In December when the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a civilian oversight commission for the county’s embattled Sheriff’s Department, community and civil rights groups hailed the victory. This week, they’re inviting the public to help ensure that the board’s got some independent authority to enact changes over the institution, which runs the nation’s largest jail system.
As with other police accountability mechanisms, Los Angeles’ civilian oversight commission’s success will be heavily influenced by the finer policy language which dictates how the commission will operate.
In December, the Board of Supervisors called for the creation of an advisory board that would determine the "mission, authority, size, structure, relationship to the Office of the Sheriff and to the Office of the Inspector General and appointment options." (PDF) The advisory board is made up of Interim Undersheriff Neal Tyler, Inspector General Max Huntsman, and one appointee from each of the county’s five supervisors, and has 90 days to deliver its recommendations. Enter Dignity and Power Now, the Los Angeles police accountability group headed by Patrisse Cullors, an activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter.
According to Dignity and Power Now, the board is made up entirely of men and predominantly with those who’ve got law enforcement affiliations. This week the police accountability group is calling on those in Los Angeles to mobilize to weigh in to influence the board’s formation.
Among their demands are calls for a nine-member commission with four who are appointed by "community members" and none with current or former ties to law enforcement. Dignity and Power Now’s also calling for a commission with subpoena power and the authority to guide the work of the county’s Inspector General, as well as other demands.
For more on the troubles facing the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, read Colorlines’ report on former Sheriff Lee Baca’s abrupt 2014 exit from his scandal-plagued department.