Civilian Oversight Group Uncovers Problems in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office

The cutting-edge civilian oversight group formed in 2001 to oversee the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released information last week disclosing over 800 claims of uninvestigated wrongdoing by deputies during the last decade. The Office of Independent Review, composed of six former prosecutors and civil rights attorneys, was formed at Sheriff Baca’s urging after the Rampart scandal brought national attention to corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department, and in departments nationwide. The Office is considered to be one of the most progressive civilian oversight groups in the country. The recent findings have resulted in a new policy for the Sheriff’s Department where all complaints against deputies will be investigated, including non-excessive force claims often filed as precursors to lawsuits, which the Department had a pattern and practice of ignoring. The uninvestigated complaints included allegations of sexual assault, illegal shootings, reckless driving and excessive use of force against prisoners. In addition to investigating complaints against deputies, the Office also physically responds to the scene of all officer-involved shootings and has unhindered access to Department documents. Sheriff Baca said that he was “caught off guard” by the Office’s finding, but that when he proposed such an office, he knew it would uncover problems that would be potentially embarrassing, and that in his opinion, “the truth…good or bad, is more important than hiding what could be bad.”


Los Angeles Times, 10/14/02

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