Local Journalism Happens With YouSupport
Analysis

Drunk, Corrupt, and Set for Life: A Brief Analysis of Five Years of LAPPL Meeting Minutes

It would be funny if it wasn’t so objectively terrifying.

LA Police Protective League sleeve patch
(Credit: Elvert Barnes | Flickr.com)

The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) has come under fire since the start of the Uprising in LA for buying off politicians and covering up police criminal activity. In July 2020, Black Lives Matter LA specifically likened the group to a “gang.”

Strong words? Perhaps not.

For those new to Hell, the LAPPL is a union which represents rank and file LAPD officers up to lieutenants (current membership hovers around 10,000). The KNOCK.LA Editorial team received five years of their meeting minutes from 2014–2019 (you can read them all here) and, well… cops really say what they feel at LAPPL meetings, and what they feel is pretty horrible.

Here are just some of our findings.

They Have a Drinking Problem

The LAPD has a serious DUI problem. According to meeting minutes, in 2017 they had 6 DUI arrests and in 2018 that number increased to 19. (For reference, in all of our years of publication, KNOCK.LA editors have had zero DUI arrests). These are not victimless crimes, but in fact another vector the LAPD uses to kill people: see this horrific example from 2017 in which an officer killed a family of three while driving at 150 MPH.

To address this, the LAPPL introduced Smart Ride, a program to reimburse for cabs and UBER rides when officers are too drunk to drive.

The program was seemingly introduced, not to help prevent accidents and manslaughter, but protect officers’ careers and save administrative costs (which range from $8,000-$9,000 thousand per DUI). From the meeting minutes, it seems as if the LAPPL is less concerned about actual deaths, but more concerned about metaphorical ones. As one director says in February 2019: “A DUI is a death sentence for their [young officer’s] careers, if not a jail sentence.” Again, an officer literally killed three people while drunk driving in 2017.

Given this DUI problem, you would think that an open bar at the LAPPL meetings themselves would be a bad idea. And it is.

But, in February 2019, they started having a literal open bar at meetings, which is like handing out free knives and duct tape at Serial Killer’s Anonymous. When a sergeant addressed the fact that the open bar amid a rampant DUI problem was sending mixed messages, the response from Director Steve Gordon was to “be an adult about this.”

Every Political Move They Make is Openly Selfish

It is not news that the LAPPL spends heavily on City Council campaigns (if you want to look up how much your elected officials have received from police, you can use this handy tool).

What is surprising, is just how upfront they are about their goals. In June 2018, Director TJ Tarjamo was very clear: “At the end of the day, PAC’s mission is to seek out candidates who could get behind the League’s mission of improving the benefits and working conditions of the League’s members.” There is no facade here. The politics of the LAPPL are completely self-serving.

Just to name a few things they’ve done:

  • They watered down or “killed” state use of force bills and bragged about it. (AB 931, AB 392, June 2019).
  • They created an astroturf organization, Protect California, that has put forward fake reform such as SB 230, which watered down the use of force bill AB 392 — essentially giving law enforcement more power to define use of force and reimbursement for de-escalation training. (June 2019).
  • They have their own prop, Prop20, which will be on the ballot in November 2020 and which aims to undo criminal justice reforms under the guise of public safety. (Check out the Keep California Safe website, which uses misleading images and language about child trafficking even though the bill is about reducing bail and classifying misdemeanors — such as shoplifting — as felonies. For all you grocery store shoplifters, the bill is supported by Albertsons/Safeway.) (July 2018).

Other things we learned from the minutes: the LAPPL loves Garcetti. Surprise? They just wish he’d be more open about supporting cops.

Mayor Eric Garcetti names Michael Moore Chief of the LAPD
Mayor Eric Garcetti names Michael Moore Chief of the LAPD (Credit: Eric Garcetti | Flickr.com)

From March 2017: “Tarjamo advised that we are endorsing Garcetti for Mayor, because although he has lacked in expressing public support for us, Garcetti has worked with the League behind the scenes to make things happen.”

Their Pension Program Is, Frankly, Disgusting

Police are very good at exactly one thing: extracting wealth and resources from communities.

DROP is a controversial pension that allows cops to double dip on their pensions, withdrawing funds early without penalty, and while still drawing a salary. This is a program that used to be rampant in LA’s bureaucracy, but now only LAPD officers get to participate in DROP. And participate they do: 98% of retirees used the program in 2017.

Why does LAPPL fight so hard for a problematic program that no other agency uses? In June of 2018, the union described DROP as a “recruitment and retention” tool: cops want DROP so they can use it to pull people who might have gone into other forms of civil service.

This is where Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “behind the scenes” work comes into focus. A March 2019 audit determined, by some arbitrary standard, that the program is cost-neutral. That’s why the city kicks a cool billion towards cop pensions every year. With this bogus audit, Garcetti gave us five more years of DROP, which means five more years of massive LAPD expenses yoked to the neck of the city budget like a lodestone.

