FURTHER CALLS TO ACTION FOR SHERIFF BACA
In an op-ed for the LA Times, Richard Drooyan, the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence’s general counsel, and Miriam Aroni Krinsky, the Commission’s excutive director, say that if Baca does not follow through with his promise to fulfill the Commission’s 63 recommendations and uphold lasting reform, he should not be reelected next term. (For background on the Commission’s report and the sheriff’s response, go here.) Here’s a clip:
In order to have meaningful and lasting reform after the spotlight on the jails recedes, the Sheriff’s Department should conduct a nationwide search for a professional and experienced corrections leader to run the department’s custody operations. The commission concluded that because “accountability is an absolute necessity,” this person should report directly to the sheriff, while the sheriff, in turn, is accountable to the voters.
The commission’s report also recommended a new approach to staffing that recognizes the differences between patrol and corrections work. Deputies would be recruited to two tracks: One for those seeking careers as corrections officers, the other for deputies with a desire to patrol communities. This would not only change the culture in the jails but would also improve morale, since those serving in the jails would be there because they had chosen to be.The report recommended hiring additional civilian custody assistants to support deputies. Increasing the proportion of civilian staff would save money that could pay for additional oversight, including an independent inspector general.
Last week, Baca announced that he intends to implement the commission’s 63 recommendations. This is welcome, but there will need to be independent monitoring to ensure that these commitments are met.
In testimony before the commission, Baca was asked how he should be held accountable for the problems in the jails, and he responded: “Don’t elect me.” While this response elicited laughter from some, we believe that the sheriff got it right; voters should not reelect him unless he can demonstrate that he has implemented lasting and meaningful reforms in the jails.
In their response, the Pasadena Star News calls for different, fresh problem-solving tactics. Here’s a clip:
The county’s top cop deserves some credit for taking the blame for inmate abuses while finally moving the Sheriff’s Department in the right direction, but it’s unclear whether these reforms will do enough to completely rid the jail system of ongoing abuses.
While hiring an under-sheriff is a good idea, perhaps it might be time for a whole new system. One idea for the county Board of Supervisors to consider is the feasibility (and legality) of completely removing the county jail system from Baca’s hands so that he can concentrate on fighting crime. The beleaguered jail system could be placed under the management of an elected or appointed warden who would have the authority to independently oversee the recommended reforms and make sure they stick.
Creating a new jail warden’s position may require a change to the county charter. But, if we can ask voters if the county assessor should be appointed or elected, then why not ask their opinion about an independent warden who could finally erase the abuses found in the nation’s largest county jail system?
It’s time for the county Board of Supervisors and for Baca to bring to the table all possible solutions to this endemic problem. Because what’s been done up until now hasn’t worked.
LA Times’ columnist Sandy Banks had perhaps the sharpest words of all, explaining that while most people seem to really like Sheriff Baca, fondness of the person can only go so far—essentially, enough is enough. Here’s a clip:
For years Baca has been carried by his reputation as a caring, enlightened intellectual; a humanitarian lawman with a Zen mind-set and progressive bent.
His public reservoir of goodwill is uncommonly deep. More than half of voters recently polled disapprove of the sheriff’s job performance, but fewer than one-quarter said they have an unfavorable view of the man.
Even at county Board of Supervisors’ sessions, where his department has been savagely dissected, speakers preface criticism of him with some version of “I really like the man…”
I really like the man too. But it’s time for all of us to stop playing “Let’s pretend.”
Reforming the system will not be easy. The deputies’ union has already challenged the sheriff’s efforts, calling the violence a “perceived problem” that doesn’t require broad solutions like Baca’s new force prevention policy, stepped-up supervision and insistence on better inmate-deputy relations.
The changes have led deputies “to feel that they have largely ‘lost control’ of the jails,” a letter from the union contends. That’s what you get when you let dysfunction flourish in private for so long.
Prisoners’ rights are not up top on many priority lists. So Baca’s commitment will be tested.
