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Board Takes Action on Sheriff Body-Worn Cameras

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The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to seek expert advice and a cost analysis as it continues to consider body cameras for the Sheriff’s Department.

“It is imperative that we uplift transparency in law enforcement practices, and body-worn cameras can be a valuable tool for that, as well as for improving the behavior of both deputies and civilians, reducing excessive force and wrongful convictions, and enhancing police-community relations,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lead author of the motion. “This technology, however, raises many sensitive policy, legal and practical concerns that must first be resolved.”

“Body cameras are being implemented by roughly two-thirds of major law enforcement agencies in the country,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who co-authored the motion. “With the proper underlying policy decisions, body cameras can be effective in reducing complaints, and they tend to de-escalate negative interactions between civilians and law enforcement officers. Today’s action creates a process, supported by systematic engagement with the community, that will help all of us collectively make a decision on how best to proceed to build accountability, transparency, and trust.”

In 2012, the Citizen’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Jail Violence was the first entity to recommend that the Sheriff’s Department use “lapel cameras as an investigative tool” to address problematic use of force. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) made a series of similar policy proposals in 2015.

The Sheriff’s Department and County Chief Executive Office proposed an implementation plan to the Board in October 2017. In July 2018, the Civilian Oversight Commission (CoC) recommended implementing a body-worn camera program over two years. These recommendations were informed by national research, several community town halls, and over 2,500 survey responses.

The latest motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis directs the County CEO, in consultation with the Sheriff, County Counsel, COC and OIG to engage a consultant who would make recommendations within 120 days on proposed policies, procedures, deployment plan, staffing levels and operations.

The motion also directs the CEO and Sheriff, in consultation with the consultant, OIG and COC, to give the Board an updated cost analysis of body-worn cameras, and compare it with those of other jurisdictions.

The leaders of both the CoC and OIG spoke out in support of the motion.

“From possibly reducing the amount of excessive force and citizen complaints to more reliable results in criminal, civil and administrative proceedings, we believe that body-worn cameras are an essential component of modern community policing,” OIG CoC Executive Director Brian Williams said. “Obtaining the cameras and establishing solid policies and procedures for their use, we believe, should be a priority for the Sheriff’s Department and the County.”

“Body cameras are required equipment for a large urban police force,” added Inspector General Max Huntsman. “Not having them is like leaving every crime scene without collecting blood samples, not dusting for finger prints, and not taking photos.”

 

Former King/Drew Medical Center Being Transformed Into Cutting-Edge MLK Behavioral Health Center

Concept photo of Mental Health Crisis Residential Treatment Center envisioned for the MLK Behavioral Health Center, courtesy of HMC Architects.

The Board of Supervisors approved transforming the long-shuttered King/Drew Medical Center in Willowbrook into the state-of-the-art Martin Luther King, Jr. Behavioral Health Center slated to open in late 2020.

Closed since 2007, King/Drew Medical Center will undergo a $322-million renovation to become the MLK Behavioral Health Center. One of the first facilities of its kind, the MLK Behavioral Health Center is envisioned to provide integrated inpatient, outpatient and supportive services for some of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable populations, including those struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders and homelessness, and those who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

Kingfisher Court mental health facility in Hertforshire, UK, which will serve as an inspiration for the design of the rooftop garden and recreation space envisioned for the MLK Behavioral Health Center. Concept photo, courtesy of HMC Architects.

“This pioneering project will bring much-needed integrated mental health, substance use and medical services throughout the region,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed the project. “This sorely needed investment will deliver cutting-edge care for the residents of Los Angeles County, with the goal of fostering long-term community wellness.”

The MLK Behavioral Health Center will house clinical and behavioral staff from the Departments of Mental Health, Public Health and Health Services. It will also have staff from the Departments of Probation and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services to provide rehabilitative, vocational and training opportunities intended to give people the skills they need to reintegrate into society.

“By revitalizing the former MLK Hospital as an integrated Behavioral Health Center that delivers resources across the continuum of care, we will be able to provide desperately needed treatment services and recovery opportunities to our County’s most vulnerable populations,” LA County Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin said.

The Sodo Kitchen at Starbucks Headquarter, Seattle, WA, which will serve as an inspiration for the design of the Grab-N-Go Cafe at the MLK Behavioral Health Center. Concept photo, courtesy of HMC Architects.

