Read the full report here: CRBreport2014.1
Patterns of misconduct have persisted within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for decades. Serious problems of excessive force, lax oversight, deputy cliques, and a general culture of aggression have been extensively documented and met with innumerable reports and recommendations, few of which have been meaningfully implemented. Critics suggest that the primary responsibility for this misconduct in recent years – and in particular mounting concerns regarding excessive force by LASD personnel in the county’s jails – lies squarely within the LASD’s leadership. Indeed, former Sheriff Lee Baca came under increasing scrutiny as a result of these concerns and opted to retire rather than stand for reelection. While there have been oversight bodies in place tasked with rooting out such misconduct, experts believe that a lack of resources among these bodies, disconnected functions, and the failure to sustain oversight through a vigilant and visible tracking of the implementation of recommendations have allowed these problems to continue largely unabated.
In 2011, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (BOS) created the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) to conduct an in-depth review of these issues and recommend corrective action, with a particular focus on deputy use of force in the county jails. After documenting the history of problems within the LASD, the CCJV issued a comprehensive report recommending that the various oversight functions historically distributed among different bodies come together in the form of an Office of Inspector General (OIG). The BOS established an OIG and after a lengthy search selected an Inspector General (IG) to head that Office. While the OIG’s duties and authority have not been fully defined, it is expected that its function and authority will largely track the CCJV recommendations.
The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails (Coalition) commends the BOS’s leadership on this issue and is eager to see the OIG take on this newly consolidated independent watchdog function. However, even with the imminent launch of the OIG, the serious concerns highlighted in the CCJV’s meticulous and well-supported report cannot be adequately addressed without further civilian oversight. The OIG cannot, alone, keep a bright spotlight on the implementation of needed reforms of the LASD. On its own, the OIG will not provide a forum for visible public hearings, which can be an invaluable tool for exposing problems and engaging LASD leadership in a dialogue about the status of reform. While the CCJV recognized that the BOS could arguably fill this void if it opted to remain engaged, events over the past year – including the criminal indictments of LASD personnel, large damage awards in civil lawsuits against LASD leaders, and a series of news stories identifying an array of ongoing scandals involving the LASD – suggest that oversight of the LASD must be delegated to an independent group of community leaders, who are singularly focused on this function.
For all these reasons, and as discussed more fully below, the Coalition urges the BOS to move toward the development of a model for the creation of a Civilian Review Board (CRB) to oversee the LASD and serve as the eyes and ears of the community. This CRB would direct the work of the IG and serve as a forum for the release of OIG reports, data and recommendations. It would also serve as a forum where the Sheriff and members of his department could present – in a transparent manner – markers of progress in the ongoing implementation of the CCJV Report and other recommendations for reform of the LASD. Finally, the Coalition further recommends that the CRB membership be allocated in a manner that affords community members with a personal stake in sheriff violence, their seat at the table.