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Supporting Families Impacted by Fatal Use Of Force

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion directing the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to develop a plan for better supporting families who lose loved ones after a fatal use of force by, or while in the custody of, the Sheriff’s Department.

The motion, authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Sheila Kuehl, called for turning recommendations made by the Civilian Oversight Commission (CoC) into an implementation plan that would provide timely, trauma-informed and clear communication with grieving families, as well as the community. The County CEO is to report back to the Board in 60 days, including advising on any County infrastructure, staffing, training, and services that would be needed to carry out the implementation plan.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell provides testimony at the October 9, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

“Improving the way LA County interacts with, and supports, grieving families who have lost a loved one from a fatal use of force or in-custody death is another important aspect of public safety and criminal justice reform,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “If done right, this type of communication can reduce trauma, support families, and improve community and law enforcement relations. This is no small thing – public safety doesn’t come without public trust.”

“When families lose a loved one who is being held in Sheriff’s Department custody or through an incident involving lethal force, they deserve clear and timely communication. Family members must be treated with respect and compassion,” said Board Chair Kuehl. “The Board’s action today moves us closer to an empathetic protocol to guide the Sheriff’s Department as it deals with shocked and grieving family members.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell testified in support of the motion, saying, “We look forward to working with the Board and our County partners to provide the necessary input and support for the development of the implementation plan.  It’s an important conversation that addresses a critical moment that families will carry in their memories for the rest of their lives.”

Civilian Oversight Commission Executive Director Brian Williams and Civilian Oversight Commission Chair Patti Giggans provide testimony. Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

CoC Executive Director Brian Williams told the Board, “People in the community need to know that they matter and this is a great opportunity for the Sheriff, the Civilian Oversight Commission and the community to say, ‘Everyone matters.’”

 

Among the CoC’s recommendations are: creating a multi-disciplinary team to provide ongoing support, resources and transparent communication to grieving families; providing trauma-informed training for Sheriff’s Department personnel who come into contact with grieving families; and advocating changes in state laws on access to victim resources.

“This is not just an issue for the Sheriff’s Department – we believe that this is an LA County issue and that, through collaboration, we can show respect to these families and to their communities, and help them heal,” CoC Chair Patti Giggans, who also serves as executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence, noted. “We intentionally have outlined the functions of the response team based on the values necessary, like compassion, empathy, respect, transparency, trauma-informed communication and support.”

Inspector General Max Huntsman shares feedback at the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

“Treating families with respect is how we avoid making a terrible situation worse,” added Inspector General Max Huntsman, who has been a champion of the County developing this type of program. “It is a basic duty of government, and something I fully support the CoC in recommending.”

 

Los Angeles County Public Works Department Prepares to Take Over Sativa Water District

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to authorize the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) to enter into an agreement with the California Water Resources Control Board to serve as interim administrator of the troubled Sativa Water District.

“Residents of Willowbrook and Compton have had to endure brown water coming out of their taps for years, because of Sativa’s mismanagement,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With DPW in charge, these customers will finally have the competent water service provider they deserve.”

He added DPW is well suited for the role of interim administrator, given its extensive experience operating systems across the County. It currently operates 68,000 service connections, serving approximately 245,000 people.

“This is a victory for the people,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “By putting the LA County Department of Public Works in charge, residents will finally have a capable, trustworthy water provider they can count on. There is a lot more work that needs to be done but we are in it for the long-haul for the customers of Sativa.”

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, who has held town hall meetings with Sativa customers who had brown water coming out of their taps, welcomed the vote.

“I wholeheartedly support the Board of Supervisors’ motion to authorize the LA County Department of Public Works as interim administrator for the Sativa Water District,” she said. “Federal, state and local government must work together to ensure that improvements to the water system are made, that all public funds that went to Sativa are accounted for, and that residents have clean water and are given sufficient information about their service provider.”

On Sept. 28, Governor Jerry Brown signed LA County-sponsored legislation, AB 1577 by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, empowering the Water Board to order Sativa to accept an interim administrator until a replacement water service provider can be identified for the long-term.

As interim administrator, DPW would assess the condition of the existing water facilities and identify any necessary and timely improvements to ensure safe drinking water is available to Sativa customers. It will also work closely with the Water Board to ensure that water quality meets all regulatory standards.

Public Defender: The People’s Lawyer

L-R: Public Defender Ricardo Garcia, Board Chair Sheila Kuehl, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Public Defender’s swearing-in ceremony. All photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Remarks
on the Appointment of Public Defender Ricardo Garcia

Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark US Supreme Court ruling, established the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

It affirmed in fact that in a society built on the rule of law, the right to counsel is a right that is sacrosanct.

And it affirmed in equity that there are few, perhaps no office more important than that of Public Defender.

The person in this position is the people’s lawyer.

They are tasked with making sure those of lesser means who enter our justice system receive — evenly and equally — quality and careful legal representation.

We are in a defining moment for our justice system, with fundamental changes underway.

Mental health diversion, the end of money bail, probation reform – all of these timely issues require leadership from the Public Defender.

Thank you to Nicole Davis Tinkham and those in the Public Defender’s office who have done such great work in the interim.

