L.A. Supervisors Stop Construction of Cell Towers at Fire Stations

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Construction on giant cell towers needed to make Los Angeles County’s emergency communication system work has been halted until radiation concerns can be addressed.

Dozens of firefighters came to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to let them know they do not want cell towers where they work.

“The proximity of the towers and people living next to the towers is of grave concern, but it’s a very complex issue as to how those radio waves affect people all the way up to three miles away,” said Dave Gillotte the president of Los Angeles County Firefighters 1014.

The towers are going up at fire stations and sheriff’s stations, which is part of a new high-tech communications system to help first responders talk with one another. It’s being planned by the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS).

According to Patrick Mallon from LA-RICS, they are looking at 177 sites. Fifty-one sites are currently under construction and eight have been completed.

But some firefighters and residents say they are worried about radiation exposure and claim these projects were pushed through without any oversight because federal funding ends on September 1.

“If I don’t sue, somebody will. I’m going to protect my three babies under the age of three under my roof,” one Rolling Hills resident said.

Another resident was concerned about the cancerous effects the towers could have.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said it is safe.

“If I thought this posted significant health concerns to the firefighters I would raise that concern to the board,” he said.

The board agreed there are still too many unanswered questions and concerns and decided to stop construction for now at fire stations. They criticized the planners.

“This is stupid, and again the point is how we got this far is irresponsible,” Supervisor Michael Antonovich said.

Supervisors approved a motion to stop construction at fire stations and study the issue further. They will also request the Department of Commerce to approve an extension to be able to get federal money in the future.

Source: ABC 7 reporter Carlos Granda

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A New Hurdle for L.A. County Emergency-Radio Effort: Cell Tower Fears

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After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, local governments began talking about a new emergency communications plan that would connect every cop and firefighter in Los Angeles County on one system.

But to the dismay of many, the radio network is still not a reality. For the last six years, officials have weathered delays caused by technological hurdles, contracting issues and shifting requirements from the federal government.

As a Sept. 30 deadline looms for completing a major part of the work, new issues are threatening to undermine the effort.

Groups of firefighters and residents are planning to pack Tuesday’s L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting to protest the placement of giant cell towers needed to connect the agencies. Some cities have dropped out of the project, arguing they don’t need the network and don’t want to pay the costs.

Backers are now trying to get the radio system on track.
“Public safety is No. 1 here, and I would hate to see this fall apart,” said Supervisor Don Knabe, who from the early days embraced the project, as did his board colleagues, public safety officials and most of the county’s 88 cities. “I hope we can do a better job of outreach and move forward.”

But if the project loses too many cities and can’t build an adequate number of towers, he said, “the whole system could very well go away…. It would not be affordable or workable.”

Supervisors on Tuesday will be asked to authorize negotiations for more cell towers and will get an update on the project, known as the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System, or LA-RICS.

After 9/11, the federal government urged authorities in large metropolitan areas to build emergency communications systems that would allow separate agencies to work together quickly and efficiently, and it offered grants to help pay for them. The LA-RICS Authority decided to build two separate public-safety communications systems — a Long-Term Evolution for transmitting data and a Land Mobile Radio to allow first responders in a disaster to talk with one another.

The authority received a $154-million grant to pay for 80% of the Long-Term Evolution data building costs, with the rest coming from the local participants. The radio part, now in the planning phase, is anticipated to cost about $250 million, with federal grants expected to pay for most of it; completion is projected for 2018. It would replace the roughly 40 radio systems now operated by public-safety agencies throughout the county and allow them to easily switch to new frequencies set to be available in 2021.

If the data system isn’t completed by the end of September, local officials will have to return any unspent federal money. To help keep to its schedule, the authority decided to build its cell towers on publicly owned sites, including county fire stations, and got them exempted from state environmental review requirements.

But the firefighter union contended that the towers’ radio frequency emissions would pose health hazards to them and neighboring residents. And community activists got angry when they saw the towers — some with monopoles as high as 70 feet — going up without notice. Some cities refused to allow the towers, reducing their planned numbers from 232 to 177.

County officials say the firefighters’ health concerns are groundless, noting that the emissions are well below Federal Communications Commission standards and less than what are given off by cordless phones and baby monitors. They have cited research by a widely respected expert and statements from such organizations as the American Cancer Society.

The union cites other research and has enlisted neighbors via social media and mailers to fill out protest cards to send to the county Hall of Administration.

