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L.A. Sheriff Says Proposed Oversight Commission 'Is Consistent with My View on Strengthening Transparency, Accountability'

Wikimedia Commons photo of L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca
Wikimedia Commons photo of L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca released a statement Monday morning saying a proposed oversight commission for his department "is consistent with my view on strengthening transparency and accountability."

On Dec. 9, the federal Department of Justice announced criminal cases that charge a total of 18 current or one-time deputy sheriffs were unsealed as part of ongoing FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights violations and corruption involving members of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

Four grand jury indictments and a criminal complaint alleged crimes that include "unjustified beatings of jail inmates and visitors at downtown Los Angeles jail facilities, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men's Central Jail," Department of Justice officials said.

Here's Baca's Jan. 6 statement verbatim from the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau:

Sheriff's Department Oversight Commission - Sheriff Leroy D. Baca Statement

Years ago, the Rampart Independent Review Panel released their report concerning the operations, policies and procedures of the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the Rampart scandal.

After reviewing the report, I described to Los Angeles Times Reporter Beth Shuster that independent auditing of the Sheriff's Department's administrative and criminal investigations should be conducted by civil rights trained attorneys.

With contemplative reporting from the Times, and support from the Board of Supervisors, the Office of Independent Review was formed. Two prominent civil rights attorneys, Kathy Feng and Stuart Kwoh, assisted in developing protocols to ensure comprehensive oversight of Sheriff's Department investigations, and I believe this process should continue.

Now, in the wake of allegations of misconduct within the Sheriff's Department, Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas has proposed a Sheriff's Department Oversight Commission. This concept is consistent with my view on strengthening transparency and accountability, and would serve to further develop law enforcement skills regarding Constitutional policing, procedural justice, civil rights, and human rights as a whole.

A perfect example of developing these skills in law enforcement is the overwhelming success of Education Based Incarceration (EBI). Several years ago when I initially created the program, I received criticism for being a "social worker" to inmates.

Yet, the success of EBI has been proven, with Los Angeles County leading the State in crime reductions, and tens of thousands of inmates receiving formal education, anger management, substance abuse treatment, work experience, and other life skills to put them in a better place to stop the cycle of crime when they leave the Los Angeles County jail system.

Effecting positive change in a challenged criminal justice system starts with a willingness to be completely open and transparent about everything, even if the truthfulness and transparency results in identifying areas for improvement or exposing misconduct. Since I am an elected official, I am not afraid of criticism because the public knows their Sheriff will always tell the truth, follow Our Core Values, and continue to work to strengthen public safety and public trust in our Sheriff's Department.

LEROY D. BACA, SHERIFF

In a statement on Dec. 9, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. said in Los Angeles:

"This investigation started by focusing on misconduct in county jails, and we uncovered examples of civil rights violations that included excessive force and unlawful arrests.

"Our investigation also found that these incidents did not take place in a vacuum - in fact, they demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized.

"The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff's Department considered themselves to be above the law. Instead of cooperating with the federal investigation to ensure that corrupt law enforcement officers would be brought to justice, the defendants in this case are accused of taking affirmative steps designed to ensure that light would not shine on illegal conduct that violated basic constitutional rights."

Baca told reporters that same day he and his department fully cooperated with the FBI investigation, and he denied suggestions that it represented a larger, institutional problem.

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