THE TRAGEDY IN ORLANDO: A DIFFICULT COMMENTARY

 

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The horrific tragedy that occurred on June 12, 2016, at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, involves the key issues of homeland security, terrorism, gun control, and the militarization of law enforcement. All of these controversial topics have been in the forefront for years and have been escalated in importance due to the recent world-wide incidents and tragedies that have occurred and the current presidential campaign.

There have been recent national discussions, debates, and movements to ban the ability of citizens to be able to possess weapons of all types, including assault weapons, and to challenge the 2nd Amendment.  Along with this, the issue of military surplus used by law enforcement and how that surplus should be deployed has been of great concern.

Another issue worth mentioning here for now, is how should police initially respond to an active shooter scenario such as this? Should police immediately engage the suspect with available resources or wait for additional resources, contain the location, and negotiate when hostages are taken? Should they attempt to immediately rescue those wounded inside the location? This may be best as a future discussion when more facts are known regarding this particular incident in Orlando.

As of this writing preliminary information reveals the massacre in Orlando was committed by a lone suspect, a U.S. born citizen with Afghan decent, who was a licensed security guard and had a state license to own and possess firearms. He may have had ties to terrorism. He killed at least 50 people (some reports now indicate 49) and injured at least 53 more with the use of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a semi-automatic handgun. It is not clear at this time how many magazines, the capacity of those magazines, the amount or type of ammunition he possessed, or how he was able to enter the location with all of these items. These weapons were apparently purchased legally by the suspect a week before this incident. Law enforcement responded to the location in force with the use of a SWAT team and armored vehicles.

In the recent past several political and public figures have professed their disdain for law enforcement having access to and using military surplus such as armored vehicles and assault weapons, as it appears to some that an occupying force has taken over. This has also been addressed by President Obama.  Policy to curtail the use of military equipment has been recently implemented.

Gun control has been a major hot potato regarding the public’s right to own, carry, or possess weapons. This includes debating the 2nd Amendment, to how many rounds are allowed in magazines, to what type of assault weapons should be allowed or denied to U.S citizens, and under what conditions and requirements.

No matter what side of the issues you are on, no one can deny that times have changed and the world is a much different, more volatile, and unpredictable place. This includes being on U.S. soil or in another country. All bets are off. Nothing can be taken for granted. No place can be considered a safe place as the acts of terrorism, domestic or foreign born, have shown time and again. The emphasis on the preservation of life and safety is a must.

Regardless of your personal feelings or position on these issues, we need to be careful regarding taking away the rights of citizens to legally protect themselves or for law enforcement to have specialized equipment and weapons. We of course need balance, control, laws, and common sense when dealing with these issues. Nothing is perfect or will solve all situations and problems. There are good and bad arguments on both sides of these issues, but the extremely volatile world of today does not allow for us take these options and resources off of the table. We must not forget this no matter how great the political or public pressure. #guncontrol, #militarizationoflawenforcement, #orlando, #terrorism, #homelandsecurity

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

book coverTo follow me and or purchase my book “Never Again” go to- http://www.billcweiss.com.

THE DEBATE OF RACIAL PROFILING VERSUS CRIMINAL PROFILING

In the wake of national debate and public anger over killings by police in New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere, California has addressed the issue of protecting minorities from racial profiling and excessive force. Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation mandating that law enforcement agencies collect and make data publicly available on the racial makeup of those encountered by police. This brings up the debate regarding racial profiling versus criminal profiling.

Some have voiced concerns in the media regarding what constitutes a legitimate detention and encounter when police are conducting traffic stops and stopping people on the street. There is a belief that a racial bias persists in law enforcement. There is an argument that the police pull over far too many drivers, and stop and detain too many individuals on the street, with far too many fatal results. To read my previous article (Curtailing Police Stops) on this topic, please click on my website and check under “Recent Posts” on the left column. http://www.billcweiss.com.

With the new laws, police agencies in California must collect data on people they stop, including perceived race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter and what were the results of the stop. Law enforcement agencies will also be required to issue detailed annual reports on all cases when officers use force that result in serious injury or death.

The state attorney general’s office will determine how the reporting is done and the how the data is stored. Data collection does not have to begin until March 1, 2018, in order to allow time for a system to be set up. State rules on falsifying and withholding evidence will also be tighter.

Groups, such as the California Police Chief’s Association, have concerns regarding the cost and burden of collecting so much data and what is the real benefit.  Many feel this creates a huge bureaucratic headache. Many feel this is costly to taxpayers and takes officer’s time away from other duties, and this will not do much to determine whether or not police treat minority groups fairly.

For civil rights activists this is a big move toward protecting minority rights.  Some supporters cite studies showing that unarmed black men are many more times more likely to die by police gunfire than unarmed white men.

