Fighting Hate Crimes

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Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in Support of Board Chair Hilda Solis’ Motion Addressing Hate Crimes

“According to the Commission on Human Relations’ most recent hate crimes report, the number of hate crimes reported in Los Angeles County rose 24 percent from 2014 to 2015, breaking a seven-year general downward trend. The number of hate crimes statewide also increased – by 10 percent in 2015.

“The rise in hate crimes was across all the major categories — not just race, ethnicity, national origin, but also sexual orientation, religion and gender identity.

“Los Angeles experienced the highest rate of violence for homophobic crimes since 2003. African-Americans were grossly over-represented as victims, even in hate crimes that were not motivated by race. Disturbingly, many hate crimes in 2015 occurred in public places – on public transportation, on the sidewalk, and in plain view of others.

“We know that after triggering events, there is an increase in hate crimes and incidents. For example, anti-Muslim crimes increased after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Four such crimes were reported after the Paris attacks on Nov. 13. Nine followed the Dec. 2 mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

“The November 8th election is turning out to be another triggering event. This board has stood up to hate on several occasions – most recently the May 2016 motion supporting the ban on travel for county business to North Carolina until HB2 is lifted and the December 2015 motion on violence and acts of hate.

“We will continue to say ‘not on my watch’ when it comes to acts of hate.

“I support this motion, I thank the Chair for putting a spotlight on this issue and l look forward to hearing back from the departments.”

New Leadership at Probation Department

(left to right) Terri McDonald and Sheila Mitchell

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hailed the Board of Supervisors’ appointment of Terri McDonald as Chief Probation Officer, and of Sheila Mitchell as Chief Deputy Probation Officer.

“I look forward to working with Terri McDonald and Sheila Mitchell in reforming the Probation Department to ensure that youth and adults have the greatest chance of rebuilding their lives,” he said.

“Terri is a proven reformer who has already achieved notable improvements to our jail system. I am confident in her ability to carry out the changes we need in Probation, especially with Sheila as her second-in-command, as she is a renowned expert in juvenile justice with a track record of system change in California,”Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “Terri and Sheila are already making history by becoming the first women to lead Probation. I hope they can steer the long-troubled department to a brighter future.”

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Probation Officers

McDonald has 28 years of experience at both the state and local levels of government, including as Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff of Custody Division, implementing the recommendations of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence, until her retirement in April.

Mitchell is currently the chief operating officer for the nonprofit Unity Care, which develops educational and social programs to enrich the lives of at-risk youth. From 2004-2013, she was the Chief Probation Officer of Santa Clara County.

 

Historic Civilian Oversight Commission

Implementing historic criminal justice reform, the Board of Supervisors appointed the first-ever Civilian Oversight Commission for the Sheriff’s Department, with a mandate to promote transparency in law enforcement and restore public trust.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, principal author of the motion that created the Commission, said, “Civilians must play a critical role in holding law enforcement to the highest standards of constitutional policing. This Commission will bring new ideas to the forefront, establish new discourse, and bring new urgency in finding solutions.”

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, flanked by Board Chair Hilda Solis, Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Inspector General Max Huntsman at press conference on Civilian Oversight Commission.

“With the Commission, the public will have a dedicated forum to promote accountability and build partnership with the Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the Office of Inspector General, and the Board of Supervisors,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “If law enforcement is to be effective in the context of 21st century policing, it must have civilian input.”

The Board seated the Commission’s executive director and nine members, including legal scholars, current and former law enforcement officials, civil rights activists, religious leaders, and an advocate for victims of violence. Executive Director Brian K. Williams said, “I’m looking forward to working with the other member agencies to make what I think will be the model law enforcement agency in the nation.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell embraced the Commission, saying, “I anticipate that our working relationship will be very much a partnership.”

”We at the LASD understand that to build community relations, we must also build community credibility,” Sheriff McDonnell added. “We will be stronger and more effective, and be viewed with greater trust, when we welcome outside eyes.”

Inspector General Max Huntsman called the Commission a “game changer” that would “allow the public to interact with the Sheriff’s Department in a very robust way – not to shout at each other, but to really come together and talk.”

“Healing must occur, but for that to happen, our citizens must have reason to trust,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “This Civilian Oversight Commission will play a critical role in the rebuilding process.”

CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT COMMISSION

  • Hernán Vera, attorney and former president and CEO of Public Counsel, appointed by Supervisor Solis
  • Xavier Thompson, President of Baptist Ministers’ Conference and Senior Pastor of the Southern Saint Paul Church, appointed by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas
  • Patti Giggans, Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, appointed by Supervisor Kuehl
  • JP Harris, former Sheriff’s lieutenant, appointed by Supervisor Knabe
  • Robert C. Bonner, attorney and former U.S. Attorney and DEA Administrator, appointed by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich
  • Sean Kennedy, executive director of Center for Juvenile Law & Policy at Loyola Law School and former federal public defender, appointed by the Board of Supervisors
  • Heather Miller, Rabbi, Beth Chayim Chadashim, appointed by the Board of Supervisors
  • Priscilla Ocen, Loyola Law School Associate Professor, appointed by the Board of Supervisors
  • Lael Rubin, former Deputy District Attorney, appointed by the Board of Supervisors

S.T.A.R. Court Honored For Helping Children Survive Abuse

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Judge Victor Greenberg, Supervising Judge of the Dependency Court, accepting the award on behalf of S.T.A.R. Court founder and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Catherine J. Pratt.

Remarks by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in Bestowing the John Anson Ford Award to the S.T.A.R. Court 

“I am pleased to present the Second District’s Human Relations Award to the S.T.A.R. Court, which stands for “Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience”.

“This is an exemplary program that has demonstrated the effective application of a restorative justice approach in the commercial sexual exploitation of children by addressing the needs of victims as survivors, not criminals.

“S.T.A.R. Court operates out of the Compton Courthouse and is led by the vision, compassion and energy of its founder, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Catherine J. Pratt, who is in the audience today.

“Judge Pratt’s S.T.A.R. Court has worked with more than 300 youth ages 12-18, providing specialized trauma-informed care and linking youth to appropriate resources, making a life-saving difference for survivors of child sex trafficking.

“In 2015, more than 60% of youth who went through S.T.A.R. Court who were high school seniors graduated – a number that is higher than the graduation rate for the general foster care population.

“Congratulations to S.T.A.R. Court on this award.”

Historic Juvenile Justice Reform

Advocates testify in support of Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl’s motion to reform the juvenile justice system. L-R: Kent Mendoza, Anti-Recidivism Coalition; Patricia Soung, Children’s Defense Fund – California; and Martha Matthews, Public Counsel

On a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board of Supervisors voted to reform the way Los Angeles County provides legal counsel to youth in the justice system, and to begin implementing those changes by November 1.

“Today is truly a historic moment,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Our youth have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel and we, as a County, have an obligation to ensure that this right is met. These reforms accomplish that, while also protecting our youth and promoting their rehabilitation.”

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas makes his case for reforming the juvenile justice system at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 11, 2016

“Juvenile defense attorneys play a critically important role,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “They determine whether juveniles will be prosecuted as adults, and they not only defend their young clients, they advocate for mental health, substance abuse and other services that may benefit these young people.”

Under the status quo, when children and teenagers cannot afford an attorney, the County provides a public defender. If there is a conflict – such as when the public defender or alternate public defender is already representing another party in the case – the County instead hires a private “panel attorney,” who gets paid a flat fee of $340-$360 regardless of the complexity and severity of the case, and who must use their own resources to hire investigators.

The result, according to separate studies by Loyola Law School and the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley School of Law, was that youth represented by panel attorneys were more likely to end up in juvenile halls and camps, or to be tried as adults.

Probation Commissioner Cyn Yamashiro said failing to implement reforms “has moral and human costs.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl’s motion called for implementing reforms recommended by expert consultants Rebecca Silbert and Sue Burrell. Under the plan, the Alternate Public Defender’s Office would be given the role of taking on more cases arising from conflict.

The reforms also include having the Los Angeles County Bar Association oversee panel attorneys, who would be paid hourly, given equal access to resources, and undergo regular evaluations. Finally, a new, uniform case management system would be implemented to assist with data tracking and accountability.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said problems in the juvenile justice system have persisted for decades, and this year were highlighted in a documentary, They Call Us Monsters.

The historic action by the Board followed a groundbreaking report by Cyn Yamashiro, a professor and probation commissioner, who authored the Loyola Law School study. Yamashiro said that failing to implement reforms “has moral and human costs.”

Martha Matthews, director of the Children’s Rights Project at Public Counsel, said, “(Youth) cannot have a system of unequal justice, based simply on whether they happened to be assigned to someone who may be an incredibly diligent attorney — but is being paid (only) $300 per case.”

Kent Mendoza, a member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, held himself up as an example of what could happen when a young person has quality legal representation. He said his public defender connected him to resources that helped him turn his life around, and remains his mentor to this day.