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Measure R: Codifies Subpoena Power for LASD Civilian Oversight Commission, and Requires Jail Population Reduction Plan

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

On March 3, and during the preceding early voting days, Los Angeles voters will decide whether to pass Measure R, a historic grassroots-led ballot initiative to empower civilian oversight of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and reduce the county’s overreliance on incarceration.

Spearheaded by Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, political strategist Jasmyne Cannick, and other women and families impacted by the justice system, Measure R is Los Angeles County’s first-ever criminal justice reform brought to the ballot by citizens, and the county’s second citizens’ initiative ever, the organizers say.

The Reform LA Jails campaign behind Measure R gathered more than 246,000 signatures for the initiative — 100,000 more than necessary to qualify for the 2020 ballot — with plenty of time to spare before the final deadline. Measure R has garnered dozens of powerful supporters, as well.

Measure R’s Backers

Measure R is backed by a coalition of organizations including ACLU, Dignity and Power Now, Californians for Safety and Justice, Community Coalition, Justice Teams Network, and a host of others.

A number of local, state, and federal lawmakers and officials have endorsed the intiative, including the LA City Council, several mayors in the county, LA County District Attorney candidates George Gascón and Rachel Rossi, presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and 20 political clubs.

The LA Times and La Opinión have also endorsed the initiative.

“We know that jails alone are not the answer,” Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said in support of the ballot initiative. “If we are serious about rehabilitation, prevention and improving our communities, then we must invest in local organizations and evidence-based practices that are effective.”

For those unfamiliar, Measure R would give the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) overseeing the sheriff’s department the ability to subpoena documents and compel testimony. The ballot initiative would also require the county to develop a plan for reducing the LA County jail population.

To better understand Measure R, it helps to know some of the recent history of sheriff’s department oversight in LA County.

The Creation of the COC and OIG

On September 28, 2012, the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence presented their lengthy and meticulously researched report on problems in the sheriff’s department that had created a culture of corruption and violence in the nation’s largest jail system. The CCJV’s most prominent suggestion for reform was the creation of an independent “oversight entity,” that would have “unfettered access” to “department records, witness interviews, video footage, data, personnel, and facilities.”

At the time, there were already other oversight bodies monitoring the sheriff’s department, but they had no real power to affect change that an elected sheriff felt they had to follow. And over the next five years, more than 21 LASD members, including the sheriff and undersheriff, would be indicted by a federal grand jury, convicted, then sentenced to federal prison.

After the federal indictments were handed down, and in response to the CCJV’s report, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved the necessary county ordinances to create a new oversight system that took the form of the Office of the Inspector General in 2014.  Two years later, the board further approved the county code needed for the creation of a Civilian Oversight Commission (COC).

According to LA’s County Code, “the purpose of the Commission is to improve public transparency and accountability with respect to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, by providing robust opportunities for community engagement, ongoing analysis and oversight of the Department’s policies, practices, procedures, and advice to the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff’s Department, and the public.”

The board stopped short of equipping the new commission with subpoena power, however.

Since the COC’s creation, commissioners have had to rely on a memorandum of agreement dictating which documents the LA County Sheriff’s Department would share with the commission.

During former Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s years in office, compliance with the MOA was not perfect, according to Inspector General Max Huntsman, but it improved over time. When Sheriff Villanueva was sworn into office in December 2018, a new memorandum of agreement was not signed. And while sheriff’s officials say they have tried to follow the existing MOA, Huntsman says otherwise.

Stronger Oversight Powers

Just last month, on Tuesday, January 28, the county supervisors voted to give the Office of Inspector General the long-awaited subpoena power, which is slated to go into effect in a few days. Through the newly empowered OIG, the COC will be able to request subpoenas, but not issue them independent of the inspector general.

A primer on the soon-to-be subpoena process for the inspector general, courtesy of LA County Counsel.

Measure R would give the commission its own subpoena power. By writing the subpoena function for the COC into the county code, Measure R would also protect it from future iterations of the board of supervisors that might seek to weaken or roll back the commission’s power.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said, however, that the COC and the Office of Inspector General have no need for subpoenas because the sheriff’s department is “not in the business of secrecy.”

Yet, the inspector general has said that the department often shuts down his requests or responds with radio silence.

Last month, IG Huntsman gave the COC a presentation on correspondence with LASD regarding document requests.

Villanueva and other LASD higher-ups have argued in various contentious board and commission meetings that the department has given the OIG and COC all that it is legally required to give, and then some. The department has given the overseers “reams and reams” of information and has even put all of the OIG’s requested docs online, according to the sheriff.

According to Huntsman, the OIG has been denied access to key documents, including information regarding secret deputy cliques and the department’s hiring process — and its re-hiring process, in the controversial case of Caren Carl Mandoyan.

