Town Hall Meeting on Sheriff’s Department Oversight

oversightThis is your chance to speak up on civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Department.

This Monday, the working group appointed by the Board of Supervisors to recommend the powers and responsibilities of the soon-to-be-created Civilian Oversight Commission will hold a town hall meeting at Exposition Park to solicit comments from the community.

“Your views are important,” said Dean Hansell, who chairs the working group. “We want to hear from you.”

April 27, 2015
Monday
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Exposition Park Community Room
Administrative Offices East 
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037

Click here to see the working group’s draft recommendations and analysis.

Those unable to attend the meeting can email comments to commserve@bos.lacounty.gov or send a letter to:

Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission Working Group
Attn: Commission Services
500 W. Temple St., Room B-50
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Similar meetings will also be held April 28 at the East Los Angeles Public Library and April 30 at the West Hollywood Library.

Symphonies for Schools

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Credit: LA Phil

Once again, Walt Disney Concert Hall is reverberating with a different kind of music: the joyous laughter of little kids.

The world-renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra is providing a series of free concerts to about 12,000 elementary, middle and high school students from across Los Angeles County through its annual Symphonies for Schools program this April.

On Tuesday, third, fourth and fifth-graders gleefully took over the magnificent Walt Disney Concert Hall, the yellow color of their school buses standing out vividly against the downtown landmark’s stainless steel façade.

Sharlyn Williams, a teacher at Wadsworth Elementary in South Los Angeles, part of the Second District, was grateful for the opportunity to expose her students to classical music.

“I think this is a wonderful experience for inner-city schoolchildren,” she said. “This is an opportunity for them to really free their minds, to envision the possibilities, to see something beyond their limited scope – it’s just awesome.”

With Dudamel Fellow Gemma New conducting, LA Phil musicians performed Sergei Prokofiev’s classic Peter and the Wolf, drawing enthusiastic applause from their young audience, most of whom had never watched a live orchestra performance before.

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Credit: LA Phil

“Bravissima!” raved Edwin, a 10-year-old fourth-grader from Wadsworth who plays violin and hopes to be a conductor someday. “The show was excellent!”

Isabella, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Wadsworth, found herself mystified by the musicians’ impressive talent. “How did they do that?” she said. “It was amazing!”

The repertoire for middle and high school students will consist of Antonin Dvorak’s masterful Symphony No. 9, and four original works by the high school-age graduating class of the LA Phil’s Composer Fellowship Program.

LA Phil’s director of educational initiatives, Gretchen Nielsen, said the free concerts are so much more than entertainment.

“For elementary school kids, I think these concerts become a jumping-off point for developing their imagination and creativity, because they’re introduced to such beauty through the concert hall, the orchestra and the music that’s being performed,” Nielsen said.

“The concerts for middle school and high students were designed specifically for youth who are learning music, and are members of a band, choir or orchestra,” she added. “We want to provide the ultimate inspiration to them as they make their own journey as musicians.”

The LA Phil first began performing concerts for elementary school children almost a century ago, in 1919. The Symphonies for Schools program began in 2000, and has allowed countless students to enjoy masterpieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and many more.

Among the Second District schools to benefit from this year’s free concerts are 68th Street Elementary, Miramonte Elementary, Martin Luther King Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School, and Manual Arts High School.

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Volunteers Make the Difference

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Veronica Zuniga is the Second District’s Volunteer of the Year (adult category). Here, she poses with her husband at Los Angeles County’s 33rd Annual Volunteer of the Year Awards.

Veronica Zuniga coaches a softball team at Victoria Park in Carson, but she’s doing much more than showing girls how to pitch, catch and throw. She teaches them teamwork, sportsmanship and civic engagement.

Over at Ted Watkins Park, Wanya Barker is doing his own part to help the community by organizing after-school activities for youth like himself, everything from free movie screenings to baseball games.

For all the hours they spend making the Second District a better place to live in, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas awarded each a scroll at the 33rd Annual Volunteer of the Year Awards held in April.DJA_2397

“Veronica and Wanya spend hours every week making our community better,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Their community spirit and can-do attitude is an inspiration to us all.”

