Selection Process for Sheriff’s Department Inspector General Moves Forward

One of the most important recommendations of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence was for the Board of Supervisors to create an independent Inspector General’s Office to provide comprehensive oversight and monitoring of the sheriff’s department and its jails.

The recruitment process, which has been on-going for several months, has identified a number of potential candidates and now, acting on a motion by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board has voted to create a vetting committee to review their qualifications. At the end of the review it will issue a recommendation to the Supervisors for their consideration.

The Vetting Committee will have representation from the citizens’ commission, the sheriff’s department, and the civil rights community. Also, given his background, expertise and current role as the Implementation Monitor, Richard Drooyan will serve as the facilitator, but not as a voting member.

Appointed to the committee will be: 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 Urban League, and Samuel Paz, noted civil rights attorney.

The committee will have 30 days to make its evaluations and then submit a list of the most qualified candidates to the supervisors.

Are You Prepared for the Next Earthquake?

Although two decades have almost passed since the Northridge earthquake, the Los Angeles County Fire Department wants to make sure residents are prepared when the next big one strikes. To that end, the Los Angeles County Fire Department is holding free community emergency response team training (CERT) classes throughout the county to teach basic training in safety and lifesaving skills.

Because earthquakes strike without notice, it’s important for Southern California residents to know what to do when the ground starts shaking. The 6.7 magnitude Northridge quake lasted a matter of seconds but resulted in dozens of deaths, miles of damaged streets, flattened buildings and the collapse of freeways.  The 10-second temblor, which struck at 4:31 a.m., was triggered by a fault that squeezed the northern San Fernando Valley between two mountain ranges.  In fire department classes, participants learn CPR, bandaging techniques and basic first aid.

The next upcoming classes will run from September 28  to November.

September 28
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sorenson Park – Gymnasium
16801 East Ave P
Lake Los Angeles, CA

October 4
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Claremont Colleges
150 Eighth Street.
Claremont, CA 91711

October 5
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cerritos Sheriff’s Station
Community Safety Center
18125 Bloomfield Ave
Cerritos, CA

October 5
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
City of Lynwood Senior Center
11331 Ernestine Avenue
Lynwood, CA 90262

November 2
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Artesia Park (Community Center)
18750 Clarkdale Ave,
Artesia, CA

Los Angeles County Fire is also spreading the word about earthquake preparedness via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.  For additional earthquake safety tips from Los Angeles County Fire, or to sign up for the emergency response team training classes, visit their website at or call the LA. County Community Service Liaison Laura Walters (310) 217-7074.

Here are county fire’s earthquake safety tips:

* Drop down onto your hands and knees before the earthquake knocks you down.

* Cover your head and neck – and your entire body if possible – under a sturdy table or desk.

* If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall or low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.

* Hold onto your shelter until the shaking stops.  Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.


Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Molina Call for Citizens Oversight Commission for Sheriff’s Department

In a swift response to 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 are calling for the creation of a permanent citizen’s oversight commission.

The latest probe into the county jails, which will focus specifically on the treatment of mentally ill inmates, significantly expands the federal government’s ongoing investigations into the jails. A criminal investigation into allegations of excessive force and other wrongdoing has been underway since 2011. Similar concerns about use of force and abuse by jail deputies are also the centerpiece of the civil probe.

“The seriousness of this new investigation and the allegations of abuse that prompted it cannot be ignored,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The sheriff’s department has long required a level of scrutiny that has been missing, and although the board only controls it’s budget, the department is there to serve the citizens of L.A. County, and that’s who should have greater oversight.”

“Transparency, without question, is needed to ensure that there is proper oversight of the sheriff’s department,” said Supervisor Molina. “A sheriff’s department oversight commission is the best vehicle to ensure accountability.”

In their motion to establish a Los Angeles County Citizen’s Law Enforcement Commission, the supervisors maintain that the new investigation dramatizes the need for heightened scrutiny of the sheriff’s department. Continued allegations of excessive force, significant litigation costs and a moral imperative to ensure constitutionally appropriate policing in the jails and communities justifies the establishment of an oversight entity without delay. Structural reform clearly will require more than intermittent and temporary examination of the department.

Although the board’s authority over the sheriff, who is an elected official, largely is limited to budgetary matters, the supervisors clearly have the authority to establish an independent advisory citizen’s oversight commission – as it has done in the past.

The supervisors’ motion, to be voted on at this Tuesday’s meeting, calls for each supervisor to appoint a commissioner to the panel by October 15. In addition, it calls for a funding and staffing plan for the commission and for county counsel to cement the commission’s role with language formalizing the relationship between the Sheriff’s Department, the Office of the Inspector General and the board.

Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Knabe Seek County Amicus Brief for State Prison Compromise

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Don Knabe called on the county to take legal action to support a compromise to reduce the state’s prison population reached by Gov. Jerry Brown and the leaders of the state Legislature.

Brown, California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Speaker of the Assembly John Perez came to an agreement Monday, offering to spend more money on rehabilitation efforts if a panel of federal judges will extend an end-of-the-year deadline to release thousands of inmates.