“We are uniquely positioned to offer hope for our residents struggling with behavioral health concerns through an integrated approach that places patients at the center,” added LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

LA County Probation Chief Terri McDonald said, “The ability of Probation staff to connect our clients to critical onsite reentry services, such as behavioral health counseling and job training, improves client outcomes and community safety.”

Concept photo of Primary Care Clinic envisioned for the MLK Behavioral Health Center, courtesy of HMC Architects.

LA County’s Office of Diversion and Reentry will also operate at the MLK Behavioral Health Center. The Office’s director, retired judge Peter Espinoza, said, “With the MLK Behavioral Health Center, the people we serve will have an easily accessible location in the community from which to take advantage of the critical mental health, substance use, housing and job readiness services that they need to successfully reenter society after a stint in the criminal justice system.”

The MLK Behavioral Health Center will be latest addition to the 42-acre MLK Medical Campus, which already includes the MLK Community Hospital, MLK Outpatient Center, MLK Recuperative Care Center, MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic, and MLK Center for Public Health.

The campus is still expanding and, within months, will include a new Child and Family Well-Being Center. Scheduled to open in mid-2019, it will include the newly expanded MLK Pediatric HUB, an Autism Screening and Treatment Center, and a Family Justice Center. This collaboration will be the first of its kind to serve children and adolescents, as well as individuals and families fleeing intimate partner and domestic violence.

Meanwhile, the MLK Medical Office Building, where patients can see doctors for routine visits and specialized treatments, is slated to become a part of the campus in mid-2020.

Concept photo of Urgent Care Center envisioned for the MLK Behavioral Health Center, courtesy of HMC Architects.

New Willowbrook Library Opens

The new Willowbrook Library at the Grand Opening on July 28, 2018 with over 100 affordable senior housing units above. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Willowbrook Library has opened its doors after a $8.3 million construction project, thanks to an investment by the Second Supervisorial District of Los Angeles County. Withee Malcolm served as the architects and Thomas Safran and Associates developed the project, which was co-managed by the Library and the Community Development Commission.

The construction of the new library began in early 2017. The new 8,000 square foot Willowbrook Library replaced an outdated 30-year old 2,200 square foot library which includes, reading areas for adults, teens, and children; early childhood and family areas, a shared community room, programming space, group study rooms, a workforce center, public restrooms, support areas, staff areas, express-service checkout machines at the lobby, laptop kiosk machines, information pod, public access computers, Wi-Fi, and parking. It also features the county’s first collection of modern art with five original art installations, commissioned especially for the Library by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and Civic Art.

The sustainable features in the Library include; energy efficient cooling and heating systems; energy efficient LED lighting; energy saving lighting control systems with use of sensors and timers, an automatic window shade system to optimize natural lighting; low flow plumbing fixtures and, the use of low paint and flooring adhesives.

Willowbrook Library is the first in Los Angeles County to be in a mixed-use building with housing over 100 affordable senior housing units above.

“This development is the first of its kind in Los Angeles County,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who initiated the project. “We are optimizing the use of County property to provide housing and library learning together under one roof where communities can thrive.”

The free event will feature several family-friendly activities, including performers in the shared community meeting room and stations throughout the adult, teen and children’s areas of the library.

“The new state of the art library will provide services that are most important for the community. We will also offer more of what libraries are providing in the 21st century to meet the educational and personal goals of County residents,” said Skye Patrick, Library Director. “This is a comfortable and welcoming space, for all.”

On July 28, the library will be open until 5 pm, for library card sign-ups, general library use, and special programming for the whole family, including a sampler of the Library’s MākMō maker mobile activities, art and craft activities.

“Combined with improvements to the new MLK Medical Campus, the tight-knit community of Willowbrook will have yet another asset,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This is a legacy that will live on for generations to come.”

Plan Approved to Expand Voter Outreach

Mindful of many disenfranchised voters in county jails and within the probation system, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took further steps to expand voter education and registration for ‘justice involved’ individuals. The motion, co-authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, initiates a task force to register as many voters as possible in advance of the November election.

“There are still rampant misconceptions about voters’ rights,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With 1 in 13 disenfranchised voting-age African Americans, voter ineligibility disproportionately affects people of color.”

The motion elevates and expands the County’s current efforts to assist the marginalized populations to become more civically engaged. Californians at least 18 years old are eligible to vote by mail from jail if they are awaiting trial on any charge or convicted of a misdemeanor. Some probationers are also eligible to vote, whether in or out of jail.

