Emails From The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Reveal The Existence Of Pilot Programs To Handle Homeless Encampments — Known As Operation Please Follow The Rules — (Not Making That Up) — That Literally Condition Provision Of Social Services On Taking Tents Down During The Day — Featuring The Direct Participation And Complicity Of Private Social Service Providers — Cornerstone And The People Concern — In This Project — Actually Agreeing To Withhold Services From Noncompliant Homeless People — And To Tell LAPD Who’s Compliant And Who’s Not — So That LAPD Can Arrest Noncompliers — And These People Wonder Why Everyone Lies To Them — Why Nobody Trusts Them — It’s Pretty Obvious Why

Services Not Sweeps is a coalition of dozens of Los Angeles area community organizations who are working for, among other things, the removal of LAPD from all City street cleaning initiatives. There are many reasons for excluding law enforcement officers from encampment cleanups. Police arrest people or do worse to them. The threat they represent, the linking of that threat with the service providers present, cannot help but discourage homeless residents from cooperating in the cleaning process, from taking advantage of the offered services.

Arresting people who are already suffering by being forced to live on the streets destroys any trust the arrestees, their families, their neighbors, might have had in the good intentions of the system. It destroys what might be left of their dignity. It is a bad, bad thing. These encampment sweep teams include not only LAPD, but LA Sanitation workers and other City officials, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is tasked with pre-sweep outreach. Outreach, at least ideally, consists of offering various social services to the encampment residents and, in theory, helping them take advantage of whatever help is available to them.

And I wasn’t previously aware of this fact, but it turns out that at least sometimes the City invites private social services organizations to be part of the encampment sweep process. Two such groups are Cornerstone and The People Concern. These organizations’ websites, well, they hit all the right notes. E.g Cornerstone talks up “clients develop[ing] trusting relationships with counselors” and TPC is all about “build[ing] self-sufficiency, restor[ing] dignity and help[ing] our vulnerable neighbors become contributing members of the community”.

But these laudable ideals are belied by the fact that at least on some occasions both of these groups have been complicit in pilot programs, organized by the City Attorney’s office, that attempt to coerce people living in encampments into taking their tents down during the day by actually “making services dependent on following this rule” and, with the blessing of the LAPD, immunizing them from arrest if they complied by taking down tents when told to do so.

These programs were evidently started because, in the thoroughly idiotic and offensive words of Assistant City Attorney Tamar Galatzan, “everyone was getting frustrated that the homeless people were telling outreach one thing and LAPD another”. And in its inimitably totalitarian style the City Attorney seems to have called these programs “Operation Please Follow The Rules”.

It’s certainly difficult enough to gain the trust of people who, forced by circumstances beyond their control to live in encampments on public sidewalks, have seen their lives devalued by society, have been repeatedly abused and betrayed, criminalized and infantilized. And yet without gaining their trust it’s impossible to help anyone, no matter what their housing circumstance.

It’s easy to see what the City gets from the complicity of these private agencies, but it’s impossible for me to understand what the agencies get from it. Which is why I don’t explain these stories, I just tell them. And this one is told through a bunch of emails I got recently from the City Attorney’s office. Read on for details and transcriptions!

The story as I know it begins with an April 12, 2019 email from Assistant City Attorney Tamar Galatzan to Downtown Los Angeles neighborhood prosecutor Tia Strozier and higher-ups Gita O’Neill and Ayelet Feiman. I don’t yet know what the context of this is, but it consists of Galatzan explaining a pilot program she organized or was involved with in the Valley with Cornerstone, called, as I said above, “Operation Please Follow The Rules”:

From: Tamar Galatzan <tamar.galatzan@lacity.org>
Date: Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 9:21 AM
To: Tia Strozier <tia.strozier@lacity.org>
Cc: Gita O’neill <gita.oneill@lacity.org>, Ayelet Feiman <ayelet.feiman@lacity.org>

NP and SLO met with Cornerstone, which is part of the SFV Community Mental Health Center and focuses on people who are homeless and suffering from mental illness. Cornerstone was doing outreach in the area near the VN Civic Center, and everyone was getting frustrated that the homeless people were telling outreach one thing and LAPD another.

