It’s truly an upsidedown world. This AM I get an email from Curt asking me to do a post on the above report by Patterico. It’s an eye-opening piece on the “Self-styled police “expert” Merrick Bobb”, and his habitual forgetfulness to disclose a conflict of interest with one of his own, in-house consultants when playing civilian “police watchdog”. With the civilian micromanaging and “recommendations” being thrust upon the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department by Bobb for over a decade, this is a subject near and dear to Curt’s heart.
Our FA “founding father”, however, finds himself unable to post himself. Instead *he’s* on a Harley run for some fun. hummmm… he’s on the m’cycle road trip, and I’m posting about police stuff. What’s wrong with this picture??
I’m sure that Curt is already proficient in assuming my usual task of face-in-the-wind, and I trust will remember to keep the rubber side down. I, however, faced a more daunting task of picking up on the LASD-Merrick Bobb history. I hope I shall do it “justice” (pun intended)…. so here it goes.
Bobb wrote an editorial for the LA Times April 12th condemning the police union for getting an injunction, preventing Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian from disclosing the names of two officers involved in the shooting of Leroy Barnes Jr… a 38 year old African American man… on Feb 19th.
While we’re most certainly in the dark on the events from that day, we learn more about Leroy Barnes from a forum post on Abibitumi Kasa Afrikan Language and Liberation Institutes & Community Network. Apparently their mission per their website?
* A recognition of the need to reclaim and build upon our interrelated indigenous systems of knowledge/spirituality/politics/healing/kwk, which are embedded in our Afrikan languages.
* A recognition of the ongoing WAR against Afrikan people and the need for an intentional and unapologetic commitment in every aspect of life for the Total Liberation of Afrikan People throughout Space and Time.
Forum poster, Kentake, accuses the Pasadena police of a deliberate execution of Barnes based on his past criminal history including shooting at police, and gang related activities. I think it’s safe to assume it started as a “routine traffic stop”, but the on duty officers were confronting no Pollyanna in the vehicle.
Barnes story had to be brought to light to clarify the first story… that being Merrick Bobb’s op-ed in the LA Times criticizing the police union for taking legal steps to prevent the officer’s names from being disclosed to the public for their own safety. Bobb suggests the union was “muzzling” Police Chief Melekian, who had every intention of naming names at a press conference, and further suggested the officers were in no danger of gang revenge. Or… in legalese… “absent a clear and present danger of imminent harm”
Hummm… how would he know that?
Instead, Bobb lavished profuse praise on Melekian for wanting to out the officers to the media, describing him as “a model police executive — honest and forthright, dedicated to building community trust and willing to subject his department and himself to the scrutiny that comes with transparency.”
But the ever tenacious Patterico noted what Merrick Bobb deliberately omitted from his op-ed. The acolades reigned on the Police Chief were not tempered by disclosure of Bobb’s relationship with Melekian.
From Patterico (H/T link above):
How ironic that Bobb shows no “transparency” about his own relationship with Melekian.
Instead, the reader is led to assume that Bobb has no personal interest in defending Melekian:
Merrick J. Bobb is executive director of the nonprofit Police Assessment Resource Center and special counsel monitoring the Sheriff’s Department for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
What Bobb fails to mention, and The Times does not disclose, is that Melekian is a paid employee of Bobb’s consulting firm.* The web site for the aforementioned Police Assessment Resource Center lists Melekian as one of only two “senior advisors” to Bobb’s firm:
Chief Bernard Melekian joined PARC as a senior advisor in June 2004. He is the Police Chief of Pasadena, California, and has occupied that position since 1996.
Patterico also notes this isn’t the first time Bobb slides over disclosure of their relationship. In 2006, Bobb, President of Police Assessement Resource Council (PARC), received a $94,997 grant from the Haynes Foundation to investigate his own senior advisors Pasadena Department. Needless to say, they got high marks…. perhaps deserved. However again, the relationship was not disclosed between the Police Chief who’s department he was paid to investigate, and that Chief’s position within Bobb’s non-profit civilian “watchdog” organization.
