complaint process Archives - Dignity and Power Now

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.

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:


Hernan Vera

Former President and CEO of Public Counsel

Xavier Thompson

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

Patti Giggans

Executive Director of Peace Over Violence


JP Harris

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


Robert C. Bonner

Former DEA Administrator

Appointed by the Board of Supervisors from the community applications:


Sean Kennedy

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

Heather Miller

Rabbi at Beth Chayim Chadashim


Priscilla Ocen

Loyola Law School Associate Professor


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.

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.


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!

Civilian Oversight Nominees

For over three years our Coalition to End Sheriff Violence has fought for civilian oversight of the sheriff’s department. While we won civilian oversight, the fight for it to be effective and have power is not over. Across Los Angeles Black and Brown communities have voiced strong opposition to the supervisors’ decision to allow former law enforcement to sit on the commission. The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence stands with incarcerated people and their loved ones as we launch our slate of highly qualified nominees who have been active participants in the movement to end civil and human rights violations inside the county jail system. Check them out below!



45 years experience as a community and labor organizer, Akili has dedicated his work to building a just and equitable society for marginalized people, including the successful campaign to change the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of force practices in the wake the 2005 shooting of Devon Brown.


Patrisse Cullors

Founder of Dignity and Power Now and Co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter National Network, Patrisse has long history of building mass movements and leading successful campaigns that prioritize the leadership of communities directly impacted by law enforcement violence and mass incarceration.


Rabbi Heather Miller

Part of the world’s first LGBT founded Jewish congregation, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Heather is committed to justice at the intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and economic status.


Priscilla Ocen

Associate Professor of Law at Loyola Law School where she teaches criminal law, family law, and a seminar on race, gender and the law, her work examines the relationship between race, gender identities and punishment.


Samuel Paz

Vice President of the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) providing broad support for grassroots and victims’ organizations combating police misconduct.


Steve Rogers

Civilian Oversight Campaign Lead with Dignity and Power Now, Steve Rogers uses his experience as a formerly incarcerated person to end law enforcement violence by advocating on the local and state level.


Lloyd Wilkey

25 years of community work to prevent violence and improve community and police relations, Lloyd directs a youth leadership program, trains law enforcement at the Museum of Tolerance, and engages in activism to push for accountability, transparency, and constitutional policing.


Dayvon Williams

A young organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, Dayvon directs his experience as a formerly incarcerated person into campaigns that counter the criminalization and incarceration of young people.


Michele Ynfante

Co-Lead of the Dignity and Power Now Civilian Oversight Campaign, she has used her experience being incarcerated in the women’s jail to advocate for an end to medical negligence and abuse.

Although all nine civilian oversight commissioners will ultimately be chosen by the Los Angeles County Supervisors, there is an open application process for four of the positions. If you want dignity and power for all incarcerated people, their families, and communities we encourage you to support our nominees!

TAKE ACTION! Call on your county supervisor and demand that these nominees be appointed.