The inspector general, Villanueva has said, has presented subpoena power “as a fix all, and threatens to use it at every corner, despite the LASD offer to work together.”

In an ideal situation, the two oversight bodies would be getting the information that they needed through cooperation with the sheriff’s department. Absent that cooperation, however, subpoenas can become a necessary tool.

The sheriff can decline to cooperate with a subpoena from the OIG or COC, and/or legally challenge it. Either way, the superior court will then decide whether the sheriff’s department must comply.

In addition to subpoena power over the sheriff’s department, Measure R would grant the civilian commission the authority to conduct independent reviews of the inspector general’s handling of civilian and inmate complaints against the LASD.

The Other Half of Measure R: The “Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan”

Beyond bestowing independent investigative powers, Measure R would also require the county to develop a plan within seven months for reducing the LA County jail population. The jail population hovered at an average daily population of 17,150 as of 2019, with over 100,000 booked into jail each year. LA County’s jail system is also known as the nation’s largest mental health care facility.

Approximately 30 percent of those in jail have open mental health cases. And, according to a January 2020 report from the nonprofit RAND Corporation, approximately 61 percent of the mental health population locked inside Los Angeles County’s jails could safely be released into community-based care. The problem is that the county must come up with enough community programs, services, and housing to serve those who would otherwise be locked — unnecessarily, according to RAND — inside county jails.

Part of the ballot initiative’s “Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan” would include conducting a report on the feasibility of reducing jail numbers by diverting more than $2 billion in county money originally earmarked for a new jail (and then a new mental health facility), to the Office of Diversion and Re-entry and various community-based programs.

The board, to its credit, has recently been working toward these goals. The supervisors voted last August to dump their latest Men’s Central Jail replacement plan — a secure mental health care facility staffed primarily by the LA County Department of Health Services (DMH). Reform LA Jails, the coalition behind Measure R, rallied week after week to get the board to cancel the previous jail plans as well as the more recent DMH-managed version, which the group said was just another jail by a different name.

The board listened. A majority of the supes agreed that the plan (and the others before it) was not in keeping with the board’s intention to move to a “care first, jail last” model for its criminal justice system.

In addition to killing the jail contract, the supes commissioned two reports — one focused on how best to proceed with demolishing the crumbling Men’s Central Jail as quickly as possible, and another looking at what top-priority jail maintenance needs must be met within the facility to protect the constitutional rights of the men currently locked inside.

The board also called for research on the scope of the county’s diversion needs, and convened a workgroup to make recommendations for how best to reform the criminal justice system and reallocate the billions toward alternatives to incarceration.

Yet Measure R’s “Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan” would include a feasibility study for a timeline on reducing jail numbers, especially for people with mental illness, drug dependency, and who are chronically homeless.

The feasibility study would also look at ways to reinvest county dollars toward “holistic mental health treatment; expanding youth centers and programs; reducing recidivism; alternatives to custody through the Department of Public Health; and increased funding to the Office of Diversion and Re-entry.”

The plan also seeks calculations of the costs and effectiveness of LA County’s current policies and practices compared with the options for reform. For example, Measure R would trigger a study comparing cost and the effects of mental health treatment inside the jails versus community-based drug treatment programs.

There’s more, so be sure to read the full text of the measure here, or the official summary here.

35 Comments

  • What a crock of shit. Measure R is faltering at the polls as voters understand that it is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. TV ads extolling the virtues of accountability fail to inform voters that the measure is nothing more than a public shaming effort financed by the wife of the Netflix founder, ramrodded by the families of current and former inmates. Yes, the inmates are demanding to run the asylum, and the clueless social justice warriors will through in a “public safety” phrase here and there to pretend they give a shit about public safety.

    In 2017 the OIG issued 7 reports. In 2018 they issued 10. In 2019, the first year of the Villanueva administration, the OIG issued TWENTY ONE reports! Aw gee, where did they get all that information, Wikipedia LOL? It’s pretty simple, the COC and the OIG are merely political attack dogs who work at the beck and call of the supervisors. Their main purpose is to extract as much political harm as they can from the LASD, public safety be damned.

    The jail plan part of this measure is another sick joke. This author is trying to give the false impression that those suffering from mental illness or substance abuse are in jail merely because of their condition, and not the friggin felonies they committed that harmed people and caused them to be incarcerated. Hint Celeste: build the community capacity to divert FIRST, and then we can reduce jail size, not the other way around. That would endanger public safety, something the author doesn’t get.

  • Sheriff Villanueva says the Sheriff’s Department ” is not in the business of secrecy.” Oh Really? Hmmm…Brady list, Mandoyan etc…

    • Brady lists were never intended to be public; rather, they are supposed to be available for judicial review on a case-by-case basis. And as to Mandoyan, never before have so many pieces of evidence been made available (unlawfully I might add) to the public.