“With this motion, we are moving to lessen one of the daunting barriers faced by men and women being released from jail who are trying to get back on their feet and become successful members of society,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “Imagine trying to register for social security or rent an apartment without a personal identification card.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Kuehl’s motion centers on improving civic and electoral engagement by expanding on and enhancing the County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s current program, Voting While Incarcerated. The motion would also ensure that youth and adults involved with justice system have access to vital records, such as birth certificates and I.D.’s, to help them reintegrate back into their communities.

“Ensuring that justice involved individuals understand their rights can reduce the likelihood that they will commit crimes in the future,” added Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

A report back is expected in advance of the November election.

Carson Officer Revives Lifeless Toddler

An emergency response on Saturday, July 21, 2018 requiring red lights and sirens for a one year-old baby chocking led Carson Station deputies to a late evening shift they will never forget.

Within approximately one minute, training officer Melvin Castro and his trainee, Deputy Omar Sanchez, turned onto the 2100 block of Grace Avenue in Carson. There, in the middle of the street, a male adult frantically jumped and wailed his arms in the sky in a desperate attempt to get their attention.

Deputies Castro and Sanchez sped to the frantic man, quickly parking the patrol car, and followed behind the father who was desperately guiding them to his dying baby girl.

At the rear of the house, deputies Castro and Sanchez were met by a hysterical mother who ran towards them, clutching her one year-old baby in her arms. She pushed the lifeless and limp body of Baby Faith onto Deputy Castro’s chest in what seemed to be her last hope of bringing her baby back to life.

“She wasn’t breathing. Her eyes were wide open. There was no life in the kid. She just lay lifeless, limp.” Those were the words of Deputy Castro, a 37 year-old father of two and 11 year veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

“This isn’t good,” he thought. “I checked her pulse. Checked to see if she was breathing. She was not.”

Deputy Castro immediately took lifesaving action by administering CPR. Baby Faith remained unresponsive, cradled in Deputy Castro’s arm as he continued trying to revive her.

“I felt like we had been there too long…and every second counts,” said Deputy Castro. “So I decided to transport her.”

Deputy Sanchez, who was on his fourth month of patrol training, had yet to drive a patrol vehicle in an emergency. However today, a life and death situation thrust him in the spotlight of navigating to the nearest hospital in the quickest and safest way possible.

“When the mom handed Deputy Castro the baby, my T.O. [training officer] said we were going to the hospital, I grabbed the keys. I was nervous but I had to do it. I said to myself we better get there quick.”

Deputies Castro and Sanchez jumped into the patrol car. As Deputy Castro entered the front passenger seat, still attempting to revive Baby Faith, Deputy Sanchez initiated the patrol vehicle’s red lights and siren – his first ever emergency response behind the wheel.

By that time, Deputies Timothy Cho, Jeffrey Rupert, Larry Billoups, Nathan Mackey, and Miguel Herrera whom were already on scene, began the logistical coordination of the emergency route by blocking traffic and intersections, as well as the clearing of roadways necessary to expedite Baby Faith’s transport to the hospital.

Deputy Sanchez said, “I kept looking over as Deputy Castro was giving CPR, I wanted to see if she was reacting.”

And suddenly, on the way to the hospital, the baby gasped for air.

“I felt kind of relieved but I was still panicked,” said Deputy Castro. “I was still worried because at the same time we were not there yet. I just wanted her to stay with me till we got to the hospital.”

Arriving to the hospital, they pulled up to the front entrance and ran past the awaiting staff directing them to the pediatric emergency room. There, they handed Baby Faith, who was still gasping for air, to medical personnel.

Since then, she has made a full recovery, having been released from the hospital and now back home.

Deputy Castro had never performed CPR on a baby while on patrol before. “Training just kicked in,” he said. “The relief was intense.”

“These deputies exhibited heroism,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas whose district includes Carson. “As a result of their split second decision, an infant will live.”

Kiah Moten, mother of Baby Faith stated, “I just know that if it wasn’t for them, the outcome could’ve been very different for us. So for the rest of our days, we are going to be grateful that they were able to come and assist us and save our daughters life.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell stated, “These deputies are very humble. What they did was tremendous and the kind of thing that goes on every day in America. Too often this goes unnoticed. We are here to celebrate a job well done and a life saved.”