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Supervisors defeat effort to create Sheriff’s Department civilian oversight committee

Posted: August 5, 2014 6:30 p.m.
Updated: August 5, 2014 6:30 p.m.

Los Angeles County supervisors voted down a proposal Tuesday that would have created a civilian oversight body for the county’s scandal-plagued Sheriff’s Department.

“We seem to have a habit of creating a commission every time there’s an issue with the county, and it really slows us down,” said Supervisor Don Knabe, who voted against the proposal.

While Knabe balked at the commission proposal, he said it is important that supervisors continue to empower and define the duties of Inspector General Max Huntsman — whose job was created as one of the recommendations from the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence that examined county jails.

“This Office of Inspector General will help us continue on the path of reform,” reads a post on Knabe’s website dated Tuesday. “Adding another commission on top of it, with no control or power, will get us nowhere.”

Joining Knabe in voting against the proposal Tuesday were Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky.

“A civilian oversight body created to serve as a forum for the public to express their concerns does not have teeth,” Antonovich said. “Having that body report to this board either separately or together with the Inspector General only compounds the dilution of accountability and creates redundancies unless it is created to fill gaps identified in the Inspector General’s office after it is fully operational.”

Yaroslavsky said a civilian oversight body would likely not have the power to make meaningful change in the department.

“The problem with the Sheriff’s Department is not that there is too little oversight,” he said. “The problem is that there’s been too little effective oversight.”

Voting in favor of a citizens’ oversight body were Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina.

In a post on his website prior to Tuesday’s vote, Ridley-Thomas said such a body is needed “to provide an arena for our citizens to interface with the department and to provide ongoing scrutiny of its efforts to reform.”
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