Heralding Freedom of the Press Since 2003
The hidden story that binds African and Mexican Americans in a shared history few knew about until now! - GLOBAL AFRICAN DIASPORA
ACTOR JIM BROWN, DIES AT 87
QUEEN OF ROCK & ROLL, SUCCUMBS
The Los Angeles City Council initially discussed the donation of the $278,000 dog-like, four-legged robot in March. After three hours of debate, Council President Paul Krekorian called for a 60-day delay in the vote.
LA Council votes 8-4 to usher in 'robo dog'
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—Los Angeles City Council has voted 8-4 to approve the donation of a so-called "robo dog" for use by the Los Angeles Police Department following more than an hour of public comment against the device and criticism from a councilman.
The council moved to accept the donation Tuesday with an amendment by Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky to ensure that the LAPD provides quarterly reports regarding deployment of the device, outcomes of deployment and any issues pertaining to its use.
In addition, the council will "closely monitor" the $277,917 Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle and ultimately modify the deployment policy or suspend the use of the device at any time.
"As with the use of any new technology used in policing, it is important that the City Council have appropriate oversight and the ability to modify or half the program if circumstances warrant," Yaroslavsky said.
The device, built by Boston Dynamics, was offered as a donation to the LAPD's Metropolitan Division by the Los Angeles Police Foundation. Council members Heather Hutt, Curren Price, Nithya Raman and Hugo Soto-Martinez voted against the donation. Council members Eunisses Hernandez and Marqueece Harris-Dawson were absent from Tuesday's meeting.
Most residents who spoke during public comment urged the council to decline the donation, stating it would only be used to further criminalize and harm Black and Latino communities.
"This is the third time that this has been on the agenda and, hopefully, you guys will make the right decision to let this be the last time and strike it out," Emerald Johnson said. "We, your constituents, do not want the robot dog. It's not just a donation, and this will cost us a lot more in
the long run."
Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and government for Boston Dynamics, and David Kowalski, deputy chief for the LAPD, came forward to answer questions from Soto-Martinez.
The councilman, in a tense exchange, asked Kowalski to provide details in which unarmed technology was used in 2022. An LAPD report indicated unarmed technology was deployed 39 times in various parts of the city.
"Obviously, one of the concerns expressed in the last council meeting was whether technology used by us was disproportionately being utilized in some neighborhoods of Los Angeles," Kow- alski said. "A review of those deployments on both the sUAS (small unmanned aerial systems) as well as the (ground-based) robotics, we found no specific trends or patterns related to those
Soto-Martinez said that ``just isn't true,'' claiming LAPD unarmed devices were deployed more often in Hollywood and South Los Angeles compared with some of LA's more affluent neigh- borhoods and communities.
Kowalski reassured the council that the LAPD has "clearly defined situations for use with a strict approval process."
LAPD representatives previously assured the public that the device would be used only in SWAT, hazardous materials or search-and-rescue operations. Police also insisted the robot will never be equipped with any sort of weapons or facial-recognition technology, nor will it be used in any type of patrol operations.
Soto-Martinez asked Schulman to share which cities also contracted with Boston Dynamics for use of the QUGV device and the extent of those relationships.
Schulman said he did not have a full list of other cities, but he cited the Houston Police Depart- ment and the New York City Police Department as examples of law enforcement agencies that are contracted with his company.
"The robot is primarily used in industrial applications," Schulman said. "Less than 10 percent of our customers are public safety agencies such as LAPD."
Soto-Martinez wondered about the financial cost for the contract with New York. Schulman said the NYPD purchased two robots, and the cost is "a matter of public record." The value of the technology and the mission of the company is to "create robots that help people," he added.
Soto-Martinez said the donation to the LAPD represents an "expansion of the current bound-
aries around policing and surveillance."
"We know, like we've seen in the past, these donations usually end being a line item in the budget and the (representative) from Boston Dynamics didn't want to reveal the contract with New York City, which leads me to more suspicion," Soto-Martinez said.
"You know, this is highly disturbing automation of law enforcement that sets a dangerous prece- dent for our future in our community safety."
