Author: Gabriel

Police Department HQ Renovations Forward After Review by Committee

Pasadena’s Police Department headquarters is getting a facelift. And more.

While the Pasadena City Council approved the wide-ranging renovation of the building on May 12, the Council asked the Public Safety Committee to once again review and discuss the project before preparing final plans and seeking construction bids.

The committee—comprised of Mayor Victor Gordo, Councilmember Tyron Hampton, Councilmember John Kennedy, and Councilmember Steve Madison—reviewed the plans Wednesday.

Most of the concerns during the wide-ranging discussion had less to do with the actual construction and more with the role of the Police Department in the city, and how funds are spent within the City budget itself.

Some community members asked that funds instead be used to combat housing and homelessness issues, as well as to provide more community-based programming.

The Committee did not formally vote on the project, as it was presented only as an information item.

“This matter has been approved by the City Council, in my view,”said Mayor Gordo. “It’s a matter of getting the work done, and there are contractual agreements which need to be approved, and they will find their way to City Council.”

According to the LA Conservancy, the police headquarters building at 207 N. Garfield Avenue was designed and built in 1990, in a project overseen by self-described “modern traditionalist” Robert A. M. Stern. The building was “intended to complement the historic feeling of Pasadena’s civic center.”

Stern was told to create something that expressed the formidable quality of law and also invited people into the building, according to the conservancy site.

City officials wanted something different from the bunker-like police stations of the 1970s and ’80s. Stern interpreted their desires by creating a building that directly referenced the magnificent 1920s and 1930s buildings of the civic center,” said the conservancy.

Renovations to the building are estimated to cost $3 million over three years. $900,000 of that amount is expected to be paid by the City’s Asset Forfeitures account. The City also made asset forfeiture funds available to local nonprofits last year for the current year through 2022.

According to the presentation by Commander Jason Clawson, the Police Department is in need of an interior remodel to the majority of its office spaces and public areas. The remodel supports the department’s reorganization and will be the first major facility upgrade in the 30 year life of the building.

The Police Department remodel will safeguard both patrons and employees, modernize the workspace, create an open floor plan, improve recruitment and retention, increase productivity and team collaboration, and accommodate the emergent upgrade of technology.

As Clausen told the committee, the original floorplan of the building met the needs of the organization in the late 1980s but no longer serves the current needs of the department or the community.

“The expansion of technology as well as the current department reorganization has caused the need for outdated systems to be replaced and/or refurbished,” said Clausen.

A Property Condition Assessment was conducted in November 2017 identifying immediate needs of the facilities’ physical conditions, structural integrity, safety concerns as well as electrical and mechanical deficiencies.

There is also an operational need to open the Grand Lobby, and keep it open for longer hours to create a secure environment for community and employees, said the presentation.

The project also includes plans to move the records department to the northeast corner of the building allowing access to the lobby for servicing the community, allowing more people to enter the building to communicate with the department.

Elevator structures in the building were installed in 1989 and are in need of a full modernization to the motorized system versus hydraulics. Several incidents of elevator emergencies have been incurred by city employees. Police Chief John Perez, in fact, noted that on more than occasion over the last few years, police employees have been stuck in the elevator, including police command staff.

There will be no structural redesign or demolition, or changes to the building foundations, according to the presentation. Additional work may include painting, concrete repair, floorboards, doors, electrical fixtures, millwork and countertops, plumbing, fire safety systems, kitchen installation.

The project would also include a technology upgrade of cellular and local area network connections.

The remodel would cover 17,770 SF of office space, and include office furnishings, window treatments, ground flooring, paint and drywall repair, updated wiring and IT connections, electrical engineering , existing ducting and plumbing, space conversions, and light construction.

The project will now move into the preparation of plans and specifications work phase. Plans will then need to be finalized and prepared for the public bid phase, and then advertised to local contractors

Once bids are received they will be analyzed, with the project awarded to the lowest bidder. City Council would then vote on approvals for contracts, and then the construction phase would begin.

Single New COVID-19 Case Detected in Pasadena on Wednesday

Health officials reported only one new COVID-19 infection in Pasadena on Wednesday, and no additional deaths.

