LA Sheriff Scott Interview, LA Supes to Scrutinize Youth Indigent Defense, LASD IG Addresses Public, and Obama’s New Initiative for Young Men of ColorFebruary 12th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
PATT MORRISON INTERVIEWS LA COUNTY INTERIM SHERIFF JOHN SCOTT
In an interview with the LA Times’ Patt Morrison, the new LA County Sheriff, John Scott, discusses why he was chosen as interim sheriff, and what he hopes to accomplish in the next ten months (when a permanent sheriff will be elected). Here’s a clip:
PM: Are more indictments coming?
JS: I’ve asked for a meeting with the federal prosecutor to see whether I can find out.
PM: You have at most 10 months before a new, elected sheriff comes in. What problems need fixing, and why did the Board of Supervisors believe you were the man to do it?
JS: They were looking for an individual who was not going to run for the position, and I had the unique perspective of working both L.A. and Orange County with [some] similar issues: problems in the jail and badges [issued to politicians or supporters].
The image has been tarnished. Things were done that are being investigated that certainly we’re accountable for, but the vast majority of deputies are doing a very professional job.
One of my goals is to restore an image but also the confidence of our public. Then we have accountability. Some things that were in place when I left, I want to restore.
We had SCIF, Sheriff’s Critical Incident Forum, a quarterly look at all the different factors that go into an operation. We determined if there were spikes or trends, and we analyzed why is this high or why is this low. It’s good to take metrics and analyze them and take good ideas and apply them across the board.
PM: Of the 60 reforms recommended by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, how many have been done?
JS: Close to 50.
PM: So the hard parts are left?
JS: It’s hard in terms of financing. We have to find funding for some of the last components. Policy change and supervisorial monitoring are things we can do pretty quickly, but when you talk about a culture that exists, that takes more than a couple of years. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start.
PM: And you’ve been brought in to do the hard stuff and deliver bad news?
JS: I’ve done it before and I’m willing to do it again, because it’s the right thing to do.
PM: We may elect a sheriff in June, or there may be a runoff in November. How can you work with that timing uncertainty?
JS: My game plan is to push as much through as I can in 10 months. I feel it’s highly unlikely that there’s going to be a clear [winner] in June. I’m looking at this as a 10-month program, but I’m concentrating heavily on the first four months. I’ll [also] be reaching out to each of the candidates about their own plans and goals as we move forward.
LA COUNTY SUPERVISORS ORDER REVIEW OF JUVENILE INDIGENT DEFENSE IN LA
The LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion (by Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas) to conduct an analysis of the current juvenile indigent defense system, including how panel attorneys—private attorneys assigned to kids the public defender’s office cannot represent—are compensated.
The LA Times’ Abby Sewell has more on the Supes’ decision. Here are some clips:
Under-age criminal defendants who can’t afford a lawyer are generally represented by someone from the county public defender’s office. But when that office is already representing another defendant in the case or a special circumstance arises, lawyers from a separate panel step in to remove the potential conflict of interest.
Advocates argue that the switch creates another problem: The private lawyers the county contracts with for these cases, known as panel attorneys, are paid less — a flat rate of $319 to $345 per case — and may not represent their clients as vigorously.
“Children charged with crimes are not only entitled to competent representation but an opportunity to avoid the prison pipeline if it is at all possible to do so,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who proposed the review.
The review will include looking at the compensation systems in other counties and the resources and training given to attorneys. It will also consider a set of guidelines for defense attorneys proposed by Michael Nash, presiding judge of the county’s Juvenile Court.
INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR LASD ADDRESSES COMMUNITY AT TOWN HALL MEETING
The new Inspector General for the Sheriff’s Department, Max Huntsman, spoke to the public for the first time at a town hall meeting on Monday. Huntsman, who took the role of independent LASD watchdog at the beginning of the year, discussed jail violence and recent indictments, and his intent to bring accountability to the department.
KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:
…there’s been a question of what sort of oversight the department should have. An elected official, the sheriff is an atypical law enforcement leader in that he or she is accountable only to the voters – not a civilian oversight board, or elected officials, or an institutional watchdog.
Nevertheless, creating a way to monitor the department has been the goal of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for several years. Supervisors have power over the law enforcement agency’s budget, but not much else. The answer was to create the office of the Inspector General and hire former public corruption prosecutor, Max Huntsman, to the post.
At a town hall organized by the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Empowerment Congress, Huntsman acknowledged that while he lacks formal power, he’s hopeful that he’ll have the necessary tools to inspire change at the sheriff’s department.
“I can’t force change. I can’t order the sheriff’s department to do anything,” Huntsman said, noting to the audience that local and state law gives the sheriff sole authority over his or her department. “The power that I have comes from you.”
Huntsman noted that the vast majority of sheriff’s deputies are “heroes,” and that his job is to bring attention to those who fall short. He outlined his vision for the new office as a bridge between the community and the sheriff’s department.
…By hiring attorneys, retired police officers, and investigators to staff the inspector general office, he said he hopes to gain credibility with both the public and the department. The primary role will be to monitor department’s activities, audit expenditures, select which investigations to pursue, and lobby for changes, he said.
OBAMA LAUNCHES EFFORT TO HELP YOUNG MINORITY MEN FLOURISH
On Thursday, President Obama will launch an initiative to stop the school-to-prison pipeline for young men of color across the nation. The initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper,” will connect businesses and non-profits to help keep kids in school and out of the justice system, and will evaluate programs aimed at helping young men of color “reach their full potential.”
The Washington Post’s Zachary Goldfarb has the story. Here’s how it opens:
President Obama will launch a significant new effort Thursday to bolster the lives of young minority men, seeking to use the power of the presidency to help a group of Americans whose lives are disproportionately affected by poverty and prison.
The “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative will bring foundations and companies together to test a range of strategies to support such young men, taking steps to keep them in school and out of the criminal justice system, a White House official said. Obama will also announce a more vigorous program to evaluate policies and publicize results to school systems around the country.
The effort will seek “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential,” the White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement. “The initiative will be focused on implementing strategies that are proven to get results.”