Newsletter: Essential California: Inside the files on police misconduct and use of force

Shootings by police have generated protests and heated debate in California and the rest of the nation in recent years. A collaborative of media organizations from across California is reviewing internal police records released under a state new law.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 20, and here’s what’s happening across California:


South Pasadena Police Cpl. Ryan Bernal realized he was in trouble. Dazed from a night of drinking, he was jolted awake when his pickup truck smashed into a pole that fell onto the patio roof of an occupied house in Duarte, internal police records show. So the off-duty officer drove his truck around the block, walked to a nearby Walmart and slipped away in a ride-hailing service vehicle. The next morning, he showed up at a Los Angeles County sheriff’s station with his mother, who falsely claimed she had been behind the wheel, investigators said. Bernal resigned in July 2017 after police moved to fire him for making false statements, committing a hit-and-run and attempting to obstruct an internal affairs inquiry. Prosecutors declined to charge him with a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge. A sheriff’s investigator who handled the case said two of Bernal’s department colleagues who had crucial evidence declined to cooperate with the criminal investigation. The South Pasadena incident is one of hundreds of cases being examined by the newly created California Reporting Project, a collaboration of 33 news organizations including The Times that is analyzing internal police records released under the new law. Los Angeles Times

— More revelations in Orange County. Orange County Register


— And even more from Northern California. Mercury News

Fremont destroyed decades of records shortly before the transparency law took effect. KQED

Four questions about policing that still need answers. Los Angeles Times

— How the project got started and spread among newsrooms. LAist


Campaign trail trivia

Sen. Kamala Harris has been known to break the ice with voters by proclaiming the freshman-year campaign in which she won a seat on the Liberal Arts Student Council at Howard University her toughest political race. Those who were with her at the school are not so sure she is kidding. It was at Howard that the senator’s political identity began to take shape. Thirty-three years after she graduated in 1986, the university in the nation’s capital, one of the country’s most prominent historically black institutions, also serves as a touchstone in a campaign in which political opponents have questioned the authenticity of her black identity. Los Angeles Times

Splits in the United Methodist Church

Like so many gay Methodists, Tim Baudler now feels betrayed by the United Methodist Church, which is fighting a civil war over homosexuality so acrimonious that it could split the denomination. At a gathering last month in St. Louis, the General Conference, the church’s top policymaking body, voted to tighten its ban on gay clergy and same-sex marriage and to increase the punishment for violations. Comprising some 800 clergy and laypeople from around the world, the General Conference voted 53% to 47% to affirm current church policy declaring “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The decision laid bare stark regional differences in the increasingly global denomination and served as a blow to more socially liberal churches, particularly on the West Coast, that have been pushing for full inclusion of LGBTQ people. Los Angeles Times


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No. 41’s story: Prosecutors say a student who didn’t have competitive soccer experience got a spot on the elite UCLA women’s soccer team as part of the college admissions scandal. Los Angeles Times

Let’s make a deal? Federal prosecutors are seeking potential deals with some of the wealthy parents charged in the admissions scheme as investigators continue to broaden the case, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. Los Angeles Times


On hold: As the fallout from the scandal enters its second week, USC officials have started investigating students who may be linked. Los Angeles Times

Hitting it out of the park: The Angels and star center fielder Mike Trout on Tuesday were finalizing a 12-year, $430-million extension that would be the largest contract in professional sports history. Los Angeles Times

The Angels' Mike Trout, center, is congratulated on his three-run home run during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs on March 5.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Slick streets: How much more dangerous is it to drive in L.A. when it rains? Crosstown LA



In D.C.: The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Trump administration’s power to arrest and hold legal immigrants indefinitely if they had past crimes on their records that could trigger deportation, even if they served their time years ago or were convicted of minor drug offenses. Los Angeles Times

Plus: President Trump is expected to nominate a Washington attorney, Christopher Landau, to be the next United States ambassador to Mexico, the White House said in a statement. Los Angeles Times



From the Bay Area with love: California’s governor and the head of the Legislature’s housing committees are from the Bay Area. The most ambitious housing policies are coming from Bay Area lawmakers. Will that work for the rest of the state? Los Angeles Times

Worrying: “How PG&E ignored California fire risks in favor of profits.” New York Times


Key ruling: On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that the last round fired by each officer in the fatal shooting of Grechario Mack at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw shopping mall on April 10, 2018, violated department policy to use deadly force only when protecting oneself or others from imminent injury or death. Los Angeles Times


See you in court: A West Hills man running for a spot on the Los Angeles City Council is suing the city to remove one of his opponents from the ballot, claiming that she is legally barred from running under “revolving door” rules. Los Angeles Times

A year later: Where has former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson been on the Stephon Clark shooting? On Monday, Johnson spoke out. Sacramento Bee


Useful: Where to find the super blooms in Southern California. Los Angeles Times



The new Disney: Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger has scaled the mountain. Through a series of surefooted moves, Iger has worked tirelessly to position Disney as the world’s preeminent entertainment company. Now he is closer to realizing his vision after the Burbank giant completed its $71.3-billion purchase of much of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. Los Angeles Times

The new Fox: Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has spun off various television assets — including the Fox News Channel and Fox broadcast network — to form a new company that will be known simply as Fox Corp. Los Angeles Times

Location, location, location: The Fox studio lot is one asset Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t sell to Disney — with good reason. Los Angeles Times


Online and active: Netflix, drawn to talent, has boosted production in Mexico with 50 films and series. Los Angeles Times

Exclusive: In Palm Springs, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is hosting his super-nerdy Mars conference again, complete with flying robots and a Blue Origin engine. CNBC


Los Angeles area: showers, 64, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 63, Thursday. San Diego: showers, 64, Wednesday; showers, 61, Thursday. San Francisco area: showers, 57, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 57, Thursday. San Jose: showers, 59, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 62, Thursday. Sacramento: showers, 60, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 64, Thursday. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Maribeth Condon:

“I live in Michigan now but spend winters in Ventura County (I grew up in Santa Barbara County, hola Carpinteria), and don’t know that I’ll be able to afford to return there. I can visit, though, and that’s good enough for me. I first went kayaking at about 8 years old in the little harbor at Morro Bay. My mom, my sister and I were all so excited because we thought that we saw a sea otter. Even if we didn’t, there was a boat that shared my name. And that’s always good luck.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (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 and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.