How will this collection of data truly prove if racial profiling is occurring? If a patrol officer stops and detains 10 people during his shift and 7 are black males, 2 are Hispanic males, and 1 is a white male, how does that information tell us that the officer is racially profiling male blacks? How do we measure what the officer encountered during his shift, such as what he observed happen in front of him, what his perception of those incidents were, and were these truly indicative of the crimes and suspicious activity he observed and encountered? Does this information show that the officer observed 10 incidents where crimes were being committed by white or Hispanic males, but he did not stop to investigate and detain them? Should we look at both the percentage of the population each race represents in that particular area along with the percentage of criminal activity that each race represents?

Can we really measure what the perception and mind set of an officer is when he or she makes these observations and contacts? Unless you can get into the officer’s mind there is really no way to know if it was because of race, unless he or she tells you that was the only reason. Using data and statistics to prove this is very questionable and dangerous.

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog, many of these encounters result in force or deadly force used by the officer when individuals disobey lawful orders, show outright aggressiveness and total disregard, including attacking and trying to disarm the officer. To read the article, (What’s Wrong With This Picture?), please click on my website and see “Recent Posts” on the left column. http://www.billcweiss.com.

I am sure that there are some cases of racial profiling among the thousands of officers who make thousands of encounters every day. We all have prejudices. We all have likes and dislikes. That is human nature.  Of course, violating the rights of others due to those prejudices is not right nor should it be tolerated.

I believe what is occurring and what most data will reveal is that a strong majority of police contacts are based on criminal profiling. My training and 32 plus years of real life law enforcement experiences tell me this. If a black male is committing several street robberies in my patrol area, my attention will be focused to this type of suspicious activity. This includes people and vehicles of similar descriptions that are provided by the crime victims and witnesses. I will not be directed to and focused toward white or Hispanic males who are law abiding. How does the data gathered on my patrol activity and contacts discern that factor? #racialprofiling, #criminalprofiling

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

To follow me and or purchase my book go to- http://www.billcweiss.com.

CURTAILING POLICE STOPS

My last post addressed the necessity for law enforcement to accept the body camera as a valuable tool. This discussion included the inherent issues associated with its use, such as transparency, credibility, and the review of the footage both by the officers and the public. Click here-http://billcweiss.com/?p=348

Recently, some have voiced concerns in the media regarding what constitutes a legitimate stop when police are conducting traffic stops and stopping people on the street. The argument is that the police pull over far too many drivers, and stop and detain too many individuals on the street, with far too many fatal results. There are two specific articles I am referencing. The first was “Setting rules for police stops,” dated June 12, 2015, in the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times on page A16. The second was “For a safer America, curtail traffic stops,” dated August 13, 2015, also in the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times on page A15. http://www.latimes.com

Although I understand some of the basic thought process articulated in the arguments, in today’s world this is far too impractical and lacks common sense. If police did not legally detain and question possible suspects, conduct traffic stops, and enforce traffic laws, this world would be in a much worse place than it is now. The amount of crime that has been solved by lawful detentions, solid investigations, and traffic stops is significant. These encounters are a major part of the backbone of what law enforcement is about.

For example, recently a suspect in a 1989 Hollywood rival gang killing was arrested after California Highway Patrol officers stopped the vehicle he was driving in Salinas after they noticed a headlight wasn’t working properly. They arrested him on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs. Initially, officers weren’t aware he was wanted on murder as he had assumed different identities. During booking his true identity was discovered. His fingerprints linked him to the October 1989 killing. He had been on the run for nearly 26 years.

I find it hard to fathom a society where we are discouraging police officers from conducting traffic stops, detentions, investigations, and law enforcement duties in general, without proposing any viable option.

Instead of addressing the problem of violence and deadly force that may result from encounters in this manner, why not hold those people accountable who do not follow the rules, do not obey the lawful orders and commands of an officer, display a total disregard for law enforcement, and disobey the law? We are holding police officers accountable for their actions. Why not hold those responsible who decide to attack or forcibly take away the weapon of an officer? Why change the legal process to benefit the criminals who want to attack cops? #police-communityrelations

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

http://www.billcweiss.com

POLICE AND THE USE OF BODY CAMERAS

In my last post I addressed the need for law enforcement to engage immediately during the initial stages of civil disturbances. I also discussed how public comments by some may influence that response. To read the article, please click on this link to my website: http://www.billcweiss.com

A key tool to assist law enforcement in recording their everyday contact with others is the use of the controversial body camera, which continues to be a hot topic of debate.

With the demand for more transparency in law enforcement and the constant challenge to officers’ credibility while performing their daily functions, especially concerning incidents involving the use of force, there is no greater time than now to accept this tool as a necessity.

