Board Makes Further Investments in Violence Prevention and Resources to Support Communities Impacted by Trauma

Recently, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas read in two comprehensive motions, for action at the September 29th Board meeting, that will further disrupt violence by implementing the Office of Violence Prevention’s (OVP) strategic plan as well as reinforce the Family Assistance Program (FAP) for families who have lost loved-ones to deputy-involved shootings. These two actions of community investment and well-being come amid an unprecedented increase in local tensions in the recent deaths of Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee.

“Violence begets violence. If we want to break the cycle, we must provide a compassionate response to families impacted by violence and equip our communities with the tools needed to recognize and deescalate violence before it occurs,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The residents of Los Angeles County deserve a coordinated and community-led response to incidences of violence that too frequently take place. I am proud that we are continuing the diligent hard work that is necessary to make an impact in this important area of incredible consequence.”

Implementing the Office of Violence Prevention’s Strategic Plan and Creating a Coordinated Community-Based Crisis Response System

Recently, 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 this motion, authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the Board is working toward implementation of a coordinated and community-led response to incidences of violence or crisis, such as homicides, shootings, and sexual and domestic assault.

• Ensuring the Long-term Viability of the Family Assistance Program

The FAP was created by the Board of Supervisors upon the recommendation of the Civilian Oversight Commission in response to community concerns about the treatment of families who have lost loved-ones at the hands of the Sheriff’s Department. This program works to counteract the trauma of loss that is compounded by a lack of clear communication. 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. This 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.

Targeting Venues Where Human Trafficking Persists

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted  to develop a new ordinance that would help victims break free of their bondage, encourage witnesses to intervene, and crack down on perpetrators.

Leaving no stone unturned, the motion also mandated sports and entertainment venues, as well as motels, hotels, inns, massage parlors, and other establishments to post notices with a hotline for reporting human trafficking. Current State law requires such notices only at locations where trafficking is known to occur, such as adult businesses, and at locations where trafficking victims seek assistance, such as hospitals and urgent care centers. However, the law has been inconsistently applied across jurisdictions.

“Organized criminal enterprises have been known to transport victims – many of them underage – to large-scale athletic competitions in order to sell them for sex,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With Los Angeles destined to host the Super Bowl in 2022 and the Summer Olympics in 2028, it is not too early to prevent the depraved and often clandestine crime of human trafficking.”

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn noted that state law allows the County to establish an ordinance that would allow routine inspections of establishments where human trafficking is suspected, and provide outreach and education for victims and witnesses. Such an ordinance could also include fines and penalties for violations, with the revenue going towards supporting victims.

The County has been working with the City of Los Angeles to align legal remedies. Earlier this year, the City approved an ordinance based on a motion by City Council President Nury Martinez to add hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns to the list of locations required to post notices informing their patrons about human trafficking hotlines.

Human trafficking, which includes both sex and labor trafficking, remains a significant problem worldwide. Traffickers create a climate of fear to control their victims and lure or coerce people into various forms of work, including domestic, factory, farm, restaurant, and commercial sex. Due to under-reporting, under-identification, and the tactics of violence, stigmatization, and shame utilized by traffickers and predators, accurate and uniform statistics are difficult to compile, and many instances of victimization go undetected.

Over the last several years, Los Angeles County has taken various measures to help victims and survivors, providing them with a range of services. It also created a First Responder Protocol aimed at preventing them from being re-traumatized when they come into contact with law enforcement. Instead of arresting them for crimes committed by pimps and johns, the Protocol diverts them from incarceration and connects them to safety, stability and hope.

The County has also moved to strengthen enforcement against the perpetrators of modern-day slavery, not only pimps and johns but also unscrupulous businesses and individuals who seek to profit from forced labor.

Amid Tensions, Dialogue for Change and Reform

Amid increased tensions ignited by the tragic murder of George Floyd and recent deaths of Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee at the hands of law enforcement, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, in collaboration with the Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles (INVLA), convened leaders from across Los Angeles for a virtual dialogue on racism and policing during the pandemic and beyond. In what marks the 25th anniversary of Days of Dialogue, a nonpartisan organization that brings together leaders from different sectors and communities to discuss difficult issues to catalyze change, the discussion was as timely as it was necessary.

