Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board of Supervisors seek advice on legislative changes that would result in the sheriff being appointed rather than elected. It also inquires about ways to remove certain responsibilities from the Sheriff to mitigate damage to basic Department functions and to curtail the Sheriff’s resistance to transparency and accountability.
“We have managed to inherit the worst Sheriff in recent memory, and he has set off what is as close to a constitutional crisis at the local level that we’ve ever seen,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, noting recent scandals over fatal deputy shootings, secret societies, the rehiring of previously fired deputies, and a department budget in turmoil.
“Under the current Sheriff, hard-fought law enforcement reforms are being undone, eroding public trust,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “It is painfully obvious that we need mechanisms to hold the Sheriff accountable and we are willing to consider executive, legislative, and judicial authority to restore order.”
Supervisor Kuehl, who co-authored the motion, said “The LA County Sheriff has continuously refused to cooperate with the Civilian Oversight Commission and our Inspector General, defying both subpoenas and requests for information. He has incurred tens of millions of dollars in settlement costs in excessive force litigation, re-employed deputies who were lawfully terminated, and aggressively resisted the County’s attempt to balance the department’s budget which is running unprecedented deficits.”
“True community safety means having a Sheriff’s Department that operates within the law, within budget, and works collaboratively with local officials and the public to build and maintain community trust,” Supervisor Kuehl added. “The Supervisors have taken this action to explore ways of removing or limiting a Sheriff’s authority as a last resort, because our paramount obligation is to our County residents to ensure that any County law enforcement agency is accountable and worthy of the public’s confidence and trust.”
“The community shouldn’t have to wait four years to get rid of a Sheriff who has actively undermined reforms that Black and Brown communities have won. We should explore every means of holding the sheriff accountable including rethinking whether the sheriff should be appointed,” said Mark-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, Founder of Frontline Wellness Network.
In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl noted the Board is ultimately responsible for setting policy and supervising the official conduct of County officers and employees, ensuring they discharge their duties faithfully. The Board’s authority to supervise elected officers like the Sheriff, however, is more limited, so they have to maneuver different ways to create checks and balances.
The motion noted the ongoing issues with the Sheriff are in contrast to the state of law enforcement at the City of Los Angeles, where the Chief of Police is appointed by the Mayor, subject to the approval of the Police Commission and City Council, all of whom provide robust oversight.