The additional case bumped the city’s pandemic total to 11,276, while the local death toll has remained at 346 since the last fatalities in Pasadena were reported on April 30, according to Pasadena Public Health Department data.

Over the prior week, the city recorded an average of 2 daily infections.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 255 new infections and 16 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the county’s totals to 1,237,899 COVID-19 cases and 24,117 fatalities.

Just over 350 patients were hospitalized with the virus in L.A. County, with 22% of them being treated in intensive care units, according to a statement issued by the agency.

The county’s daily test positivity rate was recorded at 0.5%.

L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer continued urging prompt vaccination of all residents.

“Almost everyone getting infected, being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 these past few weeks is not fully vaccinated,” Ferrer said. “If you are already vaccinated, please do your part to help those around you that are not yet vaccinated, feel confident that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and work.

“Every vaccinated person can be an influencer,” Ferrer added. “And by sharing your story, you can make a difference and even save a life.”

Public health officials at the state level announced 959 new infections and 42 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the state’s pandemic totals to 3,667,550 cases of COVID-19 and 61,555 fatalities.

The statewide average positivity rate held stable at 0.9%

As of Wednesday, L.A. County represented 34% of California’s COVID-19 infections and 39% of the state’s deaths.


Pasadena, County COVID-19 Case Rates Continue to Decline

LA Metro Board To Vote Today On Pilot For Free Rides For Students, Low-Income Riders

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Executive Management Committee Thursday will consider approving a 23-month pilot program to make L.A. Metro buses and trains free to students starting in August and all low-income riders starting in January.

If approved by the committee, the pilot program will next go to L.A. Metro’s Board of Directors for final approval.

L.A. Metro currently offers discounts to people who make $39,450 a year or less, people age 62 and older, veterans and people with disabilities, K- 12 students and people in college or vocational school.

Under the proposed pilot program, K-12 students and people enrolled in community college of all incomes would be the first to ride L.A. Metro fare- free, with that phase expected to begin in August. Low-income riders, which make up 70% of Metro’s ridership, would be phased in starting in January 2022. Funding would need to be secured for the second phase, according to the board.

“We’ve got to get people back to school. Our community college district is suffering, our schools are suffering, our transit system is suffering,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said during the Board of Director’s meeting on April 22. Garcetti serves as chair of the board and the Executive Management Committee.

A 23-month pilot for K-12 and community college students would cost $49,179,167 in lost fare revenue. Fare revenue pays for transit operations and maintenance, but Metro receives additional funding through sales tax and state and federal grants. Additional funding options for the pilot identified by L.A. Metro officials include advertising revenue, cost-sharing and grant funds through the Traffic Reduction Program.

Garcetti said during the April meeting that they will “leave no stone unturned when it comes to funding,” and emphasized the need for the federal government, the state and municipalities in the county to chip in. He added that organizations like LAUSD should provide funding, since the fareless system will likely increase school attendance and therefore increase school funding.

L.A. Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington expressed confidence that the federal government under President Joe Biden would provide funding for the pilot and permanent funding for a fareless Metro system in the future.

He noted that Los Angeles County is the most diverse county in the U.S. and the L.A. Metro system has the highest percentage of low-income riders in the country.

“So we believe that what we are doing fits right into the `Justice40 Initiative’ from the Biden-Harris administration … so what we are saying is that we are in the best position in this country with the hopeful approval of a pilot next month to be that test case for the federal government.”

In a survey with about 46,000 responses, L.A. Metro found that 86% of Metro riders and 80% of non-Metro riders support going fareless.

However, L.A. Metro’s Dennis Tucker told board members on April 22 that an internal survey with 1,968 responses found that only about 45% of people within L.A. Metro support the fareless initiative.

Board member and L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn expressed concern about the impact the fareless initiative would have on the quality of the transit system and become a “you get what you pay for” system where people aren’t paying so they have to expect problems.

“This board has been so clear about our service to our ridership so far. We really have wanted to put more money into our buses, we want to put more money into making stations clean and appropriate, and I’m a little concerned when staff says that we can cut some of what we spend on transit service without any impact,” she said during the April meeting.