At the meeting, we decided the following:

-Above all, LAPD wanted the tents down during the day.

-Cornerstone would reinforce that message/requirement during outreach by making services dependent on following this rule.

-If folks were taking the tents down (especially if they were also accessing services). Cornerstone would let LAPD know that, and LAPD would be hands off.

-When asked if the CA’s office could play any role, Cornerstone asked if we could help with people who had warrants and open misdemeanors, which is how Clean Slate started. Cornerstone would contact me with the name and d.o.b. of a client who said that he or she had warrants/open cases and was ready to address them. I’d run the person and get back to Cornerstone with what I found. If the client was willing, we’d pick a date for the client and the case worker to come to court and handle the case(s).

Hope this write-up helps. LMK how it goes at 1st and Spring.

Tamar Galatzan

Assistant Supervisor, Neighborhood Prosecutor Program
(213) 978-4082
(818) 374-6837
Tamar.Galatzan@lacity.org

The purpose of Galatzan’s email was, I guess, to help Strozier carry out a similar experiment on the perennial encampment on the north side of First Street between Spring and Broadway with The People Concern playing the role that Cornerstone played in Galatzan’s program. This is revealed in an email from Strozier to LAPD Officer Mario Botello asking him to participate. Strozier again makes it clear that the whole point is to make access to services contingent on taking tents down during the day:

From: Tia Strozier <tia.strozier@lacity.org>
Subject: Homeless Encampment Cleanup – 1st & Spring/Broadway
To: Mario Botello <37159@lapd.online>
Cc: Michael Flanagan <24857@lapd.online>
Date: Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 5:04 PM

Hi Ofr. Botello,

Just wanted to let you know I spoke with CD 14 about coordinating a clean up at the encampment referenced above. In addition to cleaning the area, I’ll be piloting a services-led program with the transients there where in exchange for access to various homeless services, they agree to keep their tents down during the day and I’ll review their cases to see if I can do anything gain cooperation. We’ll need support from LAPD m terms of enforcement at the location (really working with the people who are cooperating with the arrangement). We can work out the details once you return.

CSLA clean up is tentatively set for April 25th. The People Concerned [sic] and LAHSA are doing extensively outreach at the location in anticipation of the clean up (over the next week). Let me know if you have questions!

Sincerely,

Tia S. Strozier

Neighborhood Prosecutor – Central Division
Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney
Safe Neighborhoods and Gangs Division
200 N. Main Street, Suite 900
City Hall East, Mail Stop 140
Tel:(213) 978-8022 / Fax 1(213) 978-7714

And by May 7, 2019 the Downtown folks put together by Strozier and friends were having meetings to coordinate the project. Here’s O’Neill’s summary of what I believe was the first such:

From: Gita O’neill <gita.oneill@lacity.org>
To: Lauren Gonzalez <lgonzalez@thepeopleconcern.org>, shiggins@thepeopleconcern.org, Sean Romin <thepeopleconcern.org>, cgomez@thepeopleconcern.org, nnjoku@thepeopleconcern.org, Celina Robles <38064@lapd.online>, Monique Contreras <38228@lapd.online>, Mario Botello <37159@lapd.online> Tamar Galatzan <tamar.galatzan@lacity.org>, Tia Strozier <tia.strozier@lacity.org>
Date: Tue, May 7, 2019 at 5:16 PM

Hi all,

Thank you all for coming today to our office to discuss this pilot project.

Our next steps are:

1. TPC will speak to the folks in the encampment and try to get them to come together in a meeting setting to discuss the expectation of them following the laws about getting their tents down and their items pushed back on the sidewalk so there is a passage of 36″ for pedestrians. TPC will also speak with them about services they need that we can assist with (education on the code sections, storage containers, trash bags, trash cans, cleaning supplies, criminal case warrants, etc.)

2. We will meet as a group to review

3. After that meeting TPC will let LAPD know when they should visit the encampment to reinforce the message of following the laws around the tents and keeping the sidewalks clear.

4. We will meet again as a group to review

5. We will discuss an outreach and then an enforcement plan if the tents are still up and sidewalks still blocked.

6. We will try to meet every 3 weeks — does 6 month time frame work for everyone to see if the pilot is successful or not? I am totally open to whatever time period the group feels would work.

