Supervisors takes bold action to reform Sheriff’s Department

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca testifies before the Board of Supervisors.

Taking bold action to push for reform in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to hire an independent monitor to ensure that recent recommendations to improve oversight and restructuring of the department are implemented.

[pullquote_right] “It will take all of us,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_right]In addition to deciding to hire a monitor — a move put forth in a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas — the board also voted to hold monthly meetings with Sheriff Lee Baca, starting in November. At these special meetings, the board will assess the Sheriff’s progress implementing reforms suggested by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by supervisors last year. The Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence put forth 63 key recommended reforms after hearing hours of testimony and studying allegations of excessive use of force by deputies against inmates surfaced.

“With all due respect to the Sheriff, I simply do not believe we will see these reforms implemented in a timely and thorough way unless there is an oversight process put in place,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas when calling for an independent monitor. After documenting 16 years’ worth of previous reforms that went unheeded by the Sheriff’s Department and more than $42 million in excessive force settlements in the past several years, the Supervisor insisted that the Sheriff alone could not overhaul the department..

“It will take all of us — the board, command staff, rank and file, and the public, to see this through so we create a new and improved L.A. County Sheriff’s Department,” he said.

Supervisors Molina emphasized that the Board of Supervisors must remain fully engaged in the reform process: “Setting aside a specific day and setting aside a special hearing will clearly fulfill the mandate the commission left with us for public transparency,” she said.

Once retained, the monitor would work with the Sheriff to review the implementation of the commission’s 63 recommendations, which include a major restructuring of the department’s command and custody workforces, internal investigations, and inmate complaint processes. The monitor also would be assisted by representatives from Sheriff’s deputy and commander rank labor unions, county counsel and other county departments.

Sheriff Lee Baca said he agrees with the reforms, which the jail violence commission said were needed to fix fundamental failures of leadership by the Sheriff.

“I am very pleased with the progress we made today,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The Sheriff has embraced the reforms; the Board has shown it means business in seeing them implemented, and now I’m confident that the stellar recommendations of the jail violence commission will not go the way of so many other strong reports and calls for reform of the Sheriff’s department.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ Statement on the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence Report

Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence Chair Lourdes Baird

Now that the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence has completed its mission, we can be sure of one thing: The Sheriff’s Department cannot police itself.

That is why I will ask the board to make profound structural changes with regard to oversight of the department and create a system for permanent and independent citizen oversight of our jails.

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, I will introduce a Board motion directing the County Counsel and the Chief Executive Officer to assess the viability of establishing both a Citizens Law Enforcement Commission and an Inspector General for the Sheriff’s Dept.

Last year I co-authored a motion for the creation of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) with Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Our goal was to obtain and analyze the data necessary to determine the full extent of the custody problems within the County’s jails. Today, CCJV 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 is clear and convincing. Now that we have the data, we cannot stop here.

New oversight is warranted and it needs to be more substantial and comprehensive. The change has to be structural because there are no easy remedies and shortcuts to accomplish the goal of fair and equitable treatment by those entrusted to provide public safety services. The CCJV report makes clear that the most robust change would be achieved by independent and consolidated oversight. We should not let another 20 years pass with a piecemeal and compartmentalized approach to public safety accountability. It is time to deal with the problems now, using a unified approach that achieves reform in L.A. County law enforcement, achieves constitutional policing and bolsters public trust.

None of the calls for change should be construed as a wholesale condemnation of the Sheriff’s Department. Indeed, I anticipate the full support of the Sheriff and the department for greater citizen involvement and consolidated oversight. The Sheriff has clearly stated his determination to right this ship, and I take him at his word. Furthermore, the men and women of the department deserve a process that will no longer permit a few bad apples to besmirch the thousands of deputies who perform bravely and admirably every day.

We cannot be timid about tackling these policing issues. There are a number of deputies who have failed the public. These are not isolated incidents. The report refers to a culture of violence. This culture was repeatedly overlooked by jail custody management and Department executives.

Plainly said, we must make sure that people in custody are not victimized by those charged with their supervision. That’s why we must steer the Sheriff’s Department in a new direction.

Increased civilianization of the jail custody staffing may be a way to decrease inmate violence. There are far too many Sheriff’s deputies who simply do not want to work in the jails but nonetheless are required to do so for the first five to seven years of their employment. By contrast, custody assistants are specifically trained for jail assignments and want to do this work.