“I think all of us are concerned that maybe at some point that would mean that would translate into dirtier buses, less service, dirtier stations, our buses and trains might break down more.”

The pilot — which would end on June 30, 2023 — would allow L.A. Metro to test the feasibility of permanently eliminating all fares on Metro trains and buses. After the pilot concludes, the board would consider extending, modifying or discontinuing fareless service. To help inform that decision, L.A. Metro staff would report to the board each month on the status of the pilot program. Metrics that will evaluate the success of the program may include financial sustainability, program participation, increased boarding by pilot participants, level of service, quality of services, increased trip by low-income riders, employee safety, rider safety, system security, according to L.A. Metro Principal Transportation Planner Doreen Morrissey.

L.A. Metro’s Dennis Tucker told board members in April that the program would provide financial relief to low-income riders and students and bring back ridership to the Metro system.

“We would be the largest transit agency in the world to implement such a program,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington.

L.A. Metro’s Executive Management Committee will consider the pilot program during its meeting at noon. People can watch at

Police Chief Perez Introduces 11 new Police Officers and Trainees

Artwork created from a photo showing Pasadena PD Recruits at a Training Academy graduation ceremony. (Based on image by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge)

Bringing the number of new officer hires to 70 over the last three years, Pasadena Police Chief John Perez introduced eight new police officers and three new trainees to the Public Safety Committee Wednesday.

“These new hires come from thousands of applicants over the last three years,” said Chief Perez. “They are the best of the best.”

Perez added, “We are not just recruiting, we are not just training, we are not just retraining, but in many ways we are ‘untraining’ the years and decades of policing that we are going after to really become a better police department, so all of our people have an understanding of what we do, how we do it and especially why we need to do it, and they have a personal investment in our community.”

The newly sworn officers are Carlos Martinez, Roy Alatorre, Jiwon Kim, Michael Greene, Aracely Preciado, Osvaldo Cervantes, Eduardo Carlos, and John Duggar.

The new trainees are John Severino, Taisyn Crutchfield, and Osi Negrete.

Pasadena, County COVID-19 Case Rates Continue to Decline

The city remains in the Yellow Tier with case numbers across the region continuing to decline as the state closes in on the June 15 full reopening date.

According to statistics released by the state on Tuesday, the county’s average daily rate of new COVID-19 infections fell to 1.2 per 100,000 residents, down from 1.4 per 100,000 last week. The average rate of people testing positive for the virus slipped to 0.6%, down from 0.7% a week ago.

The city announced earlier this week that it will remain in concert with the state regarding the local mask mandate.

“Pasadena will align with the state to maintain current requirements for face masks until June 15,” a city release said. “This will allow a few more weeks for people who live or work in our city, students, and visitors to access vaccines, and to increase our overall community vaccination rates to keep our residents safer,” city officials said in a prepared statement.

So far 96,807 Pasadena residents have received at least one shot of the virus and 78,412 have been fully vaccinated.

New guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has led to some confusion on the continued need for face masks.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she supports the decision to wait until June 15, but she lamented mixed messaging from federal and local authorities.

“My response and the request to the governor was because there is frustration that’s been expressed by many individuals, including myself, regarding inconsistencies at the federal, state and local levels,” Barger said during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “… I just believe that we need to have consistency.

“And when the president and the vice president stand up and the CDC make that announcement … I just think it’s important for us to be transparent in terms of what is driving issues surrounding wearing masks and not wearing masks,” she said.

Barger praised state officials for saying the decision to wait until
June 15 to lift mask mandates was based on the time needed to get more people vaccinated and develop guidelines for businesses once mandates are lifted.

Barger noted that since there is no vaccine-verification process, unvaccinated people could simply take advantage of relaxed rules and shed their masks, risking more spread of the virus.

