Enhancing Law Enforcement in Los Angeles County

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas On the Election of the Los Angeles County Sheriff

“We wish outgoing Sheriff Jim McDonnell all the best in his future endeavors, and welcome Sheriff-elect Alex Villanueva in his new role. While we have made some important strides in oversight and criminal justice reform, much remains to be done to enhance law enforcement in Los Angeles County for department employees – both sworn and civilian – and for the community at large.”

Los Angeles County Now Interim Administrator of Sativa Water District

Outside Sativa Water District the day it transitioned to new management.  Photo: Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) has taken over the operations of Sativa Water District, which struggled for years to provide clean and clear water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton.

“For far too long, our residents have had to endure the unacceptable – they had no idea what would flow when they turned on their tap. Enough is enough,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Los Angeles County is ready to step in and step up. Effective Nov. 1, the Department of Public Works will assume responsibility for operating the Sativa Water District, immediately begin to triage the situation, and prepare the community for a smooth transition to a competent water service provider that will ensure they have long-term access to the clean, clear and affordable water they deserve.”

As interim administrator, DPW will assess Sativa’s aging pipes and other infrastructure, and identify improvements necessary to ensure that water is clean and safe to drink.  It will also work with customers, the state, and the Local Agency Formation Commission to identify a long-term water service provider.

Community member demands clean water. Photo: Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

“Our goal is to restore public trust within this community and deliver safe, clean water to our new customers” said Public Works Director Mark Pestrella. “We look forward to assessing Sativa’s financial health and operational capabilities so we can deliver this community the sustainable water system it so desperately needs.”

A coalition of federal, state and local elected officials backed bipartisan legislation to ensure the appointment of an interim administrator for Sativa.

“When I learned of residents in the Sativa Water District experiencing brown, murky water, I authored a bill and held a town hall to address the issue,” said state Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson. “Clean water is a basic necessity that all people are entitled to.  My bill, AB 1577, delivers on that promise by replacing Sativa’s board of directors with a state administrator while charting a new path of stability and improved water quality. This has truly been a community effort and I want to recognize the Board of Supervisors for standing with me from the very beginning of this journey.”

“Today marks a new beginning for our community and its crusade for quality drinking water,” said U.S. Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44). “I am pleased that the County of Los Angeles and its Department of Public Works has stepped in as acting administrator and has committed to assessing the current condition of the water system. I will continue to work with the County Supervisors on behalf of my constituents to ensure that every household in our community has clean and safe drinking water.”

“I’m relieved that the county will be assuming the role as the administrator of the Sativa Water District and confident that along with the passage of AB 1577, we can continue to transition the water district to the agency best equipped to ensure longstanding, high-quality water and services to over 6,000 of our constituents,” added state Senator Steven Bradford (D – Gardena).

Sativa served about 6,800 people in a service area that spans about one-third of a square mile in South Los Angeles. Because of its inability to provide proper maintenance of its 70-year-old pipes, its customers have had to endure episodes of brown water running through their taps. In the past, Sativa has also faced allegations of mismanagement and nepotism.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said DPW is well suited for the role of interim administrator as it has extensive experience operating water systems countywide, and currently serves 245,000 customers.

Identifying a new long-term water service provider could take 12 to 18 months. During that period, DPW would supervise the provision of water for Sativa’s customers. At the same time, it would review current system operations, maintenance and financial procedures with a focus on optimizing water quality and preparing for a new, long-term water provider.

When Sativa customers expressed alarm about brown water running through their taps last April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to conduct an investigation, prevent serious risks to public health, and determine whether appropriate management and governance of the water district is in place to address Sativa’s neglect of its pipes and related infrastructure. Over the summer, he authored motions to champion AB 1577, and to confirm the County’s willingness to play the role of interim administrator.

Standing Up for Justice Amid Hate

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors held a moment of silence to honor those slain at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

Rabbi Noah Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom, the largest Jewish congregation in the San Fernando Valley, delivered a moving invocation at the invitation of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who himself spoke of standing up for justice in the midst of hate.

Remarks by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the atrocity at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

“A moment of silence is most appropriate as we seek to center ourselves and to reclaim our sense of purpose and possibility, no matter the attempts to distract us from our fundamental mission.

“On behalf of my family, I wish to extend condolences to the Tree of Life congregation and all of those affected by this tragedy or, more fundamentally, this atrocity.

“We mourn the loss which took place at a house of worship. We’re reminded of how much our nation has been enriched by the breadth of religious expression, not the least of which is the Judeo tradition and its role in helping to interpret our journey in America and beyond.

