News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.
Strengthening Oversight of School Law Enforcement Services
I was happy to see the Board pass a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Holly Mitchell giving the Board a more significant role in overseeing LASD’s School Resource Officers program.
The decision to enter into a contract with LASD is up to each local school board. The motion recognizes, however, that there are services and supports within the County’s control that could reduce the school boards’ perceived need to rely heavily on the presence of law enforcement on school grounds. To that end, the motion focuses on bringing a data-driven approach with a mental health lens to the services provided under these contracts, and on scrutinizing the contracts.
The Board’s concern is that “enforcement” is just that— enforcement. Enforcement does not promote health. Enforcement does not prioritize the well-being of students. And worse- reliance on its presence on school grounds can steer students away from the help they truly need and towards the school-to-prison pipeline.
Our young people need consistent and easy access to trusted peers and adults who believe in prevention and positive interventions that promote youth development. They need access to support systems that will not criminalize behavior that is part of “growing up.” This motion seeks to accomplish that while still allowing for local school district control.
Addressing Suicide Among First Responders
First Responders, Emergency Service Professionals, and Crime Scene Personnel play a critical role in public safety, but, because their jobs often come with a personal cost, we need to do our part to look out for them. People in these roles are at a heightened risk of stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide, due to the nature of their work, which at its best is unpredictable and, at its worst, exposes them to traumatic and stress-inducing scenarios.
In 2018, the Board asked for a report on how we might reduce suicide amongst the County’s first responders in the Sheriff’s Department, Probation, County Fire, and the Medical-Examiner/Coroner. A motion the Board passed this week, authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger, asks for an update on the policies and programs outlined in the report to gauge their effectiveness and see if there are further opportunities to protect and support our first responders.
SB98: Protecting the Press
A free and open press is absolutely critical to the survival of democracy, as is the right to assemble peacefully. We passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis instructing the County’s Legislative Advocates in Sacramento to oppose SB 98 (McGuire) unless the bill is amended to remove language that said the press could do their job only “with authorization from a commanding officer on scene”.
Law enforcement should never harass and intimidate the press for doing their job, as doing only represses information the public needs to hear. SB 98 was intended to support this concept, but, unfortunately, the amendment cited above effectively hampers the bill’s true intent, which is why the Board supports its removal.
SB 98 is important and timely legislation that ensures safe access for journalists to cover protests and demonstrations. We live in a restive moment when many Americans, concerned about longstanding injustices, are taking their concerns to the streets. We need an unfettered press to show us what is really happening.
Supporting Federal Immigration Reforms
The Biden administration has been doing its part to undo the damaging, xenophobic, and draconian immigration policies put in place by the previous administration, and this week, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis that seeks to support this return to a more humane immigration policy.
The motion delegates authority to County Counsel to participate on the side of the administration in litigation challenging Biden’s immigration policies, like the preservation of DACA and revocation of the Muslim Travel Ban, which some states are opposing. It also allows County Counsel to join advocates in challenging the legality of certain agreements the Trump Administration made with states to influence Department of Homeland Security policy.
The Sheriff’s department, like all departments, is expected to operate within its adopted budget. While there has been some progress in collaboration with the CEO, overspending and budget deficits persist. This week, the Board received a report on the financial status of the Sheriff Department’s budget.
The Sheriff has attributed his continuing large deficit to settlement costs. It’s not fully correct, but, the solution to this particular concern is not more funding, as we are already pouring millions into these settlements. The focus should be on proper training and effective prevention to reduce the necessity for such payments in the first place.
All County departments have experienced curtailments in FY 2021 as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19. I look forward to an ongoing discussion between the Sheriff’s Department and CEO that will, hopefully, result in more progress towards a balanced budget.