Use-of-Force Policies, Immigrant Kids Held Indefinitely, the Healing Power of Art, WLA on Deadline LA


Sean Van Leeuwen, vice president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, says that so-called “paper policies” (like the recently released recommendations by the Police Executive Research Forum) intended to reduce use-of-force incidents, fall flat when law enforcement agencies fail to provide officers with the appropriate training and equipment for the policies already in place.

Leeuwen points to, for instance, San Francisco police commissioners refusal to equip officers with Tasers in 2010, setting the city apart as one of only two big cities nationwide that did not give cops the (mostly) less-than-lethal weapon. (Detroit was the other city.) This led to a shooting situation in which, an officer reportedly fatally shot a knife-wielding suspect because he had no valuable alternative to deadly force.

Leeuwen says that if Los Angeles County wants to reduce how often officers use force, it must remedy the fact that there’s not enough money in the sheriff’s department’s budget for the necessary equipment and ongoing training in mental health crisis de-escalation, use-of-force, ethics, search and seizure, and other important areas.

Here’s a clip:

Currently, the Sheriff’s budget has been stretched to the breaking point, making even the most vital training and equipment scarce commodities. If Los Angeles County’s leaders want to have a positive impact and reduce use of force incidents, they can start by providing the adequate funding needed to equip properly and continuously train deputies on the best tactics and procedures, not criticize and second-guess deputies’ actions given the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

In the area of training, we are in continual contact with our members who are the rank-and-file deputies of this department and are well aware of how many hours of training they receive on average each year. We know that in many areas, including dealing with the mentally ill, use of force, search and seizure, and ethics that the hours of training received on a yearly basis have substantial room to be increased.

In the area of equipment, the County can and should do much more. Every deputy sheriff whose primary duty is law enforcement should have a Taser. Why in 2016 do we put deputy sheriffs on the street without a Taser? Some stations have resorted to relying on “shared” Tasers, designating certain deputies or sergeants to carry them. It doesn’t do a deputy sheriff or the community we are sworn to protect any good if the first responding deputy sheriff to a violent subject happens to be the deputy who doesn’t have a Taser. Every time a deputy is forced to discharge a firearm, it creates a risk, whether someone is hit or not. I once told a high-ranking department executive a Taser is always cheaper than a bullet, meaning that Tasers not only give deputies viable force options, they reduce the risk of loss of life and possible civil liability whether or not they are deployed. Tasers have their place, but we recognize from the recent Los Angeles Times article that Tasers are not a panacea. In split seconds when a deputy’s life is at risk, deadly force may be the only option.

While training is a Department responsibility, it is the Board of Supervisors who needs to fund the Sheriff’s Department to ensure complete training cycles can be offered to all deputies every year. That training needs to be relevant, continuous and ongoing to be effective. Yes, that means that there may be deputy sheriffs removed from patrol duties for several days or more to attend this training, which has a fiscal impact since someone else will be filling their place on patrol. The County and cities who contract with the Sheriff’s Department need to embrace the concept of funding training which will enable deputies to effectively employ tactics and measures required by our 103-page use of force policy . If we could reduce even one deputy involved shooting by providing deputies with the necessary equipment and training, it will be money well spent.


More than 200,000 unaccompanied immigrant kids and teens—many of them seeking asylum from gang violence in Central America—have been detained at the border US-Mexico in the last five years.

The Department of Homeland Security deals with adults caught at the border, but the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) takes custody of kids traveling without parents that are picked up at the border. Most children are held for month or so in a shelter before ORR places them with a relative during immigration court proceedings.

There are, however, between 500-700 unaccompanied kids that are locked up in secure group homes and detention centers each year, usually for two or three months, but sometimes for much longer. And these warehoused kids, that are essentially forgotten, according to advocates, don’t often have legal representation.

One such teen, Pablo, has been locked up for 21 months. After his older brother was taken by a gang and never seen again, Pablo—then 14 years old—fled his country trying to follow his mother, Evelyn, who had moved to Los Angeles to build a housekeeping buisiness to support her children. Now, Evelyn drives six hours from Los Angeles to Yolo County Juvenile Hall to visit her son every three weeks.

ORR has transferred Pablo all over the country, despite requests that the teen be released to his mother or to a less-restrictive shelter near Evelyn. But ORR makes decisions behind closed doors without an oversight system, and doesn’t recognize the court system as a place for kids to contest their detention and seek release.

KQED’s Tyche Hendricks has more on the issue, as well as Pablo and Evelyn’s story.

Pablo is one of more than 200,000 migrant kids traveling without their parents who have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past five years. He’s part of a wave of Central American children fleeing violence, as criminal gangs in El Salvador and neighboring countries have come to wield terrifying power with impunity, and weak governments struggle to respond. That violence is a legacy of the civil wars of the 1980s, subsequent migrations to the United States and the deportation of gang members back to their home countries in the 1990s.

When adults are picked up at the border, they are dealt with by the Department of Homeland Security. But unaccompanied children are turned over to a different agency, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As the number of migrant kids has multiplied, ORR’s job has grown. In 2011, the agency took custody of 7,000 children. In 2014 it was 57,000.

The majority of those kids spend about a month in a licensed ORR-funded shelter, and then they’re placed with a relative or another sponsor while they await their day in immigration court. But a small fraction — roughly 500 to 700 in any given year — are placed in jail-like settings: locked group homes or juvenile detention facilities, as Pablo has been. Those kids are held for two to three months, on average, but, like Pablo, some are detained much longer. Advocates say they become practically invisible.

Lawyers for immigrant children say kids in ORR detention don’t have the legal protections they should. Many may be eligible for asylum or some other kind of protection. But half of them don’t even have a lawyer. And prolonged detention can be psychologically damaging, according to child advocates.