“We told them the supervisors are the only ones who can stop this thing,” said Lew Currier, a director of the Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich recently ordered a halt to tower construction at a Saugus fire station until neighbors can have their questions answered.
“While a reliable communications platform … is vital to preserve life and property during times of natural or made-made disasters,” Antonovich said in statement, “our employees and residents need to be assured that there are no health risks, and adequate notification should be made on planned cell towers.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis said she takes firefighters’ and residents’ health concerns “very seriously,” and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas questioned why “some of these issues were not anticipated, if not resolved.”

Besides objections to the towers, officials must grapple with the consequences of 12 cities dropping out of the project, with others possibly following suit before a Nov. 23 “opt out” deadline. Some have operating cost concerns or are participating in another communications system.

Reggie Harrison, director of disaster preparedness and emergency communications for Long Beach, said city officials balked at the estimated $1.3 million they would be assessed annually. (Costs are based on a city’s population and geographic size.)

“We’re extremely supportive of RICS, and if those numbers change, we could very well find ourselves back at the table,” Harrison said, adding that the city has decided it can make do with its current communications system in the meantime.

Patrick J. Mallon, executive director of the LA-RICS Authority, believes it can address the cities’ cost concerns by coming up with a new pricing formula. He is hoping to calm neighbors’ worries over aesthetics and property values by making towers look like trees or hiding them in fire station structures used to dry hoses, for example.

Even so, the authority “will be hard-pressed” to meet the fall deadline, Mallon said.

Source: L.A. Times article by Jean Merl

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Carmakers in Hot Pursuit of Fleet Sales to Law Enforcement Agencies

Fleet sales are an important part of U.S. automakers’ bottom lines, and none have more cachet or higher visibility than a contract with a law enforcement agency.

In addition to producing a reliable source of revenue, being chosen by a high-profile police department is a badge of honor. Putting officers in their cars gives Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge an advertising boost.

“This is absolutely a good marketing opportunity for us,” said Jonathan Honeycutt, marketing manager for Ford’s police vehicles. “This is a division we want to be in.”

Ford sold law enforcement agencies about 20,000 units of its Interceptor Utility, which is based on its popular Explorer sport utility vehicle, and 10,000 police-issue Taurus full-size sedans in 2014, Honeycutt said.

Those are good sales. Although Ford would not comment on how much it charges for either vehicle, the California Highway Patrol paid just under $30,000 for each of the 1,024 Interceptors it bought over the last three years, CHP Capt. Steve Mills said.

Dodge is similarly hesitant to disclose prices on its popular police vehicles. But the company does claim to build the country’s bestselling police sedan, having sold more than 10,000 units of its Charger Pursuit in 2014.

Bick Pratt, head of government fleet sales for Dodge, credits the law enforcement accounts with raising awareness of its muscular cars.

“You hate to see a Charger Pursuit grille in your rearview mirror,” he said. “But we think there’s a lot of carry-over in terms of the macho appeal of the vehicle.”

The Dodge Charger is the second-most-popular sedan that parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sells. Ford’s Explorer is one of the most popular SUVs on the market.

The vehicles based on them, along with Ford’s Taurus and Chevrolet’s Caprice and Impala sedans, are the leading choices for agencies signing contracts for law enforcement vehicles.

Indeed, in early 2013, according to published reports, the Los Angeles Police Department ordered 100 of the Chargers, 50 Interceptors, and 38 Ford sedans, to replace vehicles aging out of its massive fleet.

The Interceptor Utility is effectively a beefed up Ford Explorer, while the Dodge Charger Pursuit is based on the refreshed 2015 Charger that is rolling into dealerships.

On the road, both police-issue models handle and accelerate eagerly, partly the result of upgrades that fortify them for police duties.

Both the Interceptor and the Charger Pursuit are equipped with radiator and engine and transmission oil coolers designed to withstand long high-speed chases. The heavy-duty brakes are built to withstand high heat. The suspension systems are reinforced and stiffened for better handling.

The Dodge is outfitted with a cooling fan in the trunk, not to keep criminals on ice but to cool the vehicle’s electronic equipment.

The Dodge also comes with a self-leveling rear suspension and enough clearance to chase drivers across highway medians or into rough terrain.

The Ford has been tested for 75-mph rear-impact crashes, a far higher threshold than production cars. The front doors are bulletproof and can withstand shots from a high-powered rifle. There are even steel plates built into the seat backs separating police officers from their rear passengers.

Ford’s Interceptor Utility comes standard with either a V-6 engine that puts out 304 horsepower and 279 pound-feet of torque or a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 that makes 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Both are mated to an all-wheel-drive, heavy-duty, six-speed automatic transmission.

The Dodge Pursuit also comes with a choice of two engines.

