LASD SPECIAL COUNSEL MERRICK BOBB SAYS HE STILL PROVIDES EFFECTIVE OVERSIGHT, DISAGREES WITH IG’S CALL TO FIRE HIM
On Wednesday, we pointed to Sheriff’s Department Inspector General Max Huntsman’s letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors urging the board to end contracts with LASD watchdogs Michael Gennaco’s Office of Independent Review (OIR) and Special Counsel Merrick Bobb. Huntsman’s recommended the contract terminations, saying that the OIR and Merrick Bobb had not been effective enough in their oversight of the department, and that Bobb’s “influence has waned.”
Merrick Bobb has responded, saying that he is still of value to the department, pointing to reforms implemented following his recommendation. Bobb says he wants to continue his role as civilian LASD watchdog.
We think the issue would be a good topic for tonight’s LASD candidate debate. (Which, by the way, will be moderated by the ACLU League of Women Voters, and held at Mercado La Paloma on South Grand at 6:30p.m. — Event registration closed last Friday, but you can still register for the April debate in Santa Monica through mid April, if you’d like to attend.)
The LA Times’ Robert Faturechi has the story on Bobb’s reply. Here’s a clip:
On Wednesday, Bobb said he wanted to continue to monitor the Sheriff’s Department for the county, saying he would even be open to working under Huntsman.
He said he respects Huntsman, but disagrees that his own impact has waned. He pointed out that a number of the reforms implemented after the department’s inmate abuse scandal were ones he had recommended over the years.
Bobb said the fact that many of those reforms were initially ignored was not a sign of diminishing clout.
“That doesn’t mean my influence has waned. That means my influence was very substantial,” he said. “Those are recommendations I made. It got done and it got done in substantial part because of me and my relationship with the department.”
He cited a number of past achievements, including highlighting problems with racially biased policing in the Antelope Valley before federal authorities did, and pushing the department to create a mentorship program for deputies showing signs of problem behavior.
Bobb has been with the county for more than two decades and said his last contract, which ends in June, paid roughly $167,000 for six months.
If the Board of Supervisors accepts Huntsman’s recommendations, it would mark the end of relationships with Bobb and Michael Gennaco, the head of the Office of Independent Review. Gennaco declined to say whether he wants to continue working with the county.
Huntsman said limited resources and structural problems undermined their success.
He said he had no plans to hire Bobb or Gennaco into his budding organization. The Sheriff’s Department, he said, would benefit from having one cohesive monitoring operation — in which staffers with various specialties share information and work together.
The creation of an inspector general’s office was recommended by a blue-ribbon commission created by the county after the sheriff’s jail abuse scandal.
Amid that scandal and others, Bobb and Gennaco came under scrutiny. The question was how such serious problems could have festered under their watch…
LA SUPES TAKE FIRST STEP TOWARD NEW WOMEN’S JAIL IN MIRA LOMA
On Tuesday, LA County Supervisors voted unanimously to have architectural design firm DLR Group, Inc. draw up plans (to the tune of $5.5 million) for a proposed women’s facility in Mira Loma. The plans will come back to the board for approval in September.
We’ll be taking a closer look at this proposal in the meantime.
KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:
L.A. County has a $100 million grant from the state to construct a women’s facility in Mira Loma. To keep on track and keep the grant, the county had to take steps now, said Supervisor Don Knabe.
The Mira Loma facility is part of a larger, tentative jail overhaul plan that would likely include replacing or shuttering Men’s Central Jail. The consulting firm Vanir is scheduled to provide an updated report to the board on the county’s jail needs in May.
Groups opposed to building more jails also spoke at the board, including those who warned the jail’s placement in the Antelope Valley could expose inmates to Valley Fever.
Joseph Maizlish of L.A. No More Jails said the board should not be primarily motivated by the free grant money.
“If we use it unwisely, it’s as bad as lost and maybe worse,” Maizlish said.
He said despite the advice of numerous groups, including the Vera Institute of Justice, the county has yet to come up with a way of evaluating the risk of releasing inmates who are in jail awaiting trial and not yet sentenced. That, he said, could reduce overcrowding.
IN OTHER LASD/LA COUNTY SUPES NEWS: SUPERVISORS TO HAVE ACCESS TO LASD INTERNAL INVESTIGATION FILES, ON APPROVAL
After some recent conflict between LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina and County Counsel over whether the Supes should be allowed access to LASD internal investigation files, a compromise satisfying all parties was reached. On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a review process submitted by County Counsel John Krattli.
Supervisors will now submit specific requests through Krattli’s office. If the sheriff refuses to share the records with the board, he will have to present a written response as to why releasing the information to the board would be detrimental to the case.
