Board Takes Action on Sheriff Body-Worn Cameras

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The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to seek expert advice and a cost analysis as it continues to consider body cameras for the Sheriff’s Department.

“It is imperative that we uplift transparency in law enforcement practices, and body-worn cameras can be a valuable tool for that, as well as for improving the behavior of both deputies and civilians, reducing excessive force and wrongful convictions, and enhancing police-community relations,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lead author of the motion. “This technology, however, raises many sensitive policy, legal and practical concerns that must first be resolved.”

“Body cameras are being implemented by roughly two-thirds of major law enforcement agencies in the country,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who co-authored the motion. “With the proper underlying policy decisions, body cameras can be effective in reducing complaints, and they tend to de-escalate negative interactions between civilians and law enforcement officers. Today’s action creates a process, supported by systematic engagement with the community, that will help all of us collectively make a decision on how best to proceed to build accountability, transparency, and trust.”

In 2012, the Citizen’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Jail Violence was the first entity to recommend that the Sheriff’s Department use “lapel cameras as an investigative tool” to address problematic use of force. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) made a series of similar policy proposals in 2015.

The Sheriff’s Department and County Chief Executive Office proposed an implementation plan to the Board in October 2017. In July 2018, the Civilian Oversight Commission (CoC) recommended implementing a body-worn camera program over two years. These recommendations were informed by national research, several community town halls, and over 2,500 survey responses.

The latest motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis directs the County CEO, in consultation with the Sheriff, County Counsel, COC and OIG to engage a consultant who would make recommendations within 120 days on proposed policies, procedures, deployment plan, staffing levels and operations.

The motion also directs the CEO and Sheriff, in consultation with the consultant, OIG and COC, to give the Board an updated cost analysis of body-worn cameras, and compare it with those of other jurisdictions.

The leaders of both the CoC and OIG spoke out in support of the motion.

“From possibly reducing the amount of excessive force and citizen complaints to more reliable results in criminal, civil and administrative proceedings, we believe that body-worn cameras are an essential component of modern community policing,” OIG CoC Executive Director Brian Williams said. “Obtaining the cameras and establishing solid policies and procedures for their use, we believe, should be a priority for the Sheriff’s Department and the County.”

“Body cameras are required equipment for a large urban police force,” added Inspector General Max Huntsman. “Not having them is like leaving every crime scene without collecting blood samples, not dusting for finger prints, and not taking photos.”

 

Plan Approved to Expand Voter Outreach

Mindful of many disenfranchised voters in county jails and within the probation system, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took further steps to expand voter education and registration for ‘justice involved’ individuals. The motion, co-authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, initiates a task force to register as many voters as possible in advance of the November election.

“There are still rampant misconceptions about voters’ rights,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With 1 in 13 disenfranchised voting-age African Americans, voter ineligibility disproportionately affects people of color.”

The motion elevates and expands the County’s current efforts to assist the marginalized populations to become more civically engaged. Californians at least 18 years old are eligible to vote by mail from jail if they are awaiting trial on any charge or convicted of a misdemeanor. Some probationers are also eligible to vote, whether in or out of jail.

“With this motion, we are moving to lessen one of the daunting barriers faced by men and women being released from jail who are trying to get back on their feet and become successful members of society,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “Imagine trying to register for social security or rent an apartment without a personal identification card.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Kuehl’s motion centers on improving civic and electoral engagement by expanding on and enhancing the County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s current program, Voting While Incarcerated. The motion would also ensure that youth and adults involved with justice system have access to vital records, such as birth certificates and I.D.’s, to help them reintegrate back into their communities.

“Ensuring that justice involved individuals understand their rights can reduce the likelihood that they will commit crimes in the future,” added Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

A report back is expected in advance of the November election.

Carson Officer Revives Lifeless Toddler

An emergency response on Saturday, July 21, 2018 requiring red lights and sirens for a one year-old baby chocking led Carson Station deputies to a late evening shift they will never forget.

Within approximately one minute, training officer Melvin Castro and his trainee, Deputy Omar Sanchez, turned onto the 2100 block of Grace Avenue in Carson. There, in the middle of the street, a male adult frantically jumped and wailed his arms in the sky in a desperate attempt to get their attention.

Deputies Castro and Sanchez sped to the frantic man, quickly parking the patrol car, and followed behind the father who was desperately guiding them to his dying baby girl.

At the rear of the house, deputies Castro and Sanchez were met by a hysterical mother who ran towards them, clutching her one year-old baby in her arms. She pushed the lifeless and limp body of Baby Faith onto Deputy Castro’s chest in what seemed to be her last hope of bringing her baby back to life.

