Newsletter: A ‘defund the police’ story

Former Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez stands in front of a downtown mural.
Former Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez was involved in the debate to cut the police budget, only to have it be foiled by a police union backlash.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The experience of activists in Santa Ana who pushed to change funding priorities for police shows the fragile nature of such movements.


A ‘Defund the Police’ Story

Years ago, the jail in Santa Ana became a rallying cry for a political reform movement that eventually led the City Council to phase out immigrant detention at the facility, improve police accountability and spend more money on badly needed community services. In many ways, the effort foreshadowed what is happening in Los Angeles and other cities around the U.S. today as protesters call for an end to police brutality and sweeping social reforms.


But Santa Ana offers a cautionary tale for the “defund the police” movement.

Among the police ranks, resentment grew. Santa Ana officers installed a new union president who accused the council of ignoring the city’s “silent majority.” In the November 2016 election, the union’s political action committee spent more than $400,000, public filings show. At the same time, the city was experiencing a surge in shootings; it saw 23 homicides that year, nearly double the previous year. Voters elected two new council members supported by the union.

After another election cycle in 2018, the new City Council granted officers a generous package of raises — and the police department, after years of reductions, went on a hiring spree, adding 50 officers.

Vaccine Scenarios

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said a COVID-19 vaccine could become available earlier than expected if at least one of the three trials underway in the U.S. returns an overwhelming signal that it is “safe and effective.”

The independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board would make that call, as it does in all clinical trials. But critics say that stopping trials early could eliminate the chance to detect dangerous side effects, recruit more Black and Latino volunteers and understand the full results. Some public health experts are concerned President Trump will push for the trials to end before election day. But Fauci said he trusts the independent monitoring board, composed of nongovernment scientists, to be transparent with its recommendations. Trial results may be available as soon as mid-October.

Is the U.S. ready for a vaccine? An early rollout may make life more difficult for the state and local agencies that will be tasked with getting a vaccine out to their communities. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told them to be ready to go by Nov. 1, “the earliest possible release” of one. But decades of funding shortfalls have left them struggling.


More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— The Trump administration is canceling some of its remaining orders for ventilators after having rushed to sign nearly $3 billion in emergency contracts in the spring. The Department of Health and Human Services says the national stockpile has now reached its maximum capacity.

Schools in L.A. County can reopen small classes beginning Sept. 14 for students with disabilities and English-language learners.

— L.A. County officials are keeping shopping malls shuttered while allowing barbershops and hair salons to operate indoors again under certain restrictions.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Stuck Behind the Fire Lines


Scores of residents throughout the California towns of Boulder Creek and Bonny Doon defied evacuation orders as the CZU Lightning Complex fire moved through the Santa Cruz Mountains during the last two weeks of August. But now they’ve found themselves stuck in the mountains, reluctant to leave, fearing that public safety officers won’t let them return home if they travel out to secure food, water and other necessities.

Under normal circumstances, evacuated residents would be allowed back in a few days. In the CZU fire, the flames are so spread out and in such rugged territory, the process is different. Evacuation orders are slowly being lifted for some areas, but authorities have suggested that the hardest hit parts of the fire zone could be shut down for weeks — as power lines and roads are repaired.

A Long Sanctuary Stay

Shortly after President Trump took office and lowered the bar for who would be targeted for deportation from the U.S., about 45 people across the country sought refuge in churches. Most of those remain there to this day.

Rosa Sabido is one of them. She took sanctuary on June 2, 2017, inside the Mancos United Methodist Church in a deeply conservative corner of Colorado. In the more than three years Sabido has spent in the church, her mother has died, along with five elderly dogs she left with a stepfather. Two food trucks she once operated sit idle behind her empty mobile home in a nearby town.

“I think we are all surprised that she’s been here over three years,” said the church pastor. “Hopefully, it won’t all be for naught.”



