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Children Rescued from Abuse

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 2.39.27 PMMore than 100 sexually trafficked youth – including an 11-year-old – have been rescued since Los Angeles County adopted the First Responder Protocol that directs law enforcement officers to treat them as victims of abuse instead of criminalizing them as delinquents.

“Our children are not for sale and there is no such thing as a child prostitute,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who with Supervisor Don Knabe coauthored the September 24, 2013 motion to create the Protocol.

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the July 26, 2016 Board of Supervisors meeting

The Protocol reflects an understanding that sexually trafficked youth have been exposed to severe violence, threats, and trauma. It requires law enforcement officers who encounter sexually trafficked youth to summon representatives of the Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, Mental Health, and Health Services and survivor advocacy groups to arrive on-scene within 90 minutes, and to provide specialized services within 72 hours.

Michelle Guymon, director of the Child Sex Trafficking Unit in the Probation Department, said this kind of intervention is crucial to putting these youth on the path to recovery.

“Young people we recovered from sex trafficking four to five years ago, who have been receiving services from the County, have gone on to become advocates at the state level, influencing legislation and even advising organizations at the national level,” she said. “They tell us repeatedly that what was instrumental in their success was having someone there along the way to provide them with consistent support and access to services.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 4.41.19 PMGuymon and her fellow members of the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Integrated Leadership Team told the Board of Supervisors that 112 youth have been rescued since the Protocol’s inception. Their average age is 15, though the group included one 11-year-old and three 13-year-olds.

The team added that the multi-disciplinary collaboration among law enforcement and social services providers led to an 89 percent decline in arrests in the areas where the Protocol is observed.

Currently, the Protocol is being implemented at the Sheriff’s Compton, Century, Lancaster, Palmdale and Santa Clarita Stations and LA Basin Transit Bureau. It has also been adopted by the Los Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th and Southeast Area Stations.

The Protocol will be expanded to all Sheriff’s stations starting in October. It will eventually be adopted by all remaining LAPD stations and independent police departments.

View Park Declared a Historic District

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The Doumakes House PHOTO CREDIT: Dick Whittington Collection and Pierre Galant Photography

View Park, a neighborhood that has come to be known as the “black Beverly Hills,” has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

With about 1,800 homes near the stretch of La Brea Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard in unincorporated Los Angeles County, View Park is the largest National Historic District in the United States based on African American history.

That distinction is particularly significant, considering the developer who built View Park starting in the 1920’s intended its architecturally distinctive homes with sweeping views of downtown LA for sale to white homeowners only. According to the 1930 Census, View Park had only one Japanese and two black residents, and all three were servants.

It took a U.S. Supreme Court battle to lift the racist restrictions on home ownership and open doors for minorities. In a landmark ruling in 1948, Justices held racial covenants on real estate to be unconstitutional. Prominent members of the African American community, mostly business owners, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, athletes and civil rights activists, began moving into View Park in 1950’s.

“The cohesive View Park neighborhood would eventually begin a fairly rapid, if sometimes uncertain, transition into an affluent African American neighborhood in the postwar period,” National Register historian Paul Lusignan wrote in his evaluation of View Park.

“Often facing intimidation and violence, View Parks’ new African American homeowners broke down significant barriers and paved the way for the creation of a vibrant integrated neighborhood that would earn it the nickname ‘the black Beverly Hills,’” he added.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Dick Whittington Collection

Among View Park’s most famous residents were the legendary Ray Charles and Ike and Tina Turner. It remains one of the wealthiest African American neighborhoods in the country, an enduring symbol of African American success.

In 2014, residents Andre Gaines and Ben Kahle co-founded View Park Conservancy, the volunteer nonprofit neighborhood organization that led the initiative to nominate View Park for the National Register. Along with seven other longtime and new residents, they hosted more than 25 community meetings to build awareness and raise funds to preserve the history and legacy of their neighborhood. About 670 View Park residents made a donation to pay for the complicated process of seeking a Historic designation.

“Listing View Park on the National Register is the culmination of over two and half years of hard work and dedication to our mission,” Gaines said. “It was truly a community effort and, without the overwhelming support from our neighbors, this day would have never been possible.”

Kahle lives in the Doumakes House in View Park, the County’s first historic landmark. He said the National Register designation “will create additional community pride and awareness for what makes View Park such a prestigious and special neighborhood.”