Pie chart of LA City 2020-2021 budget, a majority (53.8%) of which goes to police
Credit: People’s Budget LA

If you want to know why Eric Garcetti does not want to defund the police, it’s probably in part because the easiest way to do so was taken off the table by… Eric Garcetti.

We Really Can’t Overstate How Much They Want Your Money

We went into this project wildly aware that the LAPD spend the vast, vast majority of their time either A) doing nothing or B) actively targeting and arresting people for non-violent crimes like sleeping on the sidewalk. And, for this privilege of either just, like, hanging around or actively harassing citizens, they demand extremely generous overtime compensation.

In meetings, the LAPPL leadership openly discusses the fact that overtime pay for officers is, essentially, a scam to bilk more tax dollars out of the public. In November 2017, in response to a survey that revealed officers #1 concern was cash overtime, VP Jerretta Sandoz “advised that we have all the overtime in the world now, between the MTA contract, the Rams and USC.” Basically, if officers are worried they’re not getting paid enough, just send them to the Metro station to stand around. Maybe they’ll catch a fare jumper, something everyone in LA desperately gives a shit about.

LAPD officers at the Staples Center
LAPD officers at the Staples Center (Credit: 4 X 4 Blazer 1776 | Flickr.com)

Overtime is also deeply intertwined with mandatory minimum deployment — the idea that if we don’t have thousands of officers on duty at any given time, the city will plunge into chaos. In April 2017, VP Sandoz and Director Rob Harris worked with Chief Michel Moore and Police Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill on increasing deployment mandatory minimums. From the minutes: “Sandoz reminded delegates we don’t care about the maximum overtime amount; we just want cars filled.”

They just want cars filled.

And Don’t Forget The Special Events

The LAPD spends a lot of time and money on enforcement for sports. Throughout, the minutes feature repeated and heated discussions about LAPD staffing Rams and USC games — not whether or not they should, but how much officers will be paid for doing so and what system will be used to pick who gets a shift.

And it makes sense why they spend so much time talking about it: the September 2016 minutes reveal that the total cost to the city of Los Angeles for a single Rams game is $500,000, with about $200,000 of that going to the LAPD. How many units of affordable housing could we build with that much taxpayer cash?

And the LAPPL clearly has its sights set on the sports event to end all sports events: the 2028 Olympics.

In January of 2017, over six months before LA was decided as an Olympic host city, LAPD sergeant Sal Ogaz asked if “anything is being done to bring up the staffing issues in the Department especially in regards to if/when the Olympics comes to Los Angeles.” The reply: LAPPL President Craig Lally has already been “involved in meetings with the Olympic Committee in regards to this and that we’re working on it.”

LAPD Officers at a parade for the Lakers in 2009. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Apparently, even putting together a bid for the Olympics is enough to trigger the police to prepare for them. By LAPD’s own admission, they’ll need to expand by 30% for the 2028 Games. And they’ve already started, 11 full years before Los Angeles is set to host. Cops fucking love the Olympics, y’all, let’s cancel them.

Consequences Are For Civilians

Broken Windows Theory” is a (racist, classist, and very dumb) criminological theory that suggests punishing small crimes, like jaywalking, deters people from committing more severe crimes, like murder.

The LAPPL employs their own version of Broken Windows Theory towards officer discipline. We’ll call it the Cops-Get-Away-With-Literally-Everything Theory: by preventing disciplinary bodies from punishing LAPD officers for small crimes, like not wearing a seatbelt during a shift, it prevents them from punishing more severe crimes, like murder.

LAPPL delegates and directors exhibit a clear pattern of protecting members from ALL scrutiny. In September 2016, Director Corina Lee bragged regarding an officer in Hollywood not wearing a seatbelt, “they’re not supposed to use any of this information yet for a 1.28 [a type of disciplinary action against public servants]. Unfortunately, they tried to use this information against one of our members, and we were able to get it squashed.” Essentially, the LAPPL went to bat to prevent an officer from getting in trouble for not wearing their seatbelt. Any level of discipline is unacceptable to the LAPPL.

Other particularly insidious hits include:

  • 95% of officer’s Use of Force actions between 2004 and 2014 being found “in-policy,” thus provoking no investigations. LA Inspector General Alex Bustamante also informed officers that the 1979 shooting of Eula Love would be considered in-policy today (March, 2014) — we’ll get to more on this later.
  • Telling officers not to participate in a survey that asked “are you aware of misconduct?” for fear of sparking a Board of Rights investigation (July 2017)
  • Providing officers promo codes to a company that will scrub their information from the internet if they’re involved in a “critical incident” and their body cam footage is about to be released. (May, 2018)
  • They supported Charter Amendment C, which basically allows officers accused of misconduct to appear before an all civilian panel — which actually reduces the likelihood that an officer will be found guilty, because civilians are more likely to go easy on police. Additionally, according to meeting minutes, officers who have been retired for five years count as civilians. (May 2019)

It’s achingly clear that one of the LAPPL’s goals is to keep LAPD officers anonymous and unaccountable to the public.

