LA City and LAPD Call ‘Arrest-Homeless-First-then-Provide-Services’ a Success … Homeless Angelenos Disagree

DTLA SKID ROW-The culmination of recent presentations and reports have led to an eye-opening glimpse into the collective mindset of the City of Los Angeles and how it plans to “attack” the widespread, out-of-control existence of homelessness across the city. 

On May 22, during a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was joined by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the Bureau of Sanitation and the City Attorney’s office as they all signed off on LAPD’s 2018 First-Quarter Homelessness Report, which is a follow-up to the Department’s 2017 Year-End Homelessness Report (the first-ever report of it’s kind in LAPD history). 

Each of these city departments justified how their collective efforts (what many consider to be criminalization tactics used on helpless homeless people) were successful in the first three months of this year. This, they contended, qualified the program as “a success,” and has led them to plan to “expand” those efforts. 

This coalition’s program involves obtaining Measure H funding to use as “services” for mental health, rapid re-housing, CES (Coordinated Entry System), alternative sentencing options (such as Los Angeles Drug Court) and more to help homeless people. 

The catch is, all these “services” will only happen aftera homeless person is arrested and incarcerated. Once the individual is in handcuffs, he or she will qualify for help. And yes, that’s what each of these City departments stated publicly. 

Immediately after their presentation, members of the public responded angrily during public comment asking why Measure H funding and other services would not be offered to homeless people until afterthey are arrested? Obviously, none of the City officials in the room made a peep or even remotely attempted to offer some type of official-sounding response, which, in itself, spoke volumes. 

During the presentation, however, the City Attorney’s office said they were “excited” about the expansion of their alternative sentencing options. 

Umm, of course they would be. After all, this will create jobs and funding for themselves, which is the main reason why these wolves (I mean City officials) are licking their chops as they drool over the new combined funding pots of over $5 billion (think, Measures HHH and H) which were specifically approved by voters to address homelessness. And with the many loose definitions of what qualifies as services, the City of LA’s “arrest-first” logic has ample opportunity to qualify itself and be the first to ride the money-grab train. 

On June 5, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Former Assistant Chief Michel Moore as the new Chief of LAPD. In his first round of interviews since being named, Moore has already indicated that he intends to remain in sync with the Department’s current direction as it specifically relates to homelessness. Furthermore, Moore was selected for his “mastery of budgets,” which should immediately draw concern, given the brand-new five-billion-dollar funding pots available. The new LAPD “CEO” will go after the money. 

It’s easy to see how this will play out. Moore will be tasked with “cleaning up homelessness” across the city. He will then direct his officers to come up with any cockamamy reason to arrest homeless people. Moore will justify LAPD’s need for more funding to hire and train more officers to “expand” the effort. The police union will support and encourage Moore to grow the Department from its current $2 billion annual budget to at least a $3 billion annual budget. Once the jails are full, even the LA County Sheriff’s Department will get in on the action and “justify” its need for additional funding. 

Both LA County and City of LA leaders will direct significant amounts of funding into the jail systems across the county. The mainstream media, along with our city’s political leaders far and wide, will “photo-op” all these “in-custody services.” This infrastructure will be deemed a success by all who stand to benefit from it. They’ll say, “the homeless are off the street and getting the help they need,” and that will relieve the politicians from any emotional responsibility for the fact that homeless people are being arrested at a heart-pounding rate! 

Remember, jails are not shelters just as shelters are not homes.    

As further proof of the City’s “arrest-first” plan, a team of LAPD officers presented its new 2018 Use-Of-Force Policy Report to the LA Police Commission (Civilians appointed by the Mayor) on June 5. 

It was self-lauded as “the most extensive and comprehensive report of its kind anywhere in the nation.” Ironically, it publicly unveiled LAPD’s internal logic while simultaneously justifying its need to use aggressive force when “encountering” homeless people. The presentation reported that LAPD had over 1.6 million encounters with the homeless last year and of those, over 700 thousand were “initiated” by officers. The undertone reeked of pride in the usage of overaggressive and often unnecessary tactics. 

Anyone with common sense and logic can understand that “harmless” officer-initiated encounters (such as a person walking down the street being contacted by officers passing by in a patrol car asking if everything’s okay and the person responds) are enough to create “false-positive numbers.” This will help LAPD achieve its “desired outcome” rather than account for true “encounters,” which could significantly alter most of the data in its in-house-compiled report. One of the top LA Police Commissioners unrealistically responded by saying the Department’s report was “fantastic,” drawing loud sarcastic remarks from the public. 

This writer had a one on one meeting with LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey last week. Historically, the DA is considered the top law enforcement official in the county. In an hour-long meeting, Lacey was steadfast in her position of “justifying” the actions of law enforcement officers. When the conversation focused on the death of Brendon Glenn, an unarmed homeless man who was shot and killed by an LAPD officer near Venice Beach, DA Lacey defended the officer’s actions and justified her own decision to not convene a grand jury. She constantly referred to the “72-page report” she released which completely exonerated the officer, even after then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck publicly stated that his investigation concluded the officer “acted out-of-policy;” Beck also recommended charges be filed against the officer. But DA Lacey did no such thing, subsequently giving law enforcement “free reign” to do what needs to be done, especially as it relates to arresting homeless people and discarding all their belongings. 

So, with multiple reports and numerous public statements, it’s clear which way the “new homeless solutions” are headed, namely, “arrest-first, then provide services.” 

This despite the newly-released report from the United Nations on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (violations) in America. (A summary report was first released in December of 2017, well before the City of LA showed its hand.) Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s scathing report spoke specifically about the criminalization and monetization of homelessness by the government. 

Paragraph 47 states, “…The use of the legal system to raise revenue, not to promote justice, as was documented so powerfully in a 2015 report on Ferguson, Missouri by the Department of Justice, is pervasive around the country.” And Paragraph 71 states, “…Mass incarceration is used to make social problems temporarily invisible and to create the mirage of something having been done.” 

Last, the 2018 Homeless Count numbers were released less than two weeks ago. The “alleged decrease” (that no one I know believes) creates even more urgency for the City of LA to justify the implementation of a solution that will significantly address homelessness more quickly than the minimum three-year construction window it normally takes to construct new low-income housing from the ground up. 

The City of LA has “unofficially” said they plan to arrest, arrest, arrest and then provide services as jobs and funding are generated for themselves and their allies. Hopefully, in three-four years the Measure HHH housing will come online and that will allow homeless folks to go directly from jail to housing. 

The City’s new homelessness slogan should be, “This is LA: from sidewalks to jail, to housing. All homeless welcomed here!” Pathetic!

 

(General Jeff … Jeff Page … is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles. Jeff’s views are his own.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.