The entry-level Pursuit boasts a V-6, good for 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The higher-octane version, designed for agencies that patrol highways, has a Hemi V-8 that makes 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque.

Although production versions of the Charger now have an eight-speed automatic transmission, the police models have an old-school, heavy-duty five-speed automatic.

The Chevy Caprice and Impala also offer V-6 and V-8 engine options.

In addition to mechanical upgrades, the Dodge and the Ford both carry a considerable amount of specialized gear, which drives the total cost of the police vehicles to about double their manufacturers’ sticker prices.

The typical CHP cruiser, Mills said, costs just over $40,000, which buys a skid plate, a “push bumper” on the front of the vehicle, a touch-screen onboard computer system, antennas, storage for weapons, and other police prerequisites.

That price doesn’t include an additional $24,000 for a specialized communication system that since the terrorist attacks in September 2001 has been recommended by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security for all U.S. police vehicles.

The system adds 250 pounds to the total weight of the vehicle. That’s one reason police agencies have abandoned the popular Ford Crown Victoria. Ford discontinued the civilian version in 2011, and now the iconic V-8 cruiser is gradually being phased out of law enforcement fleets because it is not capable of carrying the additional weight.

Not everything on every vehicle is new. Items like the light bars are recycled from previous vehicles, as they are decommissioned from the fleet and sold. Some of the CHP’s sirens have been around since the 1970s, Mills said.

The Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department each conduct an annual series of police vehicle tests and publish the results so that other police agencies may benefit.

In its test of 2014 vehicles, the Michigan agency found the Ford Interceptor was the fastest of 12 models to reach 100 mph; the Dodge Charger with the Hemi V-8 was the fastest around the test track; and the Chevy Caprice had, at 155 mph, the top speed.

The CHP, nearing the end of a three-year contract with Ford for the exclusive use of its vehicles, conducts its own tests but does not publish the results.

There’s no doubt the Charger Pursuit and the Interceptor are both more able vehicles than the old Crown Vic — with more power and better handling but using less fuel.

But as his agency makes the transition from the Crown Vic to the newer vehicles, Mills said, there’s still a lingering nostalgia for the older, more familiar Fords.

“In a world where everything changes every day, police officers absolutely look for things to stay the same,” he said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend.”

Source: L.A. Times reporter David Undercoffler

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LAPD Uses Its Helicopters to Stop Crimes Before They Start

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They seem as common as squawking gulls, and true Angelenos may not even bother to look up when one of the LAPD’s 17 helicopters rattles their windows, its spotlight searching for a car-jacked Camry or an assault suspect hiding under a jacaranda.

In a city of 469 sprawling square miles, few doubt that more bad guys would get away without the nation’s largest police helicopter fleet to help chase them.

Now the LAPD is pioneering the use of helicopters to stop crimes before they start.

Tapping into the data-driven policing trend, the department uses heat maps, technology and years of statistics to identify crime “hot spots.” Pilots then use their downtime to fly over them, on the theory that would-be criminals tend to rethink their nefarious plans when there’s an airship hovering overhead.

What some see as an innovative tool for keeping the peace, however, others call a deafening intrusion.

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As iconic as palm trees, LAPD helicopters — “ghetto birds” as Ice Cube calls them — have played a “good cop-bad cop” role in popular culture for decades. The benign “whirlybirds” that flew out of a San Fernando Valley airport on crime-solving missions in the 1950s TV series of that name became ominous “helicopter gunships” in dystopian author Mike Davis’ “City of Quartz,” and omnipresent LAPD “spinners” in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.”

The Los Angeles Police Department began exploring the deterrent approach a few years ago with a new model called predictive policing that deployed officers and patrol cars to areas where data suggested crime was more likely to occur.

Criminologists say the use of helicopters is a natural, if highly unusual, expansion of that policing strategy.

So far, LAPD officials say, the stats show the strategy is having a positive effect. Months of data show that the number of serious crimes reported in the LAPD’s Newton Division in South L.A. fell during weeks when the helicopters conducted more flights.

“It’s extremely cutting edge,” says Capt. Gary Walters, who heads the LAPD’s air support unit. “It’s different. It’s nothing that we’ve ever done before with this specificity.”

During the week of June 21, 2013, the helicopter unit flew 36 times over Newton, which saw 125 crimes reported in that period. During another week in July, the number of flights rose to 91 and the recorded crimes dropped to 86.

The most pronounced difference came last September. During the week of Sept. 13, when the helicopter unit flew over Newton 65 times, the division recorded 90 crimes. A week later, the number of flights dropped to 40 and the number of reported crimes skyrocketed to 136, with rises seen among almost all types of crime, including burglary, car theft and thefts from vehicles.

