civilian oversight Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Dignity and Power Now

We Made History, Now Let’s Secure the Victory

Three years ago the idea of civilian oversight was farfetched, not possible, and according to the sheriff’s department unnecessary given what they already had in place. On Tuesday the county supervisors voted to approve several key features of this commission. We watched as the board of supervisors voted in favor of a motion that justified the presence of former law enforcement on the commission and gave the district attorney a formal channel to weigh in on the selection process. The language of the motion warns that restricting law enforcement from sitting on the commission would be “overtly discriminatory.”
 
Those of us who have been in this fight are disappointed that the board would blur the civil rights history of the term “discrimination” in a moment where #BlackLivesMatter actions over the last three years have exposed the targeting of Black people by law enforcement. We are deeply troubled with the board’s decision to entertain the idea of former law enforcement sitting on this commission in the same year that former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka will be on trial for corruption charges and while former Sheriff Baca has been denied immunity in that trial. Both of them have had their reigns on the department for at least a decade.

While Dignity and Power Now and the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence are in this work for the long haul and while many civilian oversight bodies have increased their powers and refined their structures over time, we are not interested in repeating those histories. It took the New York Civilian Review Board over twenty years to get where it is now with more effective leadership, subpoena and disciplinary power, and an average rate of substantiating complaints of 70 days. It’s not uncommon for complaints to take a over a year to process in other cities. We don’t have that kind of time. This historical moment requires us to fight for the totality of our vision and for that vision to be realized at the outset. The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence has been pushing five non-negotiable demands that are the foundation of that vision.

As we move forward, we are clear that creating independent civilian oversight over the largest sheriff’s department in the country – running the largest jail system in the world – is a historic accomplishment. We also know that the victory for Black and Brown people who bear the brunt of incarceration and excessive force in Los Angeles must be secured and protected. For us victory is ensuring that formerly incarcerated people are on this commission. Victory is ensuring that the input of the district attorney does not in practice undermine the input of the community during the selection process. Victory is securing subpoena power for the commission. Victory is ensuring that former law enforcement are not appointed to a commission that community members across L.A. County have demanded be reserved for civilians.

Town Hall Roll Call!

When the 50+ community members attending the Compton public forum on civilian oversight were asked if they supported a commission with subpoena power, almost everyone in the room raised their hands. Subpoena power is imperative to a thorough and complete investigation into complaints against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It is a tool capable of holding deputies and staff accountable for their actions. Even without issuing a subpoena just having the power to can compel the department to turn over records during an investigation.

Photos by Walt Mancini / Pasadena Star-News

Photos by Walt Mancini / Pasadena Star-News

A similar showing of hands were raised when Vincent Harris – one of the seven working group members crafting a proposal for the commission roles, responsibilities, and powers – asked who believed the commissioners should be selected by the community. These sentiments marked the first of nine public forums taking place throughout LA County. These forums are designed to give the community an opportunity to share their views and concerns, so come share them!

THERE ARE 3 PUBLIC FORUMS REMAINING!
All take place from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Monday April 27
EXPOSITION PARK
700 Exposition Park Drive Los Angeles, 90037

Tuesday April 28
EAST LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY
4837 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, 90022

Thursday April 30
WEST HOLLYWOOD LIBRARY
625 North San Vincent Blvd. West Hollywood, 90046

Be sure to watch these videos on our five nonnegotiables and let the working group members know you support an oversight commission with teeth!

St. Anne’s Interns Review Working Group Meeting

The women from St Anne’s have been relentlessly making phone calls and attending working group meetings in support of a civilian review board with power. Here they offer their reviews on what it felt like to participate in the working group process.