As a prelude to the invitation-only dialogue, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas, delivered remarks pertaining the importance of dialogue as a powerful first step towards reform and change. Specifically, he noted “the epidemic of police killings of unarmed African Americans is an unrelenting outrage, and we all have every right to the anger and pain felt so deeply right now. But where do we go from here? Carl Segan once said, ‘You have to know the past to understand the present.’ In order to influence change, we need to identify the root of the issue – and Dialogue is the first step in the movement for change.”

For 25 years, Days of Dialogue has convened civic, business, ecumenical and community leaders to discuss timely social and political issues facing communities. In the midst of civil unrest and racial tension ignited by the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial and rising threats of racial violence, Days of Dialogue provides a forum for leaders and community members to address critical issues. Days of Dialogue has taken place in political town hall forums, civic auditoriums, and smaller venues such as; neighborhood libraries, houses of worships, and today, via a virtual platform.

Attendees at his virtual dialogue included: Chair of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans; Los Angeles Police Chief, Michael Moore; Los Angeles County Public Defender, Ricardo Garcia; Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas; President of Saint Mary’s University, Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson; and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Faithful Central Bible Church.

“I have been a part of Days of Dialogue from very beginning. This much-needed conversation is a moment to embrace dialogue and create change like never before. Days of Dialogue has allowed community members to have courageous conversations on very sensitive social topics for decades. These kinds of gatherings are more important as ever as we work to dismantle racist practices and bring communities together,” said Commission Chair of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans. “We are grateful to Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas and Avis Ridley Thomas for creating and continuing these community dialogues.”

“We cannot let the winds of change die. We are living a movement to push systemic racism to the forefront of America’s consciousness. We must look to the institutions, their values, their history, and their rewards to understand how best to make permanent change. Racism is a plague that infects and seeks to put us against one another. It is self-perpetuating and feeds on lies and fear. Only in solidarity can we defeat racism,” said Public Defender, Ricardo Garcia. “Honest dialogue, real talk, is the way to look at our institutions and understand what action is required. Thank you, Days of Dialogue, for continuing to encourage community discussion to promote healing, action, and, most importantly, change!

“I have participated in sessions of Days of Dialogue for many years and have always felt it is an excellent opportunity to express your inner feelings and get immediate feedback.  It is a very important tool for communicating,” said Los Angeles Police Chief, Michel Moore. “As an attendee of previous Days of Dialogue, I hope to gain insight based on what is currently happening in Los Angeles and across the Country, with the various demonstrations the people demand for change.  Change is needed in Law Enforcement and many other institutions within society.”

About the event, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has stated, “Because of this dialogue, I am reminded of what my good friend, Cornel West, has said: ‘None of us alone can save the nation or world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.’ It’s not enough to support diversity and inclusion initiatives – It’s time we advance to the next level,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We need to identify and confront institutional racism. And, we must remain intentional about dismantling ideas and policies that maintain racial inequality. Hard work lies ahead of us in our collective fight to advance racial equity. Yet, I remain hopeful in our ability to create an equitable, antiracist Los Angeles. The success of Days of Dialogue demonstrates that we can do the work. Together, we can redefine political issues, reimagine outcomes and capitalize on bold new possibilities that transform our communities.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas Moves to Ensure Transparency and Accountability in Recent Police Shootings by LASD

In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Jacob Blake, the recent shooting of Dijon Kizzee in South Los Angeles, as well as the racialized violence endured at the hands of law enforcement towards communities of color, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas moves to increase law enforcement transparency and accountability in the investigation of the death of Andres Guardado—a move that will bolster an investigation into the recent shooting of Dijon Kizzee, and rebut a disturbing trend by LASD in thwarting independent oversight. The motion, authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas seeks to ensure that the Medical Examiner-Coroner and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) have the tools necessary to bring about greater accountability in the handling of investigations into Deputy-involved shootings.

“For far too long we have accepted the status quo—we haven’t sufficiently challenged law enforcement’s incessant demands that investigations remain shrouded in secrecy,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This Board must not sit by and allow the County’s law enforcement department to entrench itself in traditional patterns of behavior that profoundly harm not only vulnerable communities but the entire justice system.”