Patterico also notes another instance just last year when Bobb/PARC prepared yet another analysis, paid for by the Department of Justice.
The love continued in 2008, with a report prepared by PARC pursuant to a grant from the Department of Justice. The report evaluated a “Pilot Community Policing Program” which was described as the brainchild of Chief Melekian and received high marks. The report stated that Chief Melekian’s apology to the community for injustices “real or perceived” was a positive step that “helped begin the process of reconciliation and set a positive tone.” The report added:
The PPD under Chief Bernard Melekian has wholeheartedly embraced community policing, as evidenced by the number of community policing initiatives and the high levels of support from its officers for working with the community. The Pasadena Program is just one such innovative initiative.
As in 2006, amid all the praise for Chief Melekian and his programs, the relationship between Bobb, PARC, and Melekian went unmentioned.
BTW, Chief Melekian is calling for an external investigation into Barnes’ case. Wonder who he’ll recommend….
For his own disclosure, Patterico made his own first comment: saying his post was making no judgment calls on the consulting arrangement between Melekian and Bobb, nor the performance of the Pasadena Police Department. He was merely pointing out – if I may paraphrase what I take away from his post – that Merrick Bobb… a civilian who has appointed himself as the “self-styled expert” on restructuring law enforcement divisions nationwide… is downright hypocritical to demand transparency from law enforcement, yet consistently refuses to offer any of his own.
But perhaps I should take you where Patterico did not. And that’s into the past of who Merrick Bobb is, and why does this man – who’s never pounded a beat in his life, nor had any law enforcement training – wield so much power over law enforcement?
And what drove him to to a completely different field in his later life? Apparently, listening to his own sad story, he was traumatized by Oakland police in his Berkeley law school days…. sigh..
As a law student at the University of California’s volatile Berkeley campus in the 1970s, Merrick Bobb was once stopped by an angry Oakland cop and accused of intentionally driving his car toward the officer.
Bobb said he felt helpless under the officer’s accusation, which he strongly denied. He envisioned going to jail, his plans for a law degree destroyed. Then some Berkeley police officers approached and said they believed Bobb. They told him he was free to go.
“The discretion the police had stayed with me,” Bobb said. “They can be absolutely the best thing in your life — or your worst nightmare.”
Woof… not a lot of constitution to that one, eh?
The 60-something Merrick Bobb is a graduate of Dartmouth with a Bachelor’s in English, and UC Berkeley law grad. He spent most of his career as a not-so-well-known corporate trial lawyer. He apparently bloomed late in his career, catapulting to prominence when when he served as an investigator, and Deputy Legal Counsel on the Christopher Commission to reform the LAPD following the Rodney King incident in the early 90s.
Soon after, the LA County Board of Supervisors… often referred to as the “five kings”…. commissioned the Kolt’s Commission to look into the LASD policies and practices. Bobb, fresh from his previous commissions, acted as General Counsel of the Kolts investigation and teamed with Julio Thompson – also now an employee of Bobb’s at PARC.
Per a cover story on PARC written by David Anderson for the fall 2003 issue of the Ford Foundation Report, in the mid-90s, Bobb and his newly discovered “niche” drew the attention of the Vera Institute of Justice – a non-profit law enforcement reform activist group, and a founding member of the larger int’l network, the Altus Global Alliance.
It was the Vera Institute that formed PARC, and recruited Bobb as it’s President.
In the mid 90’s, Bobb and his work came to the attention of the Vera Institute of Justice, a law enforcement reform group in New York City. Vera’s director, Chris Stone, saw that the Justice Department’s “pattern and practice” investigations and settlements would create a need all over the country for the kind of insight and expertise Bobb had developed from his experiences with the Christopher and Kolts commissions and his ongoing work with the L.A.S.D. Vera created PARC and recruited Bobb to be its executive director.
The group operates out of a small suite of offices in downtown Los Angeles, with a staff of eight. In addition to monitoring the L.A.S.D., PARC contracts with departments in other cities concerned about police misconduct or facing court orders to address the issue.