In our search, we were deliberate and acted with purpose to make sure we found the right person for this pivotal time.

I, along with the other Supervisors, have all had the opportunity to speak at length with Mr. Garcia.

It was not just his impeccable skill and fine credentials that brought him to our attention, though it did not hurt his case for the job.

It was the caliber of his moral fiber and his tuft as person.

Talk with Mr. Garcia and in just minutes you know that he is passionate in his commitment to the defense of society’s forgotten.

Justice is his map; fairness, his compass.

He’s driven by a fundamental belief that justice is not an abstraction; it’s a very real and tangible way that our laws interact with people in their daily lives.

It all comes from an inexorable belief that ordinary citizens like us, generation after generation, can do our part to uphold our founding ideals.

Because we are here just for a time – whether in this building or even on this earth.

In this time our responsibility, while we are here, is to breathe life into these ideals; to imbue them with the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.

In sum, I believe today’s swearing-in makes more real the promise of Gideon.

The promise of fairness and equality, “of liberty and justice for all.”

And it makes stronger the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.

I look forward to the great work that Mr. Garcia will do as Public Defender on behalf of the people of Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County Prepares to Take Over Sativa Water District

The Board of Supervisors will vote next week on a motion that would authorize the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) to enter into an agreement with the California Water Resources Control Board to serve as interim administrator of the Sativa Water District, which has struggled over the years to provide clean water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn filed the motion days after the Governor signed county-sponsored legislation allowing the Water Board to appoint an interim administrator for Sativa until a replacement water service provider can be identified for the long-term.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said DPW is well suited for the role of interim administrator, given its extensive experience operating systems across the County. It currently operates 68,000 service connections, serving approximately 245,000 people.

“Residents of Willowbrook and Compton have had to endure brown water coming out of their taps for years, because of Sativa’s mismanagement,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With DPW in charge, these customers will finally have the competent water service provider they deserve.”

“This is a victory for the people,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “By putting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works in charge, residents will finally have a capable, trustworthy water provider they can count on. There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but we are in it for the long-haul for the customers of Sativa.”

As interim administrator, DPW would assess the condition of the existing water facilities and identify any necessary and timely improvements to ensure safe drinking water is available to Sativa customers. It will also work closely with the Water Board to ensure that water quality meets all regulatory standards.

When Sativa customers reported brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to investigate, to prevent public health risks, and to determine whether Sativa leaders are able to properly maintain the system’s 70-year-old pipes. At his direction, the County also distributed about 20,000 gallons of bottled water to Sativa customers.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in June, the Board endorsed AB 1577, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, which would empower the Water Board to order Sativa to accept administrative and managerial services. In July, the Local Agency Formation Commission of Los Angeles County formally initiated dissolution proceedings over Sativa.

In August, the Board approved a motion reiterating its support for AB1577, but also sought amendments that would allow the interim administrator to have appropriate state funding and as well as appropriate immunities from liability. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1577 on September 28.

The Community Gets Serious about Probation Reform

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas delivers welcome remarks at a community meeting organized by the Probation Reform and Implementation Team. All photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

The Probation Reform and Implementation Team (PRIT) hosted the second in a series of meetings to develop a comprehensive roadmap for reform and to craft a structure for a permanent and independent civilian Probation Oversight Commission.

The PRIT’s overall mission is to transform the nation’s largest Probation Department and make it more transparent, accountable to the public, and in line with the Board of Supervisors’ far-reaching commitment to justice reform. This particular meeting was intended to allow PRIT members to engage community members in defining the mission of the Probation Oversight Commission, and how it should engage communities.

Probation Reform and Implementation Team

Community groups from across the county filled Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Exposition Park field office to dialogue with PRIT members. In his welcome remarks, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told them, “The current Board of Supervisors has demonstrated – repeatedly – that the business of Probation reform must be addressed, and addressed with a sense of urgency and care. We now have handed the baton over to you to carry forward for your leg of the journey.”

Dozens of community members participated in a dialogue on Probation reform.

PRIT appointee Cyn Yamashiro noted the process already feels different from past reform efforts. “I have been on working on probation reform for six years, and community engagement has never looked as strong as this,” he said. “I am optimistic this effort is going to change things once and for all.”

Probation Chief Terri McDonald speaks with a community member at a meeting of the Probation Reform and Implementation Team.

Marcus McKinney, Director or Policy and Advocacy for A New Way of Life, a community reentry non-profit, remarked similarly about the value of community engagement. “When the community is involved, not only do they feel a sense of ownership, but decision makers are also afforded a chance to hear firsthand from those with the life experience being directly impacted , which is key to any successful reform process,” he said. “Given Probation’s sheer size and the importance of its charge, reform must include sustainable change that helps transition folks back into society, transparency and public accountability.”

Community members were asked to submit comment cards that explored their views on public accountability, transparency and better outcomes for adults and youth, as well as on engagement between the Probation Oversight Commission and the community.

The PRIT will be holding more meetings over the coming months to cover such important topics as the powers of the Probation Oversight Commission, ways to reform juvenile facilities, and issues such as the use of pepper spray, and staff hiring and training. Final recommendations will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors in the first half of 2019.