Other council members have previously defended the donation as adding a tool that could assist officers in life-threatening situations. Councilman John Lee noted that the ground-based robot is nimble and can perform tasks such as opening doors and accessing areas that aerial drones
cannot --- providing a valuable tool in cases such as a barricade situation or other standoff.
"This has the ability to save lives," Lee said.
In a statement, the LAPD said the agency will be using the QUGV robot in the coming months, following training and testing.
"I am appreciative of the approval today by the majority of the City Council in accepting the donation of the Los Angeles Police Foundation in acquiring this state-of-the-art mechanical robot," Police Chief Michel Moore said in a statement.
The device will allow the department to "better protect" officers and the community, he added, and to "deescalate dangerous situations."
According to the statement, the LAPD says all digital evidence, such as photographs, video or audio, captured by the robot during deployment will be recorded and archived in accordance with current department policy.
Lastly, the department said the QUGV would not be equipped with or use any facial recognition software or analysis capabilities, nor would it be used for routine patrol duties or covert surveil- lance operations.
Just after the council took its vote, one person was suspected of vandalizing the walls just outside the Council Chamber, according to LAPD officers. The suspect tagged the walls with the words "evil" and "sold your souls," most likely in response to the council's vote on the LAPD robot.
Officers said they briefly chased the suspect outside City Hall, but no arrest was made.
Staffing elevated at juvenile halls
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—One day after state regulators declared the county's two juvenile halls unsuitable to house youth—with short-staffing among the issues leading to the declaration—Los Angeles County's interim probation chief ordered all 3,000 sworn peace officers in the department to serve at one shift a month at juvenile halls, May 24.
The directive, taking effect June 1, will increase staffing "by ten-fold, flooding them with the personnel needed to reverse the chronic staffing shortages that have been at the heart of our problems there,'' Interim Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa said in a statement. On May 23, the Board of State and Community Corrections formally declared the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and Central Juvenile Hallin Lincoln Heights unsuitable for housing pre-disposition youth, and ordered all detainees to be reloc- ated within 60 days.
The board cited a laundry list of ongoing violations of state standards at the facilities, including sani- sanitary conditions of the housing units, detainees' access to school and other programs and staffing shortfalls. Following the vote Tuesday, the board was set to formally notify the county of the decision Wednesday, beginning the 60-day clock ticking for all youth to moved out of the halls.
Representatives for the county unsuccessfully asked the board Tuesday for a 150-day delay, saying plans were already under way to relocate pre-disposition youth detainees to the previously closed Los Padrinos Juvenile Hallin Downey, but doing so in 60 days could create "chaos" and safety concerns.
In its statement released Wednesday, the county Probation Department insisted the move will be completed within 60 days.
Roughly 275 pre-disposition youth -- those who have not yet had their criminal cases resolved in court —are currently housed in the Nidorf and Central halls, a county representative told the board Tuesday. The BSCC order does not impact post-disposition youth housed in a Secure Youth Treatment Facility within Nidorf hall.
Viera Rosa last week ordered all of the Probation Department's executive staff to serve one monthly shift at juvenile halls as well. Department officials said Viera Rosa served a shift at Nidort from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday.
"I believe having everyone serve one shift a month in the juvenile halls is an excellent way for all of us to show support, provide aid to and ensure the safety of our besieged and exhausted fellow officer officers as we turn the page to Los Padrinos," Viera Rosa said.
County construction crews are working to renovate Los Padrinos hall to resume housing pre-disposi- tion youth. The Probation Department noted that crews are working from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily to meet the 60-day timeline imposed for the move. In a statement after the board's Tuesday vote, Hans Liang, president of the LA County Deputy Probation Officers Union, laid blame on the county and the Board of Supervisors for failing to provide adequate staffing at the halls.
"Officers assigned to the juvenile division are faced with daily youth-on-youth and youth-on-staff assaults and 40 percent of staff in the juvenile division are now out on injury leave," Liang said. "To make up for the staffing shortfalls, staff are being compelled to work 18- to 24-hour shifts and have reached a breaking point, simply doing the best they can with limited resources and exhaustion."