The weight of the CCJV report will be measured by the manner in which those elected to maintain public safety move forward to address the problems and change the culture. Otherwise, the work of this Commission and staff will have been undertaken in vain.

Click HERE to read the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence Report

Supervisors act to examine and improve realignment services

[pullquote_left] “The matter is urgent,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_left]The Board of Supervisors today imposed greater oversight on the County Probation Department, which has been struggling to provide services to the inmates recently released from state facilities who now must rely on local agencies for help. Last October, the state shifted responsibility for certain inmates to the counties. Since then, the state has released to local supervision more than 5,000 offenders who were convicted of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual crimes. The Probation Department, which is charged with providing released inmates with rehabilitative services such as mental health and substance abuse counseling, housing and job training, has had little success in fulfilling that obligation. Since February, the department has referred only 60% of former inmates to services, of which only 15% actually have received treatment.

The Supervisors today called for more accountability from the department. Acting on a motion sponsored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board unanimously called for staff to develop a feasibility plan to ascertain how best to expeditiously increase the number of released prisoners who receive rehabilitative services.

To ensure that this target is reached, as part of the motion, staff is directed to examine clear performance goals for both referring departments and agencies, locate referring County service providers, and ensure participation of community- and faith-based organizations.

Officials from the Probation Department told the Supervisors that significant progress already has been made. For example, 48% of those who need mental health services are now receiving treatment. Implementing AB 109, the state’s realignment program, has been a challenge, said Cal Remington, the department’s chief deputy, but Probation increasingly is mandating that the former inmates comply with orders to receive therapeutic and other services.

“Early on we found that many of these coming out with problems did not have a condition that allowed us to, in essence, mandatorily refer them,” Remington said. Now, he said, the department is implementing the use of low-level violations and sanctions on a case-by-case basis.

Representatives from several community-based organizations spoke in favor of the motion; however, some urged the County to resist creating a structure of mandates and resulting violations that could lead to the re-incarceration of returning prisoners.

“We think it’s a positive step,” said Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition. She added that those returning often are hindered in their efforts to comply. The lack of a valid or government-issued identification card, without which they often cannot access educational, housing and health care services, presents an enormous hurdle for many attempting to comply with Probation’s orders.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas emphasized that having the department clearly spell out its guidelines is essential for a successful reentry scenario.

“The matter is urgent,” the Supervisor said. “If we do not see substantially more people receiving the treatment and services they need, no one will be well served; public safety will be undermined and the cycle of recidivism will continue unabated.

It is imperative, the Supervisor continued, that the County not duplicate the State’s abysmal recidivism rate; about 65% of former inmates return to prison within three years.

Education in Los Angeles: School system or prison system?

Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Arturo Delgado and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in a classroom at the Harris County Youth Village.

Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Arturo Delgado and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in a classroom at the Harris County Youth Village.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Superintendent Arturo Delgado visited classrooms in Houston, Texas’ juvenile detention facilities Thursday (Feb.16) in an ongoing effort to study innovative programs that may be models for reforming education in Los Angeles’ youth camps and halls.

Los Angeles County’s youth probation system is currently being monitored by the U.S. Dept. of Justice due to dangerous conditions in the camps, and the county in 2010 settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union alleging the failure to provide a constitutionally adequate education to youths at the Challenger Camp in Lancaster.  Under the settlement terms, LACOE and the Probation Dept. are now working to improve education at Challenger Camp.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, however, believes schooling in the county’s youth probation facilities is in urgent need of an overhaul. “There are bright spots in our camps due to the above-and-beyond effort of many dedicated Probation and LACOE staffers; but as a whole our system needs to look and act more like a school system than a prison system,” Ridley-Thomas said, “we have a long way to go.”

A math teacher in the Harris County Youth Village uses a multimedia “smart board” to instruct a student preparing for the GED exam.

In Houston, Delgado and Ridley-Thomas visited the Harris County Youth Village, where boys and girls in custody attend classes in a dedicated school building. Along with class sizes typically smaller than ten students, youths in custody are taught using contemporary technology – students use laptop computers in the classrooms and each room features a “smart board” multimedia blackboard.