As far as metrics, TPC will let us know the best form for them. LAPD is okay with the proposed metrics.

We have an estimate of about 8 to 15 tents up at night. Could someone from TPC verify that so we have a baseline to work from? I think number of tents is fine as opposed to number of people total at the encampment.

If everyone could individually email me their contact info and cell phone, I can do a contact sheet for everyone.

Thank you!
Gita

By May 30, at least according to this summary email from Gita O’Neill to the group, it appears that the pilot was moving more into enforcement mode. The People Concern had evidently told all the residents about the consequences and now it was time for the cops, in the person of Mario Botello, to start warning people preliminary to arresting them. As we’ll see this was not an idle threat:

From: Gita O’neill <gita.oneill@lacity.org>
To: Lauren Gonzalez <lgonzalez@thepeopleconcern.org>, Sarah Higgins <shiggins@thepeopleconcern.org>, Sean Romin <thepeopleconcern.org>, Charles Gomez <cgomez@thepeopleconcern.org>, Ngozi Njoku <nnjoku@thepeopleconcern.org>, Celina Robles <38064@lapd.online>, Monique Contreras <38228@lapd.online>, Mario Botello <37159@lapd.online> Tamar Galatzan <tamar.galatzan@lacity.org>, Tia Strozier <tia.strozier@lacity.org>
Date: Tue, May 30, 2019 at 10:43 AM

Hi all,

Here is a summary of our last conference call from 5/23 (please let me know if I got anything wrong):

1. TPC has been outreaching intensively for about 2 and 1/2 weeks at the location. Most of the people there moved to the location from the El Pueblo area. They like the location because it is safe and close to the Police Dept. There are about 10 permanent homeless folks who sleep in tents on the sidewalk. There are up to 20 or so people who are in and out of the encampment on a daily basis.

1. Everyone is interested in services but there is no housing available for many of them.

• Three people were referred to the El Pueblo (to be put on the waiting list).
• 1 person was re-unified with his family in Texas and has a job waiting for him there as well so he has left
• The couple with the dog are thinking about going to back
[sic] with family out of state and are also looking for a home for their dog (I have heard complaints about the dog barking like crazy so a permanent home would be great)
• One person, William Garner, was interested in Clean Slate. Sarah will follow up to see if he contacted his probation/parole agent (if he has one)

3. TPC discussed 56.11 (tents up during the day is not allowed and bulky items prohibited) and 41.18 (blocking the sidewalk/ADA). TPC thinks it would be most effective if LAPD followed up their education with warnings about the same conduct so that everyone who is out of compliance there will realize there will be consequences to being out of compliance with the law. TPC thinks it best if LAPD goes without outreach at this point. Reminder that the purpose of the pilot is not to have anyone move to another street but instead to keep in compliance with the law and, hopefully, move into shelter or housing. SLO Botello is going out there this week to warn people.

4. Compliance: the tents are still up. The common reason from the folks living there about this was that the tents are so hard to take down and put back up.

5. Storage: The storage near El Pueblo has open bins. Chrysalis will take a print out of a Clarity ID so the folks that don’t have IDs there can use the storage nearby.

6. Trash and Debris: TPC will work with the folks living there to have a clean up event (get them brooms, dustpans, etc. and reward them with gift cards etc.) We discussed that there were no trash cans there. I called Sanitation and they said they have a policy of removing trash cans that are used to [sic] much… I asked if they could return the trash cans and increase the pick up to 4 days a week. They will do this but if TPC can get the folks there to help out and keep as much trash in the can as possible that would be great. We know it is a heavy pedestrian route so many people use the trash cans, not just the folks living there. I told SAN we can see how the trash cans are going in two weeks and adjust if necessry. If anyone else has any ideas on this, please share.

7. Next conference call:I would like to set a weekly conference call. Would every Thursday at 8 or 9 am work for everyone? If that doesn’t work, what about Weds at that same time?

Thank you everyone!

