The working group that will advise the Board of Supervisors regarding the role of a new civilian oversight commission for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will recommend that the commission have the power to subpoena internal documents from the Sheriff’s Department.
For the past several months the working group of appointees from each supervisor, a sheriff’s department representative and a retired deputy sheriff have been hammering out details of who will sit on the oversight commission, what their roles will be, how they will have access to documents and how they will work with an appointed inspector general who oversees the Sheriff’s Department.
The supervisors voted in December to create a civilian oversight commission after years of abuses in the jails that created mistrust between the community and the department.
The group has drafted a report with a number of recommendations, but there are still details to work out before they report to the board by June 22.
In a split decision, the group recommended that a charter amendment be placed on the ballot that, if approved by voters, will allow the supervisors to grant the commission and the inspector general subpoena power.
Sheriff’s Department Executive Officer Neal Tyler, the sheriff’s appointee to the working group, opposed the measure.
At a recent meeting he said the sheriff would have preferred to wait for the commission to be formed before it is discussed whether the group should have subpoena power.
“In a worst case, the commission could be comprised of people that the sheriff feels it would be ill-advised to be authorized to have subpoena power,” Tyler said.
Another group member, Hernan Vera, a former public interest attorney, said even though the commission may not need to use its subpoena power because of a memorandum of understanding that would be reached between the commission and the Sheriff’s Department, he still supported the measure.
“I feel really strongly from the public comment that this is needed and that the check on this is it’s going to be put to the voters and they’re going to decide on this,” he said. “I think it’s the teeth that we talk about.”
Community members who spoke during public comment at nine town hall meetings that the working group held throughout the county overwhelmingly wanted the commission to have the legal authority to obtain documents.
The working group will also recommend that the nine-member commission be made up of appointees from each supervisor and the remaining four members be selected by a majority vote of the supervisors.
The group, in a split decision, also voted to recommend that no retired law enforcement officials sit on the panel.
The group has also decided that commission members should receive up to $5,000 a year plus expenses for their service.
Some group members said at a meeting Friday they would like Sheriff Jim McDonnell to appear before the group before they make their final recommendation to the board.
“I think that before we’re done, I think Jim McDonnell needs to be in this room,” said Les Robbins, executive director of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. “I think he needs to share with us his feelings, what his reactions are to what we’ve done.”
Vincent Harris, who was appointed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said he preferred the group make their recommendation and then the sheriff address the Board of Supervisors.
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