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Craig Uchida, a policing consultant who analyzes data for the LAPD and offers advice on crime prevention strategies, says it is too early to prove a definitive link between the flights and drops in crime. But the results so far, he said, are encouraging.

“Certainly it provides another layer and blanket of security for our folks,” says Capt. Ed Prokop, who until recently oversaw the Newton Division.

And the preventative flights sometimes yield unexpected results.

In March 2014, a pilot was checking a hot spot where, on Friday nights, crooks had been stealing vehicles, burglarizing cars and assaulting people, says Sgt. Tony DeMolina, a veteran LAPD pilot. While watching for such activity, the pilot spotted something else: strobing light spilling from an illegal rave inside a massive warehouse.

The ravers would park their cars in nearby alleys — easy prey for would-be thieves. After the raves ended, DeMolina said, the attendees would themselves become targets.

Once the pilot connected the raves to the ongoing crimes, DeMolina alerted Newton officials. Extra patrols shut future raves down, he says.

Pasadena police say they have adopted a variation of the strategy in which they send their department helicopters over areas that have seen recent upticks in burglaries or other crimes. Officials with the L.A. County Sheriff, Orange County Sheriff and Long Beach police say their helicopter pilots are generally aware of areas of recent criminal activities and may fly overhead while on assignment.

But few agencies use as methodical an approach as the LAPD.

Professor Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina, a policing expert who has studied the use of police helicopters in Miami and Baltimore, says the choppers can deter crime in the short-term but criminals will likely return when they’re not around.

“You are deterring the criminals but you aren’t getting rid of them and their intent,” he says. “Those criminals could strike in a different time and place.”

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, an associate professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia, agrees that helicopters have a “great deterrent value.” But, he says that during a time of increased public concern over police militarization, a loud and visible helicopter could make residents feel like the police are an occupying force.

Police departments increasingly say that one of their goals is to “engage the community” and a hovering helicopter can get in the way of that, Ferguson says. “[Americans] are sending a message that they don’t want our police militarized, they don’t want that occupying army feel. And the use of helicopters fits in that frame.”

Peter Bibring, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Southern California chapter, said using helicopters to monitor neighborhoods could set a problematic precedent for how the LAPD conducts other surveillance.

Critics challenged the LAPD last year when it received two drones from Seattle police. The department does not use the drones — they remain locked away until the Police Commission decides if and how they might be used — but they have still sparked privacy concerns.

“If this experience is successful,” Bibring says of the helicopters, “this could be a preview of how one day the LAPD could use drones for this purpose.”

Walters, commander of the LAPD’s air support unit, says the program was recently expanded to include the department’s Devonshire Division in the San Fernando Valley.

Cmdr. Sean Malinowski, who helped develop the predictive policing model the LAPD now uses, says the helicopter project represents how innovative policing has become. He says there is “untapped potential” for similar projects.

“The future of this thing is going to be how creative cops can be in using predictive or other data-driven strategies,” he says. “That gets people pumped up to do something different. It kind of injects life into the crime fighting.”

Source: L.A. Times 

 

 

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American Heroes Air Show 2015

The 2015 American Heroes Air Show is scheduled for Saturday, June 20, 2015.

Click here to view the American Heroes Air Show flyer.

The show will feature helicopters from numerous public safety and military agencies, plus an occasional television news helicopter. The LAPD, LAFD, L.A. County Fire and L.A. County Sheriff will each have their helicopters on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: SCMA members Kent Cullom and Dominick Falzone

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LAFD Rescues Family of Four and Pet Dog

Los Angeles Firefighters dramatically rescued a family and their pet dog from fierce flames, when fire erupted after business hours Wednesday evening in an automotive upholstery business, where the family apparently resided.

The Los Angeles Fire Department was notified at 6:21 PM on Wednesday, December 31, 2014 of a structure fire at 6015 South Broadway Street in South Los Angeles. Firefighters arrived quickly to find heavy fire to the rear of a well secured 4,600 square foot, combination one- and two-story upholstery firm, with reports of four persons trapped within the rear of the burning building.

Despite limited access and structural compromise of the unreinforced masonry building by
fast-moving flames that soon extended through the roof, teams of firefighters navigated swiftly among downed power lines to the rear of the building, to extend ground ladders to mezzanine windows, where the family of four was reportedly trapped. Using power saws and hand tools atop the ladders – as their colleagues pushed back flames with hoselines, firefighters deftly removed window bars on the upper level, and assisted the four trapped persons and dog from the inferno.

