Life Saving App Now Available

Everyday Heroes Needed

Roslyn de la Torre was on her way to work when she saw a crowd gathered around a man who had collapsed of an apparent heart attack on the sidewalk. A registered nurse, de la Torre got out of her car and immediately began giving the man CPR. Within 4 minutes, the paramedics arrived but it may well have been de la Torre’s quick actions that saved Elbert Kirby’s life. With a person suffering a heart attack, the first two minutes can determine life or death.

“It’s amazing that CPR is the reason I am here today,” said Kirby, a 50-year volunteer with the American Red Cross.

This narrow window of timing in which life can hang in the balance, is why Los Angeles County officials have launched PulsePoint, the “AMBER alert for cardiac arrest victims.”

When a person is in cardiac distress and a call is made to 911, one of the five public safety communications centers in the county activates the app which sends an alert on the phone and gives a GPS location at the same time that local fire and emergency responders are notified.  It was developed by PulsePoint Foundation, a San Francisco based organization that is building applications for public safety agencies, and supported by the Wireless Foundation, a nonprofit that includes several wireless provider companies that support wireless innovation and initiatives


Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, Mrs. Elbert Kirby, Mr. Elbert Kirby, Roslyn de la Torre, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the event.

Celebrating its launch, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Fire Chief Daryl Osby joined de la Torre and Kirby as well as the app founder in Inglewood joined together for the official release.

“Simply put, this app is really a life-saving opportunity,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Now qualified responders can do their part to help a heart attack victim. It is a great resource for all county residents.”

The app, which is free, is available for both iPhone and Android phones. More than 13,000 people in the county have already downloaded PulsePoint but county officials hope more residents take part.

“Mobile technology can help us build and safer, more resilient community,” said Chief Osby.

Added de la Torre, who is now friends with Kirby and his wife, “A few minutes can make a difference in saving someone’s life.”

For more information on CPR classes throughout LA County, residents can call (323) 881-2411 or email

Civilian Oversight Delayed, Not Denied

In a show of strong support for the creation of a citizen’s oversight commission, hundreds of people attended Tuesday’s board of supervisor’s meeting to demand a civilian role in reforming the department.

In often moving testimony, many residents spoke of their personal experiences of abuse at the hands of deputies and urged the supervisors to create a forum where their concerns and insights could be heard. No such outlet exists today, and the newly constituted office of the inspector general is no substitute, they said. Incidents of wrongdoing by deputies and department leaders, which have only become public in recent months, some testified, had long been known to people in neighborhoods throughout the county.

DJA_0073“A board, even an advisory committee can provide the community with an avenue; the [inspector general] isn’t the community,” said Patrisse Cullors of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence. “ When my brother was brutalized our family had nowhere to go.”

Greg Akili of Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance, told the board that unwarranted shootings and abuses by deputies had created a profound lack of trust in many neighborhoods akin to the ill will that once existed between the Los Angeles Police Department and some communities.

“It took many years of struggle; it took a federal consent decree to finally move the LAPD… let’s stop moving from crisis to crisis,” Akili said.

Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of a commission, only Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina voted in favor of the motion they sponsored to create one.DJB_0295

“No two ways about it, I am disappointed – disappointed that the board did not listen to the vote of the people,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “So yes, I’m disappointed but not disheartened. Disappointed but, may I say, undeterred.

“Police commission structures exist in Oakland; Long Beach, CA; San Diego; San Francisco; New York City,” the supervisor continued, so we are not talking about something new. This isn’t a novel innovation; frankly, civilian oversight is just considered a best practice across the nation.

“The people of Los Angeles County deserve to have a say with regard to their Sheriff’s Department and I am confident that they will get it. If not now, then sooner rather than later,” he said.

Statement on the Citizen’s Commission Oversight Vote

On Tuesday August 5, the Board of Supervisors will decide whether to let citizens of Los Angeles County partner with their Sheriff’s Department through the creation of a civilian oversight commission.

As many of you know, it has long been my belief that such a panel is essential to reforming the department. Frankly, here in Los Angeles County we’re a bit behind the times; modern policing recognizes that civilian oversight is a crucial component for successful law enforcement, and such panels are now considered a best practice.

The sad truth is that the department has proved time and again that it cannot police itself. The former sheriff has said he had no knowledge of violence in the jails, of obstruction of justice by deputies with regard to an ongoing FBI investigation, and no knowledge of the hiring of dozens of deputies with troubled or criminal pasts.

There are those, however, who did know of the department’s lapses — the people.

This is why it is imperative that the county create a citizens’ oversight commission akin to the Los Angeles Police commission and other law enforcement agencies across the nation. Police commission structures exist in Oakland; Long Beach, CA; San Diego; San Francisco; New York City.
How would it work? It would work with the new inspector general, Max Huntsman and provide a platform for citizens to bring ideas, suggestions and complaints to light. It would create a new level of transparency and accountability for the department from which both employees and citizens would benefit.

We already have seen the drawbacks to not having such a panel in place, so what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for the County to pay tens of millions more in settlements? More civil rights violations of inmates? More indictments of sheriff’s deputies? A mandate from the federal government?

The primary argument I hear from those who doubt the efficacy of a citizens’ oversight commission, is that it won’t have what they call “teeth.” But no one is trying to bite the Sheriff’s department. Or rather, the goal is not to pummel and punish our deputies, the overwhelming majority of whom do an outstanding job, putting their welfare and lives on the line every day for the residents of the county.

