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Inside the L.A.P.D.’s Experiment in Trust-Based Policing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/02/2021 - 1:37am in

When Captain Emada Tingirides and Sergeant Christian Zuniga arrive at Nickerson Gardens, a public housing development in Watts, a Hispanic family carries a bleeding toddler to them. A stray dog bit the child in the cheek. As Zuniga comforts the little girl, Tingirides chats up the shy older daughter and gives the mother a phone number for a free family counselor. “Our main job is to keep the community safe,” Tingirides says. “But this can also mean helping a family get groceries or sending a youth to counseling, because these are aspects where crime can develop. It is a holistic approach.”

Tingirides, 50, is only the second Black female officer in Los Angeles to reach the position of Deputy Chief. Since September 1, 2020, she has been in charge of the Department’s new Community Safety Partnership Bureau (CSP). “It’s about trust,” Tingirides says when asked to describe CSP. “The community has to hold law enforcement accountable, and law enforcement has to hold communities accountable. We ask the communities what they expect from us, and we take their goals seriously.” 

lapdDeputy Chief Emada Tingirides speaks at the announcement of the Community Safety Partnership Bureau in July 2020. Credit: Eric Garcetti / Flickr

CSP represents a major shift in L.A.’s notoriously hardline approach to policing. (The department faces more than 2,000 lawsuits from activists involved in last summer’s racial justice protests.) But there’s reason to believe it could stick — independent studies have shown that the CSP has increased trust in police, reduced violent crime and saved the city millions of dollars. 

Now, Tingirides is working to expand the program from its current ten neighborhoods to more of Los Angeles — all while trying to sustain the inroads it has made with the Black and brown communities it has touched. 

“My son is 20 years old and Black,” says Tingirides. “I have to have difficult conversations with him about the police in this country. There are these incidents we all need to own. I know both sides of the debate.”

Soccer tournaments and ‘Donuts for Dads’

Nickerson Gardens was the site of violent turf wars between the Bloods and the Crips in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. “Right where we stand, between the gym and the parking lot, the deadliest shootings happened,” Sergeant Zuniga recalls. Today, children play outside. No gang graffiti is visible. Tingirides and Zuniga stroll around on foot, waving. Most residents wave back. “Nobody can stop the war but us,” is written on the walls of the community house.

lapdCaptain David Grimes with some local kids after a community Thanksgiving dinner the L.A.P.D. and community leaders put together for the residents of the San Fernando Gardens housing development. Credit: Christian Zuniga

Emada Tingirides knows Watts like her home because it is her home. She grew up in the neighborhood, the daughter of a single mother and the grandchild of a policeman. Long before the LAPD created its first official CSP-program in 2011, she visited elementary schools in Watts to read to the kids. She remembers how afraid the children were of her — it took almost a year before they leaned in for hugs. Now, residents and colleagues playfully call her “Captain T” or “Emada,” a sign of endearment. 

This is the mindset shift the Partnership aims for. Under the CSP concept, police officers are stationed in an area for at least five years. They become part of the community, attend neighborhood meetings, organize soccer tournaments, hand out “Donuts for Dads,” and “Muffins for Moms.” They work closely with gang intervention workers, social workers, non-profits and, most important, neighborhood residents. “I thought all cops were bad,” a nine-year old boy admits. But now, he says, he loves Community Officer Jeff Joyce, who started “Nicks Kids,” a soccer club for youths. “Our methods are unconventional, and we are adaptable,” Tingirides says. “Each neighborhood is different.”

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Each of the 100 Partnership officers undergoes training by the Urban Peace Institute (UPI). Human rights lawyer Conny Rice (a second cousin of Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state) founded the non-profit UPI to advance non-traditional policing, and has personally trained dozens of officers. “The first thing I tell these cops is that you are not in the arrest business, you are in the trust business,” she told NPR

Rice and Tingerides have been working together to combine public safety, community outreach and youth programs for the last 12 years. The Peace Institute trains Tingerides’ officers in de-escalation, non-confrontational communication and restorative justice. Mainly, it gets the officers and residents to sit at the same table. “What hits them the most is the emotional connection, learning about the traumas in the community,” Tingirides says. 

In March 2020, UCLA published an extensive study analyzing the Partnership’s work, focusing on the housing developments where it was originally implemented, including Nickerson Gardens. It concluded that the program increased trust in police and prevented nearly 20 violent crimes per housing development per year. It also attributed savings of $14.4 million to its presence in the two Watts housing projects, Nickerson Gardens and Jordan Downs. Counting the intangible cost savings of less violence, the analysts concluded the Partnership created more than $90.3 million in overall savings per project. The “war against gangs” over 30 years, by contrast, cost more than $25 billion in Los Angeles and was extremely ineffective, according to the UCLA study. (The study was partially funded by the Ballmer Group, which also supports the Partnership, but UCLA researchers assert that they are independent.)

lapdThe first ever LAPD-CSP Soccer Tournament in San Fernando, in which communities from throughout L.A. participated. Photo courtesy of Christian Zuniga

The Mayor’s Office claims that as a result of the gang intervention programs, including CSP, violent crime in Watts has decreased more than 70 percent in the housing developments, and youth arrests have been cut in half. Violence began rising in Los Angeles in 2014, but it kept decreasing in Partnership neighborhoods.

