Custody 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.

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