriminatory or biased policing. LASD will audit Service Comment Reviews and administrative investigations conducted by the Antelope Valley stations to ensure that the classifications are consistent with policy and LASD's Core Values, and that complaint dispositions are consistent with the weight of the evidence. LASD will provide training to Antelope Valley deputies and supervisors about proper complaint intake, classification, and investigation techniques. LASD will provide training about how to record complete and thorough complaints from individuals, including how to obtain complaints from individuals who may not be proficient in English. LASD will continue its efforts to make the complaint process more accessible to community members. LASD will hold deputies, supervisors, and commanders strictly responsible for appropriately accepting and investigating complaints of misconduct.

...All personnel involved in the investigation of civilian complaints will receive training on appropriate investigative skills, such as proper interrogation and interview techniques (such as avoiding leading questions); gathering and objectively analyzing evidence; how to identify alleged misconduct that is not clearly stated in the complaint or that becomes apparent during the investigation; properly weighing credibility of civilian witnesses against deputies; using objective evidence to resolve inconsistent statements; and the proper application of the preponderance of the evidence standard. LASD will hold Antelope Valley personnel strictly responsible for appropriately classifying every allegation raised by an individual in a complaint or during the investigation of a complaint. LASD will also hold personnel strictly accountable for appropriately investigating all allegations that may arise during an investigation even if an allegation of an apparent policy violation is not specifically articulated as such by the complainant.

7. Community Engagement - LASD will continue its positive community engagement efforts in the Antelope Valley, including participating in local community meetings, making itself available for community feedback, developing the Community Advisory Committees (CAC), and working with the community on the development of diversion programs. Solidifying these community partnerships is at the heart of LASD's public trust policing model.

10. Court Enforceability and Independent Monitoring - The United States and Los Angeles County will seek entry of this Agreement as a court-enforceable order. The Parties will agree to the selection of an Independent Monitor who will act as an agent of the Court in assessing whether the Agreement is being implemented. This model has been used effectively to resolve pattern or practice investigations the most efficiently in other jurisdictions.

...Timing The Parties both agree that they are committed to working together to reach a Final Settlement Agreement and seek court approval in as expeditious manner as possible, so that the important work of implementing reforms can begin. The Parties intend to have completed negotiations, including securing approval by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, on the Final Settlement Agreement by August 30, 2013.
LEROY D. BACA Sheriff Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
THOMAS E. PEREZ Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division