Foster Care Inspector General LASD Sentencing War on Drugs

The Power of LASD Inspector General…Breakdown of Blue Ribbon Commission’s Foster Care Report…DOJ to Consider Thousands of New Clemency Requests…and More


In January Max Huntsman took on the role of Inspector General over the scandal-plagued Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. But as civilian oversight of a department with an elected sheriff, Huntsman does not have the power to enforce reform. The only way he can turn up the heat on the department is by focusing a public spotlight on areas in need of reform, and making recommendations.

Monday NPR’s Morning Edition takes a look at Huntsman’s power as IG, and whether it will be enough to bring some lasting change to the department.

Here’s a clip (but go take a listen):

Max Huntsman’s job — in the newly created role of watchdog — is to help clean up the department. The only problem is, he doesn’t have any real power.

In a sign perhaps of how unglamorous his new job will be, Huntsman’s new digs are a cramped collection of dark offices and cubicles, two floors above the famous food stalls of LA’s Grand Central Market.

On a recent visit, he had just one employee — a receptionist — but soon a team of 30 lawyers, auditors and retired law enforcement officers will be in place here. They’ll help Huntsman set up a system to monitor the Sheriff’s Department — namely its jails.

Just blocks from here, at the Men’s Central Jail, deputies are accused of beating and choking inmates without provocation, harassing visitors, then conspiring to cover it all up. In the indictments last fall, federal prosecutors portrayed a “culture of corruption” inside the agency.

“The bottom line is, I think you need to have people looking over your shoulder and knowing what you’re doing in order to make sure those cliques don’t develop, that you don’t get a group of people in the jail who think of themselves more as a gang than as deputy sheriffs,” says Huntsman. “That’s when you don’t have that light shining that that happens.”

That “light” is really the only tool Huntsman will have. Unlike a police chief in a big city who answers to the mayor or a civilian commission, LA’s sheriff is elected and enjoys a lot of autonomy. Huntsman can only present his findings and recommend reforms.

So far he’s gotten a warm welcome and promises of cooperation — but it’s early.

“They really, really want to respond to all these problems,” says Huntsman, “as they should. I mean, there are federal indictments on the table, there’s talk of a federal consent decree, or a memorandum of understanding.”


The Chronicle of Social Change’s John Kelly has a helpful analysis of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s recommendation for a new and separate entity to oversee and unite the Department of Children and Family Services and other county departments involved in child welfare.

Kelly also breaks down the rest of the commission’s final report and recommendations presented to the Board of Supervisors, including lower caseloads for social workers and boosted funding for relatives taking care of children in the DCFS system who would otherwise be in foster care.


The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (mostly) balanced out the 1-100 sentencing discrepancy between prison terms handed down for powder cocaine sale convictions and those for crack cocaine sales. Still, there are thousands of drug offenders serving longer sentences than they would be given under the FSA.

On Monday, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Dept. is launching an initiative to grant clemency to non-violent crack cocaine offenders sentenced under pre-FSA outdated and harsh mandatory minimums.

The DOJ will also be beefing up the number of attorneys in the pardons office to handle the influx of clemency applications.

The Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz has the story. Here’s a clip:

“The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday. “The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

Holder has announced a series of initiatives to tackle disparities in criminal penalties, beginning in August, when he said that low-level nonviolent drug offenders with no connection to gangs or large-scale drug organizations would not be charged with offenses that call for severe mandatory sentences. He has traveled across the country to highlight community programs in which nonviolent offenders have received substance abuse treatment and other assistance instead of long prison sentences.

Underlying the initiatives is the belief by top Justice Department officials that the most severe penalties should be reserved for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers. On April 10, after an endorsement from Holder, the U.S. Sentencing Commission — the independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal judges — voted to revise its guidelines to reduce sentences for defendants in most of the nation’s drug cases.

In the meantime, however, thousands of inmates are still serving federally mandated sentences that imposed strict penalties for the possession of crack cocaine. The Fair Sentencing Act, which President Obama signed in 2010, reduced the disparity between convictions for crack and powder cocaine, and Obama has called sentences passed under the older guidelines “unduly harsh.” The law also eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the simple possession of crack cocaine.

