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.