More than 80% of students who take the GED high school equivalency exam in custody pass the test and move on to a local community college. The Youth Village also uses a computer-guided reading program being studied for use in Los Angeles County. Along with academic innovations, youths in custody participate in a student government that meets weekly to manage their residential life.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas had previously visited the Maya Angelou Academy at New Beginnings, a revolutionary school program serving Washington, D.C.’s juveniles in custody.

Both the Harris County probation schools and Washington, D.C.’s probation schools teach students using the “Freedom Schools” model developed by the Children’s Defense Fund. Freedom Schools promote reading and self-esteem through an academically rigorous curriculum that also stresses civic engagement and social action. Outside of probation camps, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has brought Freedom Schools summer programs to churches and community centers in the Second District, serving more than 500 students to date.

“The best practices in classrooms outside the locked gates of probation camps need to be brought inside,” Ridley-Thomas said. “A new LACOE superintendent, Arturo Delgado, and a new Chief Probation Officer, Jerry Powers, are on board, and they are eager to make the changes we need to make sure our youths use their time in custody to move ahead as students, not fall behind as prisoners,” he said.

Notice of $10,000 reward offered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

It is always a tragedy when someone in our community is killed. It is even more tragic when the victim is a young person of only 16 years of age and the victim of a senseless shooting.

Earlier this year, on February 27, 2011, Thomas Riley, age 16, was such a victim. Thomas was shot and killed in front of an apartment complex in the 1700 block of West 105th Street, in Los Angeles, near the intersection of 105th and Western Ave.

Thomas Riley was hanging out in front of the apartment complex with friends when they were approached by two male blacks who asked “Where you from?” Such a question should not be a death sentence. Before anyone from the group could answer that they were not affiliated with a gang, one of the males pulled a handgun from his waistband and began firing at them. Thomas Riley was shot five times. Thomas was transported to Harbor – UCLA Medical Center. Thomas died as a result of his gunshot wounds.

Thomas Riley was an upstanding young man of good moral character. Riley was not affiliated with gang members, nor had he ever been in any legal trouble. At the time of his untimely death, he was doing one of his favorite things — working with his friends on his mini-bike. The shock and senseless murder of Riley has left his family devastated.

On August 16, 2011, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, at my request, approved a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Thomas’ murder.

CBS Outdoor Systems at the urging of Thomas’ father Mr. Anthony Riley, has graciously made available and assisted in printing four billboards requesting the public’s assistance in obtaining any information that may assist with the investigation.

To this date, the billboards have been placed throughout the community near the murder scene. The locations of the billboards are:

  • Western Ave and 98th street, Los Angeles
  • Western Ave and Century Bl, Los Angeles
  • Market Street and Hillcrest Bl, Inglewood
  • Manchester Ave and Denker Ave, Los Angeles

With your help, our community will remain safe and justice will be served.

(Sheriff’s Press Release is available by clicking here.)

Murder of Thomas Riley
Description and Date of Crime: Fatal Shooting of Thomas Riley – 02/27/2011
Location: 1700 block of West 105th St, Los Angeles
Reward Amount: $10,000
Deadline to Submit Claim to Executive Office: 01/13/2012

Notice is hereby given that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles has established a reward in the amount of $10,000 in exchange for information leading to the apprehension and/or conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder of 16-year-old Thomas Riley, who was shot and killed on February 27, 2011, in front of a residence located on the 1700 block of West 105th Street in unincorporated Los Angeles. Any person having any information related to this crime is requested to call Detectives McElderry or Acebedo at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500 and refer to Report No. 011-81937-0372-011.

The terms of the reward provide that:

  • The information given that leads to the determination of the identity, the apprehension and conviction of any person or persons must be given no later than November 14, 2011. All reward claims must be in writing and shall be received no later than January 13, 2012.
  • The total County payment of any and all rewards shall in no event exceed $10,000 and no claim shall be paid prior to conviction unless the Board of Supervisors makes a finding of impossibility of conviction due to the death or incapacity of the person or persons responsible for the crime or crimes.
  • The County reward may be apportioned between various persons and/or paid for the conviction of various persons as the circumstances fairly dictate.

Any claims for the reward funds should be filed no later than January 13, 2012, with the Executive Office of the Board of Supervisors, 500 West Temple Street, Room 383 Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Los Angeles, California 90012, Attention: Thomas Riley Reward Fund. For further information, please call (213) 974-1579.

Si no entiende esta noticia o si necesita más informacion, favor de llamar a este numero (213) 974-1579.

Information Courtesy of  Please check this site for updates.