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Complaint Process FAQ

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have an FAQ on the complaint process – so we made one for them! Let us know if you have any additional questions to add.

How do I submit a complaint?

The LASD claims that you can submit complaints to them 24 hours a day by phone, mail, email, online contact form, or in person at any sheriff’s facility. When filing a complaint at a sheriff’s facility you should ask for the watch commander or person in charge and make sure they give you the unique tracking number that is supposed to be given to you for future reference.

You can complain named or anonymously to the Office of Inspector General on their online contact form, but they will either forward your complaint to the LASD or not investigate. So what’s the point? Well, the OIG is supposed to provide independent oversight and monitoring of the LASD and reports directly to the County Board of Supervisors who control much of the LASD’s budget.

The Civilian Oversight Commission is a new independent oversight body that you can call, email, or attend one of their monthly meetings to submit a complaint in person. We’ve created a contact sheet so that you can contact most individual commissioners as well.

If you do not receive a response from LASD within 30 days or if you are not satisfied with LASD’s response contact the ACLU of Southern California Jails Project.

You can always contact us, Dignity and Power Now, with your complaints and we will do our best to address them.

Is there an app like the LAPD has?

Like this? Nope. Hopefully one day, but not now.

Where does my complaint go?

If you submit your complaint to the LASD your complaint is supposed to go to their Internal Affairs Unit.

If you submit your complaint to the Office of Inspector General it will go to Inspector General Max Huntsman and his staff. Then they will share it with the LASD.

If you submit your complaint to the Civilian Oversight Commission it will likely go to the Executive Director Brian Williams before being shared with the commissioners, unless you contacted each commissioner individually.

If you submit your complaint to the ACLU of Southern California Jails Project it will go to Director of Jails Esther Lim and her team.

Is submitting my complaint one way better than another?

Unfortunately no. Throughout each complaint system you will either face the issue of filing with the very department you are complaining about or relying on a body that has no real power to make changes within the LASD.

If no one from LASD responds in 30 days or if you are not satisfied with LASD’s response make sure you contact the ACLU of Southern California Jails Project.

Will they act on my complaint?

Possibly. Complaints have been known to be taken seriously and investigated, but we at DPN are consistently contacted by formerly incarcerated people and their families that say nothing was done, no one ever followed up with them, or that the LASD responded aggressively. We suggest going through the Civilian Oversight Commission whose meetings you can attend and contacting us to make sure we can help you follow up.

The ACLU of Southern California Jails Project says that out of the complaints they receive 80% are resolved within 30 days and 20% are unresolved due to no response from the LASD, the complainant is no longer in jail, still under investigation, or human error. A majority of the letters they receive contain several pink receipts grievance forms a prisoner submitted as proof that they tried to utilize the in-house grievance system to no avail.

What if I submit it anonymously?

If you submit a complaint anonymously with the LASD, OIG, COC, or ACLU it will not be investigated. You may contact us with your anonymous complaint and we will do our best to address it.

What will happen to the deputy / staff member?

Probably nothing – but this does not mean you shouldn’t speak up!

Even if Sheriff McDonnell himself wants to fire or discipline a deputy or staff member they usually will just go to the Civil Service Commission and get reinstated. Right now the sheriff can’t even give a list of 300 problematic deputies to prosecutors without getting it blocked in court by the sheriffs’ union.

The Office of Inspector General and the Civilian Oversight Commission can request information from the LASD but have no real power to subpoena records or discipline deputies. We’re working to change that.

This makes it all the more important that we speak out, file complaints, attend meetings, and fight to end sheriff violence!

Will I find out what happens?

Probably not. This is an issue we’ve brought up repeatedly and the Civilian Oversight Commission has vowed to work on. It’s insane that you can find out more about your Dominos Pizza order process than your sheriff’s department complaint process. For now it is up to you and us to be vigilant about following up and speaking out at meetings.

How do prisoners make complaints?

There is a system in place for prisoners to make complaints, but it is severely flawed and many prisoners do not use it due to the real possibility of retaliation from deputies.

According to the LASD any prisoner may submit an appeal and have grievances resolved relating to any condition of confinement and each sheriff’s unit should have a designated Inmate Complaint Coordinator and an adequate supply of Inmate Complaint Forms available with unrestricted access. All prisoners are permitted to report a complaint whether or not it is on the designated form and each housing area should have a locked repository accessible to prisoners where they are allowed to deposit their completed forms without interference. Unfortunately we’ve found that this is often not the case.

