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Supervisors call for citizens commission for L.A. sheriff’s department

City News Service | 9/13/2013, 2:20 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Responding to a federal civil-rights investigation of the jail system, county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina called for the creation of a permanent citizens’ oversight commission for the sheriff’s department.

In their motion to establish a Los Angeles County Citizens Law Enforcement Commission — to be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting — the supervisors maintain the new probe dramatizes the need for heightened scrutiny of the sheriff’s department.

The Justice Department’s civil investigation will focus specifically on the treatment of mentally ill inmates. A criminal investigation into allegations of excessive force and other wrongdoing began in 2011.

“The seriousness of this new investigation and the allegations of abuse that prompted it cannot be ignored,” Ridley-Thomas said. “The sheriff’s department has long required a level of scrutiny that has been missing, and although the board only controls its budget, the department is there to serve the citizens of L.A. County, and that’s who should have greater oversight.”

Molina added that citizen scrutiny is “needed to ensure that there is proper oversight of the sheriff’s department. A sheriff’s department oversight commission is the best vehicle to ensure accountability.”

Although the board’s authority over the sheriff, who is an elected official, largely is limited to budgetary matters, the supervisors have the authority to establish an independent advisory citizens’ oversight commission, Ridley-Thomas said.

The motion calls for each supervisor to appoint a commissioner to the panel by Oct. 15. In addition, it calls for a funding and staffing plan for the commission and for county counsel to cement the commission’s role with language formalizing the relationship between the sheriff’s department, the Office of the Inspector General and the board.