The Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission (Commission) hosted a virtual meeting today and acted on several important items, including unanimously approving a motion requesting that Los Angeles County Counsel forward potential illegal activity by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) to the California Attorney General for investigation.
LASD Intimidation and Harassment of Oversight Officials
At the July 15, 2021 meeting, the Commission voted to subpoena Sheriff Alex Villanueva to appear at today’s meeting to answer questions raised by Commissioner Sean Kennedy’s Memorandum on the Villanueva Administration’s Investigations of Oversight Officials. The memo details LASD’s pattern of publicly announcing the opening of criminal investigations of various department heads, public officials, oversight officials and other professionals who disagree with the LASD. Despite the subpoena, the Sheriff responded that he would not attend.
“The Sheriff has repeatedly defied our subpoenas, perhaps in an attempt to obstruct our oversight functions,” said Priscilla Ocen, Civilian Oversight Commission Chair and Loyola Law School Professor. “He will not, however, deter us from doing our duty. Abstaining from today’s meeting is not going to stop us from doing our job and rooting out Gangs in the Department.”
The Commission went on to request that County Counsel consider all legal remedies, including filing a petition with the L.A. County Superior Court for an Order to Show Cause as to why Sheriff Alex Villanueva should not be held in contempt for his failure to appear today.
“It’s important for this Commission to take this process seriously and do everything under the law that we can to compel the Sheriff to appear and answer questions about his investigations of anyone who opposes his agenda or tries to conduct oversight,” said Commissioner Sean Kennedy. Kennedy is also the Executive Director of Center for Juvenile Law & Policy at Loyola Law School and a former federal public defender.
In addition, the motion asks County Counsel to determine if Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s or LASD’s actions violated any laws, regulations or policies and also to request the California Attorney General review LASD investigations of elected L.A. County officials and appointees. The approved motion also includes an amendment to subpoena LASD Undersheriff Timothy Murakami to appear at the October 21, 2021 Commission meeting to answer questions about the issue of LASD’s intimidation of persons and officials who have direct oversight of the Sheriff’s Department.
In other discussion, guest speakers Assistant Inspector General Cathleen Beltz, LASD Assistant Sheriff of Custody Operations Brendan Corbett and Sybil Brand Commission’s Dr. Sheryl Grills provided updates on COVID-19 conditions in the L.A. County jails, including the longest wait times per day.
The Commission’s ad hoc committee members highlighted the RAND Report on LASD Subgroups and Measure R. The Commission also unanimously approved a motion to subpoena Sheriff Alex Villanueva to the October 21, 2021 Commission meeting to answer questions about deputy cliques in the Sheriff’s Department.