“There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime — and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime,” Holder said Monday. “This is simply not right.”


On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole is expected to announce details about the new criteria the Justice Department will use in considering clemency applications and how the department plans to review those applications.

The department has asked the American Civil Liberties Union and other nonprofit groups to help identify candidates for clemency. Some of those groups are likely to help inmates submit the necessary paperwork.


As sentencing reform is picking up steam at national and state levels, once stark party lines are blurring. The realities of mass incarceration, especially the fiscal consequences, have created a shift in positions. Conservatives, formerly of a tough-on-crime mindset, are now some of the strongest supporters of sentencing reform.

For instance, the Texas-based conservative program Right on Crime has—successfully—led Texas’ prison reform agenda. Once faced with an overwhelming over-incarceration crisis, the state has built up rehabilitation programs and incarceration alternatives. Instead of building new prisons and leasing more space in private facilities (looking at you, California), Texas is closing prisons and saving millions.

The LA Times’ Timothy Phelps has more on the partisan shift. Here’s a clip:

…As the U.S. Senate prepares to take up the most far-reaching changes in years to federal sentencing and parole guidelines, some conservative Republicans are flipping sides, driven by concerns about the rising cost of caring for prisoners and calls for compassion from conservative religious groups seeking to rehabilitate convicts.

A surprising number of high-profile Republicans are working arm in arm with Democrats on legislation to shorten jail terms and hasten prisoner releases. At the same time, in their own reversal of sorts, key Democrats are arguing against the legislation in its current form.

“It’s a little counterintuitive,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a conservative former judge who is co-sponsoring a proposal to let tens of thousands of inmates out of federal prisons early if they complete rehabilitation programs.


As soon as this month, the Senate is expected to take up legislation that combines two bills that easily passed the Judiciary Committee. One cuts in half mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, and the other makes it easier to win early release. The combined measure would also make retroactive a 2010 law that reduced sentences for those previously convicted of possessing crack cocaine.

The legislation has attracted strong support from Republican conservatives such as Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. “I think it’s a mistake for people to assume that all conservatives or all Republicans have the same view in this regard, that we should kill them all and let God sort it out,” said Paul Larkin, a criminal justice expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Sentencing nonviolent offenders to decades in prison is “costly, not only in dollars but also the people involved,” Larkin said. “Sending someone to prison for a long time is tantamount to throwing that person away.”

But the new politics of crime remain complicated, with some old-line Republicans still opposed to the proposals. “Do we really want offenders like these out on the streets earlier than is the case now, to prey on our citizens?” Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley said in a recent Senate speech, referring to the bill to ease mandatory-minimum sentences. Grassley, however, supports the early-release proposal.

In a twist, some key Democrats are also opposed to the efforts to relax mandatory minimums and allow early releases, while others remain on the fence. Facing a Republican campaign to seize control of the Senate this fall, Democrats are concerned about appearing soft on crime, a vulnerability that has haunted them in the past.


  • It is an embarrassment that LASD “really needs” an IG. It just shows how deep and wide the corruption has been, and to an extent, still is, within LASD. The BOS appointed the IG out of complete frustration at Leroy “What Corruption?” Baca’s absolute denial. We are a long ways away from having a clean house as evidence by the executives who still withhold information and misguide John Scott. The IG is a reminder of what incompetence, empire building, misconduct at the executive level, mismanagement and a culture of corruption over the last 15 years has brought LASD.

    Anyone care for a cigar?

