A work group charged with designing civilian oversight for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department met for the first time on Friday, outlining the issues they plan to tackle and naming Dean Hansell, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s appointee, as chair.
Hansell, partner at Hogan Lovells, LLP, and a former police commissioner, felt optimistic about the inaugural meeting.
“There was good energy in the room,” Hansell said. “I could see a loose consensus forming about what the commission should be doing.”
The Board of Supervisors voted to create an oversight commission on December 9, acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis. The work group will determine what form that commission takes. It includes representatives from all five supervisors, the Sheriff’s Department and the recently-created Office of Inspector General, which currently oversees the department.
At the meeting, work group members offered their initial thoughts on the future size of the commission, how it will interact with the inspector general and whether it can become a forum to resolve specific disputes. While details still need to be ironed out, a path forward is beginning to emerge.
“I think the likely direction we will go is serving as a bridge between the community and the Sheriff’s Department, looking at systemic issues and potentially looking at areas of controversy to see if we can play a role in helping to mediate those.” Hansell said.
One issue crucial to the commission’s success is the support of newly-elected Sheriff Jim McDonnell. During the meeting, McDonnell’s acting undersheriff, Neal Tyler, said that the department wants to improve public trust. Because of the department’s size and the complexity of its work, he said, “we need help.”
Public input will feature prominently in the work group’s efforts. It planned to hold future meetings in local communities to maximize attendance and participation. “We want to hear from the citizens on what they think the areas of greatest need are,” chairman Hansell said.
The next meeting is scheduled for January 30, at 9 a.m., in the county Hall of Administration in downtown L.A. The group plans to report back to the Board of Supervisors with its final recommendations in March.