Board appoints County Counsel

Mary WickhamThe Board of Supervisors has appointed Mary Wickham as County Counsel. She has been serving in an interim capacity since June.

Ms. Wickham began her career as a law clerk with the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1992, after obtaining a BA in Public Administration from USC and a Juris Doctor degree from the Whittier College of Law.

She moved to Washington D.C. in 1992 to work for the Attorney General’s Office, representing the District of Columbia in mental health commitment proceedings. She returned to Los Angeles three years later.

Since 1995, she has worked in the Office of County Counsel, performing a variety of roles including overseeing all aspects of the County’s workplace Equity Program. She has twice been a recipient of the Exemplary Service Award from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for her

Established in 1913, the Office of County Counsel provides legal representation, advice and counsel to the Board of Supervisors, County departments, special districts, and other public agencies. It has a staff of about 277 attorneys and a support staff of approximately 275.

Human Trafficking Task Force Launched

task force pic

Determined to end modern day slavery, lawmakers, law enforcers, and advocates for victims have launched the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.

Funded by a $1.5-million grant from the US Department of Justice, the Task Force brings together prosecutors, investigators, service agencies, victim advocates and other partners together to provide wraparound care to victims while ensuring strong investigations and prosecutions.

Every year, thousands of men, women and children are held captive physically, and sometimes emotionally, to be sold as cheap labor or sexual gratification.

HS5_0292“Our children are not for sale,” declared Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This powerful showing of unity, collaboration, and strength is our latest and greatest tool to dismantle the trafficking of human beings in Los Angeles County.”

Based at the previous headquarters of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Monterey Park, the task force includes resources from the County Sheriff’s, Probation, and Children and Family Services Departments. Other partners are the US Attorney’s Office, US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Coalition to Abolish Slavery (CAST), and various community organizations.

“Working with state, local and federal partners, we seek to dismantle criminal enterprises and bring to justice traffickers as well as individuals who create the demand that sustains these crimes,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said. “We will also develop new approaches aimed at rescuing young victims and addressing their needs in a victim-centered way.”

HS5_0363“Pure and simple, human trafficking is the cruel dehumanizing exploitation of the most vulnerable in our community,” he added. “The coercion and abduction and violation of our fellow human beings must end.”

Also present at the event were US Attorney Eileen Decker; Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Hilda Solis; Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, CAST Executive Director and CEO Kay Buck, Raben Group Special Counsel on Human Rights Malika Saada Saar; and human trafficking survivors Carissa and Ima.


Board Establishes Office of Diversion and Reentry

Reforming Los Angeles County’s criminal justice system, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance establishing the Office of Diversion and Reentry. Its goal: sending low-risk offenders with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders into treatment, rather than jail, while preserving public safety.

“Diversion is humane and cost-effective, putting taxpayer dollars to much better use than incarceration does,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored, with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the motion to create the Office.

Under the ordinance, the Office would be part of the County’s Department of Health Services. Its mission is to steer people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, on a path toward mental stability, sobriety and self-sufficiency, so they won’t keep cycling in and out of emergency rooms and jails at tremendous cost to taxpayers.

County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai said in a memo the Office “has the potential to create new efficiencies in system delivery and cost avoidance by redirecting persons in need of physical, mental, and public health services, from the criminal justice system to appropriate care and treatment in lieu of incarceration.”

The Office would coordinate with other agencies within the criminal justice system, as well as with community-based organizations, to provide services ranging from housing to mental health and substance abuse treatments, even job training.

In their motion to create the Office, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl called for developing “a pipeline of no less than 1,000 permanent supportive housing units over the next five years.” Amendments were added by Supervisor Hilda Solis, who said the Office should also support inmates at risk of becoming homeless after their discharge from jail, and by Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who sought robust community outreach when expanding housing and treatment services.

L.A. County Raises the Bar on Data Protection

Los Angeles County has become the largest municipality in the nation to encrypt all 88,000 of its computers – both laptops and desktops – to protect sensitive and/or confidential data against burglary and cyberattacks.

“This new layer of protection is critical to safeguarding our constituents from data breaches and identity theft,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion directing the encryption.

