At a telephone conference call on Monday, members of West Hollywood’s Public Safety Commission will be asked to offer their thoughts on plans to evaluate policing practices in West Hollywood and address other countywide issues involving the Sheriff’s Department.
The meeting will be the Commission’s first since March 9, when in-person meetings of the city’s various boards and commissions were halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens who want to attend the meeting may do so only by dialing in and listening over the telephone.
One of the key items on the agenda will be the City Council’s decision on July 6 to hire an independent expert to review policing practices in West Hollywood. The city contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services.
“The consultant will also be tasked with reviewing recent public safety arrest statistics and other local data, as well as relevant LASD policies on community policing, use of force, and arbitration, in order to provide recommendations on how to promote justice and equity,” says a memo about the item on the Commission’s agenda. “The consultant will take into consideration what is within the city’s purview as a contract city and make recommendations based on what can be done at the local level, versus what needs to be addressed through the California Contract Cities Association or other advocacy measures with the greater Sheriff’s Department. The consultant will provide the city with a final report that includes the findings of their research and recommendations for city consideration.”
The City Council asked for the Public Safety Commission’s comments on that decision and also its thoughts on issues regarding the Sheriff’s Department that are outside of West Hollywood’s purview but could be addressed by the California Contract Cities Association. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department provides law enforcement services under contract to 44 of the county’s 88 cities. West Hollywood is paying $19 million this fiscal year for those services.
At its meeting on June 15, the City Council also asked that the Public Safety Commission review the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department. However, Monday’s agenda only includes a document stating the number of officers and the amount the city is agreeing to pay for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, an agreement that already is in effect.
The cost to the City of West Hollywood this fiscal year is $19 million for 64 deputies and other officers and personnel at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. Eleven percent ($1.8 million) of the amount paid for deputies’ salaries is to cover the settlement of lawsuits filed against the Sheriff’s Department over issues in all of the cities that the department contracts with. The liability insurance rate has grown from 4% ($550,336) in 2015 to 11% this fiscal year as the department has had to settle a growing number of lawsuits. They include the $7.5 million payout in 2015 to settle suits brought against the Sheriff’s Department by the family of one innocent young man was shot and killed and by another young man who was injured by deputies from the West Hollywood Station on April 7, 2014, at 939 Palm Ave.
Other items to be discussed on Monday include the Alternatives to Incarceration Work Group, and recommendations from the county’s Sheriffs Civilian Oversight Commission and the county Office of the Inspector General. The Alternatives to Incarceration Work Group was created by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in February 2019. It has been tasked with finding ways to provide addiction and mental health care and other services to people who otherwise would be imprisoned without receiving the help they need to address their criminal behavior.
The Civilian Oversight Commission, created by the Board of Supervisors in 2016, has proposed changes in the Sheriff’s Department’s policy regarding the use of force by law enforcement officers. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on June 8 stated that the Sheriff’s Department bars officers from using chokeholds, strangleholds and other physical actions on suspects that could stop their blood flow and kill them.
In its decision to look into policing policies in West Hollywood, the City Council is following similar moves by cities across the country after the death on May 25 in Minneapolis of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man who was arrested and handcuffed, died after a police officer held him down with his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. That sparked protests across the nation, and in West Hollywood, that called out other incidents of police violence against Black people.
Neither the West Hollywood City Council nor the Public Safety Commission has spoken out about Sheriff Villanueva, who has been criticized publicly by the members of the county Board of Supervisors and the Civilian Oversight Commission for some of his actions. Those actions include Villanueva’s reinstatement of deputies fired for unnecessarily violent action and domestic abuse, his refusal to comply with subpoenas requesting his appearance before the Civilian Oversight Commission, his launch of an investigation into the Inspector General in an apparent act of retribution after the IG investigated various issues including the gang culture at some stations, and his refusal to comply with state laws requiring his office to provide information requested by the public regarding misconduct by Sheriff’s Department personnel. Villanueva has the strong support of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, a union whose endorsement has been sought by some City Council members running for re-election.
The Public Safety Commission meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. To listen in, one must dial (669) 900-6833. Then, when asked for the meeting ID number, enter 909 258 2509 and press #.
To provide a public comment, it is recommended that you email Public Safety Director Kristen Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 4 p.m. on Monday so that you can be included on the list of public speakers. In your email, include your name, the telephone number you will be calling on and the agenda item you want to speak about. The full agenda can be downloaded by clicking here. Dial-in 10 minutes prior to the 6:30 p.m. start of the meeting. You will be placed on hold until it is your turn to speak.