Through my experiences as a patrol deputy and supervisor, which include investigating citizen complaints, allegations of misconduct, and the application of force, I can tell you that this tool is a necessity in today’s world. Years ago the simple use of a tape recorder by patrol deputies during their contacts allowed me to solve many investigations. A majority of these recordings supported the decisions, actions, tone of voice, and statements made by the deputies who were accused of improper conduct.

A good number of these incidents I found involved poor communication, misunderstandings, and unreasonable expectations by the parties involved. These recordings also allowed me to uncover those instances when the performance and actions of the deputy were not in line with policy and procedures. This included those involving unnecessary or excessive force.

Video recordings, cell phone footage, and surveillance camera recordings naturally provide a better understanding of incidents. All of these tools are invaluable in today’s world of transparency demands, misconduct allegations, and lawsuits.

Even for the mostly highly trained and experienced officers, it is human nature and normal during adrenaline-producing incidents of high stress, split second decision making, and life and death situations, for officers not to remember every detail of an incident. For example, the recall of how many times or where exactly they struck a suspect with a baton, or how many times they fired their weapons may not always be accurate.

This doesn’t mean the officers were lying or trying to conceal anything. With the recent incidents of perjury, improper tactics and application of force by some officers, this is what many believe is occurring as law enforcement is tainted all the same with a broad stroke of the brush. You may have seen role playing simulations and force training scenarios demonstrated on television with every day citizens or news reporters. Ask the media reporters and others who have participated how difficult it was to determine if someone was armed, or remember exactly how many times they shot at an alleged suspect.

Without question today’s law enforcement environment requires the use of body cameras for officers as a necessary survival tool. Officers should also be allowed to review the body camera footage while preparing their reports, in order to assist them in remembering all the details of an incident. This being said, there are several legal and privacy issues to be determined governing whether all or some of these body camera recordings should be shared with the public and if so, when this should occur. (I will address this issue in a future posting).

Video footage should be treated as all other forms of evidence submitted by officers with their police/arrest (incident) reports. They collect it, observe it, tag it, record and document it, and submit it with their report. The evidence is secured and goes through a chain of command and control before the court process is played out. Body camera video footage should be no different.

In the Los Angeles Times Opinion Section (page A21), dated August 24, 2015, an outstanding article written by Dan Simon and Jim Bueermann, “The right body camera policy,” discusses the use of body cameras. They advocate the officers’ rights to review the footage of their use of force incidents before writing their incident reports. I definitely agree. The article discusses the pros and cons, human memory issues, dishonesty, and other factors used in their analysis.  The article is a must read for all, including police officials dealing with these tough issues. Click here for the online link: http://www.latimes.com./

My next posting will discuss the recent public conversations on curtailing police stops. Some are questioning what constitutes a legitimate stop when police are conducting traffic stops and detaining people on the street. #bodycameras

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

http://www.billcweiss.com

DOES LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPOND TO CIVIL DISTURBANCES APPROPRIATELY?

I recently posted an article addressing the recent increase in the disregard many citizens have when encountering law enforcement. My comments included the influence initial public opinion weighs on the expectations and acceptance of the final investigative results of these encounters. These perceptions also affect how law enforcement responds to civil disturbances resulting from these incidents.

The Los Angeles Riots of 1992 and the more recent civil disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, were similar in terms of the way law enforcement responded to the initial stages of related public outbursts. Whether it was the police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, or the in custody injuries and death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, law enforcement did not respond properly to the disturbances resulting from these incidents.

Law enforcement has the duty, responsibility, and obligation to protect. The lack of an immediate, effective and coordinated response to these disturbances led to needless deaths, injuries, and destruction. Ironically, countless citizens and groups voiced concern and frustration with officers failing to engage with rioters and allowing looting and destruction to occur. Police were better prepared and trained than they demonstrated in each of these incidents. These difficult lessons learned should never again be repeated.

Public pressure, concern with image over safety, and the issue of political correctness should never again interfere with law enforcement performing its functions. Passive response to these initial disturbances allowed disorder to develop into major riots. Treating people with respect and allowing them to vent their frustrations is one thing, but standing by and allowing people to kill, assault, rob, steal, and destroy property should never be acceptable.

My next posting will discuss the use of body cameras in law enforcement. I will touch upon the issues of transparency, privacy, and the review of the footage by officers and the public. #1992LARiots, #civildisturbances

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

http://www.billcweiss.com

NEVER AGAIN RELEASE DATE!

Hello everyone! Some of you may already know about the announcement I made a few months ago regarding my new book. I recently submitted the completed manuscript to my publisher and it is currently going through the editing, design, and publication process.

The book is titled “Never Again”. It is based on a true account and a never before told insight into the hours leading up to, during, and after the Los Angeles Riots erupted on April 29, 1992. The story reveals the emergent preparations and tough decisions that a watch commander for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department faced while preparing Lennox Sheriff’s Station in South Los Angeles, to intervene during this deadly and dynamic civil disturbance.