The difference, however, only started showing after three years of Partnership presence. This is how long it took to establish enough trust for the program to work. “We have implemented the program in ten neighborhoods,” says UPI’s executive director Fernando Rejón, “so we know what it takes to take it citywide. It won’t be easy or quick or make politicians look good. It is very risky, takes time and a lot of commitment.” 

Still, not everyone wants the Partnership to expand. Baba Akili, a longtime local Black Lives Matter campaigner against police abuses, said the program misuses the word “community” and would do nothing to stop abuse. “Stop using our terms,” he said during the public hearing on the Partnership. He called community policing “over-policing with a smile.” 

lapdFrom right to left: Police Officer Otis Swift, Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides (Ret.), and Deputy Chief Emada Tingirides attending a high school football game at Dymally High School in Watts. Credit: Christian Zuniga.

Sergeant Zuniga used to be skeptical, too. He was “a typical street cop” fighting gangs the traditional way. “We got a lot of drugs and weapons off the street,” he says, “but we also left a lot of damage in our wake.” He admits he only applied for the CSP position ten years ago because it meant a promotion. Today, however, he is convinced that violence cannot be “arrested off the streets.” 

“I’m not under the illusion we can abolish crime forever, but the question is: Can police play a role in which we solve crime together with the residents, and even intervene in the life of people before they resort to crime?”

When two young Black boys race their motorized mini-bikes by us on the sidewalk, Zuniga stops one with a friendly, “Hey, bro!” Street cop Zuniga would have confiscated the souped-up mopeds. “It would cost the parents $400 to get them back. That’s money they don’t have. What would that accomplish?” Instead, he tells the boy to wear a helmet and to look left-right-left before crossing the street again. The tot lets the engine rev and dashes away with a relieved grin. The next time he comes around, he’s wearing a helmet.

The relationship with the residents remains fragile. Zuniga remembers a five-year-old boy who was run over by a car. Zuniga, who administered first aid, watched the boy die in his arms, but the family insisted that he and his colleagues attend the funeral. Zuniga was one of the pallbearers. At other times, however, he has misjudged situations and found himself encircled by gang members. 

“It took decades to create these conflicts, and it will take decades to solve them,” he reasons. “It is possible that we earn the real fruits from this work in 40 years, when we’re long retired.”

The post Inside the L.A.P.D.’s Experiment in Trust-Based Policing appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Unsanitized: The Battle of Los Angeles

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 4:46am in

The nation’s biggest county has the biggest COVID outbreak. Plus, a memorial to the dead. Continue reading

The post Unsanitized: The Battle of Los Angeles appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Lisbon Is Turning Empty Airbnb Apartments into Affordable Housing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 2:24am in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Local favor

Like many European cities, Lisbon struggles with a glut of Airbnb-style rentals, which flood neighborhoods with out-of-towners and increase real estate prices for locals. Now, however, with tourism at a standstill, the city is offering to rent those empty units and transform them into something the Portuguese capital actually needs: affordable housing.

The initiative offers landlords up to 1,000 euros per month to lease the apartments to the city for a minimum of five years. The city will then sublet those apartments to locals who qualify for affordable housing. Rents will be capped at one-third of the tenant’s income. The idea solves two problems at once: it finds a use for the now-vacant apartments while adding affordable housing to the pricey real estate market. And while 1,000 euros is less than some of these landlords could have gotten from tourists, Lisbon is betting that the guaranteed five-year revenue stream will attract many of them anyway. So far, nearly 200 owners have signed up. “We need to make a shift,” Mayor Fernando Medina told the Guardian. “It should change the way the housing market works here in the city.”

Read more at the Guardian

A new leaf

Urban tree planting gets a lot of attention, but before the process can start cities need to quantify the trees they already have: how many, where and what type. A new tool from Google streamlines this process. 

los angelesDowntown Los Angeles. Credit: Ron Reiring / Flickr

Typically, cities count their trees by one of two methods: with (expensive) aerial LIDAR technology, or — believe it or not — with volunteers who literally count the trees. Google’s Tree Canopy Lab offers a 21st century solution, using AI to analyze aerial images of cities to reveal, for example, what percentage of a neighborhood has trees, what areas suffer from extreme heat and which neighborhood councils can help improve their tree coverage. 

Los Angeles is the first city to leverage the tool — its “forestry officer” is now using it to figure out where the city will plant 90,000 trees next year. All that new leafy green space is expected to help ease L.A.’s searing summer heat, not to mention help combat air pollution and improve residents’ mental health.

Read more at Fast Company

Combo of convenience

Bus, bike-share, or Lyft? In Minneapolis, you can now have your pick of more sustainable transportation options at one of the city’s 25 “mobility hubs.” Part of a pilot program launched in 2019 and expanded this year, the hubs are places in which a number of low- or no-carbon mobility modes are concentrated. There may be a scooter-share dock, a bus stop, a bike lane and a designated meeting point for rideshare pickups. The idea, reports Next City, is to make low-impact transportation options more accessible in the neighborhoods that need them the most.

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The difference between this initiative and your typical transit hub is that the mobility hubs are concentrated in high-poverty areas, which often miss out on strategic transit nodes. So far they’ve proved popular: city data shows that 800,000 trips have been made at the hubs so far and that 64 percent of users say the hubs make them more likely to use the transportation being offered. “The goal was that these would be in areas that need these options while also meeting goals for safety and climate and so on,” said one transportation planner. The pilot’s second phase will run until the end of January.

Read more at Next City

The post Lisbon Is Turning Empty Airbnb Apartments into Affordable Housing appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.