“It is a part of American tapestry. It goes back as far as 1790 when then the President of the United States, George Washington, wrote to a Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, and I quote, “Give to bigotry no sanction,” adding his hope for Jewish Americans that, again I quote, “Everyone shall sit in safety and with none to make him afraid.”

“This seems to me a part of our fundamental belief in our country that we hold unshakable: that regardless of what we look like, where we come from, whom and what we worship, we all have a common humanity. And that commitment we have to remind ourselves each and every day, regardless of those who would choose to behave or cause us to think otherwise. In high places and in low places.

“So tomorrow and in the weeks ahead, we need to hold on to our fundamental conviction, our collective faith, that we will not be turned back from our sense of duty and responsibility as it relates to our collective humanity.

“I want to conclude by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And to the extent that that is the case, I trust that we will all stand up for justice even in a moment of silence.

 

Probation Reform and Implementation Team Weighs Powers of Future Probation Oversight Commission

The Probation Reform and Implementation Team (PRIT) held its fourth in a series of public meetings to develop a comprehensive plan for reforming the nation’s largest Probation Department. They discussed ways to transform the existing Probation Commission into a new – and strengthened – Probation Oversight Commission (POC).

The effort is in line with the Board of Supervisors’ far-reaching commitment to criminal justice reform, and is expected to result in better outcomes for youth and adults under Probation supervision, as well as to make Probation more transparent and accountable to the public.

At the meeting, PRIT members had a chance to hear from experts and stakeholders who discussed empowering the POC to conduct investigations, have access to information, conduct facility inspections, and expand oversight to adults. Speakers included:

  • Brian Williams, Executive Director of the LA County Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission
  • Max Huntsman, Inspector General of LA County
  • Mark Smith, Inspector General, Los Angeles Police Department
  • Patricia Soung, Youth Justice Policy Director and Senior Staff Attorney, Children’s Defense Fund

“It is not every day that the residents of LA County have a chance to design a new entity in County government,” said Saul Sarabia, chairperson of the PRIT. “Shaping the powers of the Probation Oversight Commission by drawing on community wisdom to engage and deliberate about best practices will create public ownership and awareness over the POC – the first step towards increasing accountability and transparency.”

PRIT member Cyn Yamashiro added, “Monitoring a department that has an annual budget of $935 million and jurisdiction over the lives of 7,500 youth and 45,000 adults is no easy task. We need broad community input to fulfill the Board of Supervisors’ charge to design a new oversight body with adequate powers, staffing and community confidence to achieve the systemic reform of the nation’s largest Probation Department.”

“The challenges in Probation are so systemic and persistent that they stymie those in the department who are trying to do good work,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lead author of the motion that created the PRIT. “Strengthening oversight and increasing accountability are absolutely necessary if the department is to improve its operations, fulfill its mandate to rehabilitate, and restore public trust.”

“Oversight is essential to ensuring that the Probation Department maintains fidelity to the values of transparency and accountability, thereby building and maintaining trust with the communities it serves,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “It is imperative that the Probation Oversight Commission is structured to include input with the broadest community reach, and is staffed with experts who can guide the Probation Department, celebrate its wins, address its deficiencies, and serve as our trusted advisors to help the Board of Supervisors and the community keep the Probation Department accountable.”

“Oversight can be a tool to accomplish our mission rather than a punitive process,” said Probation Chief Terri McDonald. “I welcome the Probation Oversight Commission and their healthy criticism, support and guidance. I look forward to accommodating their new mission in a transparent manner.”

The PRIT is made up of a diverse and committed group of experts with deep experience in criminal justice, violence prevention and intervention, and social justice advocacy. The panel includes members appointed by each of the five County Supervisors:

  • Alex Sanchez, First District: Co-founder of Homies Unidos and an advocate committed to violence prevention through racial tolerance and cultural understanding;
  • Cyn Yamashiro, Second District: Former public defender who established a criminal defense legal clinic at Loyola Law School and currently leads the County’s juvenile indigent defense team;
  • Sheila Balkan, Third District: Research consultant and sentencing evaluation specialist who has participated in over 4,000 state and federal cases;
  • Jose Osuna, Fourth District: Consultant specializing in gang rehabilitation, community based re-entry solutions, community organizing and social justice advocacy; and
  • Mack Jenkins, Fifth District: Expert in evidence-based practices for community corrections, who served as Chief Probation Officer for San Diego County from 2007 to 2016.

The team also includes one representative each from the Probation Department, the Office of County Counsel and the County Chief Executive Office.  The panel was tasked to meet consistently for six to nine months to develop recommendations for the Board, with the public’s input.

