Amid an unprecedented increase in local tensions surrounding the recent deaths of Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to implement the Office of Violence Prevention’s (OVP) strategic plan and retool the Family Assistance Program—motions led by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and co-authored by Supervisor Kuehl. The two initiatives will help to expand community investment and well-being and offer relief to families who have lost loved-ones to deputy-involved shootings.
“Confronting the epidemic of violence requires trauma-informed responses to impacted families and equipping our communities with the tools needed to disrupt the cycle,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The County, in partnership with local communities, has made significant investments in the infrastructure needed to support and advance this critical work.”
There has been a growing public demand for an equitable response to violence prevention and interventions that address the systematic biases and inequities that cause disproportionate health, economic and socio-cultural impacts. In the motion, to implement a strategic plan for the Office of Violence Prevention, as well as create a community-based crisis response system, the Board is working towards establishing a coordinated community-based response to incidences of violence, such as homicides, shootings, and sexual and domestic assault to prevent and interrupt cycles of violence before they happen.
“This motion pushes the county one important step forward in building infrastructure to effectively reduce the incidence of violence in Black and Brown communities most impacted by structural, institutional, and community-level violence, oppression, and trauma. We appreciate Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ ongoing attention to this issue and underscore the importance of allocating resources to ensure that inclusive community engagement will result in safer, healthier and more equitable neighborhood conditions,” said Manal J. Aboelata, Deputy Executive Director of Prevention Institute.
“Hospital based violence intervention is often the only opportunity we have to help victims of violent crimes and this motion is a commitment to those efforts. The timing of this motion is impeccable as public safety throughout L.A. County is very much in question,” said Paul Carillo, Co-founder and Executive Director of Southern California Crossroads.
Over the span of 15 months, more than 14 victims have died at the hands of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies. To lessen the burden of tragedy that families face in the difficult moments after the death of a loved-one in a deputy involved shooting the Board is taking steps to secure and enhance the Family Assistance Program (FAP). Created by the Board of Supervisors based upon the recommendation of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, the FAP works to counteract the trauma of loss that is compounded by a lack of clear communication.
“When a family loses a loved one as a result of the fatal use of force by law enforcement, it always devastates friends and family members, and has a deeply destructive impact on community relationships with law enforcement,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.” The Family Assistance Program, an innovative idea that emerged from discussions at the Civilian Oversight Commission, provides compassionate communication and trauma-informed support to those families. With this motion, we are asking for an assessment of its effectiveness, improvements that may be needed, and the identification of funding to sustain it.”
Among the key elements of the FAP is the employment of “advocates” to be present during next-of-kin notifications to provide crisis intervention and grief counseling, as well as to serve as liaisons between the Sheriff’s Department and other County departments as needed. The motion seeks to reinforce this valuable community resource so that it is available in the future for impacted families in their critical moment of need.
“The Family Assistance program supports families suffering from traumatic grief through losing a loved-one from interactions with law enforcement. The COC continues to endorse the trauma-informed, no-fault, compassionate approach which came out of deep listening to the suffering of family members including children,” said Commissioner of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans.
“When a person dies in government custody, or is actually killed by the government, we have a responsibility to treat their family with compassion. But common decency doesn’t always happen without a little help, and that is what the Family Assistance Program was designed for.”
“Every year families suffer the loss of loved-ones from law enforcement violence. They are then left to endure not only the relentless grief, trauma, and economic impact but the painful process of seeking answers and demanding justice. The county should work to remove as many obstacles as possible and provide families with immediate access to support during these devastating times. This motion makes that possible,” said Mark-Anthony Johnson, Founder of Frontline Wellness Network.