In the state and L.A. County, face coverings are not required outdoors for fully vaccinated people except at crowded events, and — for unvaccinated people — when physical distancing cannot be maintained. In indoor settings outside the home including public transportation, businesses and schools, face coverings continue to be required regardless of vaccination

The CDC revised its guidance last week, saying fully vaccinated people can largely stop wearing a mask in most indoor and outdoor situations. But that guidance does not usurp local and state regulations.

Some national supermarket chains including Trader Joe;s, Costco and Walmart have dropped the mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers in response to the CDC announcement, although store officials said they will not
be asking for proof of vaccination.

UPS to Hire 300 in Southern California

A UPS worker handles a package in an undated photo provided by the company.

UPS is on a blitz to hire for 300 permanent part-time positions throughout Southern California, the company announced this week.

The jobs are package handling positions at UPS sorting hubs “that can lead to a career,” UPS said in a written statement.

The hiring frenzy is the result of “rapid and ongoing growth of ecommerce coupled with overall demand for our services,” said UPS Director of Human Resources Christine Castaldi.

“We’re looking for people who want to start a great career at UPS,” she said. “Together, we’ll continue moving our world forward by delivering what matters.”

More than half of current UPS full-time drivers and managers began their careers with part-time package handling positions, according to the company.

“These jobs come with competitive pay and benefits, including healthcare — after a short waiting period, retirement contributions, tuition assistance and a discounted stock purchase program,” the UPS Statement said. 

Starting pay ranges from $14.50 to $16 per hour, depending on location, position and shift, representatives said. 

Positions are available at sorting centers in Sylmar, Los Angeles, La Mirada, Ontario and Riverside.

Those interested were urged to apply online at

Pasadena City College to Take Part in National Forum on Race and Healing

Pasadena City College will be among 78 colleges and universities across the U.S. participating in the The Association of American Colleges and Universities’ 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers, the organization announced Tuesday.

The Institute, to be held online from June 22 to June 25, will be hosted by 14 of the participating schools, the AAC&U said in a written statement. It will discuss, among other issues, setting up Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers at the various campuses.

“AAC&U is thrilled to partner with colleges and universities of all types and sizes across the country to advance the TRHT effort within higher education,” organization President Lynn Pasquerella said. “We look forward to the opportunity to learn with and from the participants in the 2021 Institute and to support their efforts to promote racial equity and healing on their campuses and in their communities.”

The symposium invites students to “pursue the shared goal of preparing the next generation of leaders and thinkers to break down racial hierarchies and to dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value,” according to the statement.

The curriculum centers around “developing and refining transformative action plans to advance the five components of the TRHT framework,” the statement said. The components are: narrative change, racial healing and relationship building, separation, law and economy.

More information on the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers can be found online at

Guest Opinion | Rick Cole: Library Closing is a Moment of Reckoning

For nearly one hundred years, Pasadena’s Central Library has been a vital community resource, full of residents, students and researchers utilizing its unique resources. It has served as an iconic public space, inside and out – a vibrant crossroads of people from all walks of life who gathered for study, lectures, events and meetings.

Now it is closed – indefinitely. After belatedly discovering the landmark structure fails modern seismic standards, the City has shuttered the building — and is scrambling to ascertain the cost of retrofitting and how to pay for it.

It’s a shock. This stunning loss that comes on top of a year of pandemic closures of all Pasadena’s public libraries. Our city is virtually unique in California – we are the beneficiaries of the vision of the founding generations. They insisted that no child be more than a mile from a branch library and financed a huge central library in the Civic Center. Pasadena residents were once nationally known as the “best read” in America, an oasis of dedication to the power of the written word.

This crisis is also a moment of reckoning. In a time of bewildering technological and social change, can we build back better – or will we spend tens of millions seeking to restore a nostalgic vision of libraries that looks to the past instead of the future?

When I was growing up, it would have been rare for a family to have never used the Central Library – as well as their neighborhood branch. But now?

We are raising a generation for whom a library is no longer a necessity. One of the telling ironies of the past year revealed many empty libraries across America still had full parking lots – because of their free wifi beyond the walls. Even before the pandemic, online visits to library websites exceeded in person visits. If you no longer need to enter a library to do your homework, seek a job, find public documents or even borrow a book – how do libraries avoid the fate of livery stables, video rental stores or typewriter repair shops?

