Statement on Sheriff Lee Baca’s Retirement

Like many, I was surprised to hear about Sheriff Lee Baca’s decision to retire. I applaud the Sheriff, however, for taking a step he firmly believes to be in the best interest of the men and women who work in the department.

The mantra for our county, however, does not change with his impending departure: Reform is essential for a department that has been wracked by one crisis after another.

In addition to the recent appointment of veteran prosecutor Max Huntsman as inspector general of the Sheriff’s Department, the time has come for Los Angeles County to establish a permanent citizen’s oversight commission.

Los Angeles County is simply behind the times on this front. Several cities in this country, from New York to Los Angeles, have commissions to oversee law enforcement departments to ensure constitutional policing in our jails and communities.

For public confidence to be restored there must be singularly focused independent civilian oversight. This oversight is essential to make reforms and bring forth an open process to allegations of misconduct and to avoid jail scandals, committee inquiries and federal investigations.

Citizens and advocates for reform repeatedly have issued clarion calls for meaningful participation in policing the county’s largest sheriff’s department in the nation. The commission must have the power to ensure that its members’ voices are heard and that a true partnership with the public exists.

Free Firefighter Preparatory Seminars

Anyone interested in starting a career in firefighting has the opportunity to prepare from January to May for the Firefighter Trainee examination this summer. The three training sessions which begin on January 11, and will be divided by regions, will prepare future firefighters to take the written exam, an oral interview, understand health and fitness requirements and become familiar with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s hiring process and history.

The three seminars will be led by experts of LA County Fire Human Resources Division and firefighter training teams. According to the L.A. County Fire Department, from 2010 to 2012 there were an average of 2,100 structure fires in Los Angeles County, with the fire department receiving 229,000 medical emergency calls.

“We want to make sure every firefighter candidate is prepared for the upcoming exam process – not just the written but also in their agility and interview process,” said L.A. County Fire Battalion Chief Anderson Mackey of the Employee Service Section.

For more information please click here: fire.lacounty.gov

Statement on the Appointment of Max Huntsman as Inspector General for LASD

Max Huntsman, assistant head deputy of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division, has been selected as the inspector general for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to provide comprehensive oversight and monitoring of the sheriff’s department and its jails. The Board of Supervisors will formalize the appointment at their weekly meeting on December 3, 2013.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has authored several motions asking for a civilian oversight committee and the creation of an inspector general of the Sheriff’s Department, praised the board’s selection of the veteran public corruption prosecutor.

“Max Huntsman is uniquely qualified for this position. He has shown that the power of the people will catch officials who abuse power. He has not only won convictions against police officers, he also has successfully prosecuted officials in Bell, Vernon, Compton and Los Angeles. This appointment is a much-needed step in the right direction,” said Ridley-Thomas. “The appointment of an inspector general alone, however, will not bring true reform to the Sheriff’s department. For public confidence to be fully restored there must be singularly focused civilian oversight in order to make reforms and bring forth an open process to allegations of misconduct.”

Huntsman will be charged with investigating allegations of improper conduct by the department, which has been plagued by jail scandals, committee inquiries and even a federal investigation. Despite the efforts of committed professionals within and outside the department to monitor abuses in the jail system, the problems have continued, causing death and injury to many inmates as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in law suit settlements for the county.

The recruitment process was on-going for several months and a vetting committee was established to review the candidates’ qualifications. That committee included federal judges, the Hon. Lourdes Baird and the Hon. Robert Bonner, both of whom were members of the jail violence commission; Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald; John W. Mack, former president of the Los Angeles Urban League, and Samuel Paz, noted civil rights attorney. Former assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Drooyan served as the facilitator, but not as a voting member.

In 2011, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Ridley-Thomas authored a motion for the creation of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) with the goal of determining the full extent of the custody problems within the county’s jails. In September 2012, the commission released 77 findings in its nearly 200-page report. After more than a year of investigation, testimony, and sifting through over 35,000 pages of documents; the evidence of inmate abuse and jail mismanagement was clear and convincing. This past September, as a result of the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights investigation into whether Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies have abused inmates, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina called for the creation of a permanent citizen’s oversight commission.

“For several weeks now, citizens and advocates for reform repeatedly have issued clarion calls for meaningful participation in policing the county’s largest sheriff’s department in the country,” said Ridley-Thomas. “The commission must have the power to ensure that its members’ voices will truly be heard.”

New Library and Sherriff’s Station Come to Lennox

Two years ago, residents in the unincorporated area of Lennox were served by one of the oldest libraries operated by the County of Los Angeles. Old shelves, old books, old tables. The nearby Sheriff’s station wasn’t much better. Now, it’s out with the old and in with the new, as the Lennox Library and former Sheriff’s Station are almost done with their makeovers.

”This renovation has been long overdue,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “In addition to the expansion of the library, Lennox residents will finally be able to access a variety of government resources right in their own neighborhood.”

In April 2012, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized $4.4 million to more than double the size of the old 4,500-square-foot library into a 10,000-square-foot state of the art, environmentally efficient facility. The project also will transform part of the old station into a new 7,200-square-foot community service center. The Sheriff’s department will still maintain a presence on the eastern portion of the campus in a facility that will also undergo renovations.

Aside from providing standard book services to the Lennox community, the new library will include a teen study room, a children’s library, a designated area for both teen and children’s collections, a homework center, an audiovisual area, nine public access computers, and a community meeting room.

The County’s local worker hiring program requires the contractor to hire qualified workers who reside within a 5-mile radius of the project or within a County of Los Angeles zip code where the unemployment rate exceeds 150% of the County’s average unemployment rate. These workers, considered “Local Workers” for the purpose of the program, must account for 30 percent of construction hours on the project.

“The Board’s decision to invest in the Lennox community will benefit children and families for years to come,” the Supervisor said. “Today, we are providing employment opportunities for local residents. Tomorrow we will have a new library that will provide our future leaders with the educational tools they need to succeed in school and beyond. It’s a win by any measure.”

To date, the Local Worker Hiring Program has exceeded expectations, with local residents working 44% of the total construction hours.

The construction of the new Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center is now approximately 85% complete and on target for a grand opening in February 2014. The Lennox Sheriff’s station next door is anticipated to reopen by Spring 2014.

“I look forward to walking into the doors of what will be both functional and beautiful new facilities in Lennox.”

Free Legal Help Available This Week

Until October 26, the LA Law Library will offer free workshops, information sessions and services for the public as part of national pro bono week. The services, which run throughout the day and continue through October 26, also will include legal education classes for lawyers who want to learn more about volunteer public service.

Anyone with a legal question, whether it’s about finding court records or collecting money owed to them or getting help reading a contract, can take advantage of these services this week.

“No matter how many people come through the door, some stories stand out,” said Ralph Stahlberg, Senior Reference Librarian, who recalled a single mother needing help for a disabled adult daughter or a client who paid a lawyer for services that never were provided. The people who come to pro bono week, Stahlberg said, are desperate for help and truly grateful for it.

The event is part of a nationwide event that showcases pro bono yearly volunteerism on the part of attorneys and legal aid agencies, and also highlights the growing need for free and low-cost legal aid for those facing issues such as housing, government benefits, immigration status, family safety and consumer debt.

The LA Law Library is located in downtown Los Angeles, at 1st Street and Broadway, just steps away from both the Stanley Mosk Courthouse and Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Courthouse. It is a global leader in providing state-of-the-art legal research and services, with a comprehensive California law collection and one of the nation’s largest foreign and international law collections. It is the second largest public law library in the United States.

For more information and to see a complete description of the events and services, please contact: 213.784.7372 or probonoweek.lalawlibrary.org.