We have previously noted that the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance arrests an awful goddamned lot of people for drinking in public. Furthermore, they maintain an utterly schizophrenic attitude about public drinking, arresting the homeless while not arresting the non-homeless for this most natural of human activities. We have suggested that the BID could solve this problem by merely ceasing to enforce this ridiculous law, but our finely crafted arguments have thus far been ignored, making us feel much as the habitually bad-rapped King Canute must have done when dealing with that whole wave thing.
But we’re not discouraged! We live to serve! We have more unsolicited advice for the HPOA. Even though we think their focus on Hollywood’s putative public drinking problem borders on either the delusional or the deliberate employment of the good old Große Lüge for the usual unsavory and genocidal purposes, we do understand that their livelihoods depend on keeping the arrest rates high. We figure that it’s at least plausible that they don’t want to stop arresting people because they’ll be out of a job if they do. As Albert Einstein1 used to say, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
First we need a little background on how the HPOA sees the purpose of the BID Patrol. According to executive directrix Kerry Morrison (in an email to our tireless correspondent which was almost certainly written, given its exquisitely lawyeresque quasi-literate lack of concrete content, by Minneapolitan Jeffrey Charles Briggs, the HPOA’s attorney for such matters) “they make citizen arrests with respect to conduct LAPD is empowered to cite but lacks resources or the command decision to do so.” The semantics is clear though the syntax is muddy. The BID Patrol arrests people that the LAPD could arrest but just doesn’t for some reason. The point, of course, is that the BID Patrol gets to be selective about who they arrest, wielding California’s overflowing cornucopia of stupid misdemeanors like a bloody scythe in the fields of Hollywood and thereby, they seem to think, discouraging homeless people from hanging out in the BID. This sentiment was stated even more clearly than Jeff Briggs (or Kerry Morrison, whoever it was) could bring themself to do by an anonymous BID Officer, who once chortled in both his joy2 and in range of a video camera that “You don’t challenge the BID officers. The BID officers have the authority to arrest you. What we do is blessed by the staff at Hollywood Division. We’re helping them out.
Now, we’re almost to the suggestion, which is based on the at-least-plausible theory that when trying to solve drug consumption problems it’s more effective to attack the supply side rather than the demand side. The BIDs have made some minor moves in this direction, evinced e.g. by an article in their Spring 2014 newsletter in which Kerry Morrison claims that “two owners of area liquor stores … are working with us to minimize sales to our homeless neighbors who suffer from alcohol addiction.” But, vide Canute again, this is never gonna happen. You can’t stop suppliers from fulfilling a demand by asking them nicely. That money’s not going to be left on the table. The BID knows this when it comes to the homeless. They could ask them nicely to leave, but they, reasonably given their goals, don’t bother. Instead they just fucking arrest them. It turns out, and now we’re at the point finally, that they could be doing the same thing to the liquor store owners and employees although, for whatever reasons, they choose not to. Read on for details!
The California Business and Professions Code §25601-2 states that:
25602. (a) Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor
25601. Every licensee, or agent or employee of a licensee, who keeps, permits to be used, or suffers to be used, in conjunction with a licensed premises, any disorderly house or place in which people abide or to which people resort, to the disturbance of the neighborhood, or in which people abide or to which people resort for purposes which are injurious to the public morals, health, convenience, or safety, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The first section there is repeated in the California Penal Code §397. In other words, it’s a righteous beef against a business owner or employee to sell alcohol to a “habitual or common drunkard,” whatever that might be. Whatever the definition of a “drunkard” is in California law, one imagines that, given the ability of BID Patrollies to spin the straw of shoplifting into the felony gold of burglary or the mutterings of a mentally ill man into a trumped up charge of making criminal threats, they could certainly work with this law like they do with the others. They know who the “habitual or common drunkard[s]” in the BID are. In fact, in the above-cited article, Kerry Morrison boasts that:
Our BID Patrol, who can initiate private person’s arrests for infractions they see happen in front of them, have identified 46 people who are repeat offenders for drinking in public. Over the past two years, we have engaged some of these people close to 70 times.
So even though it’s a stupid law, it is a law, and, since the LAPD chooses not to enforce it (for whatever reason), according to Kerry Morrison’s description of the mission of the BID Patrol, to arrest those whom the LAPD declines to arrest, the Patrol could easily go after the supply side here. They could arrest drugstore employees, business owners, and even, using §25601, property owners who, according to John Tronson of the BID, are sometimes “licensees.”
They do not do this now, and Kerry makes it clear that the BID Patrol only makes discretionary arrests, so we have to assume it’s a choice they’re making, just as they choose not to arrest misdemeanant zillionaires for flouting court orders, just as they choose not to arrest HPOA Board members for flouting the Brown Act. These choices shows that they’re not interested in enforcing the law for its own sake, since they only enforce it against the homeless. The only noticeable effect that has is to make the hard lives of the homeless harder, incentivizing them to leave Hollywood and live in a non-BID where, as Kerry says, the LAPD won’t bother them. This is no revelation to anyone who’s paying attention, but it’s not less upsetting for that reason. If the BIDs are proud of what they’re doing with their Andrews International bully-boy gunmen, why do they lie about it so much, one wonders.
- Albert Einstein writing, in this case, under the nom de plume of famously losing California gubernatorial candidate Upton Sinclair. The whole book, I, Candidate for Governor and How I Got Licked, is instructive reading for those interested in how the moneyed power-elite of California have destroyed the hopes of its human inhabitants repeatedly over the last two hundred-ish years and, we guess not surprisingly, with very little change in either tactics or strategy.
- We don’t, not even for the sake of needling, have the fortitude to misattribute this most lovely of phrases to the venerable Einstein. It comes, of course, from Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece Jabberwocky.