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Mayor Answers Critics of Police Taking Photos of Gang Members

September 26, 1993

* The following is in response to the Community Essay (Aug. 30) by Daniel Tsang, a UC Irvine social science bibliographer and lecturer.

The Fountain Valley Police Department has the responsibility of protecting all citizens from violence and has utilized many law enforcement tools to accomplish this mission.

One, the taking of non-custodial photographs of suspected gang members, has been utilized since the 1970s and is used by many other law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

It has been evaluated by the city attorney, the district attorney, an outside civil litigation attorney who specializes in police law, and all agree this policy is in accordance with the law and does not violate the rights of any subjects.

All subjects give verbal consent for their photo to be taken, even though it is not mandatory by law that permission be given.

After an Oct. 28, 1992, meeting with the National Coalition for Redress/Reparation (NCRR), the department amended its policy to include a section where the subjects give written permission for their photos to be taken.

This is not a requirement of law but was a step taken to promote good community relations between the citizens and the Police Department.

I also wish to emphasize these photos are taken only of subjects who are stopped for probable cause of the commission of a crime.

This law enforcement tool has been very beneficial in helping to clear a homicide in Long Beach, an attempted homicide in Monterey Park and is currently being utilized in the investigation of a recent gang-related drive-by shooting at Fountain Valley Recreation Circle.

The Fountain Valley Police Department has never utilized a mug book and has maintained the integrity of these photographs in a locked metal file within the police facility where they are filed alphabetically and not divided by ethnicity.

The city attorney and the Fountain Valley police chief have invited the ACLU and the NCRR to provide the city legal authority for their position that the department's procedures of taking non-custody photos of suspected gang members is illegal.

No such authority has been presented and we are convinced that we are acting lawfully.

Therefore, the Fountain Valley Police Department will continue to enforce its policies and procedures regarding this matter to insure the safety of all its citizens and to fight gangs and hate crimes.

This council wants to go on record as strongly supporting the vigorous and equal application of the law, and we deplore the totally unfounded allegations that the actions of the Police Department are racially biased.

LAURANN COOK

Mayor, Fountain Valley

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