In 1984 and 1985, Richard Ramirez, who would come to be known as the “Night Stalker” serial killer, evaded police as he committed murders, sexual assaults and burglaries across the Los Angeles area. But on Aug. 31, 1985, an East Los Angeles neighborhood worked together to stop a car theft, successfully capturing Ramirez in the process.

He attempted to steal a woman’s car on Hubbard Street and several neighbors came to her aid. One told The Times he yanked Ramirez from the car. Another beat him with a steel rod. They held him until police arrived and only later discovered the man had been the Night Stalker suspect. Ramirez was ultimately convicted of 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries in 1989. He died in 2013.

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— Prosecutors have begun dismissing felony cases that relied on the work of Los Angeles police officers charged this summer with falsifying records and obstructing justice by claiming without evidence that people they stopped were gang members.

— The L.A. City Council voted to seek furloughs for more than 15,000 city workers, despite warnings that the move would harm critical city services and push police officers out of patrol cars and into desk duties.


— A year after a fire aboard the Conception dive boat killed 34 people off Santa Cruz Island, the victims’ families are mourning and looking for answers.

— For the first time in its 50-year history, Christopher Street West, the nonprofit organization that produces LA Pride, has named a Black transgender woman as president of its board.

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— After Trump’s visit Tuesday to Kenosha, Wis., Joe Biden said he would visit the city in his first campaign stop in the state since securing the Democratic presidential nomination.

— The former vice president raised $364 million for his election effort in August, a record-shattering sum that will give Biden ample resources to compete in the final two months of the campaign.

Mississippi voters will decide whether to accept a new state flag with a magnolia to replace an old one legislators retired under pressure because it included the Confederate battle emblem.


— Migrants are increasingly crossing a treacherous part of the Atlantic Ocean to reach the Canary Islands. It’s a newer route to European territory that has become one of the most dangerous.


Netflix and ... Sussex? Prince Harry and Meghan have signed a deal with the streaming service to produce movies and series, including documentaries, features and children’s programming.

— Running a dance studio in L.A. was notoriously challenging. Months into the pandemic, GoFundMes and goodbye announcements paint a picture of a dance landscape in crisis.

— Hollywood has a new mogul in town: Steven A. Cohen, a Wall Street titan whose former hedge fund pleaded guilty to criminal insider trading.

— California’s AB 5 was supposed to help gig workers but wound up hurting artists. Lawmakers have embraced a new plan that would loosen the rules for musicians and magicians.


Facebook says it is taking more steps to encourage voting and minimize misinformation, including restrictions on new political ads in the week before the election.


— It’s not clear what two pilots saw when they recently reported a man with a jetpack above Los Angeles International Airport. But what is clear is that jetpacks are real technology.

Tesla’s first true competitor is here: The Polestar 2. The Times’ Russ Mitchell says there’s a lot to like about the electric car.


Tom Seaver, the Hall of Fame pitcher who helped transform the expansion New York Mets from lovable losers to World Series champions in 1969, has died from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19, the Hall of Fame announced. He was 75.

— Online workouts, virtual training sessions, new platforms for recruiting: Sports social media was changed by the pandemic and the new norms are here to stay.

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Schools in California are off to a better start than they had when they first switched to distance learning. But problems persist.


— Legal affairs columnist Harry Litman calls Trump our first pro-vigilante president. Now stop and think about what that means.


— Trump encouraged North Carolina residents to attempt to vote both via the mail and in person, seemingly urging them to commit voter fraud as a test of mail-in voting systems. (Politico)

— How can concerts safely restart? A 1,500-person study in Germany, complete with soft rock, aims to find out. (The Hollywood Reporter)


It was the blowout that turned into a blowout. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to a San Francisco salon to get her hair done on Monday, and by the next day, Fox News was showing security camera footage of her inside the salon, passing by with wet hair and a mask wrapped around her neck while being trailed by a hairstylist who was wearing a mask. On Wednesday, Pelosi said she was set up by the salon owner, who in turn denied that allegation. But hours later, the stylist who blew out Pelosi’s hair released a statement through an attorney contradicting the owner and supporting Pelosi’s side of the story.

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