Statement on Los Angeles County FY 2020-2021 Budget

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Los Angeles County’s Budget for FY 2020-2021

“The global pandemic that has sickened almost 100,000 people in Los Angeles County – taking 3,300 lives – has also wreaked havoc on our economy. Today’s budget demonstrates our determination to continue serving as a critically needed safety net even with diminished resources.

“We have made painful but necessary cuts across the board to close an unprecedented $935.3 million gap. But by making strategic investments as well as seeking out and leveraging additional state and federal funding, we intend to continue making gains in addressing homelessness, improving public safety, and helping communities thrive.

“Though Measure H revenue is expected to decline, we are developing a spending plan that would sustain our expanding network of community-based homeless services providers and also build on the success of Project Roomkey, which has already brought more than 4,000 of our homeless neighbors indoors in just three months.

“Amid massive protests nationwide following the death of George Floyd, we are responding by reimagining how we ensure public safety and by helping communities most in need of investment. With today’s budget, we are doubling down on approaches that prioritize people’s health and community well-being and safety – over surveillance, over excessive enforcement and use of force, over criminalization and incarceration.

“The pandemic has already forced us to rapidly but safely reduce our jail population, a key component of criminal justice reform. With this budget, I am also pushing to expand the Office of Diversion and Reentry so more people with serious clinical needs can be moved out of jails and into treatment. It is also important to invest in the Alternatives to Incarceration initiative, including scaling up psychiatric urgent care centers and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Behavioral Health Center. This is the compassionate, humane and cost-effective thing to do.

“We also cannot afford to delay creating the Probation Oversight Commission and to expand the powers of the Inspector General, both of which strengthen accountability. This is the time to further invest in community-centered solutions that give us the best and highest return for our communities.

“I want to be clear that our work does not end here today. We will continue through the summer to produce a spending plan that prioritizes the health and well-being of everyone who calls Los Angeles County home.”

Ensuring a Timely and Independent Investigation of the Death of Andres Guardado

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an urgent motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to ensure an independent investigation into the death of Andres Guardado, an 18-year old who was tragically shot to death by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in an unincorporated area of the County near the City of Gardena.

“I’ve always been a strong advocate for law enforcement accountability, and the fatal shooting of this young man is no different,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is imperative that an immediate and independent investigation be conducted by the Office of Inspector General into the killing of Andres Guardado. The community is grieving and deserves answers.”

Acting on the motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board requested the Sheriff to give the Inspector General immediate and full access to all evidence requested in order to provide independent oversight. The motion also directs County Counsel, in consultation with the Inspector General, the Civilian Oversight Commission, and other agencies to report back to the Board with alternative plans to ensure an independent investigation in this case, including the involvement of the Attorney General to oversee the investigation.

Earlier this year, the Board expanded the duties and powers of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) as well as the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC), including the granting of subpoena power, in order to increase objective oversight after troubling reports of department-wide misconduct within LASD. However, despite these efforts to strengthen oversight, LASD has a track record of not fully complying with the OIG and COC requests, as well as even subpoenas. This is a disturbing trend that raises questions into whether the OIG will be able to fulfill its mandated role in overseeing investigations, bringing rise to the Board action taken today.

“After the LASD refusal to provide the OIG with important information in another fatal officer-involved shooting, and after the placing of a hold on the Andres Guardado autopsy, I am very concerned that the absence of robust third-party monitoring will permanently damage public confidence in this investigation,” Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman said, in support of the Board’s action today.

Board of Supervisors Continues to Request Immediate Implementation of Body Worn Cameras by the LA County Sheriff’s Department

In efforts that stretch back to 2012, the Board of Supervisors has worked to provide the necessary policies, funding, and staffing to allow for the swift implementation and operation of the body worn camera program by the LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and request that the program be implemented immediately. The implementation timetable to roll out body worn cameras is the sole responsibility of LASD. However, despite proactive efforts by the Board, such as setting aside nearly $35 million to equip 5,200 deputies and security officers with devices over the next two years, the program has yet to be implemented—notwithstanding the Board’s clear commitment to this technology being deployed.

“In discussions about law enforcement accountability and greater transparency, which, frankly, come amid nationwide unrest over police brutality and use of deadly force, implementation of body worn cameras must be a priority for LASD,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose 2012 motion advanced body worn cameras. “The record is clear, the Board has been on this issue since 2012 and taken seriously its responsibility to see that there is greater accountability for the LA County Sheriff’s Department, we ask they meet our efforts and do the same—to make this program a reality.”

As part of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) 2012 recommendations on the need to curb excessive uses of force by law enforcement, the Board approved a motion authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, which included the use of body-worn cameras. Since then, the Board has approved subsequent motions to move the program forward and most recently, on September 2019, directed the Sheriff to implement the Body Worn Camera program and appointed the Office of Inspector General to monitor implementation.

