A CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT COMMISSION FOR THE LASD IS ABOUT TO BE BORN
The nine people who will make up the LA County Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission have finally been chosen. The commissioners-to-be and the birth of the commission itself is slated to be officially confirmed by a vote of the LA Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Most LASD watchers are relieved that an oversight commission for the recently scandal ridden, and notoriously hard to wrangle department is finally close to being launched. Yet many are also concerned because the commission has no real power. It cannot subpoena department documents, and is only advisory. Still, as Inspector General Max Huntsman told KPCC’s Frank Stoltze, “I think it will be powerful because of the people on it.”
Let us hope so. (Huntsman will work with the commission, which is authorized to use his officer to investigate issues of concern to the community.)
It’s true, the nine commissioners are an interesting and serious mix of activists, attorneys, community leaders and others.
Five of the nine commissioners were chosen—one each—by the five board members. The remaining four were chosen by the board collectively, in consultation with County Counsel, from recommendations put fourth by the board’s executive director.
Here are the chosen nine:
Hernán Vera, who was appointed by Supervisor Hilda Solis, is an attorney who, until 2014, worked as the longtime president and CEO of the pro-bono law firm, Public Counsel. Vera was on the original working group that hammered out a shape for the commission, and was one of the group’s members strongly in favor of subpoena power for the commission.
Xavier Thompson, appointed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, is the pastor of Southern St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles, and president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Southern California. He was part of a group of pastors active in trying to mediate understanding between Black Lives Matter activists, city government and law enforcement, efforts brought criticism from some activists, while praised by some community members.
Patti Giggans, appointment by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, is the executive director of Peace Over Violence, a non-profit that engages in “intervention, prevention, education and advocacy” for victims of abuse and violence. She was the recipient of the Peace Prize from the California Wellness Foundation, and founded the first women’s martial arts school in Southern California in 1978.
James P. Harris, appointed by Supervisor Don Knabe, is a well-liked former lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, with 33 years on the job.
Robert Bonner, appointed by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, is a former federal judge, a former US Attorney, and the former head of the DEA, and the US Customs Service, and what became Border Patrol. Perhaps most relevantly, Bonner was a member of the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, and one of its most outspoken members.
Sean Kennedy, is the executive director of Loyola Law School’s Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, which pushes for “systemic reform” of the juvenile justice system in LA County. Previously he was the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California, and Chief of the Federal Public Defender Capital Habeas Unit. In 2013, he was named as Criminal Defense Attorney of the Year by the LA County Bar Association
Heather Miller is a rabbi of the LGBT- founded Jewish congregation at Beth Chayim Chadashim, and one of the six nominees for the commission put forth by the influential activist organization, Dignity and Power Now.
Priscilla Ocen, who is also a nominee of Dignity and Power Now, is an Associate Professor at Loyola Law School. Before Loyola she was a Critical Race Studies fellow at UCLA School of Law, and a Thurgood Marshall Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. Ocen is an expert on the relationship between race and gender and punishment.
Lael Rubin was a Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles for over 30 years, where she became well known for her work on a string of high profile cases. In 2000, Rubin was recruited to become special counsel to Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley, helping him on, among other things, his work to reform Three Strikes.
The nine commissioners are all required to go through a comprehensive training program that will cover, according to the text of the ordinance that will actually create the commission, “Constitutional policing including such topics as use of force, firearms, custody, mental health issues, juvenile justice and patrol.”
The Commission, once it is up and running, will meet once a month. The Sheriff or a top LASD official is required to attend.
More as it happens.