  • It’s hard to know where to even begin with the position & inferences of the Inspector General Max Huntsman. Mr. Huntsman is being employed to inspect & report. He is not the elected Sheriff nor the leader of LASD. Mr. Huntsman can play no more than an transactional influence on the future of LASD. What is needed is a transformational leader, someone that inspires and endorses the “we can do it together” style. With Sheriff Scott you can see that intuitive approach. The new Sheriff will need to begin with inspiring key staff to his vision. Clearly he will need “his” people to start the, well document in management studies, effect of first gaining key staff support that will evolve to an overall organizational will to meet these goals. The staff is desperate for such a leader.
    The new Sheriff will need his own vision and not that of limited transaction upon transaction with the Board of Supervisors, the IG, or the many other real & self promoted stakeholders. The challenge is enormous but achievable given the assets of the region. I think consideration should be given to an independent review, privately funded, of the Office of the Sheriff and the LASD. The LASD is the key law enforcement component for the region and it’s critical to have it function well. The present condition of LASD, given the epoch failure of stewardship, provides the incentive rethink a vital regional government service. We have world class universities, think tanks (Rand), renowned business leaders, highly evolved social justice groups, etc, that should be called on to renew such a critical function as provided by the LASD.
    I’m certain a structure of the how and what, as well as the private funding, of such an effort could be found. As a start I’ll throw a little fuel on the already building fire:

    1. I’m now feel that soon, decisive action will soon be take by the US Attorney that will narrow the election field.
    2. I think that remaining candidates should drop out of the election and defer to Chief McDonnell acknowledging that he will win in any case.
    3. That Chief McDonnell should take a leave of absence from LBPD and begin a hands on study of the LASD. Further he should provided the guidance to have the private study of the Office of Sheriff and the LASD.
    4. That Chief McDonnell should confer with the former candidates in the formulation of his effort at transformational leadership.
    5. That Chief McDonnell seek advice on how not to have the system force him into being a transactional leader as the Board of Supervisors would only be too happy to have him be.
    6. That Max Huntsman make every effort to be a positive adjunct to the Sheriff to identify, correct and develop metrics for the effective management of the multi-billion dollar corporation know as the LASD.
    7. That the deputies quickly reconstitute their representing union into one the can constructively collaborate with the new leadership. ALADS seems to be virtually nonfunctional and a liability to the individual deputies.

  • 2.) Re: #7……it’s called institutionalization. THE “Same O” “Same O” That cycle breaker is in the works at this moment. Treece, Shinee, Hayhurst. You already know the story. Same players, the same end results. Why waste words. Just wait and see or do something to change. If not… get what you deserve.

  • I agree that the other candidates should concede to the next new Sheriff of Los Angeles County, McDonnell. Kiss the ring or turn in your papers (retirement) How many more scandals can LASD handle? The Sheriff’s Department is like your spouse, your house and your family . If they are valuable and you don’t properly provide for them….then someone else will walk in and do what you should have done. Peter Pitchess was a game changer for a rag-tag LASD when he became Sheriff. It’s been 32 years since his departure. The County of Los Angeles is past due for New Leadership. When some people reside in their home for a long period of time, they accumulate many things that they don’t need and the only time it gets clean is when a new owner moves in. The same applies to the Sheriff’s Department. Will McDonnell come in as a game changer? Only time will tell. Hopefully we will know in June.

  • The Past, you offer interesting ideas regarding the office of sheriff, but then the bottom falls out when you advocate McDonnell already won. The political establishment that is eager to anoint him the second coming of Jesus is the same one that looked the other way and enabled Baca’s 15 years of corruption. There is no transformational capacity in that smug group of would-be king makers.

    McDonnell, in all his infinite wisdom and allegedly in-depth knowledge of the failure of leadership under Leroy, obtained while he sat on the hand-picked throne of the CCJV, turned his back on the entire organization and walked away because it was “too difficult” to challenge the incumbent.

    Guess what? Reforming and transforming the organization is a far taller order than challenging a mortally wounded, ethically challenged disgrace of an incumbent sheriff. If McDonnell lacked the courage for the former, he won’t have it for the latter either. Plain and simple. He will be the butt-boy of the Board of Supervisors and surround himself with all the butt-kissers and boot lickers that currently dominate the organization – in fact Hellmold is already on his leg!

    Transformational leadership will require an independent actor who is not beholden to the political establishment, be it city or county, and their well-oiled special interests known as Kavanaugh and Caruso. That is why I’m supporting Olmsted, he is that independent actor who was NOT part of the problem, challenged the organization both internally and externally, and largely because of his efforts we have a fighting chance to recover the organization and restore our reputation. A vote for McDonnell is a vote for a defeated organization. Olmsted dedicated his entire career to the LASD and he is cut from a different cloth than all the ambitious candidates who only want to add another star to their collar: McDonnell, Tanaka, Rogers, and Hellmold.