Some argue there will always be a place for physical books. Maybe – although those people seem to be a graying demographic. I know – I’m one of them. My children are all readers, but they do not share my fervent enthusiasm for libraries, bookstores and bookshelves. It is hard to begrudge them their preferences. Their constant access to screens puts them in instant reach of far more information than all the books I had access to at the San Rafael Branch Library. As a child at home, I could use a partial encyclopedia set that mysteriously ended at TECH-. My college age offspring have Wikipedia in their pockets.

So before we decide to spend forty to eighty million dollars to “restore” the magnificent Pasadena Library, we ought to ask: for what end?

That decision belongs to the community. Traditionalists, whether they are lovers of libraries or historic architecture (or both) will insist that we have no choice – we can’t abandon this extraordinary resource. I would agree with them – but only with the informed support of the broader community, including those among our 140,000 people who’ve never set foot in the Central Library.

Much as some continue to take them for granted, libraries are not an end in themselves. They were created to fulfill a great public purpose. America once embraced a shining vision that every child, every worker, every immigrant, every family, would have free access to the wealth of human knowledge for their education, their social wellbeing, their economic advancement and their enjoyment.

Books just happened to be the main tool. The first library in America was organized by Ben Franklin, whose parents could only afford to send him to two years of formal schooling. Open to those who paid modest dues, Franklin’s association not only lent out books, it also hosted discussion groups and provided access to medical and scientific instruments to further self-education.

That vision of “a school open to all” for lifelong learning has enduring resonance. Learning takes myriad forms – and a 21st Century library should take advantage of them all. Today’s pop culture offers unlimited options for entertainment, but few for enlightenment. What if we reconceived our libraries not primarily as quiet places to access books, but vibrant places to experience learning in all its forms?

It’s not exactly a new idea. Forward-thinking library professionals have embraced innovative ways to engage their communities with non-traditional activities from gardening classes to “maker spaces” where inventors and hobbyists can experiment with 3D printers. But in the public imagination, these offerings are tangential to their image of libraries as lined with bookshelves. For young adults, libraries are places to take their kids for story time. They are not places that compete with sports venues, coffee bars or nightclubs as places to spend their evenings and weekends.

That’s a missed opportunity. Every day, the news reports on a mounting crisis of democracy, as polarized agendas, civic ignorance and gross economic inequities undermine the common good. The more we live in our individualized bubbles, the less we experience a shared sense of community. Libraries could rekindle that common purpose – reimagining how we utilize the space Myron Hunt designed for the books of Western Civilization to attract all ages and backgrounds in our increasingly diverse city.

Pasadena’s Central Library should be reborn – not as a tribute to the past, but as a doorway to the future. It can be so much more than a warehouse for books. It should be a destination for democratic learning and community life. Now is the time to convene educators, parents, civic leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, librarians and community residents to plan a revitalized space within those halls hallowed by history. Let’s create a library as bridge to the next century, not a memorial to the last one.

Rick Cole is a former Mayor of Pasadena.

L.A. County to Hold First Public Hearing on $36.2 Billion Recommended Budget

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set to hold its first public hearing Wednesday on a $36.2 billion recommended budget for fiscal year 2021-22 — a plan that emphasizes spending to expand safety-net services, support economic recovery and address racial and other inequities.

County Chief Executive Officer Fesia Davenport plans to update the board during a session that in other years has drawn hundreds of union members and advocates for a wide range of county programs and initiatives, all fighting to shape the budget and get their share.

This year, despite easing COVID-19 restrictions, the board is holding the public hearing virtually. Members of the public will have the opportunity to call in to make their voices heard.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the board was still considering how much time will be allotted for public comment, though a spokeswoman said the goal was to accommodate as many speakers as possible.

A presentation prepared by Davenport for Wednesday’s hearing points to the opportunity for “once-in-a-generation transformative change.”

Davenport lists the board’s priorities as advancing racial equity and justice system reform — including ramping up spending on alternatives to incarceration — as well as affordable housing, fighting homelessness and supporting those hardest hit by the pandemic.

