A commission created to examine deputy-on-inmate abuse at Los Angeles County jails met for the first time Friday afternoon, pledging to restore public trust in the troubled lockups.
The panel, commissioned by the Board of Supervisors, is still in its infancy. Its five appointed members now need to pick two others before they can begin their examination of lapses in jail policy and management.
The members are former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, activist Cecil “Chip” Murray, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell and retired federal judges DickranTevrizian and Lourdes Baird, who was picked to head the panel.
Among the list of potential candidates approved by the board and willing to join are former Times writer Tim Rutten and ex-Gov. George Deukmejian.
The county jails have come under intense scrutiny in recent months. The FBI is investigating reports of abuse and other misconduct by deputies, and the U.S. attorney's office has demanded a large volume of documents on custody employees since 2009.
Confidential sheriff’s documents reviewed by The Times have shown that department brass were raising alarms about excessive force almost two years ago.
The jails commission technically has no authority to mandate reforms or punish sheriff’s employees. Sheriff Lee Baca is an elected official, and beyond the board's setting his budget, how he runs his department is wholly under his authority. Baca has, however, acknowledged that he failed in keeping tabs on his jails and has expressed willingness to implement suggested reforms.
“I’m confident this won’t be another report on a shelf somewhere gathering dust,” Moreno said. “I think the sheriff will step up to the plate.”
McDonnell, the only law enforcement executive on the commission, said he’d bring a “sensitivity to the realities of policing in Los Angeles.”
McDonnell labeled himself a “user of the L.A. County jails” and said he’s well aware of the challenges deputies face inside the lockups, given the county’s gang problems.
Details have not been finalized, but the commission is expected to use a budget of about $150,000 over some six months to publish its report. It will have access to confidential sheriff’s records and will likely be staffed by a handful of full-time employees and a significant number of local pro bono attorneys.
-- Robert Faturechi
Photo: Inside Los Angeles County Jail. Credit: Los Angeles Times