      Certain material is privileged (not “secret”) by law. Just because there are those who step up to protect society and are the most reviled and criticized public servants for doing so, it doesn’t mean you get to sit at home and peruse their personnel files on your home computer.

  • Wondering when the Sheriff’s Department under Villanueva is going to release the names on the Brady list to the DA’s office. Are all 300 somehow rehabilitated, and conducting their duties ethically, and with high Standards. I don’t think so. Just like any other criminal committing crimes. Once a criminal … always a criminal.

    • The dept’s “Brady list” is not a Brady list. It is an internal compilation of names of deputies who the dept thinks *might* be included on the DA’s Brady Alert System if, and this is the big if, judicial review deems it appropriate.

      Your determination that these deputies are criminals says more about your lack of understanding than you know.

      It would appear that your “# LASD Propaganda” is in need of calibration.

      • So does the Sheriff’s Department “alert” the DA’s office when cases involving these Deputies come up. And, who conducts the critical review in this case; The Sheriff ?

      • Exactly my point, So why are the 300 Deputies still on the job. They can’t be trusted in Court. Bottom-line these guys are unethical, and untrustworthy. Will the Sheriff’s Department “alert” the prosecuting DA, and will they also notify the defendants Attorney’s/ Public defenders when cases arrive involving these Deputies.

  • More important than releasing the names on the Brady list is how many names on there have promoted into executive positions…that’s a worthwhile story.

      • Cognistator, your reading comprehension has been overshadowed by your bias against McBuckles. The article did not say the list was used to promote people as you alleged. Read it again slowly and report back.

        • “Read it again slowly and report back.”

          O.K.

          A direct quote from paragraph #22 of the link:

          “Instead, insiders say,, McDonnell has kept many of Tanaka’s former acolytes and in several instances promoted them.”

          • Cog, saying McDonnell used Tanaka’s list to promote people into executive positions is not the same thing as saying McDonnell promoted people who were on the list. If that’s an attempt as “sneaking one by” it’s pretty lazy and dumb. If you said it in good faith then it’s just dumb. Reminds me of something “cf” would pull.

  • Dose of Reality, aside from the government, were else does an employer keep employees on the payroll that lie, have lied and can’t be trusted. And, many on the list have perjured themselves. Not only can they not be trusted, they have broken the law, and they have done so to the detriment of another human being. Release the names, and release these folks from their jobs.

  • cf, you are hopelessly biased against law enforcement officers. Your belief that we are all liars and criminals speaks volumes. There are standards by which LEOs are judged, and discipline is meted out based on them, but it’s none of your business what was done. I doubt you have any information to base your perjury allegation on; it’s just more of your SJW/anti-LEO rhetoric. I know you’ll continue to haunt these threads – you do you.

    • “Your belief that we are all liars and criminals speaks volumes.”

      Sure does and no question: that belief is sincere, and comes from the heart.

      So.

      Let us all wonder: how did he get that way?

    • Exactly! The astronomical money spent on defending rogue deputies in legal matters could be be better spent on training.

      Professionalism in LASD is lacking and almost non existent,
      I hope Villanueva cracks the whip but that is another story within itself.

      • I have yet to see Villanueva come before cameras, and address the issue of LASD deputies allegedly leaking graphic photos from the helicopter crash site that Kobe & others. Usually, he is quick to get TV time.

    • The only thing that holds a law enforcement agency accountable in LA is the DA, the state attorney general, and the feds, PERIOD. If you think political appointees from the board of supes, with no legal authority to do anything, is somehow magically going to part the Red Sea, well, wishful thinking.

      Measure R is all about codifying LE bashing into the county code, nothing more. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Times is using the story as a last ditch effort for the measure they endorsed.

      • Keep Dreaming, you are offering up a platter of lame and unconvincing arguments. But the facts are obvious. “The only thing that holds a law enforcement agency accountable in LA is the DA”. You mean the same LOOK THE OTHER WAY DA, when it comes to LASD Deputies. She is endorsed and funded by ALADS. Give me a break !

        This gambit will succeed in shutting down investigations on Deputies, before they ever truly begin and ensuring no criminal prosecutions. But ultimately it will backfire. The truth will emerge somehow, someday. But, of course, if you need any more clarity you can always ask Old Lee, Paul and the rest of the guys.

        • CAN hold, doesn’t mean it always happens. Lord knows the DA and the BOS looked the other way while the Baca/Tanaka machine ran amok. It took the feds to intervene to alter the landscape, something a BOS-appointed creation will never do.

          • Riddle me this, why did LASD quietly order Deputies to delete the graphics images from Kobe and others’ crash site.
            Who gave the order to come clean and delete the photos to avoid disciplinary measures, which can amounted to destruction of evidence.
            If I remember correctly, the Sheriff and his little rollie pollie were all butt hurt when the media came out quickly about Kobe Bryant’s death. Guess it does not bother him one bit when his Deputies leak graphic pictures.

