Posts Tagged 'lapd'



Senseless

discarted

Complaint Against LAPD’s Paul Espinoza Sustained

I was detained again recently (actually handcuffed and placed in the patrol unit) in Hollywood while photographing some people I’ve been following for a couple of weeks. My account of what happened, along with my footage (which is securely online already and stored on multiple hard drives that are not at my residence), will be released in the near future, but the experience has motivated me to finally comment on some letters I received in November 2010 from LAPD’s Chief of Police Charlie Beck and Paul Espinoza—the Northeast Patrol Division officer who unlawfully detained me because I photographed him and his partner performing a traffic stop on Hollywood Boulevard in February 2010.

The first paragraph of Chief Beck’s letter states the following:

An investigation into your complaint that was reported on February 21, 2010, regarding the conduct of an employee of the Los Angeles Police Department has been completed.  The investigation has gone through several levels of review, including myself and the command staff of Internal Affairs Group.  Your allegations that an officer was discourteous and unlawfully detained you were classified as Sustained.  This means the investigation determined that the act alleged occurred and constitutes misconduct.  An appropriate penalty will be imposed; however, Penal Code Section 832. 5 precludes me from disclosing the specific penalty.

And Paul Espinoza’s apology letter says:

I am the officer with whom you had contact on February 21, 2010.  You should know there was a complaint lodged against me and I am sure you will be informed by the Department that complaint has been sustained.  I wanted to write you a personal letter to apologize for my actions on that day.  The Department has provided me training and I assure you I will handle similar situations in the future much differently.  I am very proud to be a Los Angeles Police Officer and will do my best to serve you and the community to the best of my abilities in the future.

I hope the next time we meet it is under better circumstances.  Again, please accept my apologies.

When I first received the letters I was initially pleased and certainly felt vindicated—especially towards my harshest online critics who inaccurately claimed that I was never detained and should have waited for the supervisor to arrive to say whatever it is that they thought I should have said to him.

Well, as all will know now, as some of us already knew then—I was unlawfully detained and treated disrespectfully. It’s that simple, and for full-brained people it really isn’t all that hard of a reality to grasp once you see the video.

As for the people who criticized me for not sticking around to speak to the supervisor, what they may not realize is the fact that speaking to a supervisor might well not resolve anything. More important, I don’t need to complain to Espinoza’s superior at the time; I can complain by filing a complaint with LAPD later. The two do not go hand in hand. Which, are both very good reasons why I left.

This was not my first time being detained, and I understand how the detainment and complaint process works. Plus, I have a lawyer friend who I can contact when I need advice or a legal question answered.

So once all the Monday-morning shutterbugs decide to stop taking family portraits, studio shots of fruit and martini glasses, and macro-shots of flowers and bugs and get their detainment cherry popped for taking legal pictures in public (which are decent enough to share with the rest of the world), then I’ll listen to what they have to say.

Sorry to digress, but all things must be addressed.

Then I read the letters again and thought about the outcome a little more. What did they do to make sure Espinoza wouldn’t do something like this again? And why does California Penal Code Section 832.5 (as well 832.7) prevent me and the public from knowing Espinoza’s “appropriate penalty”? For all I know, Espinoza’s appropriate penalty was to write a forced apology letter because he was caught on video screaming about his First Amendment rights, while at the same exact moment derailing my constitutional rights.

I should have the right to know Espinoza’s penalty, and so should you. We have the right to know the complaint history against all law enforcement officers in this country. This should be easily accessible information, rather than locked up and hidden from public scrutiny.

Penal codes such as 832.5 and 832.7 (which prevent LAPD from releasing information even about complaints that were determined valid), should not exist because all they do is raise credibility issues within the confines of law enforcement and stir contempt throughout the public.

We need to change this.

LAPD Sergeant Fires Away on YouTube

While YouTube is great fun for silly cat videos and clips of kids freaking out after the dentist, it’s also fertile ground for angry, arrogant, illiterate people. Exhibit A:

“your a dick ? what would u wanna video/pictures? a dead guy.. what the fuck are you gona do with the video of a dead guy.. get a life you fuking cunt,”

Interestingly, the comment was left by AbawiTariq, a sergeant with the LAPD, according to his YouTube profile.

Nothing but the best in Los Angeles. Seriously, Chief Beck – that is who you want representing your force?


LA Pays $1.7m to Fox Camera Operator

Fox TV camera operator Patricia Ballaz has been awarded $1.7 million in damages stemming from the May Day 2007 Immigration Rights rally in Los Angeles where she was beaten by the LAPD.

In her testimony, Ballaz described seeing the LAPD unexpectedly attack reporters in attendance at the rally in MacArthur Park: “He was just an average man doing nothing. I had no idea why this was happening. It was like a war zone.” She was struck repeatedly by an officer with a baton and reported sustaining severe physical and emotional injuries. She has not returned to her job since the May 1, 2007 rally and her lawyer said she will not work in the industry again.

Deputy City Attorney Jessica B. Brown argued that Ballaz and other reporters ignored police instructions to get out of the way. “They are not kings; nobody gives them special rights,” she said.

The jury also awarded KPCC reporter Patricia Nazario $39,000 but were unable to reach a verdict on Ballaz’s fellow Fox colleague, reporter Christina Gonzales.

The city has already agreed to pay almost $13 million in lawsuits connected to that event, which makes it a very expensive, very bad day for the LAPD.

Article from MyFoxLA.com

LAPD Unlawfully Detains Photographer

The above video was recorded on February 21, 2010 in Hollywood, CA. As you will see from the footage, the officer’s behavior is deeply disturbing and should cause alarm within the Los Angeles Police Department.