Approved by the Board of Supervisors in May 2014, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion called for encrypting all of the County’s workstation hard drives to safeguard both personally identifiable information and protected health information.

The previous policy had been to encrypt only the County’s portable devices.

The motion also took the precaution of requiring all of County’s contractors who handle personally identifiable information and protected health information to encrypt both their workstation hard drives and portable devices.

The County’s Chief Information Security Officer recently announced the County has successfully encrypted and secured 88,392 workstations using sophisticated software and tools that prevent unauthorized parties from accessing the data within.

County encryption will add security layers to protected Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which includes social security numbers, names, home addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and biometric records. PII is any data that can be used to identify, contact or locate a person.

It will also secure Protected Health Information (PHI), which applies to data about a person’s physical or mental health condition as recorded by a healthcare provider, health plan, public health authority, employer, life insurer, school and other entities.

Over the years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has undertaken several efforts to upgrade and secure the County’s Information Technology systems, including requiring regular audits for IT safety; consolidating the county’s IT systems into one centralized location, rather than maintaining 49 separate data centers; working to create one centralized electronic health record system; and fostering accountability and transparency by creating a state-of-the-art Open Data Website where residents can access information ranging from restaurant ratings to crime statistics to county expenditures.

Mentoring the Future of Law Enforcement

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) recently completed a pilot program that mentored young men and women of color to reach their full potential, while also recruiting a new – and more diverse – generation of law enforcement professionals.

LASD’s Youth Mentoring and Career Guidance Program provided 45 youth, ages 17-23,  with specialized training and work experience for six weeks over the summer. All participants were from the County’s Second District.

Launched in partnership with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Community and Senior Services Department’s Workforce Development Programs, the initiative was in response to President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge embraced by the County’s Board of Supervisors.

“We all have to do our part to tear down the barriers that keep young men and women of color from reaching their full potential,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas who coauthored, with Supervisor Hilda Solis,  the Board motion to accept the President’s challenge.

“This mentoring program not only creates opportunity for youth, it also helps to ensure that our next generation of law enforcement professionals is demographically representative of the communities they protect and serve,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added.

070  015-147During the program’s graduation ceremony at the Hall of Justice in October, mentee Jaime Hernandez radiated optimism. “Being part of this program, we have hope,” he said. “We’re the foundation of creating a better community.”

Aside from career education in the fields of public safety and law enforcement, and lectures on the importance of public trust and community-oriented policing, the program also focused on the mentees’ character attributes. Mentor Deputies talked to them about such topics as honesty and work ethic.

Deputy Kareem Douglas said he began his own law enforcement career when he was about the same age as his mentees. “I would like to see them follow the same path it took me to get to where I am today,” he said.

In her graduation speech, mentee Chardea McCullough said the program taught her self-motivation. “I used to think about quitting or giving up if I felt I was going to fail, even if the finish line was only a few steps away,” she said. “Now I’ve learned to pick myself up and follow through, even if I might not succeed.”

The program concluded with preparing mentees to take the exam for the entry-lev091  015-147el position of Safety Security Officer, opening a career path toward the rank of Deputy Sheriff and further promotion.

Those who might not qualify or choose not to pursue such a career path may be referred to alternative employment opportunities in the County or to an America’s Job Center of California youth program for additional job readiness support, training and subsidized work experience.

“Set your goals, find out what it’s going to take to reach those goals, and go get ’em,” LASD Chief James Hellmold encouraged the graduates. “Continue on the positive direction that you’re headed.”

Mentee Alejandro Zamarripa declared, “I want to be a deputy sheriff someday, enforcing laws, keeping crime off the streets.”

“Five to 10 years from now, I see myself becoming a homicide detective,” added Chardea McCollough. Monalise Fortuna, another mentee, said, “I see myself in the FBI working as an agent, owning a nonprofit organization that helps underprivileged communities.”

With My Brother’s Keeper, the President challenged communities to implement a coherent cradle-to-college-and-career strategy for improving the life outcomes of all young people to ensure that they can reach their full potential, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or the circumstances into which they are born.


First graduating class of the LASD’s Youth Mentoring and Career Guidance Program