“Never Again”, published by Morgan James Publishing in New York, will be released on November 1, 2016, and will be available at Barnes and Noble and other fine book stores, and on Amazon.com. I will be receiving some advanced copies before this date that will be available for purchase on my website, hopefully by July 1, 2016.

Please follow my future book updates and blogs, which will be addressing police and community relations and other related topics, on my website.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

As mentioned in my last post while discussing police-community relations, how citizens step up and hold themselves accountable for their own actions, is just as important as how law enforcement responds to its own misdeeds. Further analysis is necessary when dealing with this topic. What is disturbing is the recent increase, not only of people failing to follow directions and commands of law enforcement officers, but the outright aggressiveness and total disregard they display during their encounter with law enforcement.

Many of these encounters started out as a call for service and not as a self-initiated encounter by the officer. Several of these incidents have resulted in the subject of the call, not only disregarding the officer’s lawful commands, but attempting to disarm the officer to use his own weapon against him. Some treat these incidents as if the officer arbitrarily engaged the citizen without cause. They act as if the officer did not have a valid reason to defend himself or to take appropriate action in response to being physically attacked. This is absolutely mind boggling. Where are the morals, values, and common sense of society, and most importantly of our leaders, who comment publicly about these incidents?

The person in question has usually committed a crime before the officer arrives, disobeyed a lawful order by an officer upon his or her arrival, attempted to disarm or use some other force against the officer, or even fled requiring the officer to give chase. These factors are usually all over looked. Concerns seem to be focused on what the officer did in a split second when he or she is being attacked, why they gave chase after retaining control of their weapon, or what was the end result of the confrontation.

Initial public comments call in to question and assume the officer did something wrong, but the final results of the investigations, even when there are grand jury reviews and a coroner’s report, usually conclude in a finding to the contrary. This displeases many who can’t accept the facts of what actually occurred. Many people are outraged and want to hear the officer was wrong, since they have been told from the beginning to believe he or she was wrong.  Much of this comes from our leaders, activists, and politicians when they are interviewed in the media.

Yes, there is a lot wrong with this picture.

My next post will discuss the response of law enforcement to several recent civil disturbances since the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

http://www.billcweiss.com

POLICE AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS

As I mentioned in my introductory posting, police and community relations are and will always remain a hot topic. Just as it is important for law enforcement to be transparent, a key and repetitive phrase used by many officials today, it is also important for both law enforcement and the community to be equally accountable for their actions.

Prejudice against police that is promulgated by politicians and so called civil rights leaders with the intention of keeping alive racial prejudice, while using such incidents to promote their self- interests to get elected or re-elected, should be recognized and addressed accordingly. Just as acts of abuse and excessive force used by some police officers must be severely dealt with, so should those who maliciously rush to judgment. Those who publicly discuss these incidents in the media, without knowing the facts, often incite people to commit crimes and engage in violent acts against others.

The rush to judgment has occurred more frequently recently, but what is more surprising is the outcome has increasingly resulted in an apology by the accuser. Many times these results are due to the incidents being recorded by audio and or video recordings. For example, in September of 2014, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant was involved in a controversial detention of an actress while investigating a call of possible prostitution. Her claims of racial profiling were disputed when a video clearly revealed that she initiated the “race card” into the incident and failed to cooperate and identify herself.

More recently, in March of 2015, another actress alleged a Glendale police officer had racially profiled her young adult son during a traffic stop and illegally searched his vehicle. Video obtained revealed the officer was very professional and his investigation legally conducted.

How citizens step up and hold themselves accountable and responsible for their own actions, is just as important as how law enforcement responds to its own misdeeds. A further analysis, regarding the aggressiveness and failure to comply by many during encounters with law enforcement, will be discussed in my next posting.

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

http://www.billcweiss.com

THE 1992 LOS ANGELES RIOTS: A NEVER BEFORE TOLD INSIGHT

I am in the process of writing a book based on a true account and a never before told insight into the hours leading up to, during, and after the Los Angeles riots erupted on April 29, 1992. The book shows, detail by detail, how close the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was to potentially changing the course of history.

The final outcome of the riots is well known after the initial verdicts were announced in the Rodney King trial and after the Los Angeles Police Department found it was totally unprepared to deal with this deadly and dynamic crisis. What is not known are the behind-the-scenes factors, issues, and decisions facing a Watch Commander from the nearby Lennox Sheriff’s Station while preparing a tactical response team to intervene at Florence and Normandie Avenue.

How law enforcement responds to and handles violent encounters continues to resonate with the entire country as incidents over the last few years have shown, such as the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. Police and community relations, as well as the application of force by law enforcement, are and will always remain a hot topic. This will be discussed in my next posting.  

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

http://www.billcweiss.com

 

Author, Retired Law Enforcement