LA Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission Members Named & Commission Ready for Supes Go-Ahead

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon


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.


  • Oversight is hindsight for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Pretty much a dog with no teeth. As with everything in the County of Los Angeles, we’ll just have to wait and see with crossed fingers.

  • If JP has any hair left on his head, he will be pulling the remaining strands out one at time as he listens to all the “bright” ideas of all the lefties on the Commission.

    Here’s one to consider: Why not have all Department personnel load their weapons with blank ammunition? Scare an armed suspect in to surrendering. Great idea! They could “shoot first and ask questions later.” No one (of any consequence) gets hurt and the number of civilian lives killed by officers would plummet. Good stats are always good. Aren’t they?

    His next stop, 5150ville.

  • Nine people selected based on political agendas who will try to inflict their personal views and opinions on law enforcement. What’s not to love?

    Not to mention these “commissioners” do not answer to voters like, oh I don’t know, the SHERIFF does. Answering to the voting public; isn’t that considered oversight?

    The decline of the Sheriff’s Department is picking up speed.

  • Maybe the commissioners can get to the real truth of how the Sheriff hides the real liars, who continue to throw the line personnel under the bus. The sheriff is now putting a so called its own Brady List. I know for a fact Chief Lopez and former Chief Tom Lang won’t be on it. The two who under oath in a Civil Service Hearing lied. The whole department knows about it and do nothing, Its all on transcripts. One Chief makes deal with a former employee and even reinstates the deputy and lied about doing it. Chief gets caught on the stand lying about it. A copy of a reinstatement letter sign by the Chief, and testimony of a witness, who confirmed Chief promising the employee he will keep his job. I ask Mr Sheriff were is your interiority that you talk so much about. Maybe you should include your name on that list.

  • If these people are going to be put through “Constitutional policing including such topics as use of force, firearms, custody, mental health issues, juvenile justice and patrol.” They sure as hell need to be put through the shoot, don’t shoot simulations. Have them fire a weapon, go on a ride along, have a person come at them with a knife. Don’t sugarcoat this commission, you want to make decisions for the men and women doing a job you would never do. Then you need to be exposed to what they deal with. Maybe I missed it, are these people being paid for their service.

  • A sign that LASD is taking yet another harpoon and being feasted on piece by piece. How many more “commissions”, “oversight” panels, court orders, lawsuits, legal groups and internal external monitors will it take to cause everyone’s head to spin off. With all the different “masters” at the controls “overseeing” and second guessing the employees, coupled with having no one at the ready to defend their interests, the morale will only continue to plummet. The old saying comes to mind to describe the direction LASD is going, “to many chiefs and not enough Indians”. LASD should just throw in the towel, raise the white flag of defeat and tell the FEDS they are whipped, hand over the proverbial keys and say, “You think you can do a better job do it….I QUIT”. It’s time to take this monkey’s off the locals back and put it on the FEDS back. Just one the BOS thinks CDCR and it’s executives are the model for how all custody let the DOJ come in and run the whole thing.

  • @ 8. You would think that the Deputies Union would put up a fierce battle, seeing how the line personnel are being clobbered. So sad.

  • Good old time politics, just more snouts in the trough. Remember Gennaco and Bobb ? Blue ribbon commission guys with impeccable credentials were they not? They lined their pockets with tax payer money and produced nothing, while the Sheriff and Undersheriff earned trips to federal prison. What a deal for the county.

  • Very Sad, I don’t know these people personally, however it certainly appears that the previous comment by Mr. Martel on each having a political agenda is spot on. With only a few possible exceptions, I see the continuing movement towards “political correctness” which will destroy a once great law enforcement agency. Perhaps once we reach total anarchy in Los Angeles County someone will rethink the wisdom of a civilian oversight commission. This will complete the ruination of L.A.S.D. the job that began under Paul Tanaka’s oversight.

  • Analogy: electing a community organizer to be Commander in Chief without any military experience.

  • @ 12. Bod Ouellette. No worse than having an hollywood actor who was former Commander in Chief with no militaty experience. By the way…. the community organizer has an unrivaled education which by far exceeded the actor turned President. Chew on that.

  • Are you speaking of Captain Ronald Reagan, US Army Reserve and US Army Air Corps (1937-1945)? Would you say the uninformed voters electing Obama twice to a failed presidency is comparable to the uninformed voters electing Baca several times to failed decades as Sheriff?

  • I think we all know by now that college “education” alone does not bring greatness. Isn’t Baca a very “educated” man?

  • I recently heard inmate on inmate violence and assaults are all up significantly in the LA Co. Jails. I’m sure this is no surprise to some. However, the new BOS appointed “blue ribbon commission” is coming in under the paradigm/narrative there are still bad acting, Jack-boot wearing, cover-up perpetuating jail guards and supervisors. Can and will they really come and be neutral and objective advisors…I don’t think so. They are going to be on a mission to find malfeasance, no matter how minor it insignificant. Law enforcement by its very nature can never be precise and plans almost never go as per-planned. If someone’s job is to find fire they will rub two sticks together or stir up the dust in the corner and call it fire. Not a good sign of the times for LAPD….oops LASD.

  • @10


    A quick history lesson may be in order here. Methinks that you’re forgetting a couple of points.

    With regard to Merrick Bobb and Mike Gennaco, the oversight efforts of both documented the issues of jail misconduct and bought it to public light, and were the first to do so in any significant way.

    Dr. Baca responded to the reports by installing Bob Olmstead as the Central Jail commander, and with a mission to address the conduct issues. Bob attempted to so, and was essentially met with a “mutiny” of his command staff who were loyal to Mr. Tanaka (all well documented in the testimony before the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence).

    Olmstead then bought the “mutiny” issue to the Sheriff, along with his observations and recommendations. For reasons that I can’t presently understand, and hope will be made clear at Baca’s trial, the Sheriff opted to keep Tanaka in place as Undersheriff, and he promoted Olmstead one grade. That non-response did nothing to address the jail issues.

    The next event was the FBI investigation. We all know how that went, and turned out (except for the result of Baca’s trial, but I don’t know of anyone taking any bets).

    The events here were pretty significant, and they all initially came to light (at least in a way big enough to get the proverbial ball rolling) due to the reports of Mr. Bobb and Mr. Gennaco.

    Meaningful oversight comes with a lot of overhead, both financial and administrative. I have my frustrations with both reviewers, more so with Mr. Bobb. He personally suggested that I “cooked the books” concerning force stats at Century Station in his Seventh Report. After about a month of full-time effort documenting the validity of my numbers, I got little more than a veiled apology in a subsequent report. But you can’t discount the value of their service. Particularly when you see the results produced here.

  • #20 Whatever Bobb and Genacco brought to light was ignored by The Dr. And Mr. T. Which makes thier input useless , because it wasn’t used. B&G appeared perfectly happy with that arrangement, as they cashed thier county checks. When the crap hit the fan, B&G were shown the door by the new administration, which was a good thing and long overdue.

  • # 21. Being shown the door along with being booted out the door are “Signs of the Time”. LASD has been bamboozled long enough. The Civilian Oversight Commisson is a good start, only if they “keep it real” and give accurate reporting. Time will definitely tell. How many “others” have sold LASD snake oil and warped promises, wth a smug grin while depositing a check.

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