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Civilian Oversight Commissioners Announced! (Where’s Patrisse?)

On November 1st the Los Angeles County Supervisors officially announced the nine people who will be serving on the Civilian Oversight Commission.

Appointed individually by Solis, Ridley-Thomas, Kuehl, Knabe, and Antonovich, in that order:

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Hernan Vera

Attorney
Former President and CEO of Public Counsel
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Xavier Thompson

President of Baptist Ministers’ Conference
Senior Pastor of the Southern Saint Paul Church

Patti Giggans

Executive Director of Peace Over Violence

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JP Harris

Former LA Sheriff’s Lieutenant
Board Member and Former President of ALADS

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Robert C. Bonner

Attorney
Former DEA Administrator

Appointed by the Board of Supervisors from the community applications:

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Sean Kennedy

Executive Director of Center for Juvenile Law & Policy at Loyola Law School
Former Federal Public Defender
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Heather Miller

***C2ESV NOMINEE***
Rabbi at Beth Chayim Chadashim

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Priscilla Ocen

***C2ESV NOMINEE***
Loyola Law School Associate Professor

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Lael Rubin

Former Deputy District Attorney
DPN and the C2ESV implemented and shaped much of the commission through our 2014 report “A Civilian Review Board for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department” and our persistent campaigning and organizing efforts that spanned 3 years. Even though the county’s commission on jail violence rejected the idea of civilian oversight, we took on this fight to end state violence in the county jails and in our neighborhoods. After being invited to speak at a press conference held by the county supervisors, we decided to both claim our victory and pose important criticisms of the process. Check out the footage on Patrisse Cullors’ live Facebook video:

 

Patrisse Cullors, DPN’s founder and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, was instrumental in making the commission. She brought the idea to the table and organized local communities to demand it. And although she was nominated by us and made it to the final round of the interview process, the supervisors said her affiliation to BLM was a conflict of interest. However, they did not think that Robert C. Bonner being former administrator of the DEA and commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection was a conflict of interest. And even more shockingly, they didn’t think that JP Harris being a former sheriff’s department lieutenant for the very department this commission is overseeing was a conflict of interest.

Moving forward there is much to be done to ensure that this commission is effective and we are confident in the presence and fortitude of our C2ESV nominees who have been appointed. Stay tuned for more in depth profiles on all of the commissioners. In the meantime we will continue to be vigilant in pushing for subpoena power and to ensure that each commissioner is holding the LASD accountable and serving the people most affected by sheriff violence.

7 Critical Reasons to #StopToxicJail

1. It’s FAR

The proposed location is the old Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, over 80 miles away from the current jail in Lynwood and the Los Angeles city center. Families would have to drive through steep hills of the Angeles National Forest to visit their loved ones. There is no option of public transportation for women being released. Factors such as these remind us of the negligent death of Mitrice Richardson.

2. It’s TOXIC

In recent years the Mira Loma site has exhibited everything from raw sewage spills to measurable amounts of diesel in the soil. For details read We are Not Disposable: The Toxic Impacts of Prisons and Jails, a report just released by CURB and endorsed by DPN as a direct response to the county’s EIR.

3. It’s HISTORICALLY TOXIC

Used as a military airfield in the 1940s, the Mira Loma Detention Center became contaminated with hazardous waste almost 80 years ago, a classification that has stuck with it since.

4. It puts women at risk for VALLEY FEVER

Valley Fever is no joke. It is spread through spores in the soil, can cause skin lesions, chronic infections, pneumonia, and death, and has already proven to be widespread among those in the Lancaster area. Half of the proposed jail area will not be paved, posing a direct risk to prisoners, staff, and visitors.

5. We need GENDER JUSTICE

not gender responsiveness. Building a jail specifically for women is not what women need. They need to be with their families, have access to effective primary and mental healthcare, to healthy food and education, to job training and childcare, to address harms such as domestic violence through ways that are transformative instead of punitive. Gender justice is an investment in our communities, not in our incarceration.

6. It TEARS FAMILIES APART

The largest impact is felt in the families left behind. Moving women two hours away will put a heartbreaking strain on their relationships, especially with their children. For more on what LA’s incarcerated women experience read our report Breaking the Silence: Civil and Human Rights Violations Resulting From Medical Neglect and Abuse of Women of Color in Los Angeles County Jails.

7. It’s RACIST

The majority of the people impacted by this jail will be economically disadvantaged Black and Brown people. The women’s jail is a pet project of Michael D. Antonovich, a white male supervisor of the Lancaster district with a severely racist history, and he is desperately trying to push it through before he is no longer a supervisor in December. Remember, you don’t get a vote – they do! Which is why it is so important that you make sure your voice is represented.