In April, she told the board, “Clearly, this pandemic has exposed and increased huge inequities between the haves and the have-nots, and the county’s safety net was called upon as never before over the last 12 months. This recommended budget is committed to sustaining these efforts using an equity lens while also positioning us for a recovery that makes the county better than before.”

Of the overall budget, 33% is recommended to fund health programs, 26% for public assistance, 25% for public protection and 16% to cover other costs, including recreation and culture.

Major adjustments are expected before the budget is ultimately finalized in October. For example, the latest version of the budget does not yet include roughly $1.9 billion in federal funding expected to flow to the county from the most recent coronavirus relief package or any funding from the infrastructure plan currently being negotiated in Washington, D.C.

Roughly 40% of the county’s total budget comes from federal and state funding.

Davenport said she will present her office’s recommendations for allocating the latest approved round of federal relief in early June and then incorporate expectations for state funding on June 28.

Though “final” budget deliberations are scheduled for June, a host of additions and changes will be made through October 5, when a “supplemental budget” is finalized and adopted.

One budget item that many advocates are pushing to increase is the county’s commitment to Measure J, a requirement that at least 10% of locally generated, unrestricted funds be invested annually in community programs and alternatives to incarceration, with a three-year ramp-up period.

During the first unveiling of the budget recommendations, Davenport earmarked $100 million in spending on Measure J as a “down payment” on the county’s promise to address racial injustice.

“This represents the single largest allocation for a new program in this recommended budget,” the CEO said in April.

The budgeted number does not go far enough to satisfy some community advocates. Representatives of several organizations that backed Measure J issued an April statement “rejecting” the CEO’s proposal and arguing that the full allotment should be as high as $900 million.

Due diligence is continuing to establish the full set-aside, and Davenport said she will come back to the board with a recommendation sometime after the adoption of the June budget.

The Sheriff’s Department budget is another bone of contention. It is recommended to remain roughly flat to the prior year, at $3.4 billion, which has generated pushback from those who have called for shifting more dollars from law enforcement to community-based services and programs.

Supervisor Holly Mitchell asked the CEO in April to “continue to look for opportunities to cull out inefficiencies and waste in the Sheriff’s Department” to create a department “better designed to meet the actual needs of our residents.”

Sheriff Alex Villanueva has argued that the board is starving his department of funding and hurting communities of color in the process, pointing to higher crime rates and saying he is hard pressed to fund job training and education programs in county jails.

Addressing the growing problem of homelessness, exacerbated by the pandemic, remains a central concern for the board. Highlighted spending includes a total of $426.7 million in Measure H funding, which includes an additional $16.6 million to increase the stock of interim housing and motel vouchers as well as more supportive housing services.

In her presentation planned for Wednesday, the CEO fired a warning shot in connection with the lawsuit filed against the county and the city of Los Angeles by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights.

She said that the judge’s order, currently under appeal, for the county and city to offer housing to every homeless individual on downtown’s Skid Row by October could cost the county $448 million and result in nearly 2,000 layoffs.

This year’s budget builds off a “leaner baseline” of cuts implemented last year, including the elimination of more than 2,500 unfilled positions on the books, but recommends no layoffs in any department. A hard freeze on hiring non-essential personnel remains in place countywide.

Cuts to departments that rely on local funding total $369 million versus last year.

The CEO said in April that departments submitted $2 billion in requests that are not included in the recommendations, but the most critical of those requests — totaling more than $500 million — would be considered during future deliberations.

Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger have both expressed support for the idea of hero’s pay for some county employees.

“I hope that moving forward we can look at the hero’s pay and how this county can, in fact, thank our employees for the work that they’ve done,” Barger said.

Barger has also pushed for setting aside money for the county’s rainy day fund to prepare for future downturns and emergencies, saying the economic repercussions of the pandemic remain unknown.

“The demand for county services, such as food, housing, and health and mental health care, in conjunction with the increase in unemployment and homelessness, is staggering,” Barger said in a statement issued after the April vote on the budget.

