Going through long-standing allegations of “appalling” situations contained in the county’s jails and violent deputy “gangs” working on its streets, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna on Wednesday introduced the appointment of a former federal prosecutor to supervise a brand new workplace designed to fight these issues inside the division.
Eileen Decker, a high-profile lawyer who beforehand served on town’s Police Fee and on Luna’s transition crew when he took over the division this yr, will maintain a chief-level position main the Workplace for Constitutional Policing.
“This new workplace can be tasked with serving to to eradicate all deputy gangs from this division,” Luna mentioned at a noon information convention outdoors the Corridor of Justice. “I’ll have an absolute zero tolerance for the sort of conduct.”
The announcement indicators a pointy departure from the techniques of Luna’s predecessor, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who at one level mentioned he would remove the division’s constitutional policing advisors and later denied the existence of deputy “gangs.” Allegations of such teams selling violence and working roughshod over sure stations and jails have lengthy plagued the Sheriff’s Division, sparking a number of investigations and costing the county greater than $55 million in settlements.
The brand new workplace, Luna mentioned, may “assist shield taxpayers” from such expensive litigation sooner or later by ensuring the division doesn’t run afoul of authorized agreements or violate individuals’s rights.
“We predict a minimum of excellent constitutional policing,” he mentioned, “and that’s what this workplace goes to ensure we’re on observe for.”
Along with combating problematic deputy teams, Luna mentioned that — not like previously — the brand new workplace will even work to convey the division into compliance with the numerous consent decrees and settlement agreements the county has did not obey for years. A number of stem from sprawling lawsuits over poor care and protracted violence meted out by employees contained in the Los Angeles County jails.
“The prior constitutional policing advisors weren’t as engaged within the oversight of all of the consent decrees, courtroom settlement agreements which have come into play in the previous few years,” Decker mentioned. Finally, she mentioned, the purpose is to get the division out from the consent decrees.
“My job merely is to get the division to not fall brief,” she mentioned.
To try this, Decker and her crew of investigators, attorneys and auditors will consider insurance policies, practices, coaching and strategies of accountability. Her position won’t be merely advisory, officers mentioned.
Earlier than taking cost of the brand new workplace, Decker served as one of many three co-chairs of Luna’s transition crew. Earlier than that, she oversaw Los Angeles police because the president and later vice chairman of town’s Police Fee. She additionally spent 15 years as a federal prosecutor, and three because the U.S. lawyer for the Central District of California. She described Wednesday’s appointment as “the fruits of my life’s work.”
Sean Kennedy, who has investigated deputy teams extensively in his position because the chair of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Fee, lauded the creation of the brand new workplace.
“Our previous sheriffs undervalued constitutional policing to the detriment of so many struggling communities that LASD is meant to serve,” he instructed The Occasions. “I’m glad Sheriff Luna is attempting to take a brand new path by instituting a full workplace of constitutional policing.”
However some observers had been extra circumspect. Melissa Camacho is a senior employees lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California who represents inmates in a pair of class-action lawsuits over jail situations and violence. She expressed some skepticism about whether or not the brand new workplace may repair the issues behind bars.
“The one factor that’s going to allow the Sheriff’s Division and the county to return into compliance with consent decrees is by decreasing the jail inhabitants by 1000’s,” she mentioned. “If this particular person will help try this, then I welcome it.”
The announcement comes two days after a tense listening to in federal courtroom over deadlines in one more main lawsuit — this one filed by the U.S. Division of Justice over issues about persistently unhealthy psychological well being care within the jails. After practically a decade of court-imposed federal monitoring, the county has nonetheless did not adjust to the stipulations specified by the consent decree, together with offering 20 hours per week of out-of-cell time to mentally sick inmates who’re in any other case left in isolation.
Of greater than 5,000 mentally sick individuals behind bars in L.A. County, Justice Division attorneys estimated simply 20% are getting the remedy they want in a well timed method. They mentioned those that aren’t might be left to languish in solitary confinement for weeks or months, not often getting set free of their cells and typically decompensating so badly they start smearing feces.
Whereas attorneys for the county mentioned it might require three extra years for the jails to conform absolutely with all of the provisions of the consent decree, Justice Division attorneys urged setting tighter deadlines.
U.S. District Decide Dean Pregerson forged about for different options, suggesting the county would possibly sue the state or ask the Board of Supervisors for extra money. At one level, he appeared to counsel the Justice Division ought to ask to carry the county in contempt of courtroom for failing to repair the continued “disaster.” Finally, he held off on setting concrete deadlines, permitting the county extra time to elucidate why it discovered the federal attorneys’ proposed timeline “unrealistic.”
“What I’m listening to, bluntly,” he mentioned, “is a failure on each degree.”