Already having honed LA contacts, and dipping his toes into unknown expertise, the then “five kings” of the LA County Board of Supervisors contracted Bobb and PARC to be the civilian watchdog for the LASD… a contract most recently renewed for yet another three years just this past January.
Bobb and his PARC staff… including his senior advisor mentioned above… are nationwide now. In additional to regular reports, looking over the shoulders of LA County law enforcement, their tenacles have stretched to Denver, Wallkill, NY, Eugene and Portland, OR.
So what’s wrong with civilian oversight, you may ask? Well, it would be nice if it were done by those experienced in the business, and not a pack of lawyers and social psychology types. Then again, I may ask in return why is it okay for Congress to police itself, but not Internal Affairs in law enforcement?
But it appears while government bureaucrats fawn over the Bobb/PARC recommendations as gems of wisdom, many law enforcement experts find their suggestions ludicrous and inappropriate in real life. And perhaps it’s because… in a nutshell… Bobb seems to promote reform as a kinder/gentler application of justice, and has this tendency to land on the sides of the suspected perpetrators and not the officers themselves.
Take for example Anderson’s opening scenario in the Ford Foundation Report I mentioned above:
The man pulled over for running a stop sign turned out to be a huge hulk, and when Deputy V. told him to put his hands on the patrol car for a search, he shot a look “that kind of made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.” The man said he’d come to the neighborhood to visit a friend but couldn’t name the street he was on and took awhile to name his friend. When Deputy V. said he wanted to check the man’s parole status and tried to pat him down again, the hulk spun around, delivered a swift kick and took off into a nearby backyard.
Deputy V. collected himself and headed into the yard, though he’d lost
sight of the man – only to stumble into him near a fence. The man quickly overpowered him and dragged him deeper into the yard, then reached for the deputy’s gun. In the life-and-death struggle that ensued, Deputy V. survived only by slipping his finger behind the trigger as the man tried, in vain, to squeeze off several shots.
Though the man continued to pummel him about the head, Deputy V.
finally landed a punch of his own and regained control of the gun. Rising to his knees, he fired, striking the suspect in the chest and inflicting a fatal wound before collapsing into a daze, barely conscious enough to radio for help.
According to Bobb’s analysis, the death of this guy in his instructional training video is the fault of the law enforcement officer using bad judgment, and engaging in a solo foot chase.
uh huh… the guy would be alive had he not. He’d also not be in custody. Guess that doesn’t matter, eh?
Bobb’s recommendations further extend to reshaping characteristics of officers. And on this, Robert Shiller of American Police Beat minces no words. He chides Bobb’s suggestion from his Denver study, suggesting that “officer safety and survival training is in conflict with the need to train officers in community-oriented policing.
Mr. Bobb has never donned the blue suit and has never walked even one step in our boots. In the first chapter, Bobb has determined that officer safety and survival training is in conflict with the need to train officers in community-oriented policing. He also writes that Denver P.D. officer safety/survival training materials “err in an overemphasis on wariness and suspiciousness.” He states the most jarring example is the following: “The PowerPoint presentation on officer survival for recruit classes lists common characteristics of officers who were slain in the line of duty.
These include: friendly to everyone, well-liked by the community, hardworking, tended to use less force than other officers, tend to perceive themselves as more public relations oriented than other law enforcement officers and used force only as a last resort.” He concludes these facts have a “highly dubious empirical validity” and goes on to recommend the Denver P.D. “eliminate from officer survival training any implication that an officer engaged in community policing is putting himself or herself at a greater risk of death.”
Rather he recommends that instructors teach “community-oriented policing values.” His arrogant and ignorant opinions made my blood boil. Mr. Bobb seems to feel that political correctness is a value worth attaining even if it requires him to climb over the bodies of dead cops.
No one is implying that community-oriented policing gets cops killed. This academically validated, factual information is gleaned from numerous credible sources and when taught in proper context as part of a comprehensive officer safety/survival program, just might help some cops go home safe to their families. It’s clear to me that Mr. Bobb has never attended any reputable officer safety/survival schools, nor has he read any of the materials published in the FBI’s “Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted” (LEOKA) reports, or any of the other texts on this topic.
