[Hpn] LAPD Street Sweeps make Homeless Court a mockery of justice fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 29 Nov 2000 20:12:18 -0800 (PST)


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LAPD Street Sweeps make Homeless Court a mockery of justice:

http://www.latimes.com/news/comment/20001129/t000114450.html
FWD  Los Angeles Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000
     [Editorial]

     PLUS AND BIG MINUS FOR HOMELESS

Ten homeless men on Los Angeles' skid row got a chance for a
brighter future last week under an innovative program modeled after a
successful San Diego scheme. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael
Tynan drove the few blocks from the downtown Criminal Courts Building to
the Union Rescue Mission to gavel the city's first homeless court to
order. This worthy program deserves a repeat run, but unless the city
curtails periodic sidewalk sweeps directed against the homeless, the
court's well-intentioned efforts will be only a drop in the bucket.

The men appearing before Tynan last week had worked hard to turn
around their lives but needed a last bit of help. Each had an outstanding
bench warrant for minor "quality of life" infractions like public
urination or sleeping on the sidewalk. Those warrants, carrying fines
that can multiply into hundreds of dollars, often dash chances of
employment for homeless people applying for jobs that require background
checks. Tynan came to dismiss outstanding charges against men who had
demonstrated they were trying to break the cycle of homelessness, crime
and addiction.

"What happened to you is not your fault," Tynan told one man in
dismissing a charge of riding a bicycle without brakes. "However,
recovery is your sole responsibility."

Each man had already completed at least six months of rehabilitation
and was accompanied by a rehab counselor who vouched for the sincerity of
his efforts. Lawyers from Public Counsel and the Pepperdine Legal Aid
Clinic, who represented the men, organized this first homeless court in
Los Angeles. They hope it will be a regular event, an example of bringing
what they call "restorative justice" to people whose fear of going into
regular court stands in the way of dealing with important problems.

But the good that Tynan did may be overshadowed by the homeless sweeps
that police have conducted downtown, charging ever more down-and-outers
with minor violations.

A day after the judge went to the Union Rescue Mission, the American
Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed suit
against the city and the Los Angeles Police Department. The federal
lawsuit charges the LAPD with civil rights violations in conducting
homeless sweeps and seeks a permanent injunction against police stops,
searches or interrogations conducted without probable cause. Homeless
advocates consider the sweeps to be harassment, but many downtown
merchants say they are the ones being harassed, by the homeless. The case
won't be resolved immediately, so in the meantime expect more "quality of
life" charges, more outstanding warrants and more obstacles to employment
and stability.

END FORWARD

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