And despite what the officer claims in the video, it is completely legal to photograph and videotape anybody, including police officers, when an expectation of privacy does not exist. It is the public’s right to photograph and record police activity that occurs on our streets and in our neighborhoods, and we should not be subjected to verbal assaults, illegal detainment, or threatened with an unlawful arrest if we choose to do so.

This encounter could have been a non-issue.

To voice your concerns regarding this officer’s behavior, contact the following individuals and offices:

Internal Affairs – Los Angeles Police Department
304 South Broadway, Suite 215
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Office: 213-485-1486
Fax: 213-473-6420

Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles
Email: mayor@lacity.org

Eric Garcetti, City Council President
5500 Hollywood Blvd., 4th Floor
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 323-957-4500
Email: councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org

Tom LaBonge, Councilmember, District 4
Hollywood Field Office
6501 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone: (323) 957-6415
Email: councilmember.labonge@lacity.org

Update: Charges Against LA Photographer Dropped

Criminal charges have been dropped against photographer Jonas Lara who was arrested while documenting two taggers in South Central LA in February. Through his legal defense fund, Lara was able to retain the legal services of Joel Koury of the Kavinoky Law Firm, who worked for far less than he normally does because he believed in the injustice of the case.

PDN Pulse reports that Koury knew his stuff and went in aggressively, refusing to take lesser charges that were still unfavorable to Lara.

“We’re not talking about some gang member, we’re talking about an actual photojournalist,” Koury says he told the prosecutor. “Just because a photojournalist takes a picture of someone committing a crime does not turn the photographer into a criminal,” he adds.

Koury’s tactic paid off, and now Lara is a free man, though he does have to pay a $200 fee to the property owner as restitution and he gets a disturbing the peace charge. The judge also ordered that Lara’s equipment be returned.

Put this as a win for photographers’ rights.

Read PDN Pulse’s story here and our own interview with Jonas Lara here.

Facing Jail: Q&A With Photographer Jonas Lara

Photo courtesy Jonas Lara

Photographer Jonas Lara is looking at a year in prison if things don’t go his way, and with only a public defender who doesn’t want to consider First Amendment issues, things are not looking good.

The facts: In February Jonas was arrested in Los Angeles while photographing two graffiti artists as part of a long-term project. He was charged with felony vandalism, which was later reduced to aiding and abetting vandals, and his court date is next Tuesday, May 11. His cameras, lenses and memory cards were  confiscated and they still haven’t been returned. He’s currently soliciting donations to his legal defense fund so that he can hire a private lawyer to argue his case.

You can show your support and donate on Jonas’ Facebook page. Here, we talk to Jonas about the situation.

Is this the first time you’ve had a problem with the authorities while photographing?
This is the first time I’ve ever been arrested but not the first time being hassled. Back in 2007 I was working on a freeway series and I was confronted by a police officer who asked why I was taking pictures of bridges and which terrorist organization I was a part of. I explained that I was working on an art project, and after showing my student ID and checking my name on his computer he said I was free to leave.

Did you try to explain you were just documenting the scene?
For the most part I kept my mouth shut, but I did mention that I was a student working on a documentary project.

How did they not believe you even after seeing your work and looking into your background?
The funny thing is that they did believe me and seemed very understanding; they were conducting their investigation on the site while I sat in the patrol car for about two hours. I figured they were going to let me go once they finished, but instead they said I was going to jail and never said what they were charging me with, nor did they ever read me my rights. It wasn’t until after spending six hours in the holding cell and being transferred to the jail cell that I was informed that I was being charged with vandalism. At that point it was felony vandalism. I asked how I could be charged with vandalism for simply taking pictures and they said to take it up with the judge.

What has been happening in your life since this happened?
Well, I haven’t had most of my gear so I’ve been borrowing from other photographer friends or using my point and shoot and vintage cameras to shoot projects.

Are you under a lot of stress?
I have been under a great deal of stress; I have been trying to continue to make work during this process. I’ve been doing some painting and mixed media work to keep me busy since I don’t have my usual photo equipment.

Is it just a whirlwind of lawyers and court appearances?
Yeah well, the only experience I have in the courtroom is watching “Law and Order” so it was unreal being there trying to defend myself with a public defender who didn’t even want to entertain the idea of bringing up 1st Amendment rights or photographers’ rights or anything along those lines.

How likely is that you will be convicted — have you been able to get a feel for what’s going to happen to you?
The thing is, up until this point, I don’t think the court has any sense of who I am (my background, education, credentials). My public defender was only concerned with getting me a plea with a lower sentence, so I’m not sure to be honest. After asking me whether I wanted to take a plea of one month in jail plus drivers license suspended and [me] refusing, he said if I go to trial and lose I could face up to a year in jail, which translates into 180 days. I’m supposed to move to New York in August to start graduate school in September at School of Visual Arts, so if I’m convicted I can forget about grad school.

Are you able to still do photography?
Well, like I stated before, I’ve been using my point and shoot cameras, Polaroid camera and borrowing cameras and lenses, but it’s definitely put a dent in my ability to produce photographic work.

Will this affect how you approach further assignments or projects?
Most definitely; I will be more cautious.

Looking back, what if anything would you have done differently?
Well, if I understood my rights better I would have stated that I had a right to be there and that I’m not obligated to prevent or report a crime because I’m a journalist. Being that it was my first time dealing with this type of thing I didn’t know how to properly navigate the situation.



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