By law, children in immigration custody must be placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child. But they can be confined if their behavior is disruptive or dangerous, if they’re considered an escape risk, if they have a criminal or delinquent history or if they’re merely suspected of criminal activity. Often that information is provided by the Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that is handing the child over to ORR. But advocates for immigrant kids say ORR makes placement decisions behind closed doors.

Evelyn says the government hasn’t told her why it won’t release her son.


Evelyn’s mind was back in El Salvador. She told me about how her boys grew up with their cousins, attended a good school and played soccer. But the area where they lived grew sketchier after she left and gangs operated openly. The police were either intimidated or corrupted, she said. And teenagers were frequent targets of gang recruitment and coercion. Four years ago, something happened to William.

“William was 16 when I lost him, the same age Pablo is now,” Evelyn said. “One weekend I was driving to work when my sister called and said she had something bad to tell me. … She said, ‘Here’s what happened to William. The gang took him.’ He was always trying to steer clear of them. But they forced him. They disappeared with him.”

In anguish, she added, “As a mother I have hope that one day someone will tell me if he’s alive or not. I’m still hoping.”

Pablo became physically sick after is brother disappeared, Evelyn told me. But she wasn’t there to take care of him. Two years later, when Pablo reached high school, Evelyn said her sister told her he was not safe. So the boy headed north to avoid his brother’s fate. But he never reached his mom.

So, in spite of her lack of immigration status, Evelyn walks right into the jail every three weeks in order to see her child and to finally have a chance to touch him.


In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Alex Johnson, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-California and board member of the LA County Board of Education, explains why the arts can be such a powerful disrupter of the school-to-prison pipeline, by healing trauma, empowering young people, and helping them connect with their culture. Here’s a clip:

I’m a firm believer in the transformative power of the arts to save lives and as part of a smart workforce-development and reentry strategy for incarcerated youth, particularly in Los Angeles County where arts related industries are one of the largest and the fastest growing sectors.

Investing in the arts and arts education however must begin well before a young person enters into incarceration. It must begin with early childhood education as it is one of the core building blocks of child development. Every child, regardless of zip code, should be exposed to the arts in order to receive a well-rounded education. As a board member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education, I am excited that the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) is one of the premier public arts high schools in the nation.

The arts can take shape in many ways and many forms – but the bottom line is that for young people we know it will improve their achievement in school and is a critical strategy to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline while addressing trauma. Giving children and youth strategies to express their pain, and cope with the stress, prepares them for a strong future. As we learn more about the brain and the effects of trauma on youth, our system, policies, programs and allocation of resources must change to reflect this new knowledge. Healing the effects of trauma builds hope and resiliency; and, resilient children grow up to live healthy productive lives.


On Monday, WLA’s editor, Celeste Fremon, was on KPFK’s Deadline LA with host, Howard Blume, discussing last week’s conviction of former LA County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and what the conviction means for the sheriff’s department and the county.

Here’s a link to the podcast. (The air date was Monday, April 11.)


  • Sean: You speak with a forked tongue, stating how “every deputy should be trained……with the responsibility being on the County Supervisors when ALADS doesn’t afford every deputy the same, with their preferential treatment. You can start off by stop trying to fool the public that all is well amongst the deputies concerning ALADS. Alads pseudo caring to be on one front is misleading.

  • @ #1 Don’t worry, it’s not like ALADS is hanging their necks out on this one. There’s nothing at risk here, just their usual standing on a soapbox finger wagging that they’re known for. When it comes time to vocally stand up for specific deputies or up to wrongs made by management, they’ll crawl back under their rocks not to be heard from again until they can massage it to benefit them.

  • @Deputy Danelo: you weren’t suppose to see through the smoke and mirrors!

    ALADS/Sean is saying, “maybe if we offer all this free training the members won’t notice that it’s business as usual at ALADS HQ.”

    Shouldn’t the department be paying for this training, and shouldn’t ALADS be concentrating on keeping the department from screwing over deputies?

  • @ Huh. The training is not free. It is prepaid with the millions of dollars paid in membership dues each year by 8,200 Deputy Sheriffs and District Attorney Investigators.

  • I have been retired a long time, but even in my day, the issue of “bad shoots” was always controversial and the solutions frequently the same as today, WHATEVER SOUNDS GOOD AND MAKES ME LOOK SMART AT EPC.

    Yea, training is important ; supervision; in service training, changing the reward system.


    Look, I understand you guys are under fire from everyone. The last thing you want to hear is some old retired fart telling them how to do business. Truly not the case. what A lot of retirees will tell is that they / we are as hurt and embarrassed with events of the last several years involving LASD as current members.

    Deputies of all ranks must remember they are all fighting the same evils and heartbreaks .

  • @Just Saying: Just a minor little detail! Damn,
    that’s two people who aren’t distracted by the smoke and mirrors!

  • PS sorry the sub-par cyber skills, CALL IAB.

    In parting I have to say the Sheriff has done an incredible job in such a short time. He has achieved more in 16 months than most of his predecessors. Give the man a chance. Because he doesn’t things your way, does not make you right. You all know his background.

    good Luck,


  • It is amazing that ALADS would seize the opportunity to seize on a this to rally attention to the problems facing deputies. There are far bigger, pressing and relevant problems their members are currently facing. They should stop trying to by self-serving but listen to their members and take up the real day to day issues that impact them everyday. A good show of good faith would be finding a legal firm that will “fight the good fight” for its members when needed.

  • Not one Director on ALADS Board has the pair to call out Dick Shinee or replace the legal monopoly that hampers and hinders the deputies. Sheer greed by Shinee outweighs everything at ALADS legal plan.

    It will never happen for fear of fallout and being shunned by the other board members.

    Revision will not happen without Revolt.

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