“Several studies have also proven that property values in Historic neighborhoods are 10 to 30 percent higher than in non-historic neighborhoods,” Kahle added.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes View Park, also celebrated the National Register designation. He authored the motion that enabled residents of the County’s unincorporated areas to benefit from the Mills Act, a 1972 state law that provides tax incentives to preserve historic homes and property.

“View Park’s inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places underscores its historic, social, cultural and architectural significance, not only locally but across the country,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “This designation  helps in preserving the community’s noteworthy legacy, while at the same time, charting its path forward.”

View Park Conservancy

PHOTO CREDIT:  Dick Whittington Collection

Setting Cyber Defense Standards

Determined to thwart cyber attacks, the Board of Supervisors voted to establish strict security standards for confidential and sensitive information handled by Los Angeles County contractors and subcontractors. It is the first in the nation to take such comprehensive step in data protection.

The new policy comes just months after Los Angeles County encrypted all 88,392 of its desktop computers.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored the motion that prompted both of those efforts to safeguard personally identifiable information and protected health information.

“Efficient, reliable, useful, modern, quality and secure Information Technology systems are a critical component of good government,” he said. “Our security and quality safeguards need to keep up with the increasing cyber-security threats.”

County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai recommended the new policy, saying it “reduces our overall risk of a data breach.”

Sophisticated encryption software and tools will add security layers to protected Personally Identifiable Information, which includes social security numbers, names, home addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and biometric records. It will also secure Protected Health Information, which applies to data about a person’s physical or mental health condition as recorded by a healthcare provider, health plan, public health authority, employer, life insurer, school and other entities.

Over the years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has put in motion several efforts to upgrade and secure the County’s Information Technology systems, including:

•  requiring regular audits for IT safety

consolidating 49 separate data centers into one centralized location

• creating a centralized electronic health record system for the Departments of Health, Public Health, Mental Health and Public Safety; and

• fostering accountability and transparency by creating a state-of-the-art Open Data website where residents can access information ranging from restaurant ratings to crime statistics to county expenditures.

Small Businesses Get A Boost

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Advocates for small business who testified in favor of the motion during the Board’s Jan. 12, 2016 meeting.

Many local small businesses, as well as those owned by disabled veterans, are about to get a new customer: Los Angeles County.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Chair Hilda Solis, the Board of Supervisors approved the Small Business, Disabled Veteran-Owned Business and Social Enterprise Utilization Plan. Its goal is to ensure that by 2020, at least 25 percent of the County’s procurement contracts are awarded to local small businesses, while 3 percent go to businesses owned by disabled veterans.

Currently, the County spends $3.9 billion on procurement contracts every year.

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas listens to a representative of Homeboy Industries testifying in favor of the motion at the Board’s Jan. 12, 2016 meeting

“Supporting small businesses is good business for the County, as these enterprises provide half of all jobs in the region,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“Growing small businesses generate more tax revenues for local governments to provide critically needed services,” he added. “Small businesses also offer our youth the entry-level jobs needed to develop essential skills that provide a pathway for moving on to higher paying careers.”

The County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs said it is critical that the County expand its pool of certified businesses from the current level of 1,280 to a level comparable to the State of California, which has a pool of more than 5,000 certified small businesses in the County. Plans are underway for the County to streamline the certification process.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the plan also includes the County doing its fair share of business with social enterprises that provide training and jobs to disadvantaged members of our community. He added that the County and the community benefit by gainfully employing those who would otherwise be dependent on taxpayer-funded social safety net programs.

Body-Worn Cameras Inspire Accountability and Transparency

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On a motion by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Chair Hilda Solis, the board unanimously approved a motion to implement body-worn cameras within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“We seek to get to the truth and these tools can help us,” noted Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who offered an approved amendment to develop a method to process digital evidence and improve transparency and public trust.

Videos generated by body-worn cameras could become digital evidence that is transmitted and archived. On the heels of the tragic and fatal officer-involved shootings of two African American men last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Saint Paul, Minnesota, the Board of Supervisors considered ways to process videos generated by body-warn cameras.

“Body worn cameras can increase accountability and transparency,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

In the face of national concern over police use of force and the public’s expectation that there will be increased oversight over all law enforcement actions, the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff’s Department, Office of Inspector General, the Civilian Oversight Commission Workgroup and the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence recently recognized that video recording technology has changed the face of urban law enforcement.

“The relationship between law enforcement and community touches all aspects of public safety and is fundamental to any society that values the rule of law,” Ridley-Thomas said.