civilian review board 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!

All take place from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Monday April 27
700 Exposition Park Drive Los Angeles, 90037

Tuesday April 28
4837 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, 90022

Thursday April 30
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!

What’s the Deal with Subpoena Power?

What is subpoena power?

A subpoena is a request under penalty. There are two types of subpoenas. The first requires you to testify in front of a court and the second requires you to produce documents, materials, or other evidence. Without subpoena power the civilian oversight commission could ask the LASD for documents and they could lawfully say “no.” With subpoena power the civilian oversight commission could subpoena documents from the LASD and they would have to comply or face a criminal penalty. Subpoenas are the difference between asking and telling. Subpoena power is power.

Why does the civilian oversight commission need subpoena power?

The LASD has a long history of secrecy, misclassification, and “losing” reports. For example, LASD keeps 30% of the L.A. County homicide and death cases on security holds. That is a significant amount of information withheld from the public! The current Inspector General whose job it is to audit and investigate the department’s handling of complaints has been very public with his inability to access reports. The things that the LASD wants to keep hidden are precisely the things that the civilian oversight commission needs to find out. Subpoena power is necessary for transparency and accountability.

With subpoena power can the commission discipline deputies?

To be clear, subpoena power does not give the commission the power to discipline anyone. State law prevents disciplining deputies via a commission. However with subpoena power the civilian oversight commission can compile data, create legitimate reports, and offer recommendations backed by evidence that will incite a high level of consideration from the board of supervisors and sheriff – who can discipline deputies. Subpoena power is the difference between making a blind recommendation and a credible argument.

So how can the civilian oversight commission get subpoena power?

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors are in the position to do the necessary things to ensure the commission has the opportunity to have subpoena power. They have the power to put a charter amendment on the ballot that the county would then vote on.

If you want the civilian oversight commission to have the ability to make influential arguments based on evidence then tell your working group representative and county district supervisor to put a charter amendment on the ballot so that we the people can vote for subpoena power.

PROGRESS! Community Members In the Running for LASD Oversight!

The hot topic right now among the working group deciding the civilian oversight commission’s size, scope, and responsibilities is COMPOSITION. How many people will serve on the commission and who will they be?

Three years ago when the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence started the conversation of civilian oversight we emphasized two things: 1) That the commission be made of community members who have been impacted by sheriff violence and 2) that there be no law enforcement serving on the commission. Ever since the Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a commission last December, we have been attending working group meetings and making phone calls to demand a commission with 9 members, 4 community appointed, and without law enforcement.

Yesterday our demand was realized when the working group adopted our composition proposal! It will be included as the seventh proposal presented to the supervisors for consideration in the upcoming months. Seven is our lucky number! 

Read the proposal here, endorsed by hardworking and ever-present coalition members from the Youth Justice Coalition, Justice Not Jails, and Californians United for a Responsible Budget.

This is a huge step forward in the fight for effective oversight, but we need to keep our voices up to ensure that the community option is the only option! CALL your working group member, commend them for including our composition proposal, and tell them that it is the only option that you support because it’s the only option that ensures EFFECTIVE civilian oversight! 

Because law enforcement already has tremendous amounts of representation.
Because law enforcement on the oversight commission is a conflict of interest.
Because this is a CIVILIAN oversight commission!
Because the people affected by sheriff violence are the ones that actually want to stop it.