“My experience was very nervous today because I chose to speak about my oldest brother and why he is doing time. I feel great that they felt my story was a great story and decided not to keep the vote going on with having the nine-member board. What I also liked is that this time they actually seem to be interested in what we were talking about and just listened and didn’t have any bad feedback. Then what I didn’t like is that it was really frustrating that they were on the same vote for an hour and still weren’t satisfied with what they decided on. I also thought that was very confusing.” – Tonisha Jackson

“I just feel that they didn’t care about the community. The community has to be there because they are the ones watching deaths, shootings, and abuse from the sheriff’s department. They are never going to understand the community because they re not in the community’s shoes. On a civilian review board, some people on the working group didn’t pay attention to the title of the discussion today.” – Ana Angeles

“There was a lot of discussion back and forth over two words, ‘and’ and ‘or.’ I also spoke for the first time and I was nervous. My hands were cold after I spoke. There are a lot of options about the nine-member board. It is hard to pay attention because most of the time they ignore what the people say. The community is what matters. The public should be heard because we are affected, not the people up on the board. Because why? White people almost get away with everything. The black and brown community is the one getting affected. The right thing is to stop sheriff violence. Get your voice heard to make sure the violence is stopped.” – Diana Villeda

“I feel they are not really trying to give us what we want as far as the nine-member board. I feel that they’re not trying to let us be involved as far as having to say to pick four members that have been directly impacted. I feel they want all kinds of law enforcement and lawyers. That they all know and keep everything private and away from the people that care. I feel like they spent our time talking about choosing words and fixing grammar when they need to get straight to the point.” – Shaerice Brooks

“Why did they take up so much time deciding on one little word such as ‘and’ or ‘or’? It shouldn’t take rocket science to figure that out. They also want to get the sheriff department involved, why? It’s not about them and what they want shouldn’t matter. I matter. The people that have witnessed and experienced for themselves matter. It’s so stressful to try and make them understand. If it takes to go up there, to call, and to show up to their doorstep, then so be it. I’m a person who knows what I want. We know what we want. We want change. Because at the end of the day, we matter.” – Jasmine Brandon

Civilian Review Board: TAKE ACTION!

Where We’ve Come

For over two years the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails has been fighting for an independent civilian review board of the sheriff’s department. When the C2ESV first began no one believed in the concept but we continued to build and fight to ensure sheriff accountability was ultimately put in the hands of the community. The result has been a county wide movement to ensure that the community is legally empowered with the tools necessary to prevent sheriff abuse, demand transparency, and enact accountability by sheriff personnel that harm our loved ones inside the county jail. On December 9th of 2014, the county Board of Supervisors voted to implement a civilian oversight commission! This victory is huge and now we need to work hard to protect our vision of a civilian commission that hold the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department accountable!

Where We Are Now

The December 9th vote created a working group that is responsible for establishing the powers, responsibilities, and composition of the oversight commission. Over the next month this working group will meet to draft a proposal for the county Board of Supervisors to approve. We need your help! There are 7 members of the commission and we need to let them know that the community wants a board with the legal backing to hold the largest sheriff’s department in the county accountable. We have five non-negotioable demands:

  • Subpoena power
  • Composed of 9 members, 4 community appointed
  • Independent legal counsel
  • No law enforcement or retired law enforcement
  • Direct the functions of the Inspector General

How You Can Help

We need you to call the working group members and let them know that you believe effective civilian oversight must include the five characteristics laid out above. The functions, powers, and composition of the commission cannot be shaped without the input of the community that has been fighting for effective oversight for over the last two years. Contact the working group members below:

working_group_action_blog
1) DEAN HANSELL, former Federal Trade Commission prosecutor (310) 785-4665
2) NEAL TYLER, current LASD chief (323) 526-5122
3) HERNAN VERA, public interest lawyer (526) 882-6286
4) MAX HUNTSMAN, Inspector General (213) 974-6100
5) LES ROBBINS, 30-year LASD deputy veteran (323) 213-4005
6) VINCENT HARRIS, Senior Advisor to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (213) 974-2222
7) BRENT BRAUN, former FBI agent and campaigned for Sheriff McDonnell (310) 871-6431

For more on civilian review boards please see our FAQ here.