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December 19
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The Civilian Oversight Commission for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has unanimously voted to approve recommendations of the Family Assistance and Communication Ad Hoc Committee to improve communication with families following the death of a loved one as a result of a fatal use of force or while in custody of the LASD.

The committee reviewed interactions between the Sheriff’s Department and family members before making its recommendations.

“I commend the Civilian Oversight Commission for proposing supportive, common sense, trauma-informed solutions after hearing directly from grieving family members who have experienced loss after encounters with law enforcement,” said County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has authored a motion on the subject. “The Board (of Supervisors) will be giving this issue its full attention on Oct. 9 and I look forward to fully realizing these recommendations.”

After identifying systemic issues that have prevented timely, trauma-informed and clear communication with families and the community following a Sheriff’s Department-related death, the Commission is making the following recommendations:

* Establish an entity consisting of a multi-disciplinary team capable of providing ongoing support, resources and transparent communication to families of the deceased.
* Hold continuous trauma-informed training for all Sheriff’s Department personnel who encounter family members.
* Maintain fairness and withhold judgement when the Sheriff’s Department provides information to the media, including the characterization of the subject of the investigation.
* Advocate for changes in current state laws regarding access to victim resources.
* Establish a program to assist families who experience a Sheriff’s Department-related death of a loved one with funeral costs and other expenses, including trauma and grief counseling.
* Develop a pamphlet for family members of deputy-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.
* Create a website and/or social media page that explains Sheriff’s Department procedures and protocol related to in-custody deaths and fatal deputy-related uses of force.

“Hearing family members’ heartbreaking experiences illustrated that they are grieving victims, and they should be treated as such,” said Patti Giggans, L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission Chair.

“After numerous meetings with families who lost loved ones, community organizations and county departments, we were able to identify gaps in service and develop recommendations for improvement,” Giggans said. “This process is a model example of the effective work the Commission can do through deep listening, research and inquiry.”

Prior to developing the recommendations, the Committee conducted several meetings with staff from the Sheriff’s Department and the Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office who advised on the current response in law enforcement-related fatalities.

The Committee also met with personnel from local agencies to learn about existing family outreach programs following a death or serious injury; these included the L.A. County District Attorney’s Bureau of Victim Services, L.A. County Department of Health Services, L.A. Police Department’s Family Liaison Section and the L.A. Mayor’s Crisis Response Team.

“This is a great example of how the community, the Sheriff’s Department and the Commission can work together to address important issues,” said J.P. Harris, L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commissioner. “Everyone was working toward the same mission – to make the system better and more humane.”

After this unanimous vote, the Commission will submit these recommendations to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Department for consideration.

View the full report and recommendations here.

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