In a motion read into the record Tuesday at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting and to be voted on next week, Supervisors Knabe and Ridley-Thomas also call for the board to direct county counsel to file briefs in federal court to support efforts to truncate the prison pipeline through increased rehabilitation services.

The state is under federal court order to reduce its prison population by December, and the agreement calls for allocating a portion of the $800 million slated for leasing cells in private prisons over three years, instead to drug, mental health and rehabilitation programs, if the court permits.

Since the state government shifted oversight of nonviolent prison parolees to local county governments in October 2011, Los Angeles and other counties have struggled to balance public safety concerns while meeting the rehabilitative needs of thousands of prison parolees. A significant increase in that population, which could occur should the federal courts not accept the compromise and insists on the release of approximately 9,000 inmates, would pose significant public safety and other challenges for local governments.

“This compromise is to be applauded,” said Ridley-Thomas, chairman of the board of supervisors. “From a policy perspective we simply cannot continue to over-utilize incarceration as our sole public safety solution. It’s not practical, it’s not economical and it’s not moral. Reducing our prison population and halting recidivism will require us to adopt strategies for rehabilitation as well.”

Supervisors Ask State to Stiffen Penalties for Adults Soliciting Sex from Children

As part of an ongoing effort against sex trafficking of children, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has called on state legislators to dramatically stiffen penalties for adults convicted of soliciting and having sex with children. Acting on a motion sponsored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe, the board asked the state to substantially raise fines so that California becomes the most expensive state in the nation in which to be convicted of soliciting sex from children. The same motion also calls for improved services and treatment for the victims.

Several speakers addressed the board about the ongoing problem of child sex trafficking and the challenges of cracking down on so-called “Johns,” including District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, Compton Mayor Aja Brown, the head of the LA County Probation Department’s sex trafficking unit Michelle Guymon as well as a survivor, Jessica Midkiff. Midkiff said she was groomed for work on the streets at age 11 and escaped shortly before turning 21.

“This motion represents a change in our view as to who are the true victims of these crimes and who are the true criminals,” said Lacey. “This motion addresses the market. That “John” who is out there trolling for a child should be treated more harshly by the system. If you are out there specifically looking for sex with a child you should not be treated as if you’re out there looking for sex with an adult.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas announced that California State Senator Darrell Steinberg, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell and Assemblyman Ted Lieu have indicated their support for a state bill addressing the demand side of child sex trafficking. In addition, in accordance with a request from the Los Angeles District Attorney, the motion asks that the law be amended so that not knowing a victim’s age cannot be used as a legal defense.

“When adults engage in sexual acts with children it should be called what it is: statutory rape,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “These are children, and children cannot consent. There have been strong efforts to appropriately punish sex traffickers, and there are efforts afoot to provide more services and treatment to the victims – mostly girls. But what’s missing from this equation are efforts to halt the demand for these children and meaningful consequences for their predators; that’s what we’re doing today.”

Supervisor Knabe said: “We have a good opportunity now, as the new legislative season in Sacramento is gearing up, to continue to promote awareness of this horrific crime and develop effective legislation to help the victims and go after the scumbags who purchase and sell girls for sex,” he said. “We must address the “demand” side of this crime and make the penalties severe enough so that these “Johns” don’t continue to be nameless and free of any criminal record, while the girls are criminalized. No 12-year-old little girl is choosing this life and we must do everything we can to protect them.”

Every day, children – primarily girls – as young as 10 years-old are being coerced and sold into prostitution in Los Angeles County and in counties throughout the state. According to experts in the field, the average life expectancy of these children once they enter the sex trade is seven years, due to the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the violence to which they are regularly subjected. At the low end, a victim could make $3,500 a week while some victims earn as much as $1,000 a day, making child sex trafficking a highly lucrative business increasingly run by gangs.

“Like narcotics, we’re seeing the proliferation of sex trafficking being put forth by the gangs. We’re seeing girls as young as nine or 10,” said McDonnell. “The pimps set the minimum for them to make, they stay out there until they do or they’re beaten.”

The men who solicit sex from children, however, often are not arrested and prosecuted, and even when they are, typically face only a proverbial slap on the wrist. The motion, asks lawmakers to amend the state penal code to make soliciting sex with a minor a felony. It also requires the “customers” to register as sex offenders and increases the fine from $1,000 to $10,000. It calls on law enforcement to refocus its priorities and actively arrest and prosecute these predators.

“The buyers of sex can be anyone,” said Guymon. “They are professionals, tourists, the diversity of buyers allows them to blend into our communities. The majority are men, usually they are married, hold a good job and have an average to high IQ.” Evidence suggests that predators are seeking to have sex with younger girls who are perceived to be both healthier and more vulnerable.

Helping the survivors and changing the perception of young girls who are trafficked is essential, said Midkiff.

“For every teenage girl there were 20 adult customers per night who were purchasing her. This equals up to 140 customers per week for one single girl,” she said. “As long as sex buyers are prowling the streets and lurking in the internet demanding sex without any perceived consequences, we will not curtail this problem.”