The man, woman, child and toddler – all suffering smoke inhalation, were taken to a nearby hospital by LAFD paramedic ambulance. Preliminary information described one of the children as being in serious to critical condition, with the remaining family members in fair condition. The small dog, which appeared uninjured, was placed into the care of the Department of Animal Services.

One hundred sixteen firefighters under the command of Assistant Chief Donald Frazeur confined flames within the upholstery business, preventing fire from damaging a karate studio to the north or a church to the south. The fire was extinguished in just 31 minutes.

Due to fire damage, the presence of smoke alarms and their functional status at the time of the blaze could not be immediately determined. The 93 year-old building was not equipped with fire sprinklers. The Department of Building & Safety was summoned to evaluate the integrity of the heavily damaged structure, as well as to determine if the building was appropriately serving as a domicile.

Fire loss to Fernando’s Upholstery is still being tabulated. The cause of the greater alarm fire remains under active investigation.

DISPATCHED UNITS: T33 E233 RA33 RA833 E57 E221 E21 T21 SQ21 EM11 BC13 BC11 E14 RA246 RA257 T66 E266 E15 E264 T64 E210 T10 DC1 EM1 EM9 BC18 T3 E203 E3 UR3 UR88 BC4 E66 RA803 T15 E215 RA21 RA266 E46 EA1 AR1

Source: Brian Humphrey, Spokesperson for Los Angeles Fire Department. Picture provided by Dominick Falzone, LA-125 via club email list.

Thanks to Rick, WA6KFI LA-101 for alerting fellow club members about this incident via the club repeater.

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L.A. Times Article on CHP Vehicles

 

For three decades, the California Highway Patrol has used the Ford Crown Victoria sedan as its primary patrol vehicle. In 2013, the CHP switched to Ford’s Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility. The “PUV” sports new safety and handling features and more cargo space and looks strikingly different from what California motorists are used to seeing.

Comparing the Crown Victoria to the Police Interceptor Utility

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Additional weight capacity

CHP vehicles designated for patrol duties must accommodate an additional 1,500 lbs. of equipment, including radios, weapons, and four fully loaded officers averaging 220 lbs. each. Some of the additional gear includes:

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Police-programmed electronic stability control

Unlike the Crown Victoria, the Police Interceptor Utility is equipped with electronic stability control specially programmed for law enforcement. The system aids the driver in slippery or aggressive driving situations by automatically braking and adjusting the throttle to prevent oversteer or understeer and keep the vehicle under control.

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Sources: California Highway Patrol, Ford Motor Co.
Graphics reporting by Rong-Gong Lin II and Lou Spirito

Thank you to SCMA club member Steve Herbert, K6CRW LA-187 for sharing this article with me. 

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The 2014 SCMA Christmas Party

On the evening of December 10th we held our annual Christmas party. We had a pretty decent turn out and everyone I spoke with had an excellent time.

IMG_20141210_182051-MIXThis year we had some great raffle prizes. Some of the great prizes donated for the raffle included a digital scanner, two 2 meter/440 transceivers, a Yaesu FT-60 and the new Wouxun 220/440 handheld.

If you’d like to see some of the photos taken during the meeting, you can visit the 2014 SCMA Christmas party photo gallery. If you’d like to submit your photos please feel free to email them to me at KE6QBV@galvonix.com

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Whistler Offering a Scanner Trade-In Program

Whistler is currently offering a scanner trade in program. All you have to do is send them your old scanner (in any condition) and they will allow you to purchase a new Whistler scanner at a discounted price. You must also complete this order form.

Source: Glen Rothstein, KK6OTP LA-145

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Massive L.A. Fire Destroys Partially Built Apartment Complex

Over 250 LAFD personnel battled a massive fire at a partially built apartment complex in Downtown Los Angeles early Monday morning. Flames and smoke from the blaze could be seen for miles. The blaze also caused officials to partially close the 101 and 110 freeways.

909 West Temple Street – Click to Enlarge

“This is a historic fire, what we as firefighters would call ‘a career fire,'” said David Ortiz, public information officer at the Los Angeles Fire Department. “It’s huge. I really can’t remember a building fire this big and I have been with the department for 13 years.”

LAFD officials said it was too early to tell what caused the fire but said the seven-story building looked certain to be a complete loss. At the time of the fire, the complex stood half-finished with exposed wooden framework. The fire was so intense that radiant heat from the blaze caused fire to break out in two office buildings across the street, Ortiz said. Those were quickly extinguished and there were no reports of injuries, he added.

Photo Source: RMG News and LAPD Air Support 

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