“The Board of Supervisors and the Chief Executive Office are steadfast supporters of the Body Worn Camera program and have long championed this technology as an essential investment in law enforcement transparency and accountability,” said Sachi Hamai, Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles County “Over the past three years, the Board has proactively set aside $34.78 million in a dedicated account to support this program, and on September 24, 2019, unanimously approved a motion to authorize the Sheriff’s Department to implement this project. The Sheriff’s Department has sole responsibility for the implementation timetable to roll out body worn cameras, including the procurement and implementation process.”

LASD’s engagement on Body Worn Camera’s implementation and policy is long overdue. Los Angeles County Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) have given specific feedback to update and strengthen policies that would enhance the use and efficacy of Body Worn Cameras, such as the reviewing and releasing of camera footage, but these issues remain unaddressed.

“Since its inception, the OIG has monitored the Department’s slow progress on video supervision. In September of 2015, the OIG issued a detailed analysis of the proposed body worn camera policy.  Before the current Sheriff began his campaign for office, the OIG encouraged LASD to implement a full body worn camera program and the County began a lengthy process of assessing the cost of such a program,” said Max Huntsman, Executive Director of the Office of Inspector General. “The Sheriff’s engagement on policy is welcomed and long overdue. While he did make a campaign pledge to implement body cams, it was only because the CCJV had pushed for the reform, the Inspector General championed it, and the Board had begun the process of planning and funding.”

Oversight experts have also called for the immediate implementation of the Body Worn Cameras by LASD. “Body worn cameras are a critical tool which directly address the issues of accountability and transparency. The Civilian Oversight Commission wrote this in our Body Worn Camera Report of July 2018 and again in our policy update of April 2020,” said Brian Williams, Executive Director of the Civilian Oversight Commission.  “Every effort must be made to equip the LASD with this important tool. Our community has waited long enough.”

Supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020

Congresswoman Karen Bass

Amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd of at the hands of law enforcement, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn to support proposed federal legislation aimed at combatting police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing.

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn directed Los Angeles County’s legislative advocates in Washington, D.C. to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 – HR. 7120 (Bass-Nadler) and S. 3912 (Booker-Harris) – in order to strengthen national standards and support state and local governments in their efforts to reform policing.

“I believe that lawless acts of state violence should never be normalized, nor should discrimination or racial profiling of any kind be tolerated,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We have an urgent need to pursue comprehensive public safety reform. This act of Congress will strengthen much-needed national standards and support us at the state and local level.”

The nation is currently embroiled in a public reckoning around policing practices after several high-profile, fatal applications of force against unarmed civilians. The death of George Floyd last month in Minneapolis revived scrutiny regarding the appropriate use of force by law enforcement officers, sparking protests and demonstrations in cities and counties throughout the U.S., including Los Angeles, as well as internationally.

Recognizing the consequences of inaction, advocates, community leaders, elected officials, and other stakeholders have been accelerating efforts to reform policing and ensure it is more humane, protects constitutional and human rights, ensures accountability, and enhances public safety.

On June 8, 2020, U.S. Representatives Karen Bass and Jerrold Nadler, and U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (H.R. 7120 and S. 3912, respectively). On June 17, 2020, the legislation was renamed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 at the request of the Floyd family.

The legislation seeks comprehensive reform aimed at holding police accountable, reforming the qualified immunity doctrine, changing the culture of law enforcement, and empowering communities. The bill would also ban chokeholds and create a misconduct registry, among other changes to national policy.

A vote is expected, possibly as early as this week, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Investing in the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of Our Communities

(left to right) Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas – Vote on a New Office to Promote Alternatives to Incarceration – Board of Supervisors meeting March 10, 2020. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve experienced a long-awaited reckoning with the racialized violence African Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement and the broader economic inequities that define communities of color.

At its core, this push for change evidenced by protests and demonstrations across the globe highlight the need to not only reexamine our mechanisms for law enforcement accountability, but even more importantly, re-up our investments in community well-being. As a result, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has asked that the County’s CEO reexamine the FY2020-21 budget and make greater investments in programs that work, particularly within vulnerable and disadvantaged communities that have suffered from historic disinvestment. These areas include making good on our commitment to diversion from our jails; building up community-based alternatives to incarceration; and addressing the homeless crisis and the racial inequities that define the crisis.

“We must double down on investments that work, investments that communities say they need, and investments that we know will save lives,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “In times of crisis, our values must always lead the way.”

As the letter notes, LA County has many unmet needs, areas where many community investments have been initiated by the Board of Supervisors, but because of budgetary shortfalls, full implementation has yet to occur. As the largest and most diverse county in the nation, LA County has an obligation to make sure its budgetary investments reflect its values and offer the best and highest return for the communities we serve.

Read the full “Unmet Needs” letter.  Click here.