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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Effecting Positive Change in Los Angeles County’s Jails | 10-09-2011
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Guest Commentary by Sheriff Leroy D. Baca
| Sunday, Oct 9, 2011

I believe in the principle of dignity for all, including those who are incarcerated. The deputies and staff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are entrusted and obligated to serve the constitutionally-bound civil rights of all, and to protect and enhance everyone’s human potential.

A number of allegations of misconduct including excessive force by Sheriff’s Department jail staff have been brought to my attention by way of a report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

I take these allegations very seriously.

While safety and security for staff and inmates are paramount, we have to treat the inmates as our community, and we want it to be the best community it can be. This can in part be gained through Education-Based Incarceration.

Stress, anxiety, depression and the threat of violence interfere with the educational process and personal growth. All of this has a significant effect on inmates as well as employees.

In order to address concerns about the jails and to ensure that we are doing the best we possibly can, I have implemented two separate task forces as outlined below. These task forces have already begun their purpose of providing leadership and investigative efforts devoted to the jails.

 

Commander Management Task Force for Custody Operations Division

The Commander Management Task Force for Custody Operations Division includes four hand-picked and highly respected commanders. These commanders have been selected from throughout the Sheriff’s Department due to their well-earned reputations as outstanding communicators and problem-solvers. Commander Eric Parra will partner with three newly promoted commanders: Joseph Fennell, Christy Guyovich and James Hellmold. These commanders will be assisted by six lieutenants who were also hand-picked from throughout the Sheriff’s Department.

The Commander Management Task Force will work under the supervision of the Sheriff’s Executive Offices with the specific assignment of Custody Operations Division. Their focus will include but not be limited to:

1. Effecting positive change within the Los Angeles County jail system. The mission is to help people realize their human potential by creating a custody setting that offers educational opportunities, health benefits, and spiritual growth.

2. Holding Community Town Hall meetings with jail inmates, including making themselves available to hear directly from inmates about their concerns and complaints.

3. Ensuring that all personnel interact with inmates in a manner consistent with the Core Values of the Sheriff’s Department. Disrespectful behavior on the part of deputies or any other jail personnel will not be tolerated.

4. Mentoring, teaching, and enhancing the communication, patience, and problem-solving skills of our jail personnel. This includes ensuring employees are at all times attentive to all aspects of their duties, beginning with security, and including the providing of basic needs, medical and mental health attention, and more.

5. The complete implementation of Education-Based Incarceration into all areas of the Los Angeles County jail system.

6. Conducting a comprehensive review of our current inmate complaint process to ensure that it meets the needs of inmates who wish to express concerns or complaints.

7. Ensuring that Sheriff’s Department supervisors seek feedback and listen to the knowledge gained by employees, encourage leadership and patience, and are commended, counseled, or disciplined when warranted.

8. Building on partnerships with employees, clergy, educators, volunteers, and independent oversight to further enhance services to inmates, as well as being open and transparent.

 

The Special Jail Investigations Task Force

In response to the 78 declarations alleging criminal or administrative misconduct, I have brought together a Special Jail Investigations Task Force consisting of 35 full-time investigators to thoroughly investigate each of these allegations. While some allegations were previously investigated, each will be thoroughly re-investigated by this task force. The progress of each investigation is available to the Office of Independent Review.

 

Personnel Performance Monitoring System

I have also ordered a complete review of our current Department-wide employee personnel performance monitoring system. This database helps us monitor our personnel for early warning signs of employees whose performance may need to be addressed today, to avoid problems in the future. Improvements will be made.

 

Our Core Values

As a leader in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,

I commit myself to honorably perform my duties

with respect for the dignity of all people,

integrity to do right and fight wrongs,

wisdom to apply common sense and fairness in all I do,

and courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism,

homophobia and bigotry in all its forms.

 

Until all deputies and jail personnel feel a sense of professional accomplishment while providing sensible and constitutional services to inmates, our success as a Department is not accomplished.

I believe that by ensuring a more productive and beneficial environment with improved coping skills in the jails, negative results will decrease and a more positive view of life will increase.

 

Leroy D. Baca is Sheriff of Los Angeles County.

 

Education-Based Incarceration book: http://file.lacounty.gov/lasd/cms1_145553.pdf
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