Recognizing that deaths from the use of force by, or in the custody of, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) can traumatize the families who lost a loved one, witnesses, and the community – regardless of the circumstances that led to the fatality – Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl today called for creating a Family Assistance Program.
Their motion, up for a vote by the Board of Supervisors on July 9th, calls for providing families with grief counseling and other mental health services, funds to assist with burial costs, and timely updates delivered in a respectful and compassionate way.
More than 100 people have died from LASD use of force or in the custody in the last three years. For their families, the trauma is often compounded by how they were told what happened, how their relatives were characterized, and insufficient information.
“When families and communities need to heal, it is incumbent upon us to marshal our resources to help them,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “A Family Assistance Program is not only humane, it can also improve police-community relations and prevent further violence.”
“When a death occurs that involves law enforcement, family members and witnesses are often anxious and confused. If someone has been killed, family members are in shock and grieving,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “The Family Assistance Program provides new services, both emotional and financial so that our residents are provided much-needed support at moments of crisis.”
The motion calls for establishing a Family Assistance Program as outlined in a recent report by County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai entitled “Supporting Families Impacted by the Sheriff’s Department.” The report, prompted by another Ridley-Thomas/Kuehl motion, back in October, details how to implement the recommendations of the Civilian Oversight Commission for the LASD and includes input from advocacy groups such as the Youth Justice Coalition which developed a Family Bill of Rights.
Under the program, Family Assistance Advocates would be hired to serve as the primary point of contact for grieving families, and training would be improved for staff in various County departments who interact with them. The motion also calls for pursuing state legislation to expand which victims may be eligible, and philanthropic partnerships that can provide additional services.
The Family Assistance Program includes roles for the Mental Health, Public Health, Medical Examiner-Coroner, Registrar-Recorder, Inspector General, Civilian Oversight Commission and CEO. The motion also seeks the participation of the Sheriff and District Attorney.