In the CEO’s latest presentation, Davenport emphasized the board’s commitment to conservative budgeting principles and “living within our means.”

The focus on long-term stability was underscored by big unfunded costs that Davenport suggested needed to be addressed over the next five years, including upgrades to county facilities and legacy technology systems.

Another challenge includes an estimated $40.2 billion in unfunded pension and worker’s compensation liabilities.

In addition to public comment, it is expected that board members will highlight their own priorities for additional spending during Wednesday’s hearing.

L.A. County Considers Stepping In To Handle Sheriff’s Department Disclosures

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to look into whether the county’s own lawyers and inspector general could manage the release of records on deputy misconduct, shootings and use of excessive force — rather than continuing to rely on the Sheriff’s Department.

Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Hilda Solis recommended that attorneys draft a set of best practices for full compliance with Public Records Act requests and Senate Bill 1421, which calls for the release of law enforcement records once held confidential.

The co-authors recommended that an ordinance be drafted requiring the publication of such records online in a searchable format within 30 days and would also mandate publishing the names of deputies involved in shootings within 48 hours of the incident.

“There have been significant issues with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s compliance,” their motion stated. “According to a report by the Office of Inspector General, as of January 2020, over 70% of the PRA requests under SB 1421 were still pending over 180 days after they were received. As of July 2020, the OIG reports that LASD had over 2,700 overdue requests.”

The board unanimously approved the motion without discussion by the supervisors.

For its part, the LASD says it asked the board for funding to deal with the requests, to no avail, and has responded to 75% of 2,848 requests received since November 2019, citing numbers as of June 2020.

Detractors say that response rate includes any written correspondence, including confirmation of receipt, rather than a complete response. Multiple lawsuits have been filed alleging noncompliance, which could cost the county.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he agreed with the plan and would be happy to have some help — except that he doesn’t think the inspector general should be involved.

“We agree entirely, and actually we appreciate the fact that you’re volunteering to assist us with compliance with the new version of SB 1421,” the sheriff said. “Our only reservation is the fact that the inspector general cannot be part of the process, because once he is part of the process, well, then he can no longer be a monitor or … evaluate what he is doing because … you can’t evaluate yourself.”

Some advocates seized on that quote to underscore longstanding arguments that the Sheriff’s Department cannot effectively investigate itself.

Others accused the department of deliberately withholding information required to be made public and making excuses that don’t hold up.

“The LASD does have a lot of records to disclose. But they have a lot of records because they kill a lot of people,” said Melanie Ochoa, director of police practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, also a member of the Check the Sheriff coalition.

“Their deputies inflict a lot of serious bodily injury,” she said. “There are a lot of cases of LASD deputies caught lying or committing sexual assault. The fact that there are a lot of records is an argument for more transparency, not less.”

Others highlighted personal experiences.

The mother of Dana Malik Young — who was shot by sheriff’s deputies responding to a kidnapping call — told the supervisors that the department still hasn’t released the names of the deputies in response to a PRA request made last November.

“In the six months since my son’s death, what I have learned is that the sheriff is not accountable to the BOS, but it’s the other way around. It appears that you are … accountable to the sheriff,” said Khadijah Shabazz, who is a member of the Essie Justice Group, one of the organizations in the Check the Sheriff coalition. “Some of you may have good intentions, but the bottom line is that you have no power to make them comply with the law.”

The Sheriff’s Department alleges Young kidnapped a woman at gunpoint, forcing her into his silver SUV in the Vermont Vista area of South Los Angeles around 4 a.m. last Oct. 15, and making her take off her clothes.

At one point, Young allegedly fired on a friend of the victim who tailed the SUV before calling police, as well as shooting at another occupied vehicle. The woman ultimately escaped out the rear door of the SUV.

After crashing the vehicle and running toward deputies, Young was killed by a deputy who said he thought he saw him raise a firearm. The deputy fired eight rounds from less than 6 feet away, according to a summary provided on the LASD website.

What Young was holding was a black COVID-19 mask, although a loaded .38 caliber revolver was recovered from under the driver seat of the SUV, according to the summary.