            NO FORMAL INQUIRY. Hey Mr Deputy just lie and you will be all good. Don’t worry the guys in internal affairs are all leashed up.

          • Definitely a conflict of interest with D.A. Lacy and ALADS, nothing new there. MONEY TALKS!

  • @Keep Dreaming….a rather interesting synopsis of the inner workings within the BOS, CoC and OIG. I do not agree totally with the aforementioned groups. They appear to have their own personal agenda and are seeking to do a power grab.

    I am glad that AV kicked Tehran to the curb. She was imposing her own SJW discipline on line personnel. Huntsman is a snivling, worthless, butt kissing a$$ wipe. He is looking to gain power and prominence to possibly fulfill some political post down the road.

    These people spew the narrative of transparency, justice and accountability, however they themselves do not hold themselves to those same standards. Do not misunderstand my musings> I believe in transparency, accountability and discipline, however not to the extent where it is capriciously implemented, with the intent of “sending a message.”

    @Constitutionalist…Based on your lack of thought statement, Measure R would have prevented deputy personnel from leaking pictures of the Kobe accident? LEO’s across the nation have been doing this before the age of cell phone cameras (remember the Polaroid?).

    @Wind Reaper…budgets should be increased for training and equipment to bring this department into the 21st century. However, budgets are created based on historical data and are allocated as such by the BOS. The budget for lawsuits is allocated by the BOS. Further, in today’s litigious society, the payouts are much more substantial than before, due to the bleeding heart jurors who have no clue as to where the money is coming from (their / our taxes). Your statement about professionalism is fairly accurate. I believe this is attributable to the lack of ownership, accountability and responsibility from across the department.

    @cf…..you are a bigoted idiot who obviously has no clue as to what is really transpiring. Look at the private sector and you will find the answer to your statement, “were else does an employer keep employees on the payroll that lie, have lied…” I can think of two right off the top of my head. However, I will not divulge them. This way you can use that 5% of your cerebral cortex.

  • Dose of Reality, of course not. In the words of our great commander in chief, his high holy orange president, Some officers are bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. (btw, this is all true of police. As you know, some have been caught with drug or robbing drug dealers, some of rape, child porn or seducing little cadet, and some of other crimes) So, I assume some are good people. However, if we question someone’s credibility and have evidence they lied, why would we keep them on the payroll, especially when you are supposed to protect the public and the public pays them. Try keeping a job at Walmart if they even suspect you may steal bubblegum or lied on some company report. Please. Only in the government.

    Fat Rolman- I may be an idiot, but not bigoted. I’ve conceded that I am an idiot. As I explained to you, that is why I like this site. And, do not underestimate yourself. It takes at least 10% of my cerebral cortex’s capacity to keep up with you and the rest of the learned peanut gallery. I propose a simple rule, if you lie on your report or on the stand, you are fired, period.

  • Gj declares himself “not bigoted”, if only they could see your Facebook page eh? For that matter what “cf” comment isn’t a cartoon stereotype of some group or other? Nothing but a neurotic, attention seeking, ex reserve, law enforcement groupie.

    • @Maj Kong……I recalled one of your posts when you called out cf about how he felt about Reserves and he ignored you. So is cf a Reserve or not?

      • without going into too much detail, I’m pretty sure he’s an ex-reserve. A lot of clues dropped over the years, and his personality matches a guy who I don’t know personally, but he’s all over ex-LASD Facebook pages. Different political opinions, but the same neurotic attention seeking behavior. Obviously it’s against the rules to give a name (rightfully so) but I’m pretty sure it’s our guy.

  • Let us stick to the subject at hand regarding the LASD Civilian Oversight Commission.

    Surely the sharing of graphic photos showing the victims in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash is totally unacceptable. Also unacceptable is Sheriff Villanueva not disciplining the deputies.
    Not a good look needless to say which is also another ground for a lawsuit by families of the deceased.

    Who knows where the captured photos are at, out in cyberspace? No floss over or excuses for that, period.

  • It’s a shame that any of this outside oversight is deemed necessary by the public. If law enforcement at the top and on the line had properly dealt with those that were dishonest and thereby unsuitable for the job decades ago, perhaps these commissions etc. would never have started. Kudos to those that have spoken up over the years; especially since it was likely to your detriment. The fact that multiple Deputies and some fire dept personnel thought it okay to take photos at the scene of the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and others speaks loudly about training and accountability – including at the level of the Sheriff. Conversely, there needs to be room for people in law enforcement to be human and make a mistake without being crucified. I hope that those on these oversight commissions all spend some time incognito at the jail and that they ride on patrol so they at least have some modicum of understanding of what Deputies deal with day in and day out.

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