Another issue in Bobb’s agenda is when to question officers who have been involved in shootings. From Police One.com
How do you think an officer should be treated after he has shot and killed an offender:
A. Like a suspect or a civilian witness–required to give a statement ASAP…isolated for fear he’ll collude with others to concoct a self-serving fairy tale of what happened…interrogated rather than interviewed, with every discrepancy and hole in his version of events regarded suspiciously as probable evidence of deceit?
B. Like a survivor of a critical incident–given time to de-escalate and mentally process the high-stress encounter before being extensively questioned…allowed to walk back through the confrontation to clarify what took place…interviewed with techniques that enhance and effectively “mine” memory…regarded as truthful and well-intentioned until reliable evidence suggests otherwise?
According to the recommendations of a nonprofit police oversight and consulting organization that is dedicated to influencing LE policies and practices nationally and internationally, “A” is the preferred approach. And the foothold this group is gaining is alarming some prominent police psychologists and other knowledgeable observers who have spent much of their careers trying to make Approach “B” the standard after an officer-involved shooting.~~~
Although PARC’s recommendations seem to be finding favor among some investigators and administrators, sources contacted by FSN who are intimately familiar with police shootings expressed serious concerns about PARC’s conclusions and the philosophy they appear to reflect.
“PARC’s proposals are based on an attitude, not on scientific foundation,” says Bill Lewinski, FSRC’s executive director, who has nearly 3 decades’ experience in LE psychology. “This attitude reflects a belief that cops are devious, that they engage in shootings out of their own will, and that they should be handled with the same degree of suspicion as any suspected criminal held in a shooting.
“In theory PARC’s approach will lessen distrust of the police by the public but in reality it could lead to the opposite result because in many cases immediate and aggressive questioning of the involved officer is guaranteed to produce discrepancies, unwarranted suspicion, and problems in court. Then, ultimately, when an unfounded prosecution of an officer fails, the public won’t trust either its cops or the court system.
“Every officer-involved shooting needs to be investigated thoroughly, but in a way that produces more factual disclosures and, in the end, the best possible representation of the truth.”~~~
Investigation of an officer-involved shooting needs to be approached with the understanding that “when officers use deadly force, it’s not just another homicide,” says John Hoag, an attorney for multiple public safety labor organizations in Oregon who estimates he has personally responded to some 40 LE shootings. “The overwhelming majority of homicide investigations are for murders–killings that are unquestionably not justified and for which guilty persons need to be arrested.
“In contrast, society employs officers to use deadly force when necessary. It’s an essential job requirement and they are trained to use it only when it is appropriate and legal to do so. In virtually every police shooting, officers did what they had to do and what we hire them to do. They are not criminals nor are they civilians, and they should not be treated as such. Protecting their legitimate interests will actually yield more accurate statements.”~~~
Dr. Alexis Artwohl, a prominent researcher of critical incident phenomena, a former police psychologist in Portland and, like Hoag, a member of FSRC’s National Advisory Board, agrees.
“PARC seems to think that after a shooting officers are basically going to be liars, trying to cover up and elude” investigators seeking a truthful reconstruction, she says. She points out that in the 21 pages of its Portland report that relate to post-shooting handling of officers, PARC 5 times cites the need to prevent officers from colluding to “get their story straight.”
“I am not so naïve as to believe that there are no police officers who lie,” she says. “A small percentage are unethical, immoral and corrupt. But in a democracy, we are not allowed to accuse everyone in a group of being dishonest just because a small percentage of the group may be.”~~~
“The model should be designed to fit the rule, not the exception,” says Ofcr. Levi Bolton, a 31-year police veteran, a former report writing instructor and now a trustee with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Assn., the city’s police union. “Common practices shouldn’t be built around deviancy.”
More voices vehemently disagreeing with Merrick “Mr. Experience” Bobb are to be found in the Police One article as well.