Ms. Zuniga, who lives in Compton, has volunteered about 500 hours over the last six years. Twice a week, she coaches 12-14 year old girls, many of whom have never played softball before.

“I have always loved working with children and being involved with the community,” Ms. Zuniga said during a recent banquet honoring some of the county’s most exceptional volunteers. “Being a coach, as well as volunteering with Toastmasters and helping with park events, has helped keep me young and active and helps provide a safe environment for our youth to participate in wholesome activities.”

Mr. Barker, of West Athens, is the teen vice president of Ted Watkins Park’s teen club program. He has volunteered over 200 hours in the past year, helping out with free movie screenings, the Dodger Dream Field dedication, and Parks After Dark and Mark Ridley-Thomas afterschool programs.

More than 100,000 volunteers generously donated more than 4 million hours – an estimated value of $93 million – to Los Angeles County parks, hospitals, senior centers and other facilities and departments in 2014. That’s more than double the numbers from last year.

“I started volunteering because it is something I enjoy doing, plus I loved going to the park and helping the kids and being a part of the Teen Club where I made new friends,” he said. “I just want to thank Ted Watkins Park staff for helping me become a better person.”

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Off Limits to Sexual Harassment

Too many Metro travelers have experienced some form of sexual harassment over the last six months, including unwanted touching, indecent exposure and/or inappropriate comments.  And so, to bring attention to the problem, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has launched a campaign against sexual harassment in the public transit system.

“Metro’s buses, trains and stations are off limits to sexual harassment,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who will take over as chairman of the Metro Board of Directors in July. “Our passengers must be kept safe, not only from hazards on the road but those on board.”

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Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sheila Kuehl and Michael Antonovich take a stand against sexual harassment in public transit

 

Metro partnered with Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit sexual and domestic violence prevention center, to launch It’s Off Limits, a 30-second public service announcement for television, as well as billboards and posters on buses, trains and stations.

“Perpetrators of sexual crimes often continue their assaults if they are not caught, sometimes becoming bolder and violent,” Peace Over Violence executive director Patti Giggans warned. “Reporting the crime means the assaulter can be caught before he victimizes other women and girls.”

Metro and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department set up a hotline, 1-888-950 SAFE (1-888-950-7233), and updated the smartphone app LA Metro Transit Watch to make it easy for passengers to report incidents they experience or witness during their commute.

Sheriff’s Department’s Transit Policing Chief Ronine Anda urged passengers not to remain silent about sexual harassment.

“Metro is like a moving city with about 400,000 residents on a typical weekday,” she added. “Imagine riding in a place with 400,000 pairs of eyes looking out for their neighbors and cooperating to make conditions as safe as possible.”

The Transit Watch app has a feature allowing passengers to surreptitiously take photos of a suspect without activating their smartphone’s flash. Once a report is filed, complete with a description of the suspect and details of when and where the incident happened, deputies can review footage from video cameras mounted on most buses and trains, and use those as evidence for prosecution.

“If you see it, report it. If you’re experiencing it, report it,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl urged passengers. “With your help, we can do something about this issue.”

Also present at the event were Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Metro board members Ara Najarian and Jacquelyn DuPont-Walker, and Metro interim deputy chief executive officer Stephanie Wiggins.

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Supervisors Approve Audit of Probation

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has asked for a far ranging audit to delve deeper into the Probation Department’s budget, recruitment, hiring and promotional practices. In addition, the audit will look into the effectiveness of programs to rehabilitate youngsters in custody. The audit, which was requested by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich, was approved unanimously.

Although the U.S. Department of Justice recently ended a six year review of the camps and found that the Probation Department had made reforms to improve conditions for the hundreds of  youngsters currently in custody, the Los Angeles County Auditor–Controller released another report in April that contradicted some of those findings. For instance, the auditor-controller’s report found that none of the camps complied with staff training requirements and 80 percent of the camps did not maintain compliance with child abuse reporting requirements. The audit also found that youths were not always receiving the required substance abuse treatment programs and anger management therapy.

The Supervisors hope that the audit, to be completed by July, will answer some of the discrepancies raised by the previous reports.

“Improvements have been made but the department is not where it ought to be,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “ We need to continue our vigilance to make sure we are doing all we can for these youngsters so they can be rehabilitated and go on to lead productive lives.”