Join us in requesting the county invest $120 million in our communities – not in our incarceration.

Together we can #StopToxicJail! 

Through and To the Criminal Judicial System

My personal experience brought me through and to the criminal judicial system. I was found guilty at trial for something that I did not do and was sentenced to one year in county jail. While incarcerated for 6 months in 2011 at the Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF), I was sexually abused by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies and by medical staff.

When I filed complaints in my first month at CRDF they all fell on deaf ears.

This experience brought me to my role as a Dignity and Power Now campaign lead for support of a Civilian Oversight Commission over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

As campaign lead I researched for one year civilian oversight commissions and review boards all across the US, Canada, and Europe. My research included budgets, size of police and sheriff’s departments, salaries, staffing, litigation costs, subpoena power, how many commission members, policy, and protocol. I consistently brought forth pertinent information to share with the working group members like what was working for oversight/review boards across the US and what is necessary for future effective civilian oversight commissions.

My research was to sharpen our knowledge of our 5 non-negotiable demands. Subpoena power, no former or current law enforcement, direct the work of the Office of Inspector General, a nine seat panel, and independent counsel. After one year here is what we won: 1. no current law enforcement, 2. nine seat member commission. Now we are in a fight for the Civilian Oversight Commission to obtain subpoena power by changing County Charter.

The purpose of subpoena power is to have access to police personnel files for more transparency and accountability within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during investigations regarding police misconduct and excessive use of force. Without subpoena power we simply have an incomplete investigation.

This type of thorough investigation would have helped my personal experience at Century Regional Detention Facility. A civilian oversight commission with subpoena power increases transparency and accountability within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during police misconduct investigations.

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My personal experience with advocacy is hands-on education and learning with the American Civil Liberties Union in April 2016. I went to the capital in Sacramento and learned how to lobby senators, assemblymen, and assemblywomen with an ACLU constitutional attorney in support of SB-1286. SB-1286 (or the Police Officer Misconduct Bill) is a bill that would grant subpoena power to all civilian oversight/review boards in the state of California. Although currently waiting to be brought up again in the next bill cycle, SB-1286 is another viable route to make sure Los Angeles County’s Civilian Oversight Commission has the power it needs to be effective.

Stay tuned to our blog or subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with my work as civilian oversight campaign lead and the fight to change County Charter and pass SB-1286!

Push Back on the Fear and Safety of Law Enforcement

Baca stepped out of the courthouse on August 1st, came down to face the cameras, and began to justify all the reasons why he was withdrawing his guilty plea. I listened to him make his statement and a couple things came up for me…

There’s a really offensive irony in the fact that he continues to play up his Alzheimer’s diagnosis as a reason why he shouldn’t go to prison. Meanwhile we still have hella folks inside who aren’t getting proper treatment. Law enforcement’s psychological and emotional wellbeing has so much more value and weight than the psychological and emotional wellbeing of Black and Brown people in Los Angeles County; particularly incarcerated people. Clearly Baca is using his diagnosis as a legal maneuver while many of our folks in the jail system, which he ran for years, are experiencing cognitive “impairments that are beyond minimal” (as his lawyer described him.) Baca may in fact benefit from the “mental health diversion” climate that has the county’s attention but our loved ones inside have yet to see those benefits.

Even when you talk about an officer involved shooting the popular narrative is that “police are scared for their lives.” The family members of Donnell Thompson, Jr. have expressed that he had a disability. Those needs were met with military force. The Sheriff’s response in his case was to deploy SWAT, deploy armored vehicles, and kill him.

Donnell Thompson, Jr.’s case is a clear indication of how the fear and psychological health of law enforcement is valued over the safety and lives of people in our community. They are given so much more priority – even in a legal context, which is why Baca is playing up his diagnosis so hard. All the while Donnell’s family endures another example of “treatment” for Black people. This is a clear indicator of the crisis of state violence.

The health and wellness of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Black and Brown people and their loved ones is the necessary priority. It is all the more critical that we look at it not as supplement to the conversations of stopping lethal and excessive force, but as essential. Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown LA is still the largest mental healthcare provider in the country and Los Angeles County is looking to build another jail to function as a treatment facility. As long as incarceration and public safety are the lenses through which we “treat” Black and Brown people’s health our communities will never be safe.

It is necessary that we push back on this narrative that the fear and safety of law enforcement should be the deciding factor in determining the life and death of Black and Brown people.

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