Supervisors takes bold action to reform Sheriff’s Department

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca testifies before the Board of Supervisors.

Taking bold action to push for reform in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to hire an independent monitor to ensure that recent recommendations to improve oversight and restructuring of the department are implemented.

[pullquote_right] “It will take all of us,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_right]In addition to deciding to hire a monitor — a move put forth in a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas — the board also voted to hold monthly meetings with Sheriff Lee Baca, starting in November. At these special meetings, the board will assess the Sheriff’s progress implementing reforms suggested by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by supervisors last year. The Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence put forth 63 key recommended reforms after hearing hours of testimony and studying allegations of excessive use of force by deputies against inmates surfaced.

“With all due respect to the Sheriff, I simply do not believe we will see these reforms implemented in a timely and thorough way unless there is an oversight process put in place,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas when calling for an independent monitor. After documenting 16 years’ worth of previous reforms that went unheeded by the Sheriff’s Department and more than $42 million in excessive force settlements in the past several years, the Supervisor insisted that the Sheriff alone could not overhaul the department..

“It will take all of us — the board, command staff, rank and file, and the public, to see this through so we create a new and improved L.A. County Sheriff’s Department,” he said.

Supervisors Molina emphasized that the Board of Supervisors must remain fully engaged in the reform process: “Setting aside a specific day and setting aside a special hearing will clearly fulfill the mandate the commission left with us for public transparency,” she said.

Once retained, the monitor would work with the Sheriff to review the implementation of the commission’s 63 recommendations, which include a major restructuring of the department’s command and custody workforces, internal investigations, and inmate complaint processes. The monitor also would be assisted by representatives from Sheriff’s deputy and commander rank labor unions, county counsel and other county departments.

Sheriff Lee Baca said he agrees with the reforms, which the jail violence commission said were needed to fix fundamental failures of leadership by the Sheriff.

“I am very pleased with the progress we made today,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The Sheriff has embraced the reforms; the Board has shown it means business in seeing them implemented, and now I’m confident that the stellar recommendations of the jail violence commission will not go the way of so many other strong reports and calls for reform of the Sheriff’s department.”