Gita

And enforcement seems to have begun in earnest by the last couple weeks of June 2019, as explained in this conversation1 between Gita O’Neill, Mario Botello, and Tia Strozier:


From: Gita O’neill <gita.oneill@lacity.org>

Sent: Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2:09 PM

To: Mario Botello; Celina Robles; Monique Contreras; Michael Flanagan
Subject: pilot on 1st and Spring

Hi Mario,

I hope you are doing well.

TPC is going to be keeping track of metrics on their end and also keep some stats so we can have background on the types of people who are living in this encampment.

It would also be helpful if LAPD could keep track of the time it spends at the location as well doing enforcement education, outreach etc.

Do you think you would be able to keep those hours. You could keep it very simple and just email me weekly number of hours you spent there and just a quick word on what you did (education, outreach or enforcement (and then what the enforcement was). I can put it into a spreadsheet.

Please let me know if this works for you.

Thanks,

Gita

Gita O’Neill
Assistant City Attorney
Director


From: Mario Botello <37159@lapd.online>
Date: Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 3:06 PM
Subject: Re: pilot on 1st and Spring
To: Gita O’neill <gita.oneill@lacity.org>

Gita,

I am keeping a log of how many times we (SLO’s) are warning / citing at the location. We

started enforcement on Tuesday and will go out there as often as we can, I will send you totals weekly.

Regards,

Mario


From: Gita O’neill <gita.oneill@lacity.org>
To: Tia Strozier <tia.strozier@lacity.org>
Cc: Tamar Galatzan <tamar.galatzan@lacity.org>
Date: Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 11:40 AM

FYI that you may be seeing some misdemeanors from this location. Hopefully Mario gives you the info in a timely manner. Chief Arcos on down has asked LAPD to do enforcement here for our pilot so hopefully that will help Mario step up his work there.

thanks.


From: Tia Strozier <tia.strozier@lacity.org>
To: Gita O’neill <gita.oneill@lacity.org>
Cc: Tamar Galatzan <tamar.galatzan@lacity.org>
Date: Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 11:59 AM

Yes 1 have 2 reports from the location I’m reviewing for filing. Will keep you posted if there are any issues.

-Tia



The final piece of the puzzle, or at least the last piece I have my hands on as of now, is this June 20 email from Gita O’Neill summarizing the group’s conference call. I won’t transcribe the whole thing because it’s mostly more of the same, but by now, less than a couple of months into the pilot, Botello is ready to start arresting people on a regular schedule:

SLO Botello has been going out about three times per week but will increase that presence He has given out warnings before but will now start enforcement which could include an infraction ticket, a misdemeanor release from custody or a custodial arrest (meaning taking the person to jail for booking) for violations. SLO Botello will inform the group on the enforcement outcomes on the next conference call. He will flag any misdemeanor cases for DCA Tia Strozier so she can make sure to look at the cases for filing and, where appropriate, let TPC know of court dates so services can again be offered to the individual. Any infraction tickets are still able to be resolved in the Citv Attorney’s Homeless Court program.

– SLO Botello also warned everyone to stay clear of the gate mid block. So far it looks like people are obeying that law and have not set up tents in front of the access gate. There are still some tents that are attached to the fence and SLO Botello will be addressing that. Some folks (2 tents or so) are complying with 56.11 and taking their tents down every day.

So that’s the story of how, at least in some cases, the City has found third party private charitable social services organizations to participate in its criminalization of homelessness, to be present, to assist, with arrests. And not only that, but to actually make provision of services contingent on compliance with police demands.

According to Tamar Galatzan the City invented this kind of program, whatever it is, because “everyone was getting frustrated that the homeless people were telling outreach one thing and LAPD another”. But really, what does anyone expect them to do if this is the way the City treats them, the way charitable organizations treat them. If you lie to people they will lie back to you.

It’s a matter of survival and the fact that none of these groups understand this suggest that if the goal is actually to help homeless people, none of them ought to be involved. That they are involved is pretty good evidence that helping is not actually the goal.


Image of Gita O’Neill is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and once upon a time there was this Twitpix.

  1. Which, sadly, is very difficult to follow chronologically, mostly because the City of Los Angeles refuses to supply emails in native format and refuses to recognize that each individual email is a distinct record, so that supplying them in so-called conversation view is not adequate. This chain is a perfect example of the problems with this approach.
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