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How law enforcement uses social media campaigns to make arrests

Illustration of law enforcement posters
While members of law enforcement told The Times that social media campaigns have led to arrests, in many cases the posters stay online long after people have served their time or been cleared.
(Los Angeles Times illustration)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, June 30. I’m Justin Ray.

Metro reporter Maria L. La Ganga’s latest story looks closely at how law enforcement is using social media to make arrests.

Her story, “Police ‘wanted’ posters move to social media, nabbing suspects and ruining lives,” begins with the case of a Hermosa Beach bartender who was the subject of a wanted poster posted on the Manhattan Beach Police Department’s Facebook and Instagram pages. The posting sparked a barrage of online vitriol. One commenter identified where the bartender worked and his shift hours.

The problem is, he wasn’t a wanted man. There was no warrant out for his arrest on Feb. 26, 2020, when Manhattan Beach police posted the wanted sign, according to court documents.

“The 21st century version of the Wild West wanted poster has become a social media staple for police departments across the country,” La Ganga writes. “They’re posted on law enforcement Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Some departments have YouTube videos filled with stony-faced mug shots and pleas for help in identifying alleged suspects.”

While members of law enforcement told The Times that these social media campaigns have led to arrests, in many cases the posters stay online long after people have served their time or been cleared. But the lengthy public shaming can interfere with getting a job, renting an apartment and even future relationships.

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La Ganga’s story explains the benefits and drawbacks to policing through social media, the LAPD’s use of the internet in investigations and the telling results of another police department’s aggressive “Public Enemy #1" campaign. Read the full story here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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L.A. STORIES

Wanna become an actor? Here’s a guide. The Times just published a package for anyone who wants to make it in Hollywood. We explain how to get a job as a TV writer, pay your bills when you’re starting out and even how to start from anywhere. I wrote a piece about Hollywood scams to avoid. There is so much more to learn in our full package, which you can see here.

The mother of three children found dead in an East Los Angeles home has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is being held on $2-million bail, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said Tuesday. Sandra Chico, 28, was taken into custody as a “person of interest” after deputies found her children unresponsive in the home Monday afternoon. It wasn’t immediately clear how they had died, police said. Chico’s attorney information wasn’t immediately available, but she is due in court Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

The family of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs has sued the team and two former employees after his overdose death almost two years ago, alleging that an Angels employee supplied drugs to multiple players. “The Angels owed Tyler Skaggs a duty to provide a safe place to work and play baseball,” the lawsuit, filed in L.A., said. The lawsuit doesn’t seek a specific amount of damages. Los Angeles Times

Pitcher Tyler Skaggs
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs throws a pitch in this 2019 photo.
(Associated Press )

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Newsom sues to get party preference on recall ballot. California Gov. Gavin Newsom now faces an additional hurdle in his campaign to defeat a recall bid. In a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans nearly 2 to 1, the Democratic governor’s name may appear on the recall ballot without a party preference, thanks to a paperwork mistake made more than a year ago. As first reported by Courthouse News, Newsom filed a lawsuit Monday against California Secretary of State Shirley Weber asking the court to require Weber to print Newsom’s party preference on the recall ballots. Los Angeles Times

Hundreds of unhoused people are living on a 40-acre parcel of land near the Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), which owns the land. The specific location has the FAA concerned, prompting agency officials to pressure the city of San Jose to take action and clear the area. According to the FAA, it’s exposing that population to “unacceptable levels of noise.” ABC 7 News

California is expanding the number of states to which it is restricting government-financed travel to 17 because of laws deemed to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The states added to the sanctions list are Florida, Montana, West Virginia, Arkansas and North Dakota, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said. “Rather than focusing on solving real issues, some politicians think it’s in their best interest to demonize trans youth and block lifesaving care,” Bonta said. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

A couple bulldozed and buried 36 Joshua trees to make way for a home in the Morongo Basin. They were fined $18,000 for the offense, a steep price the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office hopes will deter others from destroying the trees. The western Joshua tree is a candidate for protection under the California Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to cut down, damage or remove the sensitive desert tree without a permit while they’re under review. Los Angeles Times

‘I was terrified.’ A woman who wanted to enjoy lunch with others to celebrate her retirement was attacked by a dog. Christina Santos had just arrived at Victory Park in Stockton when she says she was attacked by a German shepherd that had broken loose from its leash. “I didn’t know what to do,” she said. The dog bit her leg and the wound was deep, leaving her traumatized, she said. KCRA

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Lava fire swells to 13,300 acres. Crews are battling multiple wildfires across California while much of the region remains mired in treacherous heat and bone-dry conditions. The largest fire is the lightning-sparked Lava fire in Siskiyou County, which has forced at least 8,000 residents to flee. By Tuesday morning, the fire had expanded nearly tenfold, to 13,300 acres, and was 20% contained, Shasta-Trinity National Forest officials said. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Unbelievable traffic news. For the first time since at least 1982, an annual report on traffic says the Los Angeles area isn’t the worst place for motorist congestion. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2021 Urban Mobility Report found that drivers in the New York-Newark areas spent a collected 494,268 hours stuck in traffic in 2020, a total much higher than the 365,543 hours lost by Los Angeles-area drivers. NBC Los Angeles

Californians are fueling Austin’s housing frenzy. Experts say Austin, Texas, is seeing a housing boom thanks to Bay Area giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Tesla that are all hiring in the city and the Californians following those jobs. “If the house is pretty attractive, we might see anywhere from 30 to 50 offers, and the Californians tend to win because they understand this game a lot better than the Texans,” said a real estate broker. More than half of his clients are now from California. San Francisco Chronicle

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Cloudy, 81. San Diego: Cloudy, 73. San Francisco: Cloudy, 65. San Jose: Sunny, 78. Fresno: Sunny, 104. Sacramento: Sunny, 90.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Obrey Brown:

Growing up in the Bay Area during the 1960s gave me a fascinating look at beautiful sites — Golden Gate Bridge overlooking the Pacific, a Candlestick Park ballgame on a windswept day, driving Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay to Fort Baker, the colorful sight of seals across from the Cliff House. Breathtaking!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State,share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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