LA SUPERVISORS PUSH BACK VOTE ON SHERIFF’S COMMISSION
The LA Board of Supervisors were expected to vote Tuesday on the creation of a permanent LASD citizen’s oversight panel, but postponed the vote after a heated debate about the efficacy of a sheriff’s dept. civilian commission. The supes are now scheduled to vote on the issue on October 8th.
KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:
The sheriff’s department has been plagued by accusations of excessive force by deputies in the county jails. A blue ribbon panel tasked with investigating the allegations found that high level officials in the department failed to correct deputy behavior and tolerated a culture of violence in the jails. The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice both have open investigations into the agency.
Ridley-Thomas said the board of supervisors lacks the time to effectively take the sheriff to task on such allegations – something a civilian commission devoted to the department could more easily do.
But Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who opposes the plan, said any commission would be too weak to accomplish anything real. Unlike police chiefs in L.A. County, the sheriff is an elected official, constitutionally accountable to the voters, but not other elected or appointed officials.
A civilian commission, Yaroslavsky said, would be nothing more than a “soap box.”
“Ultimately, it’s the board of supervisor’s job to hold the sheriff accountable,” Yaroslavsky said. “Even we have trouble.”
The board is also in the process of hiring an inspector general to monitor the sheriff’s department and issue reports to the board – a task some supervisors believe should be completed before launching an additional oversight mechanism.
The LA Times’ Abby Sewell and Seema Mehta also reported on the LASD oversight commish dispute.
REPORT SHOWS LASD SUPERVISORS IMPLICATED IN JAIL VIOLENCE SCANDAL RETIRED BEFORE THEY COULD BE PUNISHED
The lead attorney for the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence Richard Drooyan presented the Board of Supervisors with a report showing that four high-level supervisors retired with full pensions before they had to face discipline or demotion for alleged involvement in the Men’s Central Jail abuse debacle.
The LA Daily News’ Christina Villacorte has the story. Here’s a clip:
…the independent monitor tracking reforms at the department said options for punishing those who once supervised the jails are limited, even though recently concluded internal investigations confirmed at least some of their alleged misconduct.
Richard Drooyan said four high-level managers — whom he could not name publicly, because of legal protections for employees — were able to pre-empt disciplinary action by retiring between March 2012 and August 2013.
“Because of the sheriff’s management changes, the results of the administrative investigations, and the timing of the retirements, it is generally perceived in the department that these managers retired, at least in part, due to their failures to address adequately the use of force problems in the jails,” Drooyan wrote.
“At this point, there is nothing further for the department to do in order to hold these managers accountable,” he added in the report.
Interviewed on the phone, Drooyan added, “The (department) can’t discipline them, or demote, transfer or suspend them, because they’ve retired.”
WLA’s Matt Fleischer previously reported on the preemptive retirement of MCJ Captain Daniel Cruz from working in the jails, and of Captain Bernice Abram, both of whom were allowed to retire ahead of sanctions.
And when WLA did the math on what kind of money was actually coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets for these captains’ pensions, this is what we found:
…Bernice Abrams will get a yearly pension of approximately: $106,407—plus full medical coverage for life.
Dan Cruz’s yearly pension will be approximately: $147,704-–plus full medical coverage for life.
MORE FROM THE SUPES MEETING: CONSTRUCTION CORP. RETURNS WITH MORE JAIL INFO
Vanir Construction Management Inc. brought follow-up information to the Supes’ Tuesday meeting from the consultant’s previous jail presentation, as requested.
Southern California ACLU Legal Director Peter Eliasberg sent out a statement strongly opposing the proposed construction of a new jail facility as a way to address overcrowding and mental health care issues. (For the backstory, go here.)
Vanir’s massive reconstruction plan also ignores the needs of the thousands of mentally ill inmates currently in Los Angeles County. Current problems surrounding the abuse of mentally ill inmates and the appalling recidivism rates for inmates with mental illness are not solved through the construction of a massive jail facility but by dramatically reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail and moving them to community treatment facilities best suited to their individual needs. Diversion will not only reduce the likelihood for future instances of abuse in our jails, but will also provide better mental health outcomes, and slow down the merry go round of people with mental illness going from jail to the streets and back again. The result will save the taxpayers millions in construction and operating costs and better serve our community.