The LA Daily News’ Thomas Himes has the update. Here’s a clip:
The vote followed a dispute between the department and Supervisor Gloria Molina, who had criticized the agency for stonewalling her request for information on a deputy who has been involved in seven shootings, including a Sept. 9 encounter in East Los Angeles that left a man dead. Molina had said that former Sheriff Lee Baca was willing to give her access, but that County Counsel John Krattli suggested the report be withheld because the District Attorney’s Office is still investigating the case. Molina had argued that the supervisors are the ones who authorize legal settlements involving the Sheriff’s Department, so they should be granted early access to case information.
“I think it is a great day for all of us,” Molina said Tuesday. “It’s great day for all of those that really want to provide the kind of transparency that I think we talked about in the jail commission (report) that was presented to us.”
Under the measure, any supervisor can request a confidential file through the county counsel. If the Sheriff’s Department turns over the documents, any supervisor can confidentially review them.
But should the Sheriff’s Department decide to withhold records, it must list reasons that are specific to the case. The board would review the sheriff’s explanation in a closed-door session no more than two weeks after receiving the refusal.
LASD SMOKING PATIO TURNED BARBECUE SPACE IS DUBBED THE “TERRACE GRILL”
The controversial members-only LASD smoking patio, repurposed by Sheriff John Scott into a non-smoking barbecue area for all department employees to enjoy, has officially been named the “Terrace Grill.” Contract Program Manager Rachelle Jackson submitted the winning entry in the department’s naming contest. (Backstory, here.)
(We like that the department is taking credit for the symbolic significance of this move.)
Here’s a small clip from the announcement:
In a symbolic, yet important, gesture for the employees of the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Scott asked everyone who works at the Headquarters in Monterey Park to submit names for the patio located at the rear of the building. It previously gained the reputation as an area used for cigar smoking by exclusive patrons. Since then, Sheriff Scott declared the area accessible to all employees, reminded them that smoking is not permitted there and held a contest to name it.
STUDY: BLACK KIDS PERCEIVED AS OLDER AND LESS INNOCENT THAN THEIR WHITE PEERS
Participants in a recent study (comprised of college students and police officers) perceived black kids as older and less innocent than their white counterparts. The study, intended to measure the dehumanization of black children, and was published earlier this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Police officers in the study estimated that black kids were an average of 4.59 years older than they actually were, meaning that they perceived kids a little over 13.5 years old as adults. And college students and police officers both judged black children over the age of ten to be less innocent than their white peers.
Guest hosting MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show, Jonathan Capehart speaks with one of the authors of the study, Phillip Atiba Goff (a UCLA professor), along with other noteworthy guests, about the study’s findings. Watch the discussion here.
The Wire’s Philip Bump also has a worthwhile analysis of the report. Here’s how it opens:
Asked to identify the age of a young boy that committed a felony, participants in a study routinely overestimated the age of black children far more than they did white kids. Worse: Cops did it, too.
The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, aimed at figuring out the extent to which black children were likely to be treated differently than their white peers solely based on race. More specifically, the authors wanted to figure out the extent to which black kids were dehumanized. “Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection,” author Phillip Atiba Goff of UCLA told the American Psychological Association. “Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.”
The researchers ran four different experiments aimed at gauging how people perceived criminal acts (both misdemeanors and felonies) depending on if the boy that committed it was black or white. Participants took a series of tests gauging racial attitudes and subtle associations. One test “primed” participants by flashing the names of either great cats, like lions, or apes. Two groups of people were interviewed, college-aged students and police officers. The group of police officers were evaluated on another metric: their on-the-job record of use of force against criminal suspects.
A CALL FOR NEW LEGISLATION AFTER A CALIFORNIA APPEALS COURT BARRED THE MEDIA FROM LA’S CHILD DEPENDENCY COURT HEARINGS
At the beginning of this month, a California appeals court struck down a 2012 order by Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of LA County’s juvenile court, that opened LA’s Juvenile Dependency hearings to the press. The court system is, once again, shuttered from press and, thus, public scrutiny.
In his publication, The Chronicle of Social Change, Daniel Heimpel explains why press access is in kids’ best interest, and why the appellate court ruling is an opportunity for new legislation to open dependency courts back up (or for an appeal to the state Supreme Court). Here’s a clip:
A fortnight ago, the appeals court for the Second Appellate District in California invalidated a court order that had eased media access to Los Angeles County’s otherwise closed juvenile dependency hearings.
This ends two years of intermittent sunshine on the complicated functionings of the largest child welfare system in the nation, and perhaps the world.
The appeals court decision hinges on how much discretion a judge should have in barring reporters, and has reignited the long-simmering debate about the costs and benefits of allowing reporters to be present at hearings where minors’ fates are decided.
While the March 3 ruling seemingly closed the door on the media, it also sets up the possibility of two developments: an appeal to the California State Supreme Court, or new legislation allowing greater media access to dependency proceedings, not only in Los Angeles, but across the state.
In my opinion, the dispute could and should be resolved through legislation that promotes a new, higher journalism: one practiced in the best interest of the child.
Read the rest.
(Photo by Sergeant Kresimir M. Kovac, LASD)