It is to provide an arena for our citizens to interface with the department and to provide ongoing scrutiny of its efforts to reform. It is to restore public confidence and regain the public trust.

Week after week members of the community have come to the Board of Supervisors to ask for the right to partner with their Sheriff’s department, to be heard, to participate in making it a better, more fair and effective department. On Tuesday, I hope we decide to open the door and let them in.

Board of Supervisors Anticipates a Strong Diversion Plan for Mentally Ill Inmates


Los Angeles County has both the largest inmate population of any county in the nation and the largest population of mentally ill people who are incarcerated. While the Board has adopted a $2 billion-jail master plan to demolish Men’s Central Jail, modernize Mira Loma Detention Center for women and construct a new two-tower Correctional Treatment Facility, that plan, however, does not allocate funding to create much-needed alternatives to incarceration for mentally ill inmates.

“Jails are no place for our mentally ill to receive help,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who called for the county to set aside $20 million to create a robust diversion plan. “We can and we must do more. We have heard from many individuals and experts and they have asked us to improve the outcome for individuals with mental illness as well as save money for the county. A diversion plan is an essential component to making our society better.”

All five board members say they fully support the creation of a strong diversion program that would redirect mentally ill offenders away from county jails, where they currently constitute a substantial portion of the population, to treatment programs. To that end, the Supervisors decided to discuss funding a diversion in September, when District Attorney Jackie Lacey is scheduled to present a plan for Los Angeles County.

Much of the board meeting on Tuesday, July 29, however, was devoted to the testimony of advocates, residents and parents of mentally ill persons calling for the board to act.

As Jo Helen Graham , a mother whose son suffers from mental illness noted in her testimony before the board Tuesday, “Why do we accept jails and prisons as surrogate mental health hospitals for our mentally ill citizens and loved ones rather than build (as the prison industry does) clinics and hospitals to care for the treatment of the mentally ill?”

A strong diversion plan would likely include training for law enforcement and emergency services providers, preventive services for those who may be at risk of getting arrested, offer post-arrest alternatives to incarceration and programs that would help former inmates re-enter society after they are released, such as job training. This plan would work in collaboration with the District Attorney, the courts, law enforcement, mental health, substance abuse and health providers and other key players to make sure it is coordinated and comprehensive.

Lawrence Foy, policy director for A New Way of Life, a nonprofit, noted that funding diversion will put Los Angeles County “on a clear path to providing a comprehensive approach to ameliorating a growing and festering crisis among those faced with mental illness.”

The U.S. Department of Justice recently reported that inadequate supervision and deplorable environmental conditions deprive Los Angeles County jail inmates of constitutionally-required mental health care.

Other cities throughout the country have seen impressive results with their diversion programs, including New York City’s Nathaniel Project with a reported 70 percent reduction in arrests over a two-year period; Chicago’s Thresholds program with an 89 percent reduction in arrests, 86 percent reduction in jail time, and a 76 percent reduction in hospitalization for program participants; and Seattle’s FACT program with a 45 percent reduction in jail and prison bookings.


Treatment vs. Incarceration: $20 Million Proposed for Mental Health Programs

Los Angeles County incarcerates the largest population of mentally ill people of any county in the nation. District Attorney Jackie Lacey, jail reform advocates, fiscal watchdogs, and the supervisors all have voiced concerns about the County’s inhumane and expensive system, which repeatedly cycles mentally ill people in and out of custody.

The supervisors unanimously have acknowledged this circumstance, and in recent months the board has committed to exploring methods of redirecting mentally ill offenders to treatment instead of jail. At present, however, the county has set aside about $3 million.

That’s not enough to make a meaningful effort at diversion. That’s why Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is asking the Board to start to demonstrate its financial commitment by setting aside an amount that is the equivalent of 1% of the $2 billion already set aside for jail construction and renovations.

The results from successful diversion programs across the country are encouraging. Intensive treatment lowers recidivism, resulting both in fewer new victims of crime and lower incarceration costs. In New York City, the Nathaniel Project saw a reported 70% reduction in arrests over a two-year period and Chicago’s Thresholds program resulted in an 89% reduction in arrests, an 86% reduction in jail time, and a 76% reduction in hospitalization for program participants.

“It is time to stop talking about treating mentally ill people with dignity; it’s time to stop talking about taking a fiscally responsible approach to managing our jail population, it’s time to act,” the supervisor said.

The Supervisor’s proposal, which will return to the Board for a vote in coming days, parallels findings outlined to the Board in a presentation by the district attorney. Lacey, who hosted a summit of 60 law enforcement leaders, mental health workers and community advocates last spring, identified six preliminary goals for the county. They are:

1. Training for all criminal justice professionals.

2. Expanding the capacity for behavioral health treatment for mentally ill offenders.

3. Implementing a data study that examines the types of services needed, the capacity needed for those services and the population(s) most in need of these services.

4. Improving communication/coordination among all system partners to remove silos and implement a shared database.

5. Developing policies and procedures to guide service capacity utilization.

6. Creating crisis alternatives centers/crisis stabilization centers that can be utilized by law enforcement, consumers and families of consumers.

7. Expanding the availability of housing for mentally ill offenders.

Embracing and investing in diversion, however, may not be just a matter of choice. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice warned the county that its quality of care for mentally ill offenders and the high number of inmate suicides in its jails did not meet constitutional standards.

“There’s a moral question at hand in this process,” Lacey said. Are we punishing people for simply being sick. Public safety should have a priority, but justice should always come first.”