In the motion, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas urges the Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner to conduct an inquest into the circumstances of the death of Mr. Andres Guardado or provide an explanation about why an inquiry is unnecessary. The motion also calls for a report back from the OIG on the feasibility of ensuring that any County task force charged with investigating police shootings, be overseen by a civilian public official to increase transparency; and on the feasibility of litigation against LASD for failing to allow oversight of police investigations.

“The County’s Sheriff’s Department’s refusal to comply with state law and permit monitoring of their investigations of themselves deeply undermines law enforcement credibility,” said Max Huntsman, Inspector General.  “I strongly support efforts by County and State government to strengthen civilian oversight and overcome this unhealthy resistance to accountability.”

“The Sheriff’s Office under this administration has illegally avoided all attempts to move transparently in the investigation of Andres Guardado. Now at a time when the entire nation is calling for us to reimagine public safety and accountability, and with the shooting of Dijon Kizzee just last night, I applaud the leadership of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas to hold this Department accountable and further calls for justice,” said UCLA Black Policy Project Executive Director, Isaac Bryant.

Consistent with State and County law, civilian monitoring with LASD is permitted. However, LASD has strongly and repeatedly resisted the efforts of public officials to conduct proper oversight, not only as it relates to Mr. Guardado’s killing but also as to multiple other violations by LASD personnel.

In 2018, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1421, the Right to Know Act. As a result of the bill, Penal Code section 832.7 was amended to require transparency in police shootings. Under the new law, reports must be made public unless a public agency can justify that an interest in secrecy is stronger than the public’s right to know.

“In this time when reform should bring more transparency rather than less, LASD insists that it should be trusted to investigate itself. Their lack of accountability will not be tolerated,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Oversight of this investigation is not just critical for ensuring accountability—it is legally mandated.”

Stepping Up for Crime Victims

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas disputed Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s allegation that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors does not support victims of crime, noting that in the last two years alone, the Board has approved dozens of motions and taken other actions to help victims recover from trauma and rebuild their lives.

In addition, the Board has sought to help victims get justice by authoring 67 motions that offer rewards for the arrest and conviction of the criminals who victimized them. Of those motions, 27 were authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Sheriff Villanueva attended the August 4th, 2020 Board of Supervisors meeting to protest two motions –  one to collect data for pretrial reform, the other to create a Criminal Justice Data Sharing Initiative.

The first motion, authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, called for looking into whether changes can be made so people are jailed pre-trial only if necessary, and without compromising public safety. The second motion, authored by Supervisors Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas, called for collecting and analyzing data on people within the justice system to explore alternatives to incarceration, if it would result in better outcomes for them and for the community.

Sheriff Villanueva opposed both motions, claiming, “None of them say anything about what happens to the victims… Since the Board is elected not to really talk about victims of crime, and represent victims in the criminal justice system, I’ll do that for them.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas took exception to his statement, telling Sheriff Villanueva, “Your check on the Board for not representing victims is uncalled for and it shouldn’t stand without being challenged.”

Just looking back over the last two years, the Board has stepped up for victims of commercial sexual abuse (particularly children and youth), domestic violence, elder abuse, gang-related crimes, hate crimes, and other criminal activity. The Board has also assisted victims of wildfires and other disasters, as well as refugees and witnesses of crimes who have been traumatized by their experience.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion to create a Family Assistance Program, recognizing that deaths from the use of force by, or in the custody of, the Sheriff’s Department can traumatize the families who lost a loved one, witnesses, and the community – regardless of the circumstances that led to the fatality. The program would provide families with grief counseling and other mental health services, funds to assist with burial costs, and timely, respectful and compassionate updates.

Among his many initiatives to promote public safety and justice, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was also the principal author of a motion to establish a Family Justice Center within the Child and Family Wellbeing Center currently under construction at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook. He also led the effort to create a First Responder Protocol that ensured guides Los Angeles County law enforcement and other agencies to treat children in the sex trade as victims of abuse and human trafficking, instead of criminals.