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Leaders from several community and civil rights organizations called for better civilian oversight of law enforcement agencies, namely the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Pasadena Police Department.
Speaking at a forum sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union at the Neighborhood Community Church in Pasadena on Tuesday night, Miriam Krinsky, executive director, Los Angeles County Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, quoted a reverend when asking the question in regards to police oversight: “Who’s going to protect us from our protectorsA!X”
Krinsky said civilian oversight is especially needed of the sheriff’s department in regards to its recent problems in handling the county jail system.
“We really can’t presume we don’t need some mechanism to serve as a watch dog of those who are our protectors,” she said.
Krinsky added as word of alleged sheriff’s violations got out, county officials then decided something needed to be done about it.
“It wouldn’t surprise you the (Los Angeles County) Board of Supervisors felt the dire need to do something,” she said. “What they did was create a separate committee to investigate the nature and depth and cause of the use of force in the jails and take corrective action, as necessary.”
Dick Price, president of the Pasadena-Foothills chapter of the ACLU, said the current race for the sheriff has been mirroring what was being discussed at the forum.
“Most of the (sheriff’s) candidates seem to be cozying up to the idea that there needs to be more oversight of the sheriff’s department,” Price said. “And the Pasadena Police Department has had lots of problems with officer-involved shootings, questionable shootings, and with any police department they’re resistant to having any civilian oversight. But I think there’s momentum gathering for change.”
He added this June’s election might determine what happens in the county for several years.
“People think the sheriff’s department is out of hand, in particular, with their handling of the jail,” he said. “But people see this as a real opportunity. For the first time in more than 20 years we’re having a sheriff’s race without an incumbent !K I think people see this is their chance because whoever gets in it is likely they’ll unfortunately be there 16 years.”
Sharon Kyle, a member of the ACLU, agreed.
“In light of Sheriff Lee Baca’s resignation and some of the things that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has allegedly done this is a perfect time,” she said.
Kyle added these problems are most likely not unique to Los Angeles County or Pasadena, for that matter.
“I think that most urban populations throughout the country are experiencing some problems with police departments,” she said. “We all know there is a need to have police departments. We need them to protect and serve us. Occasionally, things do get out of hand.”
And according to Pasadena City Council Member Steve Madison, there were approximately, 6,600 arrests in the city in 2013 with 35 documented uses of force and two officer-involved shootings.
(Shel Segal can be reached at email@example.com. He can be followed via Twitter @segallanded.)
-Story by Shel Segal