Civilian Oversight Delayed, Not Denied


In a show of strong support for the creation of a citizen’s oversight commission, hundreds of people attended Tuesday’s board of supervisor’s meeting to demand a civilian role in reforming the department.

In often moving testimony, many residents spoke of their personal experiences of abuse at the hands of deputies and urged the supervisors to create a forum where their concerns and insights could be heard. No such outlet exists today, and the newly constituted office of the inspector general is no substitute, they said. Incidents of wrongdoing by deputies and department leaders, which have only become public in recent months, some testified, had long been known to people in neighborhoods throughout the county.

DJA_0073“A board, even an advisory committee can provide the community with an avenue; the [inspector general] isn’t the community,” said Patrisse Cullors of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence. “ When my brother was brutalized our family had nowhere to go.”

Greg Akili of Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance, told the board that unwarranted shootings and abuses by deputies had created a profound lack of trust in many neighborhoods akin to the ill will that once existed between the Los Angeles Police Department and some communities.

“It took many years of struggle; it took a federal consent decree to finally move the LAPD… let’s stop moving from crisis to crisis,” Akili said.

Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of a commission, only Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina voted in favor of the motion they sponsored to create one.DJB_0295

“No two ways about it, I am disappointed – disappointed that the board did not listen to the vote of the people,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “So yes, I’m disappointed but not disheartened. Disappointed but, may I say, undeterred.

“Police commission structures exist in Oakland; Long Beach, CA; San Diego; San Francisco; New York City,” the supervisor continued, so we are not talking about something new. This isn’t a novel innovation; frankly, civilian oversight is just considered a best practice across the nation.

“The people of Los Angeles County deserve to have a say with regard to their Sheriff’s Department and I am confident that they will get it. If not now, then sooner rather than later,” he said.