  • Hunstman has a job to do, whether McDonnell, Olmstead, Tanaka or whoever wins.

    ALADS does need consolidation; apparently it will need a judge to do that. Getting more lawyers involved — that one Ibsen comes to mind — isn’t the answer.

  • The Past- Interesting assessment. I disagree with your request for the others to step down and join him as one. Such a move would allow for a rebuilding of independent leaders creating their own armies, divisiveness would reign for another term. I think the election process should continue and who ever wins the election needs to look at each individual executive and decide who is their for the department and who is there for their own agenda. Those who are there for the department need to be looked at for leadership qualities in their past, and the decision to retain or allow to move on made. Then the bureaucracy and the command/rank structure needs to be reviewed.
    The Sheriff is like a good general, someone who can command multitudes of people, but has several managers of the masses. Our past leader thought he had that but then again he thought many thoughts and never focused on one for more than a few minutes.
    Our department has great soldiers doing their job, but it sadly lacks a number of great leaders. Looking up from the bottom many see, a sea of egos, politics, and selfish leaders bathing in their own egos everyday. The next sheriff needs leaders who lead and work for the betterment of the department. Leaders who mentor others to lead.
    And then I woke up.

  • McDonnell should turn himself in for incompetence! After the hearings and being aware of crimes committed did McDonnell inform the FBI or anybody else? NO! What about his illegal campaign donations from Galprin Ford to buy County cars? And LBPD’s two officer cliques that McDonnell doesn’t even know about. The deadly shootings that Mcdonnell failed to act? And when McDonnell had the chance to join the race he bowed down to the likes of Baca! Didn’t McDonnell say he couldn’t raise the money? Didn’t McDonnell say he wasn’t interested and then Baca drops out! How convenient for McDonnell! We are all sick and tire of crooked politicians and their cops i.e. McDonnell! McDonnell should drop out and concede the race to someone with real integrity and courage!

    Not one pol even slightly suggest that McDonnell can win. We don’t need another namby pamby waste being the sheriff! McDonnell is the crooked politicians choice for sheriff for crooked politicians are like crooked cops they lie together!

  • The Past, agree with first portion of your dissertation. The Sheriff is the person who can and must turn the LASD around. That is his/her legal and moral responsibility – not some individual sitting at the Hall of Administration taking making assessments and taking pot shots from afar. To think otherwise is absurd.

    But mostly what such a person would lack is what the organization needs the most and what has been lacking for 15 years………….LEADERSHIP. That is where you loose it. You call for the coronation of an LAPD/LBPD guy who did not have the fortitude to run for Sheriff because it was to difficult. Then when he saw that the job had become vacant he decided that it was his life’s ambition. Yeah, right, that’s exactly what the LASD needs, an opportunist who only sees what’s in it for himself – that is what the LASD has had for 15 years, and look at where it has lead.

    I side with LATBG, the LASD needs someone who is in it for the right reasons. Someone who has already shown more LEADERSHIP than all the rest of the candidates put together by doing his best to try to right the mess at CJ, someone who knows the LASD and its players (let’s face it, the players – good and bad – are the key in turning the ship around),and someone who is DEDICATED TO THE LASD.

  • LABTG, Olmsted deserves & has earned great respect but won’t win. Whether fair or wise won’t change the obvious outcome. I like you, fear exactly what you point out, a obligated transactional McDonnell. That’s why I suggest an independent, privately funded study of both the Office of Sheriff & the LASD. Further McDonnell needs to be all in by taking a leave of absence & devoting himself to understanding an organization far more complex than his recent experience with LAPD. McDonnell needs to take a LOA irrespective of any of the candidates dropping out or being taken out (Tanaka). In an ethical debate that could be argued for Rogers & Hellmold also.
    If my assumption is correct that McDonnell is the obvious next Sheriff then the challenge becomes how to set the stage for him to be transformational. I think the public & business leaders would endorse a transformational Sheriff. Some of McDonnell’s business support is based in a history of political access but that should not be surprising. The question is for McDonnell to answer, a safe transactional term(s) or a more difficult transformational term. If McDonnell doesn’t standup now he will be no more than a minion to the BOS, the IG, the possible Consent Decree/MOU, the deputy union, etc. In other words a world class transactional leader. McDonnell will need help to be transformational & a coalesment of present candidates would be immensely constructive. Bob Olmsted, perhaps you could lead that attempt & be the one to give form to the style of leader we want & need.

