LAPD Will Not Play 'Power Police' : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

LAPD Will Not Play 'Power Police'

Police Agencies Say Governor's Plan Is Too Vague

LOS ANGELES, 11:19 a.m. PST March 27, 2001 -- Local police agencies think Governor Gray Davis' plan to have them become "power" police is not such a bright idea, according to CBS 2 News.

Davis wants police agencies to patrol and cite businesses that don't cut power use during nighttime hours.

But some police departments in Orange County say the governor's plan is too vague, and doesn't give them any criteria to decide who might be fined, CBS 2 says.

The Los Angeles Police Department says that they refuse to play power police because L.A. gets its power from the Department of Water and Power (DWP), which is not having problems, according to the report.

Under the order, which went into effect March 15, all California retailers, including malls, auto dealers, restaurants and stores, must substantially cut outdoor lighting during non-business hours. Those who refuse could face $1,000-a-day fines.

The plan is part of a $404 million statewide conservation program that Davis touted last month as "the most aggressive in America."

It also includes $75 million in financial incentives for consumers who upgrade to energy-efficient appliances and $95 million for businesses that install energy-saving equipment and lighting.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have expressed concern that, if the public doesn't buy into it, the program could take away valuable time that officers would otherwise use fighting crime.

"It means you have to keep track of all the people you've warned and follow up on enforcement," sheriff's Capt. Ray Leyva said last month. "It could be a tremendous amount of work -- or we could have tremendous compliance from the public and not have more work at all."

But some businesses feel that being fined might ultimately be cheaper than turning off the lights, because of safety issues.

"When the lights in the shop are dark, people have a tendancy to walk around and do what they want to do. It's very necessary in business," a Union 76 gas station employee said.

"If someone came in and threw eggs on our cars because the lights were off, that'd be more than $1,000 right there," said Bobby B, sales manager at Midway Ford in Los Angeles.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 27, 2001


Police unsure how to enforce lights-out rule

Sheriffs say their officers can't act as meter readers BY DANA HULL Mercury News

Two weeks after Gov. Gray Davis ordered businesses to sharply reduce their outdoor lighting or face a fine of up to $1,000, police and sheriff's departments across the state say they haven't written a single ticket.

The reason: Almost no one has complained about energy hogs, and law enforcement authorities say the governor's outdoor-lighting order is too vague to enforce. They aren't being pushed particularly hard by state officials, either.

The governor's executive order required shopping malls, auto dealers and big retailers to reduce their outdoor lighting by at least 50 percent, starting March 15.

``How many tickets have been issued? None. And that doesn't surprise me,'' said Redding Police Chief Bob Blakenship, president of the California Police Chiefs Association. ``There is a lot of confusion as to how to enforce the order. How do you measure what is too much light?''

Though the state is desperately scrambling to stabilize power supplies and rolling blackouts will likely hit with more frequency this summer, most police departments have chosen to take a ``walk and talk'' approach. They remind businesses of the need to reduce energy use when out on patrol, but don't seek out or write up offenders.

``We're not using any type of heavy-handed approach, that's for sure,'' said Lt. Rod Romano of the Union City Police Department. ``We're trying to get compliance.''

Many local businesses say they are conserving, and are as worried about skyrocketing bills as homeowners. But they readily admit that they leave lights on if they feel they need to, and have not received any complaints or words of warning about it.

``We're turning them down, but we don't turn all of them off,'' said Art Wicker, general manager of Piercey Toyota in San Jose. ``We close at 9 p.m., and at 10 some of them go off. We've been under the impression that this was voluntary.''

State officials agree that the executive order has created a great deal of confusion, and say they regularly field calls from law enforcement officers unclear about what they are supposed to do. But they stress that the intention of Davis' executive order was never to hit businesses across California with hundreds of misdemeanor citations.

``The intent of this was never to generate prosecutions,'' said Mike Guerin, chief of law enforcement at the state's Office of Emergency Services. ``The intent was to encourage conservation.''

Thursday, state officials and law enforcement officers gathered at a Wal-Mart store in Bakersfield to remind businesses about the order and encourage compliance. Business support is considered crucial if the state is to have enough power for the summer. And state officials say they never expected full-blown energy patrols.

``Nobody wants San Jose P.D. officers to take time away from solving violent crimes to tell people about lighting conservation,'' said Guerin. ``But we do need to get the message out. Fines are in the toolbox any time an executive order is issued.''

Though consumers grumble about shopping centers that leave their lights on, few take the time to call either the store or police with complaints. But that could change in the coming months, as the energy crisis becomes more severe. Pressure may build for law enforcement to play a more active role.

``The proof of the pudding will be this summer, when the need for conservation goes up,'' said officer Don Cox, a press officer for the Los Angeles Police Department. ``But we haven't even really developed a policy yet about how we will do it. The governor mandated this thing, but wasn't specific on how it should be done.''

Stanislaus County Sheriff Les Weidman, president of the California State Sheriffs' Association, met with the governor's staff when the outdoor lighting order was first being drafted, and supports the massive conservation effort. But he made it clear that his membership is already stretched thin. If rolling blackouts become more frequent, sheriffs will need to respond to any safety problems or accidents that arise.

``I don't have the resources to divert my sheriffs to running around trading in pistols for an electric meter,'' said Weidman. ``But by the same token, I think the public is real concerned about someone who is wasteful. Ultimately, if there are a lot of complaints, they may get a ticket.''

Weidman also worries about the potential for an increase in crime in darkened alleys or parking lots. The order allows businesses to keep lights on for safety reasons, but police say it's difficult to determine when outdoor lights are excessive or crucial: It's subjective.

``For years we've told people to turn the lights on to protect themselves, and now we're asking them to turn them down,'' said Weidman. ``So we have to be careful. We don't want people to jeopardize their safety.''

Though many businesses in the region appear to be complying with the lighting edict, some say that it's not enough.

``Turning down the lights late at night is not going to be the solution to rolling blackouts,'' said Assistant Sheriff Bob Maginnis of Alameda County. ``People are going to have to do other things. If I were in the driver's seat, I'd do scheduled blackouts.''

-- Martin Thompson (, March 30, 2001.

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