Newsletter: How the LAPD is trying to lower a language barrier

Officer Lucia McKenzie
Officer Lucia McKenzie at the LAPD Rampart Division station in Westlake. When a K’iché speaker arrived at the station about a year ago, McKenzie called Odilia Romero, a Oaxacan community leader who is part of a network of indigenous interpreters.
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Dec. 12, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

On a September afternoon nine years ago, a man named Manuel Jaminez Xum was fatally shot by LAPD officers not far from MacArthur Park in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

At the time of the shooting, the 37-year-old day laborer was allegedly drunk and threatening passersby with a knife. Authorities said police repeatedly ordered him to drop the weapon, but that Jaminez raised the knife over his head and moved toward one officer, who opened fire.

The commands were delivered in English and Spanish. But Jaminez, who died at the scene, spoke K’iché — an indigenous language spoken by Guatemalan Maya.


The shooting, which later was declared justified by LAPD’s oversight body, incited violent protests in the largely immigrant neighborhood and made headlines in Jaminez’s home country of Guatemala.

It also made the need for outreach between the department and non-Spanish-speaking Mexican and Central American communities acutely clear, as my colleague Metro reporter Leila Miller wrote in a story published Thursday.

K’iché is one of many indigenous languages that are common in Los Angeles’ immigrant communities. There are also Guatemalan Maya who speak Q’anjob’al, and Mexicans who speak languages such as Zapotec, Mixteco and Triqui. (At least 185 languages are spoken in total in the Los Angeles metro area, according to census data.)

[Read the story: “Nine years after Guatemalan man’s shooting, LAPD officers get help to identify indigenous languages” in the Los Angeles Times]

As the story details, indigenous Mexican community leaders began organizing training for officers in the LAPD in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. The department itself is about half Latino.

Later this month, LAPD officers will begin carrying pocket cards that can help them identify an indigenous language, and if necessary, call an interpreter. Miller’s story explains how — nearly a decade after the shooting — those pocket cards came to be. Similar pocket cards already exist for Korean and American Sign Language.


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


California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu has implored the Legislature to bar a “pervasive” police practice of using deception to obtain confessions from suspects who have invoked their right to remain silent. Writing in a dissent, Liu was responding to a decision to decline review of a Los Angeles case in which a suspect was tricked into confessing by an undercover deputy placed in his cell with a hidden recorder. Los Angeles Times


Bel-Air’s Chartwell estate sold for about $150 million, a new California price record. Some know the residence of late media mogul A. Jerrold Perenchio as “The Beverly Hillbillies” mansion. Los Angeles Times

A fake pipe bomb — a Hollywood prop — panicked a Burbank neighborhood. Apartments were evacuated. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles’ beloved mammoths will not be going extinct. A design team has been chosen for the redesign of La Brea Tar Pits, and unlike other plans, the winning proposal keeps L.A.’s most famous proboscideans right where they’ve always been. Los Angeles Times

Smile now, cry later: After 42 years, Lowrider Magazine will cease to print. “What started as a DIY zine by San Jose State University students Larry Gonzalez, Sonny Madrid, and David Nunez celebrating emerging lowrider culture in the 1970s went on to be a cultural icon in the U.S. and beyond.” L.A. Taco

Here are the biggest snubs and surprises from the SAG Award nominations, which were announced Wednesday and will be closely scrutinized by Oscar prognosticators for clues of which way this year’s awards season winds are blowing. Los Angeles Times

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The Justice Department’s internal watchdog pushed back strongly Wednesday at President Trump and other critics who have rejected his conclusion that the FBI was justified in starting a counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into whether the Trump campaign was cooperating with Russia. Los Angeles Times

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) underwent surgery in Washington on Tuesday to have a heart stent placed after having chest pains. Los Angeles Times

Californians cast a weary eye toward Mike Bloomberg on his first campaign stop in the state. The billionaire media tycoon appeared at a former auto repair shop in Stockton with Mayor Michael Tubbs, who endorsed Bloomberg earlier in the week. San Francisco Chronicle

Orange County officials are considering adding toll lanes to several major freeways to relieve increasing congestion as the county continues to grow. In the next decade, the 405, 5, 55, 57 and 91 freeways could see added express toll lanes, based on studies presented to the Orange County Transportation Authority. Los Angeles Times


Harvey Weinsten has reached a $47-million settlement with his accusers and creditors. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Delaware still must formally approve a deal that would bring an end to one chapter of the scandal that rocked the entertainment industry, decimated the Weinstein Co. and propelled #MeToo into a global movement.Los Angeles Times

Federal authorities charged three people with supplying the fentanyl that killed a father and his 13-month-old son in Santa Rosa earlier this year. The drugs were traced to San Francisco’s Tenderloin. San Francisco Chronicle


Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to place stronger regulations on the chemicals. Los Angeles Times


The Angels signed elite third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245-million contract. Rendon had his choice of suitors, including the Dodgers, after declining the Washington Nationals’ reported offer of seven years and over $200 million at the end of the season. Los Angeles Times

Still time to see the light: The”Field of Light” installation in Paso Robles was supposed to close Jan. 5, but due to overwhelming public demand, it will stay open through the end of June. Los Angeles Times

Bruce Munro's "Field of Light"
What is art? In Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light,” 58,800 stemmed lights illuminate a rolling Paso Robles landscape.
(Rachel Schnalzer/Los Angeles Times)

Have you always dreamed of getting drunk at multiple bars in the Inland Empire while dressed in a full Santa suit? Well, sometimes (e.g. this Saturday) very specific dreams do come true. Riverside Press-Enterprise

Once a cult event, salmon watching in Marin now attracts thousands of viewers. The annual spectacle started this week. San Francisco Chronicle


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 69. San Diego: sunny, 68. San Francisco: rain, 60. San Jose: cloudy, 66. Sacramento: cloudy, 60. More weather is here.


Today’s California Memory comes from Larry Mayer:

“My first memory of California was on arrival at SFO on a TWA Douglas DC-3 in 1952. After a 17-hour flight from Minneapolis with my mother, grandmother and two younger sisters, we were exhausted. Our father was there at the airport to meet us; everybody was so happy to see him. The three adults carried us little ones out to the car parked at the curb for the ride to the apartment Dad had waiting for us in Stonestown. In my new bed I slept fitfully. I remember waking up to tell Dad about my anxious dreams of air travel as he tried to comfort me. I was 4 years old.”

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, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.