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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors reportedly unanimously approved a motion that would require the County to make promptly available vital Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) records on deputy shootings, serious uses of force, and other serious misconduct. After many instances of wrongful death by police officers throughout the county, the motion calls for the records to be published on a searchable county website as soon as deemed public.
Backed by the Check the Sheriff coalition, which is working to end the violence of the LA Sheriff’s Department, the board measure requires the disclosure of names of the deputies involved in shootings within 48 hours of the incidents. This goes directly against the LASD’s practice of continuously delaying and stonewalling by not making this information available as mandated by the California Public Records Act and SB 1421.
According to a report made by the Check the Sheriff coalition, there were 133 LASD deputy shootings from Nov. 2015 to Nov. 2020, of which over 80% of them were Black or Latinx. At least 20 of these shootings were committed by deputies who work at the East Los Angeles station, and 35 occurred in the jurisdictions of the three South Los Angeles LASD stations — all in locations which the report calls “home to active deputy gangs.”
Moreover, it chronicles the harassment of families who have spoken out against the department following the killing of their loved ones by the LASD. Of the report, Supervisor Holly Mitchell reportedly said it underscored the need for action. “No family should be mistreated or harassed for simply wanting answers for the loved ones they lost at the hands of sheriff deputies,” she said. “This report captures real life experiences of the breakdown of community trust, and it should not be taken lightly. The abuse of power documented in this report highlights the urgent need for transparency and accountability and must be met with corrective action.” The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors reportedly ordered an in-depth investigation on this.
The lack of forthcoming information has been especially painful for loved ones of those shot and killed by deputies. “The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department killed my son Dana Malik Young more than six months ago, and we still don’t have the names of the deputies who killed him,” Khadijah Shabazz, who is a member of Essie Justice Group, one of the organizations in the coalition was quoted saying by the ACLU. “My family appreciates this step in the right direction, which we have fought for, and I’m hoping with this one step, there will be two, three, four more.”
The ACLU noted that the LASD has issued several excuses for consistently withholding public records that agencies across the state have routinely produced, and coalition members have reportedly pointed out that LASD’s justifications are not supported by law or fact.
Melanie P. Ochoa, director of police practices at the ACLU SoCal and a member of Check the Sheriff, reportedly said the LASD doesn’t disclose records “because they kill a lot of people.” “Their deputies inflict a lot of serious bodily injury. There are a lot of cases of LASD deputies caught lying or committing sexual assault. The fact that there are a lot of records is an argument for more transparency, not less,” she said. The motion also calls for the authority to disclose the information be taken away from the LASD and instead be given to the county counsel or inspector general.
As a response to the board of supervisors working on the ordinance, Sheriff Alex Villanueva reportedly announced that 95% previously unreleased names will be posted online soon.