Use of Force Reform is Essentially Meaningless

Even the smallest gesture at police reform causes total panic among the cops, and the LAPPL actively brags about spending time and money to block legislation that might lead to real accountability. If the LAPPL minutes tell us anything, it’s that police reform won’t work — we have to defund and abolish.

In March of 2014, for example, then-LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante came to a meeting of the LAPPL to talk them through a change in the way Use of Force cases would be judged by his office, which would now include consideration of the officer’s decisions and tactical conduct.

Even so, the LAPPL was extremely nervous about not just the change itself — but use of force judgments in general. And Bustamante spent the majority of the meeting hand-holding them through the policy.

A recent use of force by the LAPD

In response to a “parade of tales of horror” he’s heard from officers about use of force incidents deemed “out of policy,” he actually looked back over a decade of use of force findings — discussions that have always been held in closed session — and discovered that “in the past 10 years, the IG’s office has only found two instances where officers’ actions were found to be out of policy.

He elaborated that 95% of the time, Use of Force has been found in policy.

Independent Counsel Gary Ingemunson asked about the Eula Love shooting — if it happened today, would it be found out of policy? Eula Love was shot and killed by LAPD in her home in 1979, sparking public outrage, an LA Police Commission investigation, and reforms to use of force policies. The Love murder is often cited as an example of the old, bad LAPD that no longer exists. But Bustamante stated “he wouldn’t consider that out of policy.” Cool.

The LAPPL Has Its Own Copaganda Firm

Because they have murdered so many people, but love the feeling of soft little tongues on their boots, the LAPPL found it necessary to hire a fancy lobbying firm to reform their image.

As early as December 2015, the LAPPL said they were considering pitches from three PR firms, and in October of 2016 Dustin DeRollo of Saggau and DeRollo came to speak at a meeting.

Saggau and DeRollo, based in San Jose, have worked for a long list of government agencies across California, including other police associations and prisons. They also list private companies like Comcast and British Petroleum among their clients. Reporter Scott Herhold of the Santa Cruz Sentinel calls them the best-connected lobbyists in the country.

An excerpt from the June 2017 Delegate’s Meeting, where Director Rob Harris explicitly advises officers to gaslight at-risk youth so they don’t make complaints against the LAPD.

In a July 2017 meeting, VP Jerretta Sandoz mentions that Saggau and DeRollo have secured LAPD officers several interviews on local radio shows like KACB and have helped highlight pro-police narratives in the news.

Sandoz openly admits LAPPL’s goal is to “counter the narrative of…police shootings” — LAPD was responsible for 44 shootings in 2017. It’s unclear how much LAPPL spends annually for Saggau and DeRollo to spin and obfuscate police misconduct in the media, but they could almost certainly save money by simply not murdering people (something the KNOCK.LA editorial board does every single day).

They Actively Prevent Public Comment

In an October 2016 LAPPL meeting, Vice President Sandoz and PR Representative Dustin DeRollo attribute the “chaos” at Police Commission meetings to Black Lives Matter activists. They tell union members they’d like to fill the seats at the commission meetings with off-duty LAPD officers to prevent activists or protesters from attending.

LAPD’s official website states that the structure and purpose of these commission meetings is to receive community input: “Each agenda includes a period for public comment, during which any member of the public may speak for up to two minutes on any topic within the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Commission also holds periodic meetings throughout the City, usually in the evenings, to obtain first-hand input from the community on their concerns.”

But apparently, the only community they want to hear from are their fellow police officers.

Other Random Shit We Thought Was Weird But Don’t Have Time to Get Into

They hate the LA Times and the ACLU, excoriating both organizations on multiple occasions.

They spent $400,000 on a new air conditioning unit.

In 2015, they invited Quentin Tarantino’s father to a meeting to essentially denounce his son, and support a Tarantino boycott after the director appeared at an anti-police violence rally.

Their culture is very much, if you see something, say something, and only the league will protect you. To answer the question, who polices the police? Themselves. It’s some panopticon shit.

But there’s so much more! It’s truly baffling to see how police speak to one another behind closed doors. Please, check out the minutes for yourself here. Join us in our descent into madness and let us know if we missed anything on Twitter.

Thanks to readers like you, Knock LA is able to keep you informed on local politics and uplift marginalized voices in Los Angeles. Join us in fighting the good fight and click here to support Knock LA.