Twin Towers Jail was once advertised as the new state-of-the-art solution to the Men’s Central Jail that was overcrowded and unequipped to serve its mentally ill inmates. I have in my hand an LAT article from 1998 in which the Sheriff Department boasted that Twin Towers would be the solution to the Department of Justice’s 1997 scathing critique of the treatment of the mentally ill in the jails.
SUPES APPROVE $27M PLAN TO HOUSE INMATES AT FIRE CAMPS
The LA Times’ Abby Sewell reported that over 500 inmates serving lengthy jail sentences would be transferred to firefighting camps to ease overcrowding without having to release inmates early. Here are some clips:
The $27-million, three-year deal will send 528 county inmates serving long-term sentences to five fire camps, jointly operated with the state prison system, that are scattered across the county.
Supervisors acted after some complained about the increasing number of criminals — including some serving time for violent offenses — who are being released after serving a fraction of their sentences.
The county also is developing plans to rebuild its aging Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Consultant Vanir Construction estimated that adding enough beds to increase the average time served by traditional jail inmates to at least 50% of their sentences would boost the new jail’s price tag by $359.7 million — on top of the current $1 billion-plus cost estimate.
Other options examined included adding 500 beds at fire camps at a cost of $8.4 million a year, and spending $20.4 million a year to reopen shuttered housing units at the county’s Pitchess Detention Center East.
Contracting with a correctional facility in Taft, Calif., for similar bed space would cost about $11.3 million a year, the report found.
PREZ OF LAPD COMMISSION RAISES $.5M FOR IMPLEMENTING OFFICER LAPEL CAMERA PLAN
The newly appointed LAPD commission president, Steve Soboroff, says he has already raised half of the $1M needed to put lapel cameras on 1,500 LAPD officers, and that the department will likely test a small number of the cameras in the upcoming weeks. (For WLA’s previous post on the issue, go here.)
The Associated Press’ Tami Abdollah has the story. Here’s a clip:
A week after taking the helm of the LAPD civilian oversight board, Soboroff said he has promises of $250,000 from media giant Casey Wasserman and an undisclosed sum from DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Soboroff said he hopes the department will adopt the lapel cameras within a year.
“We don’t want to be a low-tech department in a high-tech world,” Soboroff said. “That technology saves lives and money.”
The effort to add on-body cameras is in addition to a longtime city goal of equipping the department’s 1,200 patrol cars with video recorders. Since the 1991 beating of Rodney King, the LAPD has worked to bring in-car cameras to its vehicles but has only managed to equip 300 cars with the technology.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander submitted a motion to the City Council directing the LAPD to work with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International Inc. to start field-testing 25 on-body cameras and identify different styles that can be used.
Testing will likely start in a couple weeks, Englander said, and he has requested the LAPD report back on its findings to the commission and the city’s Public Safety Committee in 90 days. By then, Englander said, he and Soboroff aim to purchase a minimum of 500 cameras to start putting them in the field right away.
THE FILM PRODUCER/ACTIVIST WHO LED THE EFFORT FOR INMATES CONVICTED AS KIDS TO HAVE A CHANCE AT PAROLE
The LA Times’ Anthony York writes about film producer/juvenile justice activist Scott Budnick (the exec producer of the Hangover movie franchise), without whose efforts SB 260 would likely not have been passed and signed into law on Monday night.
Here’s a clip:
Just after 9 on Monday night, Gov. Jerry Brown’s legislative secretary Gareth Elliot picked up the phone and called a Hollywood studio executive.
Elliot wasn’t pitching a new movie. He was calling to tell Scott Budnick, an executive producer of “The Hangover” film franchise, that the governor had signed a bill giving juvenile offenders serving long sentences the right to parole after 15 years — a measure that Budnick had been pushing in the Capitol halls in the final week of the legislative session.
In between producing Hollywood films, Budnick serves as head of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, a nonprofit group that was born out of Budnick’s volunteer work with young people serving long prison sentences….
Read the rest. We at WLA know Budnick and he’s the real deal.