The BSCC also found the two juvenile halls unsuitable to house youth sin 2021, but the facilities managed to remain open. Renewed inspection failure sled the board to again initiate the process of declaring the halls unsuitable.
The county Board of Supervisors has been struggling to overhaul the troubled juvenile justice system even as it assumes responsibility for youth being transferred to counties from the state's closing Juvenile Justice facilities. The board recently voted to advance a "Global Plan" for the placement and care of juvenile detainees, with a goal of reducing the number of juveniles in custody and develop- ment of Secure Youth Treatment Facilities to provide a supportive environment for detained youth.
On May 2, the board approved a series of more immediate steps, including the relocation of all pre-disposition youth to Los Padrinos. Central Juvenile Hall will be used solely as an intake unit and medical and diagnostic/assessment hub, and only Secure Youth Treatment Facility youth will be housed at Nidorf.
The plan also included the readjustment of millions of dollars for capital improvements at the juvenile halls, with overall costs anticipated to reach nearly $50 million. That plan also called on the sheriff's department to deploy volunteer reserve deputies to help fill holes in staffing at the juvenile halls.
The county's juvenile detention system and the Probation Department that oversees it have been routinely under fire from state regulators over conditions at the facilities, which have been plagued by oversight and staffing issues for years. In March of last year, about 140 juvenile detainees were hastily transferred from Central Juvenile Hall to Barry J. Nidorf hall—a move that the county inspector general later concluded was orchestrated to avert a state inspection that appeared likely to fail.
Late last year, nearly 300 former detainees filed a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted, harassed and abused by county probation and detention officers while being held at juvenile facilities dating back to the1970s. County CEO Fesia Davenport noted while releasing her recent budget pro- posal for the coming year that the county could potentially face liabilities reaching $3 billion from such abuse claims.
In March, the Board of Supervisors fired Probation Department Chief Adolfo Gonzales, with board Chair Janice Hahn noting that the juvenile halls "are in crisis."
On May 9, a teenage detainee at Nidorf hall died of a drug overdose. On the same day, a LA Superior Court judge ruled that the county juvenile halls still fail to meet the terms of a 2021 court judgment requiring improvements in conditions including staffing and ensuring youth are taken to schools and medical appointments in a timely manner. Another hearing in that case is scheduled for June 20.
Authorities ID shooting victim
COMPTON (CNS)—Authorities have identified a man who was fatally at a Compton store where he worked.
Kamal Mohamed, 66, of San Pedro was shot about 10:55 a.m. May 16 in the 200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue, and he died at the scene, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Witnesses heard several gunshots in the area shortly before the suspects left the scene. No arrests were reported, and no suspect information was available.
Anyone with information on the shooting was urged to call theSheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Tipsters may also use the website lacrimestop-stoppers.org.
Man chomps LAPD sergeant's finger in altercation
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—A Los Angeles Police Department sergeant was recovering April 28 after a man who was escorted from a Metro B (Red) Line train became combative and bit off a portion of the sergeant's finger.
According to the LAPD, officers were on routine patrol on the Red Line train around 10:15 a.m. Thursday when they allegedly spotted 36-year-old Ephraim Okorie in possession of drug para- phernalia. Police approached the Okorie and escorted him off the train at the Vermont/Santa Monica Station.
Police said that after Okorie was taken off the train, he ``became violent and fought with the officers,'' and during the ensuing struggle, Okorie bit off a portion of a finger of an LAPD sergeant.
The sergeant and Okorie were both taken to a hospital for treatment, police said.
``I'm deeply disturbed by the vicious and gruesome attack on our sergeant as he and other officers were simply conducting routine patrol of the transit line,'' LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in a statement. ``We remain committed to our work each day to improve the safety of the entire transit system with dedicated patrol engaging.''
Okorie was taken into custody on suspicion of mayhem and resisting an executive order. He was being held in lieu of $130,000 bail, according to jail records.
The hidden story that binds African
and Mexican Americans in a shared
history few knew about until now! -
LATEST NEWS & FEATURES
Available Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, eBay,
Alibris, and archwaypublishing.com