Probation has a budget of almost $1 billion and supervisory responsibility for more than 40,000 adult clients and about 8,000 youth, more than 900 of whom are detained as juvenile clients in the halls, camps and other facilities.

A New Mission and Vision for Probation

The Probation Reform and Implementation Team meets at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration.

The Probation Reform and Implementation Team (PRIT) met to discuss a new mission and vision for the nation’s largest Probation Department, as well as to consider an organizational structure that supports separate adult and juvenile probation operations.

The Honorable John Lawson provides expert testimony at the third PRIT meeting.

It was the third in a series of public meetings being held over several months to develop a comprehensive plan for reforming the department, as well as to transform the existing Probation Commission into a new – and strengthened – Probation Oversight Commission. The effort is in line with the Board of Supervisors’ far-reaching commitment to criminal justice reform, and is expected to result in better outcomes for youth and adults under Probation supervision, and to make Probation more transparent and accountable to the public.

At the meeting, the PRIT had a chance to hear from experts and stakeholders in Probation reform, including the current Probation Chief, a former Probation Chief, judicial representatives, and union representatives.

“Systems change requires deep and sustained engagement from multiple perspectives. By hearing from judges, probationers, union representatives, the Department’s leadership, and the public today, the Supervisors’ appointees will  be able to present an effective, integrated reform plan to produce more transparency and accountability,” said Saul Sarabia, chairperson of the PRIT, an educator who has been working for 25 years to try to end structural racism and discrimination of all kinds by developing leadersteaching, and engaging in collective action to change laws.

PRIT Chairman Saul Sarabia

PRIT member José Osuna said, “It is critical to ensure that a culture of transparency and accountability is rooted at all levels of the Probation Department. This community dialogue regarding the revision of the Department’s mission and the restructuring of its operations will allow LA County taxpayers and residents, and people who have been on Probation, such as me, to inform this major reform effort. As a member of the Board’s original working group to reform the department in 2016, and current appointee to the PRIT, I will not rest until the community and the Board’s vision for reform is realized.”

“Probation reform cannot wait, as demonstrated by increasing evidence of safety concerns in the County’s juvenile halls,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, principal author of the motion that created the PRIT. “Fundamental to reform is the mission of the department, and how it structures its staffing, operations and service delivery to support that mission. These are the building blocks for creating a culture of care in our adult and youth justice systems. I commend the PRIT for giving these topics the attention they deserve.”

“I commend the Probation Department for taking these steps towards realizing the Board of Supervisors’ vision for reform,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who coauthored the motion. “Developing the mission and systems for true accountability and transparency are critical for implementing the vision for change that is shared by Probation, the Board, and most importantly, the communities that we serve. The PRIT process and today’s conversation gives stakeholders a leadership role in determining the Probation Department’s future, alongside the Board and the Department.”

“At LA County Probation, we have embraced the challenge and opportunity to restructure the Department to best serve clients and the public while creating the foundation for change,” said Probation Chief Terri McDonald. “We welcome these discussions as we continually examine how we should perceive ourselves, serve clients, value staff and work with the community.”

PRIT members Alex Sanchez, Cyn Yamashiro, Mack Jenkins,José Osuna and Sheila Balkan

The PRIT is made up of a diverse and committed group of experts with deep experience in criminal justice, violence prevention and intervention, and social justice advocacy. The panel includes members appointed by each of the five County Supervisors:

  • Alex Sanchez, First District: Co-founder of Homies Unidos and an advocate committed to violence prevention through racial tolerance and cultural understanding;
  • Cyn Yamashiro, Second District: Former public defender who established a criminal defense legal clinic at Loyola Law School and currently leads the County’s juvenile indigent defense team;
  • Sheila Balkan, Third District: Research consultant and sentencing evaluation specialist who has participated in over 4,000 state and federal cases;
  • José Osuna, Fourth District: Consultant specializing in gang rehabilitation, community based re-entry solutions, community organizing and social justice advocacy;
  • Mack Jenkins, Fifth District: Expert in evidence-based practices for community corrections, serving as Chief Probation Officer for San Diego County from 2007 to 2016.

The team also includes one representative each from the Probation Department, the Office of County Counsel and the County Chief Executive Office.  The panel is to meet consistently for six to nine months to develop recommendations for the Board, with the public’s input.

Probation has a budget of almost $1 billion and supervisory responsibility for more than 40,000 adult clients and about 8,000 youth, more than 900 of whom are detained as juvenile clients in the halls, camps and other facilities.