  • I have recently gotten a little glimmer of hope that the US Attorney may take action soon. I would hope he could help by taking Mr. Tanaka off the public’s plate. It would be very helpful in finding the correct leader for LASD if specter of Tanaka wasn’t in the mix.
    To Mr. Briotte, I recognize it is not the job of the US Attorney to play to local politics nor to accede to individual demands, BUT please take action SOONER than later. The public deserves quick & decisive action.
    To the candidates, my notion of coalescence doesn’t require that you literally abandon your campaign but agree to join the effort to shape & support the goal of having an independent Sheriff. In my opinion to do otherwise is to ceed the LASD future to the political winds.

  • The Past, here is the likely scenario for McDonnell: he will lose to Olmsted and a unified department hands down. If he faces anyone else in a runoff, he will win, margin decided by the opponent. Hellmold is a joke, tanaka will cause everyone to rally behind McDonnell, and Rogers burned too many fences as he climbed the ladder while ignoring all the career carnage around him. I don’t see him swallowing his pride and admitting what he did wrong.

    McDonnell is really, really, praying that he doesn’t face Olmsted – it’s his only path to victory and he knows it.

  • J dot London, How about this thought, all present candidates drop out, the BOS then appoints John Scott. You see there an answer if only the US Attorney would take Tanaka off the ticket and the others would do the right thing. I know London, Blah, Blah, Blah, & Blah! A four Blah is a total knockout.

  • LATBG,
    I think your scenario in #14 is Pollyanna. Do you think dept. members will be able to unify about anything by November? It’s never been more fractured from what I can see. Couple that with the amount of dept. members that live outside LA County (can’t vote ). My prediction is that the LA media/press will have the biggest impact on who the next sheriff is. You better start accepting the reality that unless there is some serious dirt dug up between now and the election, a blue suiter is going to be the next sheriff.
    1. He’s going to be the press/media’s choice. Like it or not, low info. voters let the media choose their candidate for them.

    2. He’s an outsider. When an org. is scandal ridden, lots of people believe an outsider is the best option for fixing it.

    3. He doesn’t have much dirt on him.

    4. The Tanaka voters ( and there are plenty of them ) will NEVER vote or campaign for any of the other LASD candidates if Tanaka doesn’t make the runoff. They would rather see an outsider than Leather Lips, Olmsted or Rogers be the sheriff.

    5. Vice versa #4. If Tanaka makes the runoff with McD, the non-Tanaka people would rather see an outsider than Tanaka.

    McD is in the right spot at the right time. Is he the right man for the job? Only time will tell. Nevertheless, I’d put the chances at over 80% that he is going to be the next sheriff.

  • Oh well .17)……..You speak the truth. Your reasoning makes sense. I will take those odds and go straight to Vegas. There is an old song stating….Everything Must Change. LASD is no exception.

  • It’s the same 6 or 7 that continue to show up on this site. Are you kidding me, you don’t have kids, wives, family of some sort you losers? It is amazing how you argue the same points over and over again, re-hashing it all. I stayed away and studied who continually made comments over the last several years, and you folks are pathetic.

    You’re like the guy who calls in a radio show to tell the host “Nobody listens to your show”. Yet here you are. You even took the time to do a study on it? Not over the last month or so mind you, but over the last several years.
    Did you pull that off in 10 or 15 minutes?
    Are you lying about taking the time to do the study over the last several years? Which is it? Are you simply full of shit or are you a hypocrite?
    Nice try loser. Sell your bullshit to a drunk high school kid. You won’t get it by here.

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