By Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
July 1, 2013, 8:31 p.m.
U.S. Department of Justice officials have demanded that Los Angeles County, Lancaster and Palmdale pay a total of $12.5 million to residents who the federal government found were victims of harassment and intimidation in the Antelope Valley.
The demand coincides with last week’s accusation by the Justice Department that Antelope Valley authorities conducted a systematic effort to discriminate against African Americans who received low-income subsidized housing and that sheriff’s deputies engaged in widespread unlawful searches of homes, improper detentions and unreasonable force….
When a swell approaches Malibu’s most famous beach, Surfrider, it begins breaking just above a long, curved alluvial fan of sediment and stones near the mouth of Malibu Creek. It then flattens out, rears up again and rounds a small cove before running toward the shore for 200 yards. Here, according to Matt Warshaw’s book The History of Surfing, it “becomes the faultless Malibu wave of legend”—a wave that spawned Southern California surf culture. The plot of the classic 1966 movie Endless Summer was the quest for, in the words of the film’s director-narrator, “a place as good as Malibu.” In 2010, Surfrider was designated the first World Surfing Reserve.
Stephenie Glas moved to this stretch of Los Angeles County in the late 1990s. Blond, athletic and in her mid-20s at the time, she settled in a Malibu neighborhood with gaping ocean views and took to the water with her kiteboard. “She was one of the very few women that would hit the lip [of waves] with style,” an acquaintance of hers observed. “No holding back!”
Always something of an over-achiever, Glas had worked her way through UCLA by starting a personal-training business, and later set her sights on becoming a firefighter. In 2005 she joined the Los Angeles Fire Department, a force that was 97 percent male. “I picked this career knowing I would have to spend the next 25 years proving myself to men,” Glas said in a magazine profile.
To what extent her hard-charging nature contributed to her becoming a polarizing figure in close-knit Malibu is open to question. But she dove into one of the most surprising environmental disputes in memory not long after her partner, a 55-year-old goateed carpenter and surfer named Steve Woods, contracted a gastrointestinal illness following a session at Surfrider.
The water there, everyone knew, was contaminated with runoff from commercial and residential developments as well as effluent that flowed out of a wastewater treatment plant through Malibu Creek and into Malibu Lagoon before pulsing into the ocean. Eye, ear and sinus infections and gastrointestinal ailments were common side effects of paddling out at Surfrider. In the late 1990s, four surfers died after contracting water-borne diseases, reportedly acquired in the sludgy waves, and a fifth was nearly killed by a viral infection that attacked his heart.
The Music Man: Steven Angel uses drumming to teach literacy…scientists say there’s no reason to believe it should work.
JOSÉ XUNCAX FIRST LANDED IN JAIL at 13 for armed robbery. Since then, he’s been in and out of the system, as he calls it, six times. Now, at 15, tall, muscled, with close-cropped brown hair and a scar over his left eye, he’s serving six months for another robbery. He lives at Camp Mendenhall, a juvenile-detention facility tucked between the mountains at the northern edge of Los Angeles County.
School never meant much to José, and he stopped going entirely after probation officers showed up in his classroom to execute a warrant. When he arrived at the camp, he was, by his own account, functionally illiterate. He asked others to write letters to his girlfriend. But most of the 90 or so fellow campers were in the same boat. According to Norberto Zaragoza, a tall, heavyset probation officer who helps run Camp Mendenhall, reading levels among the inmates generally range from about the second to the fourth grade. The average age is 16. “It’s low, very low,” he says.
The social ills of illiteracy and crime in America are bound together so tightly that it’s difficult to consider one without the other. In study after study, the reading ability of incarcerated youth has been shown to be abysmal. One widely cited study found it to be five grade levels below average.
Michael Krezmien, assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has studied reading levels at juvenile-detention centers across several mid-Atlantic states. “You have a large group who are just fundamentally different,” he says. Some kids, he says, can’t even read the word cat. In one recent study, he found 60 percent of those behind bars were in the bottom 20 percent of readers. Not a single kid scored in the top 10 percent. For decades, reformers have argued that teaching reading skills is one of the most powerful methods of crime prevention.
But it’s also one of the most difficult. The kids in Camp Mendenhall, along with the 2,000 or so others in Los Angeles County’s network of juvenile jails, are among the toughest to teach. Many have already passed through a series of well-intentioned efforts—charter schools, bilingual education, after-school programs, special-education classes—and can still barely read. By the time they wind up in one of the county’s 22 juvenile-detention centers, they are launched on a course that has few exits. More than 70 percent of minors who spend time in detention in California are rearrested within two years.
The residents of Lancaster probably didn’t notice it, but a small Cessna aircraft on Friday flew high above the desert city, capturing hours of video and ushering in a new era in law enforcement surveillance.
