First of all, I exchanged a number of emails with William Jones, a senior management analyst with the LAPD permit processing section. He directed me to Officer Vicencio in the Police Commission’s Enforcement section. Vicencio was on vacation last week, but I finally got a chance to speak to him on the phone. He told me that BID Patrols were exempt from the LAMC 52.34 requirement because state law exempted them. He did not know what section of state law exempted them. He also told me that “about fifteen years ago” the City Attorney issued an opinion stating that BID Patrols were not subject to the registration requirement. He said that any private security firm that was under contract to the City or had an MOU with the City was not required to register.
Now, the stuff about contracts with the City and/or MOU’s with the City must be irrelevant here. The City’s contracts with the BIDs state explicitly:
Neither Corporation or any of Corporation’s employees, agents, representatives, or subcontractors are or shall be considered to be agents of City, nor shall Corporation be considered a legislative body, relative to the performance of Corporation’s obligations under this Agreement or for any other purpose.
So being under contract to a BID, as their security forces are, cannot actually count as being under contract to the City. Also, Kerry Morrison has stated explicitly that at least her BID Patrol has no MOU with the City. At least that was her story when I asked her for a copy of any such agreements under the Public Records Act, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt her on this.
Furthermore, I couldn’t find any state law that exempted BID Patrols from City Registration requirements, and I’m skeptical that this could actually be what’s going on. My completely uninformed, and quite possibly wrong, theory is this: If there is such a state law then the fact that LAMC 52.34 on its face says that BID Patrols must register would put it in conflict with that state law. That’s not unimaginable, and of course the state law would preempt it in such a case, but the LAMC is revised to eliminate conflicts (as I suppose it must be, since it would be unrealistic to expect people to look up unmentioned, unreferenced state laws just in order to interpret what seem to be pretty clear sections of the Municipal Code). Why has this conflict not been removed if it exists?
Also, as I discussed in the previous post, the City has revised this law before, partially for the purpose of eliminating conflicts with state law. At that time there were extensive discussions in Council and elsewhere about putting in an explicit exemption for BID Patrols, but for as-yet-undetermined reasons,they did not do so. I suppose it could be that they didn’t put in the exemption because the City Attorney determined that it wasn’t necessary, but if that’s what happened, why wouldn’t they have incorporated the exemption in the Municipal Code so that everyone would be able to understand what’s required by reading the actual laws?
So anyway, I next asked both Deputy City Attorney Mike Dundas and Police Commission E.D. Richard Tefank for copies of this City Attorney’s opinion. Both of them got back to me quickly. Mike told me that the City Attorney’s librarian confirmed that there wasn’t a publicly released opinion on this subject, so that therefore, if there were such an opinion it would have been confidential attorney-client material. I suppose that it’s possible that that’s what Vicencio was talking about, although why then, the reference to state law? Also, if the only written statement of the putative fact that BID Patrols aren’t required to register is a top-secret privileged opinion, how do the BID Patrols know that they’re not required to register? If this is what’s going on it seems like a hell of a way to run things (not that that’s an argument against this being the way things are run).
Richard Tefank, on the other hand, told me flat out:
“I have been with the Commission since June 2004 and am not aware of any City Attorney advice or any reports relative to this matter. I will have my staff check the 1999 and 2000 files for the requested documents.”
He is also in the process of pulling the Commission’s minutes from 1999 and 2000 out of storage for me to take a look at. So that’s where we’re at with the question of why BID Patrols aren’t registered. There isn’t an answer yet, but I think this all counts as confirmation that there’s a genuine controversy. I will certainly let you know what happens!