One would think mere “recommendations” wouldn’t amount to much, but bureaucrats place great stock in Merrick Bobb. So much so that, in 2001, the LA County Board of Supers refused money in the budget to Sheriff Lee Baca until he responded to Bobb’s recommendations following the death of a cerebral palsy man within 24 hours after his arrest. The Supers were seeking punishment of officers (remember that “name those officers!” incident in the beginning of this post?), while Baca said it was his responsibility… not his officers. None of his deputies were aware of the inmate’s medical history.
More recently, Sheriff Baca is planning in implementing (if not done already) a ban on off duty officers carrying firearms if under the influence of alcohol, medication or a controlled substance. I guess that means if you’re an off duty cop with allergies, no Sudafed for you if you want to carry. This is, of course, sanctioned (if not proposed?) by Merrick Bobb – stating
Merrick Bobb, who serves as special council to the Board of Supervisors, told the Times the ban would place Los Angeles County at the forefront of an issue that has long been recognized as a problem for law enforcement.
Needless to say, the Deputies’ union opposes such a ban. Nor am I aware of overwhelming numbers of drunk cops, shooting indiscriminately.
Among the outspoken voices who are not so kind to Merrick Bobb is Clark Baker of The Ex-Liberal in Hollywood. Baker is a radio talkshow host, writer, producer, US Marine, private eye, retired LAPD officer, and father of a US Marine and public school teacher. (Read his first post/bio here)
Baker’s another one not mincing his words on Bobb’s criticisms of supposed racial profiling:
Cops hear it every day, and although millions of hours and tax dollars are wasted each year to disprove false allegations, many blacks (and guilt-ridden whites) consider the non-existence of racial profiling as proof of an institutional cover-up that corroborates its existence.
Who needs more proof than that?
Trial lawyer Merrick Bobb, who faked portions of the Christopher Commission Report, blames “… the impossibly high burden of proof…” for the exoneration of the falsely accused. While Bobb rejects the value of evidence, he ignores facts that show officers stopping blacks and Latinos at rates that are consistent with (or lower than) high Latino and black crime statistics.
How many innocent white people does he think the LAPD should shake down before LA cops can question these suspects? Because they are overwhelmingly black and Latino, Bobb says these “patterns demand a response” without explaining that taxpayers will waste millions more on trial lawyers like himself who profit from these mythologies.~~~
Cops who tire of the physical and political risks that come with stopping black suspects often move to safer (and more appreciative) neighborhoods. While those who serve within LA’s toughest areas are rewarded spiritually, they also risk being labeled as problem officers after their third false complaint. And if that complaint arrives during his third year of service, he may spend the next 27 doing everything he can to avoid criminals who might make a fourth.
While frustrated rookies call these officers drones, trial lawyers like Bobb insist that benchwarmers who generate no complaints make better cops than those who foul out after four quarters of triple-doubles. After a while, cops ask themselves why they don’t simply ignore black criminals: The pay’s the same so why take unnecessary risks?
[Mata Musing: Baker’s post is filled with links. Head over to his webpage to access them…]
By now you might have figured out that Merrick Bobb is Obama’s dream for law enforcement reform. “Community-oriented” policing… how perfect a fit can you get? It goes like this… perps or suspected perps are the victims, and the law enforcers the bullies. They must be taught to be community organizer service personnel instead. Have a wander thru the publications of founders, Vera Institute’s, their “Altus Global Alliance” network and you’ll their recurring theme of “social justice” for the downtrodden imprinted everywhere.
This corporate trial lawyer may have suckered in the Southern California “five kings”, and built themselves some sort of a reputation as resident experts in law enforcement. Certainly they are a capitalist success story… inexperienced advisors that get paid with taxpayer cash to render opinions and micromanage stuff they know nothing about. (Rather sounds like the Obama administration, yes?)
And in fact, it would matter less that they can be dangerously wrong on so many analyses were it not for the power they wield over those that hold the law enforcement purse strings. And apparently, they escape the media’s radar to boot.
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.