Several online magazines, including L.A. Magazine and The Knock, have published exposés this week about the West Valley social media groups “Crimebusters of West Hills and Woodland Hills” and “Homeless Transient Encampments of Our West Valley.”
Both sites were founded by West Hills resident Fern Peskin-White. Crimebusters was founded in 2016 as a Facebook group to alert residents as to local crime and assist police in identifying crime information for “public safety.” The Homeless Transient Encampment was formed a year later after the focus of the Facebook group became increasingly targeted to the homeless problem.
The topic raised by both online magazines this week were the increasingly hostile, hateful and often illegal suggestions made by Facebook posts such as using baseball bats, firehoses, Clorox and more to rid the area of transients.
At issue is not only the vile nature of the threats but the fact that several members of the LAPD are either administrators of the Facebook sites or contribute to them with updates or comments.
In one instance, West Valley Officer Daryl Scoggins replied to a post asking “Can I tase and detain before calling you?” with “We can’t control what happens before we get there,” with several laughing emojis.
Other officers, including Senior Lead Officers Sean Dinse and Brent Rygh, were also frequent contributors with crime updates and information.
The leaked screen shots came from a complaint filed with the Attorney General’s office last year. However, many of the same officers are said to still be commenting on the page.
LAPD instigated an investigation into Crimebusters last year, and ordered officers to stop engaging with the groups until they attended social media training.
Rygh, who was the administrator of the Crimebusters and Homeless Transients pages, retired from the force in 2018 but is still involved with the groups.
At this time, LAPD spokesperson Josh Rubenstein says they are “reviewing the activity on these social media pages to ensure there were no violations of Department policy.” He had initially said that officers being members of the group and “posting pertinent crime information for the purpose of public safety” would not violate department policy. “But any indication of misconduct will be dealt with swiftly,” he said. “We have no tolerance for hate speech, nor will we allow any employee or volunteer to encourage criminal or violent behavior.”
Rubenstein said however, that after these articles appeared this week, officers received a mandate to no longer participate in either Crimebusters or Homeless Transients sites. “No one has come to the department and made a formal complaint.” he said. “However the accusations alone from these articles are enough to constitute a complaint. They are not going to be participating on the site now that this has come to light.” “We are encouraging everyone to use official department social media sites for pertinent crime information and communications with senior leads.”
Rygh was exempt from the investigation, Rubenstein said, as he is retired and now a private citizen.
According to one member of the Facebook group who wished to remain anonymous, the Senior Lead Officers are being unfairly targeted. “They actually have helped get homeless into rehab and off the streets.”
But another commented, asking “How can the police be involved with a group where some members advocate poisoning the homeless or ‘gassing them with my car.’?”
Peskin-White had volunteered a statement to Valley News Group on Wednesday, but at presstime withdrew her offer. According to Josh Rubenstein, she is no longer a volunteer at the Topanga Station.