“She wasn’t breathing. Her eyes were wide open. There was no life in the kid. She just lay lifeless, limp.” Those were the words of Deputy Castro, a 37 year-old father of two and 11 year veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

“This isn’t good,” he thought. “I checked her pulse. Checked to see if she was breathing. She was not.”

Deputy Castro immediately took lifesaving action by administering CPR. Baby Faith remained unresponsive, cradled in Deputy Castro’s arm as he continued trying to revive her.

“I felt like we had been there too long…and every second counts,” said Deputy Castro. “So I decided to transport her.”

Deputy Sanchez, who was on his fourth month of patrol training, had yet to drive a patrol vehicle in an emergency. However today, a life and death situation thrust him in the spotlight of navigating to the nearest hospital in the quickest and safest way possible.

“When the mom handed Deputy Castro the baby, my T.O. [training officer] said we were going to the hospital, I grabbed the keys. I was nervous but I had to do it. I said to myself we better get there quick.”

Deputies Castro and Sanchez jumped into the patrol car. As Deputy Castro entered the front passenger seat, still attempting to revive Baby Faith, Deputy Sanchez initiated the patrol vehicle’s red lights and siren – his first ever emergency response behind the wheel.

By that time, Deputies Timothy Cho, Jeffrey Rupert, Larry Billoups, Nathan Mackey, and Miguel Herrera whom were already on scene, began the logistical coordination of the emergency route by blocking traffic and intersections, as well as the clearing of roadways necessary to expedite Baby Faith’s transport to the hospital.

Deputy Sanchez said, “I kept looking over as Deputy Castro was giving CPR, I wanted to see if she was reacting.”

And suddenly, on the way to the hospital, the baby gasped for air.

“I felt kind of relieved but I was still panicked,” said Deputy Castro. “I was still worried because at the same time we were not there yet. I just wanted her to stay with me till we got to the hospital.”

Arriving to the hospital, they pulled up to the front entrance and ran past the awaiting staff directing them to the pediatric emergency room. There, they handed Baby Faith, who was still gasping for air, to medical personnel.

Since then, she has made a full recovery, having been released from the hospital and now back home.

Deputy Castro had never performed CPR on a baby while on patrol before. “Training just kicked in,” he said. “The relief was intense.”

“These deputies exhibited heroism,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas whose district includes Carson. “As a result of their split second decision, an infant will live.”

Kiah Moten, mother of Baby Faith stated, “I just know that if it wasn’t for them, the outcome could’ve been very different for us. So for the rest of our days, we are going to be grateful that they were able to come and assist us and save our daughters life.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell stated, “These deputies are very humble. What they did was tremendous and the kind of thing that goes on every day in America. Too often this goes unnoticed. We are here to celebrate a job well done and a life saved.”

Creating Jobs that Save Lives

All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

Fifteen men became the second cohort of students to graduate from a pilot program that trains young people of color in underserved communities to become Emergency Medical Technicians.

The first cohort consisted of 17 men, 11 of whom have already passed the national registry exam to become certified EMTs. Approximately 25 women are being recruited for the third cohort.

Raul Cuellar, the valedictorian of the first cohort of graduates, is now an EMT pursuing a career as a firefighter. He congratulates Chase Haley, valedictorian of the second cohort of graduates.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who served as commencement speaker, told the graduates: “For many of you, becoming an EMT is an opportunity to improve your personal quality of life. But as many of you recognize, it is also an opportunity to improve the life of your community. For your willingness to serve, I commend you.”

The LA EMT program is a two-year pilot designed to introduce young adults to viable career pathways in the health and public safety sectors. It is a partnership among the Office of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the California Endowment, the Worker Education and Resource Center, McCormick Ambulance, the Los Angeles County Fire and Mental Health Departments, and the Stentorians.

LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby addresses the graduates.

Based on the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services program, the LA EMT program includes workforce readiness, coaching, life skills, counseling, mentoring, tutoring, and case management services.

“Joining this program was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made,” said Chase Haley, one of the graduates. “Through these long weeks, I’ve gained brothers, guidance and insight into a career field that will not only change my life but everyone I come in contact with.”

“LA EMT showed me how effective teamwork strengthens bonds but also improves individual character,” added Cairo Saunders, another graduate.

Employment in the field of healthcare is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.4 million new jobs.

 

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Statement on the passing of Civic Leader John W. Mack

“For nearly 40 years, John Wesley Mack and I were friends, confidants and collaborators. He burnished a distinguished legacy of public service, fathering not one but two generations of civic leaders.

“Ever the idealist and visionary, he refused to let institutional racism, police misconduct, interethnic strife, and the challenges of metropolitan politics impede his quest for civil rights, justice and progress.

“His work bettered the lives of so many people in Los Angeles and beyond. As I offer my deepest condolences to his children and grandchildren, I pledge to continue his legacy through committed, inclusive and principled leadership and service.”