Long-time readers of this blog will recall that in late 2007 the HPOA put signs up in Selma Park in Hollywood which stated ominiously:
Children’s Play Area Only
Adults Not Accompanying Children Prohibited
Sec 653b, subdivision a, CA Penal Code
We discovered in September 2015 that these signs were placed illegally, informed the LA Recreation and Parks Commission, and they were removed within 14 days of our communication with RAP. Read here for more background.
Our correspondent, Mike has made and continues to make innumerable requests for public records in order to help us sort out exactly what happened in that park. Today we’re going to update you on some requests that did not result in the production of records, but whose outcomes yielded interesting information nevertheless.
First, on November 16, 2015, Kerry told our correspondent that “A/I says that after looking into this, it is unlikely that any arrests ever were made by A/I in Selma Park with specific regard to the signs and penal code section you recite (as opposed to public urination, drinking, and other reasons)…” While we have no doubts at all that that’s what A/I (Andrews International) told Kerry Morrison, who on all evidence is a scrupulously honest person, their statement is flat-out not true, which to us indicates consciousness of guilt on their part. The details follow after the break.
Furthermore, in that same response, Kerry Morrison admitted that she has no records proving that the elements of the statute cited were ever met for anyone arrested for being in that park without children. If this is accurate, and we have no reason to doubt that it is, then even if the BID had had some authority for placing the signs, which they did not, any arrests made by the BID in the park for violating PC 653b(a) were false arrests. The explanation of this is a little wonkish, and can be found after the break.
Now, as part of her response to Mike’s request for relevant A/I records about arrests for violating PC 653b(a), Kerry, as mentioned above, stated that A/I told her that “…it is unlikely that any arrests ever were made by A/I in Selma Park with specific regard to the signs and penal code section you recite (as opposed to public urination, drinking, and other reasons)…” Well, we have here a spreadsheet obtained from the city attorney that lists all arrests made at the corner of Selma and Schrader which were referred for prosecution.1 As previously noted, there are 46 such cases involving PC 653b(a), the one putatively forbidding being in the park without children. The complete spreadsheet shows that there were 147 referrals for prosecution in the timeframe, including the 46 for PC 653b(a). It also shows that of the 46, exactly ZERO of them are linked with prosecutions for other offenses.2
So not only is it wrong that “…it is unlikely that any arrests ever were made by A/I in Selma Park with specific regard to the signs and penal code section you recite (as opposed to public urination, drinking, and other reasons)…” it’s actually completely improbable. For this to be true, ALL of the putative arrests for other offenses would have to have been based on such weak evidence that they were never referred for prosecution (and thus are missing from the spreadsheet). Given that all 46 of the PC 653b(a) cases were rejected for prosecution by the city attorney, the putative evidence for the putative arrests for the putative other offenses would have to have been even weaker than the already weak evidence for PC 653b(a).
So actually, it’s not unlikely at all. We think that the most likely scenario here is that when Kerry told A/I to send over the records they just made up this nonsense without even checking into anything at all, as guilty but impulsive people who are covering their asses will do. After all, they’re professionals and this is their job. We’re just amateurs investigating this in our spare time. If we could use publicly available records to figure out that actually no one arrested at Selma Park whose case was referred for prosecution was arrested for any other offense that was also referred for prosection, they certainly ought to have been able to figure it out from their own private records using their professional expertise.3
On to the next topic! We’ve been trying to avoid it, because the subject matter and the style of this blog has already gotten far too technical for the tastes of some of its authors (we don’t worry much about our readers around here; stick around if you like it, otherwise don’t), but at this point we must look in some detail at the actual statute. PC 653b(a) states:
653b.(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b) or (c), every person who loiters about any school or public place at or near which children attend or normally congregate and who remains at any school or public place at or near which children attend or normally congregate, or who reenters or comes upon a school or place within 72 hours, after being asked to leave by the chief administrative official of that school or, in the absence of the chief administrative official, the person acting as the chief administrative official, or by a member of the security patrol of the school district who has been given authorization, in writing, by the chief administrative official of that school to act as his or her agent in performing this duty, or a city police officer, or sheriff or deputy sheriff, or Department of the California Highway Patrol peace officer is a vagrant, and is punishable by a fine of not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
There are two important points here. First of all, in order to be in violation of PC 653b(a) it is not sufficient to loiter around a school. It’s necessary to loiter around a school after having been asked to leave by someone who’s on an enumerated list of roles. Secondly, the only way private security guards get on that enumerated list is if they have “…been given authorization, in writing, by the chief administrative official of that school to act as his or her agent in performing this duty…” The school involved here is Selma Avenue Elementary, which is adjacent to the park. Various notes in Steve Seyler’s JSC reports suggest that their initial 2007 discussions about posting the signs involved people from the school.
The first point is important because it means that PC 653b(a) is not a law that can generally lead to a private person’s arrest. In order for a private person to arrest someone, the arrester has to see the law being broken. It’s not possible for a private person to see this law being broken because they have no way of knowing whether or not in the last 72 hours, anyone near a school has been asked to leave by someone on the enumerated list. Now, we hear all the freaking time from the BIDs that their security guards have no arrest power beyond what every other person has under the laws governing private person’s arrests. If that’s true, then for the A/I BID Patrol to arrest anyone for violating PC 653B(a), they must have “…been given authorization, in writing, by the chief administrative official of that school to act as his or her agent in performing this duty…” It’s their only option.
However, Kerry Morrison has stated explicitly, in response to our agent’s request for any such authorization, that “[w]ith respect to communications with a school administrator, I have no records that pertain to that.” This request encompassed records held by A/I as well. Thus neither HPOA nor A/I have records of such an authorization. Since A/I arrested someone under this law as late as 2012, and almost certainly more recently than that, we’d think that they’d have the written authorization available, especially since the existence of the authorization itself is actually an element of the crime. Without the written authorization, then as far as private security is concerned, there is actually no violation of this statute. Thus all arrests made by A/I for violating PC 653b(a) in Selma Park were false arrests. And all move-along orders, of which there have been a large but as-yet-undetermined number, were color-of-law civil rights violations.
Finally, Mike tells us that he has records requests pending with LAUSD and that, although it’s taking them a long time to gather the records, they’re being thoroughly cooperative. If there is an authorization from anyone at Selma Avenue Elementary it should turn up in that request. On the other hand, says Mike, a parallel request to the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council is still pending and no one over there seems to have the first idea what they’re doing. Probably they don’t have any essential records anyway, but it would be nice if they were minimally competent to fulfill their legal responsibilities under the CPRA.
- We’ve previously presented an extract from this spreadsheet consisting solely of people referred for prosecution for violating PC 653b(a).
- To see this, open the spreadsheet and sort by name. Run down the list and notice that none of the 46 cases involving PC 653b(a) are duplicated, showing that none of those 46 referrals for prosecution were linked with referrals for prosecution for violating any other law.
- Note that we can’t yet be sure that all of these 46 were arrested by the BID Patrol (see here for details), but it’s almost certain. We will know for sure when more records Mike’s requested are produced.
Image of man dancing in Selma Park in 2007 is a public record and is therefore in the public domain. Image of sign in Selma Park is ©2015 MichaelKohlhaas.org.