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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.”

Preventing a Wave of Evictions and Foreclosures

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board of Supervisors called for developing a comprehensive plan to prevent significant numbers of evictions and foreclosures once Los Angeles County’s eviction moratorium is lifted.

“The moratorium currently provides temporary protection to many households who have suffered a loss in income during the pandemic – but its just that – temporary. When the time ultimately comes to end the moratorium, it is unlikely that most renters will immediately be in a position to pay back months of unpaid rent,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We need to provide both renters and property owners with robust support and interventions in order to prevent massive evictions and foreclosures that could lead to a tsunami of Angelenos becoming homeless.”

“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on families who had already been scraping by paycheck to paycheck,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “The County’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium have helped keep many of those residents in their homes. When the time comes to lift the moratorium, people who fell behind in their rent will face the nearly-impossible task of trying to pay current and back rent at the same time. We need a plan to avoid a surge of new evictions and homelessness, and this motion will deliver that plan.”

The Board directed the County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to develop the plan in coordination with the County’s CEO, Counsel, and Development Authority. The plan should include programmatic and legislative strategies, and be presented to the Board in 30 days.

The Board enacted a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions in the County’s unincorporated areas in March, then later expanded it to all jurisdictions countywide that had not already adopted their own moratoria. In May, the Board decided the moratoria could be extended on a month-to-month basis as needed.

Meanwhile, the County’s eviction moratorium, reinforced by an Executive Order from Governor Gavin Newsom, applies to people unable to pay rent due to the following circumstances:

  • Being diagnosed with COVID-19, or caring for a household or family member diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • A layoff, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from a business closure or other economic or employer impacts of COVID-19;
  • Compliance with a recommendation from the County’s Health Officer to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others during the state of emergency;
  • Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses related to diagnosis and testing for and/or treatment of COVID-19; or
  • Childcare needs arising from school closures related to COVID-19.

The Board also voted to extend the Eviction Moratorium until July 30, 2020, at which time they are slated to revisit whether it should be further continued.

 

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.

A New Home for Florence Library

Florence-Firestone residents are poised to get a bigger and better library in their community after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new site for the Florence Library. In November of last year, The Board of Supervisors (Board) agreed to set aside a total of $5.7 million for this project.

With approximately double the space of the original library, the new Florence Library will serve as a one-stop hub for constituent services, including workforce and economic development opportunities, senior assistance, and more.

Los Angeles County Florence-Firestone Community Service Center

“Last year, I committed to finding the best location possible for the Florence Library – a larger, more accessible and technically advanced facility that would provide resources to individuals of all ages,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “I am pleased that this vision has now come to fruition through the collaborative work of the community. Moving forward with a location that offers such a unique opportunity to create a true community civic center is the best and most efficient way to ensure this critical resource is delivered to the community.”

“I have always been, and remain, deeply committed to the people who call Florence-Firestone home,” he added. “I look forward to working collaboratively with this community to get this project off the ground and on a fast-track to a speedy completion.”

Several community leaders were excited about the new site, includig Florence-Firestone Community Leader, Martha Escobedo.

Florence-Firestone Community Leader, Martha Escobedo expresses her eagerness for the completion of the new library.

“After a long-awaited return, I am really excited and eager for this project to be completed. It’s been a huge hurdle, but we did it, we achieved our goal. I am really proud of the community. I thank the Supervisor and his staff for their transparency and for working with us throughout this process to make us feel comfortable. This new library is a reflection of his dedication to the community. This facility will be useful to a lot of individuals and open to anyone that wants to be a part of it. This library is one of the few resources in the community, and I am happy that we will be able to embrace the people, encourage them to get educated, and teach them to value and appreciate our culture.”

Support also came from Florence-Firestone Community Leaders President Dominique Medina.

Florence-Firestone Community Leaders President Dominique Medina explains his excitement for the new library.

“The Florence-Firestone Community Leaders are delighted that the Florence-Firestone community will be getting a new modern Library where people will be able to gather to explore, interact, and imagine. We supported the Library being built on Compton Avenue because the Library will be central to the community. It will serve both the youth and senior population alike. The Library will be a great community center for our diverse population.”

The original library, previously located at 1610 East Florence Avenue, was built in 1970. At 5,000 square feet, it was one of the smaller facilities within the County Public Library system and long overdue for renovation or replacement.

Community Library Manager, Julian Zamora scans the book collection in the Florence Express Library.

“We’re delighted to have a permanent location for Florence Library with new furniture, new computers, and a larger library area for our community. Children, teens, and adults will be able to have their own separate areas, as well as two shared community meeting spaces for larger programs and activities. With Los Angeles County Department Of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS), and the Register-Recorder’s Office in the same building, it is an opportunity to collaborate and provide a one-stop shop to our Florence-Firestone residents. I look forward to working with the County team to ensure the best library and community space for Florence-Firestone,” stated Community Library Manager, Julian Zamora.

Edwin Hernandez, Executive Director of the Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park Chamber of Commerce stands in front of Los Angeles County Florence-Firestone Community Service center.

“Libraries are fundamental to our community and offer resources and opportunities for learning that are essential to advancing the education of our future generations. The Florence Library has been an ongoing endeavor with the Florence-Firestone community. I believe the relocation of the library, along with the state-of-the-art improvements that come with it, will be of great benefit to our younger generation and community,” stated Edwin Hernandez, Executive Director of the Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park Chamber of Commerce.

With the new Florence Library, the County hopes to include several new features, including child, teen, homework, adult, and technology areas – all aimed at providing students and individuals with a safe space to access the information that they need.