This is not just about inmates with black eyes and broken bones, but about those core values the sheriff likes to recite and promised to uphold: honor, respect, integrity, wisdom, fairness, courage. It’s time to make them more than words.
Don’t disappoint us, Sheriff Baca. Your legacy is on the line. And in case that’s not enough, this time your back is against the wall.
CHIEF BECK WILL NO LONGER HAND OVER LOW LEVEL ARRESTEES TO ICE
Late last week after the governor vetoed the TRUST Act, Chief Charlie Beck announced that the LAPD would no longer hand over immigrants arrested for low level crimes to ICE for deportation.
An LA Times editorial rightly says that Chief Beck’s decision is one that will benefit public safety. Here’s a clip:
The trouble is that Secure Communities doesn’t just weed out dangerous criminals. It casts a wide net, failing to distinguish between those undocumented immigrants who pose a threat and those who do not. Under the program, tens of thousands of immigrants who have never been convicted of a crime, or who have been convicted only of minor crimes such as street vending or driving without a license, have been deported.
Beck’s stance isn’t a political calculation intended to win him votes — after all, he’s appointed, not elected. Rather, the chief’s decision is about smart policing. He, like many other chiefs around the country, doesn’t think it’s appropriate to have officers turned into immigration agents and jailers. That’s not their job. As Beck has explained, public safety depends on the cooperation of all residents. Unfortunately, Secure Communities has eroded that trust and left many immigrants fearing that any contact with police could land them in deportation proceedings. The governors of New York, Massachusetts and Illinois have all sought to end participation in the program because it compromises public safety.
Some will argue that Beck doesn’t have the authority to ignore federal law, or that his efforts are no more legal than Arizona’s attempt to create its own set of immigration rules. But those arguments are specious. Secure Communities isn’t a law; it’s a federally funded program that was advertised as a voluntary way to help deport the most dangerous immigrants. The chief’s new rules comply with that goal.
The New York Times’ Ian Lovett has more on the LAPD chief’s decision.
(For the official LAPD statement, go here.)
LA OFFICIALS TAKE NEW STEPS TO KEEP ART IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Education budget cuts seem to have hit art education the hardest, leaving approximately one art teacher per 2,800 students in LA public schools. Later today, Monday, Mayor Villaraigosa, Superintendent Deasy, and Megan Chernin, the CEO of The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education will be presenting an initiative to save LAUSD art education (we will let you know as we know more). Tuesday, the LAUSD school board will vote on a measure to make art a core subject, saving it from further budget cuts.
KPCC’s Tami Abdollah has the story. Here’s a clip:
In 2008, L.A. Unified employed 345 art specialist teachers — the district called that year its “peak.” Now there are 204 art specialist teachers for more than 580,000 students (not including those in charters).
That breaks down to about one art specialist for every 2,800 students. The district says that teachers travel from school to school to fill gaps.
Since 2008, the district has cut arts education at elementary schools by 40%.
-The district says 53% of more than 272,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade will not receive any arts instruction in elementary school.
-About 75% of about 129,000 students in the sixth through eighth grades will not receive any arts instruction in middle school. The district adds that “most middle schools have no art teacher (primarily due to budget cuts).”
-About half the district’s more than 180,000 high school students will not receive any arts instruction in high school.
GRAND PARK BLOCK PARTY OPENING FESTIVITIES
This past Saturday, crowds of LA residents happily celebrated the official opening of the last segment of the city’s new 12-acre Grand Park at a “Block Party” featuring music ranging from jazz to drumming to the newly composed, “A Fanfare for Grand Park,” dancing (like the Diavalo dancers splashing artfully here in the park’s Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain), food and finally a high flying performance by aerial dance pioneers, Bandaloop, who turned City Hall into a vertical dance floor as they leapt and twirled while suspended from climbing ropes. Although, some of the city’s professional curmudgeons (we’re looking at you, Steve Lopez) have suggested that Grand Park isn’t….you know…grand enough, those wandering the park’s grounds during Saturday’s all-day festivities looked pretty grandly cheerful about their brand new green space.