An Open Letter to Mitch O’Farrell Regarding Plans to Fund Andrews International BID Patrol Operations in Hollywood

March 2, 2016

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell
200 N Spring St #450
Los Angeles CA 90012

Dear Councilmember O’Farrell,

I am writing to you regarding plans that the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance and the Los Angeles Police Department are making to extend the patrol hours of the Andrews International BID Patrol in the Hollywood Entertainment District until 4 a.m. In particular, I heard at the last HPOA board meeting that you were considering funding all or part of this program from your discretionary money. If this report is accurate, I hope that you will ultimately decide not to fund an expansion of BID Patrol hours in Hollywood. Here are a number of reasons why I think your funding this project would be a bad idea:

1. Regardless of the intention, it looks like a way to evade Police Commission oversight of law enforcement in Hollywood: This expansion of the BID Patrol’s operations is apparently being planned at the request of Hollywood Divison’s Commanding Officer Peter Zarcone. If it’s implemented it will therefore create a City-funded group of quasi-police assembled at the City’s request who are not subject to any kind of civilian oversight or control. I understand that in some technical sense the BID Patrol aren’t police, but this plan makes that seem even more like a distinction without a difference than it already does.

2. The BID Patrol does not operate according to the same professional standards as the LAPD: Here are some examples of BID Patrol operations that would surely be handled very, very differently by the LAPD. Your funding of BID Patrol operations would create the impression of City approval of situations like the following, which would certainly degrade the City’s dignity and would conceivably lead to City liability. If the BID Patrol already has problems maintaining professional standards while operating during daylight among the (relatively) docile homeless population of Hollywood, it’s hard to imagine that they will do better with the more belligerent people and the more volatile situations they’re likely to encounter in Hollywood at night.

(a) Between 2007 and 2015, the BID Patrol ejected hundreds of people from Selma Park in Hollywood under threat of arrest for violating PC 653b(a), and actually arrested some people as well. In 2015 I discovered that signs warning people about this law had been illegally placed in the park by the HPOA, and the Recreation and Parks Department removed them. I have a complaint about this situation pending with the Los Angeles County District Attorney, a copy of which I’m submitting along with this letter.

(b) The BID Patrol enforces laws selectively against homeless people. For instance, each year since 2007 they have arrested a significant number of homeless people for violating LAMC 41.18(d), which bans sitting or lying on sidewalks. To my knowledge they have never arrested a non-homeless person for violating this law, even though they encounter dozens of them every week at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market alone and an as-yet-undetermined number elsewhere in their jurisdiction.

(c) Neither Andrews International nor the HPOA tracks outcomes of the BID Patrol’s arrests. While I don’t yet know for sure how many of their arrests are accepted for prosecution by the City Attorney or even submitted to the City Attorney for prosecution, my sense from my research so far is that it’s very few of them. This suggests that their standards for arrest are low.

3. City funding of the BID Patrol potentially weakens the City’s defense in an ongoing lawsuit: The City of Los Angeles is co-defendant with the Central City East Association, manager of the Downtown Industrial District BID, in a lawsuit brought by the Los Angeles Community Action Network and Los Angeles Catholic Worker alleging that CCEA violates the civil rights of the homeless by illegally confiscating their belongings and that they have acted as the City’s agents while doing so. The entire defense of the City of Los Angeles is predicated on the claim that, according to the terms of their contracts with the City, BIDs are private organizations whose operations are entirely separate from City influence, and that therefore they cannot be considered City agents. If the City, through you, pays for expanded BID Patrol hours at the request of the LAPD, it colorably undermines this defense completely, creating the potential for adverse consequences to the City of Los Angeles.

If you are in fact thinking of funding expanded BID Patrol hours in Hollywood out of your discretionary funds I hope that, for these reasons, you will seriously consider not doing so. If these arguments aren’t convincing I hope that you will at least consider checking with the City Attorney about whether they think your funding of BID Patrol operations is a good idea.

Thank you for your attention,

Mike

mike@michaelkohlhaas.org

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