The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion Tuesday to establish the Family Assistance Program to support families following an in-custody death or fatal use of force.
This motion is based upon work done by the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission.
“We were all moved by the stories and testimonies of members of our communities who have lost loved ones,” said Brian K. Williams, executive director of the Civilian Oversight Commission. “The creation of the Family Assistance Program illustrates how when we listen to one another, dialogue and collectively work together, good things can happen. This is a great example of the work that the Commission is capable of.”
According to the motion, the Family Assistance Program is “aimed at improving compassionate communication with and providing trauma-informed support to families who lose a loved one through a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s deputy’s fatal use of force or in-custody death.”
“These families who lose a loved one through an encounter with the Sheriff’s department or die in custody under the jurisdiction of the County go through traumatic grief,” said Patti Giggans, L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission chair and executive director of Peace Over Violence.
“Our Commission spent a lot of time listening to the families and working with community advocacy groups, and we were able to identify gaps in communication and support services,” Giggans said. “We look forward to the development of the multi-disciplinary Family Assistance Program, an approach that will provide grieving families with timely information and a warm handoff to services.”
In the last three years, more than 100 people have died during incidents involving a fatal use of force by deputies in the field or while in the custody of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
“The need for the Family Assistance Program cannot be overstated,” said J.P. Harris, Civilian Oversight commissioner. “Collaboration with other county departments and community organizations will ultimately result in enhanced relationships between the Sheriff’s Department and communities they serve.”
The Family Assistance Program calls for collaboration among several county departments, identifying roles for Mental Health, Public Health, Medical Examiner-Coroner, Registrar-Recorder, Inspector General, Civilian Oversight Commission and the Chief Executive Office. Participation from the Sheriff and District Attorney is also requested.
On Sept. 27, 2018, the Civilian Oversight Commission unanimously voted to approve the Family Assistance recommendations. The Family Assistance and Communications ad hoc committee was created to review interactions between the Sheriff’s Department and family members following fatal use of force and in-custody deaths.
Collaboration with community groups such as the Youth Justice Coalition and other county departments was essential in identifying systemic issues and discovering solutions to bridge the gap.
The committee consisted of Chair Patti Giggans, Commissioner James P. Harris, Commissioner Priscilla Ocen, and former Chair Heather Miller.
On October 9, 2018, a separate motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl instructed the Chief Executive Office to review the recommendations and report back. The June 19, 2019 report-back outlines an implementation plan for the program.
To learn about the directives and requests for the program, view the “Supporting families following an in-custody death or fatal use of force” motion authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl and approved by the Board of Supervisors on July 9, 2019.