For a short time the LASD tried to implement iPad complaint forms within the jails, but they were poorly managed, had little to no access to wifi, and didn’t offer the prisoners any kind of confirmation number.

Should I worry about retaliation from deputies?

Retaliation from deputies is a real threat. We’ve received reports from prisoners being harassed or neglected after submitting complaints and family members being followed home and intimidated. Remember, this is the department that was comfortable intimidating the FBI.

But don’t let this keep you from speaking out and demanding what is right for you or your loved one! We’ve got your back and we’re fighting to make the complaint process safe and effective for all incarcerated people, their families, and communities.

What kinds of complaints does the LASD get?

According to the ACLU of Southern California Jails Project and based on our communication with DPN members, common in-custody complaints include not receiving or delays in medical care, not receiving required diet, property missing or destroyed, denied access to menstrual supplies or toilet paper, dirty housing and linen, plumbing issues, problems with grievance system, not receiving showers or recreation time, use of excessive force, verbal abuse, arbitrary discipline practices, not receiving religious services, and fear for life.

Have complaints helped improve conditions?

Sadly, no. Use of force has gone up, self harm and suicides are an epidemic, and the county is attempting to build two more jails and incarcerate 6,000 more people. The only way to improve conditions is by changing the focus from incarceration to community resources and building healthy communities. #AllJailsAreFails

Can Dignity and Power Now help me?

That’s what we’re here for! Contact us about your experience or how to get involved. Attend one of our upcoming events like our pop-up arts and wellness series outside of the jails this summer or one of the monthly Civilian Oversight Meetings. Join the movement to build dignity and power for all incarcerated people, their loved ones, and communities!

For more on the complaint process watch this video and see the ACLU, DPN, and the Youth Justice Coalition present to the Civilian Oversight Commission and recommend how to improve it.

Jeff Sessions is a Major Player in the LA County Jail Suicide Epidemic

Throughout the last presidential administration the Department of Justice has played an important role in implementing changes within the LA County Jail system. From stepping up the treatment of mentally ill prisoners to the probe into jail abuse that eventually led to the convictions of both former Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka, the Justice Department has been one of the only departments to even scratch the service of “policing the police.”

Now Jeff Sessions is heading it.

Jeff Sessions has a long history of opposing civil rights, and particularly the civil rights of Black people. In four short months he’s already established himself as a champion of law enforcement, no matter the circumstance. When speaking to a group of federal, state, and local law enforcement in Long Island on April 28th he made his stance clear by saying “This is the Trump era – so you can be confident that this nation’s leadership has your back.”

Despite the fact that he continuously uses terms like aliens and thugs in his speeches, has rolled back protections for transgender students in schools, is actively targeting non-documented people for deportation, and is unapologetically pro-law enforcement, he somehow heads the nation’s DOJ Civil Rights Division.

After a series of investigations into the LA County jails by the Civil Rights Division dating back to 1996, a failed memorandum of agreement, and a lawsuit settlement, everything culminated in 2015 when the DOJ reached a “wide-ranging and court-enforceable agreement to protect prisoners from serious suicide risks and excessive force in the largest jail system in the country.” These reforms were designed to prevent and respond more effectively to suicides and self-inflicted injuries and address use of force through multiple detailed measures. However, this settlement (aka consent decree) only works if it is enforced by the DOJ.

Which it clearly is not…

In 2015 use of force in the jails went up 40%, and recently even the department’s own Inspector General has come out saying there is no updated data on the sheriff’s departments’ use of force. And as for suicide attempts, there have already been nine deaths that we know of in 2017.

As of last month Jeff Sessions has ordered the DOJ to review all existing consent decrees, including the much-needed one in LA County, because, in his words, consent decrees between the federal government and local police departments can “reduce morale of the police officers.”

While the world is focused on Trump (for good reason), as abolitionists we must focus on Jeff Sessions and not let him carry out his discriminatory policies and build his militarized white supremacist police state under the radar. All eyes on the Department of Justice. And that includes Thomas Wheeler II, who currently heads the Civil Rights Division and already has a history of proposing hateful laws and giving questionable speeches.

To stop use of force, to stop the suicide epidemic, to stop the PIC, we must stop Jeff Sessions.

Director of Health and Wellness Mark-Anthony Johnson said it best last week in the Sacramento Bee:

He’s advancing a narrative that Black communities are violent; also that law enforcement is losing the morale and that’s a danger to public safety. That’s a very dangerous combination.