The plane, equipped with sophisticated video equipment, is set fly a loop above the city for up to 10 hours a day, beaming a live video feed of what’s going on below to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department dispatch center.
The camera will inevitably pick up scenes of mundane day-to-day life. But officials said they plan to use the video only to track reports of crimes in progress, traffic collisions and other emergency situations.
About a few hours into its maiden flight Friday, the plane’s video feed captured its first incident: a motorcycle rider who had crashed at 20th Street East and Avenue K. Using the video, deputies in the dispatch were able to help paramedics assess the situation before they got to the scene. Later, the department got word that a group fight was brewing at Eastside High School. The plane moved into position and conducted surveillance above the campus. No fight occurred.
It has become common for law enforcement agencies to use aerial surveillance, including streaming video, during breaking crime situations. Some are even beginning to use drones for police work.
But Lancaster appears to be the first city where a camera will send video continuously to the ground, to be used as an integral part of daily policing.
While Tony is not as well known by the general public as his brother, Ridley, he’s known within the industry for several block busters and two thought provoking, emotionally complex television series.
British film director Tony Scott jumped to his death Sunday afternoon from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, police officials confirmed.
According to the Coast Guard report, Scott, 68, climbed a 8 to 10 -foot fence on the south side of the bridge and jumped about 12:30 p.m.
The report quoted a coroner’s report that said Scott jumped “without hesitation.”
A suicide note was discovered inside Scott’s black Toyota Prius, parked on one of the southbound lanes of the bridge, officials said. Police did not reveal the contents of the note.
Officers from the LAPD, the CHP and the U.S. Coast Guard pulled Scott’s body from the water about 4:30 p.m. and brought it to a dock in Wilmington, where it was turned over to Los Angeles County coroner’s officials.
The Hunger (1983)
Top Gun (1986)
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Days of Thunder (1990)
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
True Romance (1993)
Crimson Tide (1995)
The Fan (1996)
Enemy of the State (1998)
Spy Game (2001)
Man on Fire (2004)
Déjà Vu (2006)
The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
The teacher accused this week of taking bondage photos of his elementary school students was investigated in 1993, but prosecutors decided not to pursue the case, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said Thursday.
The nature of the earlier probe of Mark Berndt, a 30-year teaching veteran, was not disclosed, but the decision to drop the case was made by the district attorney on February 23, 1994, the prosecutor said in a written statement.
“After careful evaluation, it was determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove a crime occurred,” the statement said. “A prosecutor cannot ethically file criminal charges if the evidence fails to meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Berndt, 61, faces more recent allegations. He sits in jail with his bond set at $23 million over 23 felony counts of lewd acts on a child.
Investigators waited more than a year before arresting Brendt, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in south Los Angeles, after finding bondage photos apparently taken in his classroom, but a sheriff’s sergeant says, “We always had our eyes on him.”
Although the probe began in October 2010, when a drugstore photo processor called police, Berndt was not taken into custody until this week. He was removed from the classroom in January 2011.
At least 23 children in the images have been identified, while another 10 are unidentified, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Scott, who supervised the investigation.
The 400 photographs collected by investigators show children blindfolded, with tape over their mouths, and some with suspected semen-filled spoons at their mouths, Scott said.
Some photos show female students with “what appeared to be a blue plastic spoon, filled with an unknown clear/white liquid substance, up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest the substance,” authorities said.
The probe began when a CVS drugstore photo technician in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County told the Redondo Police department about finding disturbing images of blindfolded children in a processing order, Scott said.
Even as a sergeant shouted, “Stop hitting him! Stop hitting him!,” Deputy Marcos Stout continued punching an inmate in the head. Then, with the inmate on the concrete floor, Stout landed his knee on the man’s skull.
Lawyers for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department described the deputy’s actions as “callous and brutal behavior toward a helpless and unresisting person.”
Though Stout’s excessive force was egregious enough to get him fired, prosecutors did not charge him with a crime — but not because they concluded that the violence wasn’t criminal, according to interviews. They never knew about it.
PHOTOS: Men’s Central Jail
In several cases in recent years, deputies who were disciplined or even fired for abusing inmates escaped criminal scrutiny because Sheriff’s Department officials chose not to give the evidence to the district attorney’s office, opting to handle the cases internally.
Law enforcement experts interviewed by the Los Angeles Times said the department should routinely conduct criminal investigations of brutality claims and forward the results to prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
“Just because you’re part of the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t mean you can commit battery with impunity,” said Dennis Kenney, a former Florida police officer and current professor studying police use of force at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
The Sheriff’s Department’s watchdog recommended in October that excessive force complaints from the jails be investigated for criminal wrongdoing and presented to the district attorney. Michael Gennaco, who heads the county’s Office of Independent Review, told The Times that the department should send to prosecutors all investigations of excessive force in which an inmate suffered significant injuries or the force was prolonged.