Op-Ed: L.A. Times owes Whittier police chief an apology

By the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association

The Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association (LACPCA) Executive Committee fully agrees with a recent Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff’s (ALADS) blog that called for an “abject apology” from the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board to Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper for its claim that Chief Piper “misused” the tragic death of one of his officers to “…lash out at recent criminal justice reforms.” 

Moreover, we believe an earlier ALADS blog was also correct in stating the Los Angeles Times editorial against Chief Piper’s statements was “…a careful parsing of words intended to reach a misleading conclusion.” 

Ironically, the same can be said of those that supported the passage of Proposition 47 (in 2014) by referring to it as, The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act when, in fact, the Proposition’s ballot description was: "reduces the classification of most nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor." The website Ballotpedia reports that donations in favor of Proposition 47 reached a level of nearly $11,000,000 during its campaign, while donations against the measure came in at a mere $500,000. 

One can only wonder what the effects of the Proposition 47 campaign might have been had supporters been frank with California citizens about its true description on the 2014 ballot initiative.

The Los Angeles Times editorial in question suggested, amongst other things, that Chief Piper provided “false or misleading statements” in a calculated fashion to sway opinion on important policy matters. We believe that nothing could be further from the truth. Chief Piper’s statements were neither false nor misleading for many reasons – to include those so clearly demonstrated and articulated in the ALADS Blog. 

Still, it is our opinion that the Times editorial went well beyond the reasonable discourse of thought and opinion by specifically attacking Chief Piper for general statements he made during his first news appearance following the tragic murder of one of his police officers. Statements, again, that are well supported by data and information articulated in the ALADS blog. 

In its effort to support the arguably failing social experiment that is Public Safety Realignment - AB 109 today, we believe the Los Angeles Times editorial is also missing the significant difference between the Real Cause and Proximate Cause of events. The editorial suggests that focus should be given to the shortcomings of the alleged killer’s Los Angeles County Probation supervision while on Post-Release Community Supervision from prison, and not the underlying bills or proposition themselves that, as the editorial stated, “…empower counties to better manage their criminal populations.” 

What the Times is missing here in its attack against Chief Piper and other “officials” in the article is that its premise and opinion, at best, deals only with the proximate cause of the issue – where Chief Piper’s statements more accurately pertain to the real cause. Following his parole in April 2016, and pursuant to AB 109 guidelines, the alleged suspect in the murder of Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer was released to County Probation Department supervision, and not State Parole. State Parole violations are taken significantly more serious and can increase jail sentences for violators for up to one year. As a result, the alleged suspect entered into a supervised system that carried with it a maximum 10-day jail sentence for violating the terms of his release from county jail or prison as a general practice. 

The LACPCA Executive Committee is confident that, absent the implementation of AB 109, Officer Boyer never would have been confronted by his alleged killer on February 20, 2017, because his alleged killer most likely would have been in state custody as a result of violating the terms of his (parole) release in upwards of five times since April 2016.

The Times editorial also suggests that compromise rests with the proximate cause of how Officer Boyer’s alleged killer was supervised while on release. Yet, it’s clear to us that Chief Piper’s statements referred to why the alleged killer was not incarcerated in the first place. We recognize that the alleged killer was not released from prison early, and Chief Piper never specifically made that statement during his initial remarks to the media following the death of Officer Boyer. Rather, as reported by the Times editorial, the Chief stated, “We need to wake up…enough is enough. You’re passing these propositions, you’re creating these laws…It’s not good for our community (and) it’s not good for our officers.” 

In its haste to support a specific narrative, we believe the Times editorial jumped to the conclusion that neither AB 109 nor Proposition 47 had an impact on this tragic event whatsoever merely because the alleged killer had not been released early from prison, etc. The Times is missing the point. Simply stated, the alleged killer was being supervised in conjunction with AB 109 following his release from prison which carried considerably less consequences for his cumulative probation violations than the state’s parole system would have prior to the passage of AB 109. We believe that to be the difference between proximate cause and real cause on this matter – in full support, appreciation, and understanding of Chief Piper’s statements on February 20, 2017. 

For these reasons and more, the Los Angeles Police Chiefs Association Executive Committee agrees with ALADS and others that the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board owes an apology to Chief Jeff Piper for their misguided claims against him and his statements.

The Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association is a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation consisting of the Police Chief Executives of the 45 independent cities in Los Angeles County. The Association focuses on advancing the science and art of police administration and crime prevention in Los Angeles County; coordinating the implementation of law enforcement efforts by local law enforcement leaders; and developing, teaching, and disseminating professional law