Follow DPN and #TrollJeffSessions on social for future action steps.

Compton Moms Fight Back Against a System that Targets Their Families

A week ago DPN and the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence turned out to the first town hall put on by the Civilian Oversight Commission. Despite the Lakewood venue being far away and difficult to find we showed up along with organization members of our coalition including the Youth Justice Coalition, Black Jewish Justice Alliance, and the ACLU. The evening though belonged to a team of five mothers, four of them DPN members, who’ve been fighting to expose sheriff’s deputies that have been targeting their families in Compton for months.

Alicia had been coming to every single commission meeting demanding justice for her sons. Every month she shows up. Every month she continues to tell the story of the sheriff’s department raiding her house and wrongfully arresting her sons for a shooting in the area. Every month she vows to keep coming until the commission, the Inspector General, anyone will hold the sheriff accountable for tearing her family apart and holding her sons in custody.

Helen Jones protests with DPN outside of Men’s Central Jail where her son was killed by deputies who called it a suicide in 2009.

One of the mothers, a Youth Justice Coalition leader, shared all the steps she’s been going through to protect her son who is currently in the jails and is not being treated for very serious health conditions. She vividly described not only his medical condition but the process she has been dragged through to advocate for her son who is receiving zero care. You can’t make this stuff up. You can’t stop fighting.

Watch our latest collaboration with Fusion on medical neglect inside prisons and jails:

The data presented by the Inspector General’s Office at the regular commission meeting last Thursday was more confirmation of what Dignity and Power Now has been saying from the beginning: the Los Angeles jails are killing our people. We’ve known this. The Department of Justice has known this. The Sheriff has known this. The anonymous source who contacted us to tip us off of another serious suicide attempt two days ago knew this. Helen, whose son was beaten to death by deputies who called it a suicide, knows this.

The LA Times highlighted our work this week around exposing jail suicides:

‘How many people are being shot?’ L.A. sheriff’s watchdog decries lack of transparency

A little more than two years ago, the primary watchdog over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department laid out numerous ways the agency was failing to provide the public with basic information about how often deputies use force, the number of complaints alleging misconduct and how many deputies were being disciplined.

Over the last five years the rate of “self-directed violence” as reported by the Inspector General has quadrupled. It’s a crisis in the realest sense of the word and the common denominator is a jail system that destroys the lives of our loved ones.

Trump Meeting With Sheriffs: Reactions From People That Take Action

On Tuesday, mere weeks after changing the White House website to include “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community,” Trump met with the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Next to dramatically lying about the U.S. murder rate and threatening to destroy a Texas senator in the conversation of almost entirely old white men, he also openly supported asset forfeiture, garnered more publicity for the building of his wall, said that the pipeline protests are unfair to companies, and continued to demonize our immigrant community. Read the meeting transcript here.

Here are our team’s initial reactions:

What’s clear here is that the President’s ‘law and order’ vision is one where sheriffs can abuse asset forfeiture to steal millions of dollars form our communities while ignoring the crisis of using jails to warehouse our loved ones suffering from mental health disabilities. That’s not our vision and we won’t have it.
– Mark-Anthony Johnson

I am sick! This is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets A Clockwork Orange splashed with Trainspotting. These people are sickos!
– Martha Camacho-Rodriguez

I don’t let Donald move me like that. His actions don’t move me in a way I see them moving others. If I let them get to me that’s just further abuse from the state – and I’ve been through enough of that.
– Jayda Rasberry

Portrait of a madman unraveling right before our American eyes. Photograph moments of a diminishing mental capacity, a decent into the white abyss…
– Michele Ynfante

Trump is consistent with proving he do not have leadership abilities, which is an God given talent. No way a good leader would have come into office and picked sides, against the people, whose children have been murdered by police across this land.
– James Nelson

The law and order rhetoric Trump has been spewing throughout his campaign is coming to life and is intended to have dire consequences on the Black and Brown community. The initial reaction from our team is merely a precursor for the actions we will take to resist his alarming incarceration-obsessed administration. If we uplift the voice of every formerly incarcerated person we will surely drown out conversations like these!

TAKE ACTION with us by attending this weekend’s Outreach & Healing Space outside of CRDF in Lynwood or by attending the next Civilian Oversight Commission meeting.

Let Sheriff McDonnell know that the community will not tolerate his alliance with the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Trump administration!