L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has organized a meeting at the West Hollywood Library on Thursday to solicit community input on plans to create a Civilian Oversight Commission for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the West Hollywood Library Community Room, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica. Dean Hansell, an attorney appointed by Kuehl to a group working to establish the commission, will be present.
The Board of Supervisors voted in December to create the Civilian Oversight Commission for the Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement services under contract to West Hollywood. It created a “working group” to report back on recommendations for the oversight commission’s mission, authority, size and structure. The group includes representatives from all five supervisors, the Sheriff’s Department and the recently-created Office of Inspector General, which currently oversees the department. Since then, the Working Group has been meeting regularly and began a series of public forums to get feedback from the community.
“This is important to all of us, not just because of the many problems in the jails, but because the Sheriff provides local law enforcement in huge parts of the county,” Kuehl said in an email message.
As part of their training, all Sheriff’s deputies are required to work for several years in the county’s jail system, the largest and one of the most controversial in the country. In 2013, the Men’s Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility (taken together) were ranked as one of the ten worst prisons in the United States. The Men’s Central Jail has since been closed. Last year six correctional officers, two deputies, two sergeants and two lieutenants were convicted by a federal court of interfering with a federal grand jury investigation of the county jail.
The Sheriff’s department has been involved in several local controversies. In 2012 the L.A. LGBT Center complained to the city’s Human Services Commission of a number of incidents where nonwhite gay men were abused by sheriff’s deputies in West Hollywood. The Sheriff’s Station investigated nine such cases, determining that the use of force in one of them was proper and that the other complaints were unfounded. Last year Sheriff’s deputies killed one man and seriously wounded another at 939 Palm Ave. while they were investigating a knife attack. The men killed were fleeing the attacker when they were shot. A report by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said the deputies could not be prosecuted because they acted reasonably. However the report noted contradictions between residents of the building who said they showed photos of the attacker to the deputies and the deputies, who uniformly denied seeing such photos. The Sheriff’s Department has agreed to settle a $25 million law suit filed by the family of John Winkler, who died after being shot by deputies. The size of that proposed settlement, which must be approved by the county Board of Supervisors, has not been made public.