Crime & Justice

Sheriff’s oversight panel ponders what needs fixing

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Amid a national debate over policing, a new civilian oversight commission is asking what are the most pressing issues at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – the nation’s largest sheriff’s agency.

The creation of the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission in January prompted high hopes for reform at the department. But the nine-member panel so far has bounced around a wide range of issues, lacking focus, said chairman Robert Bonner.

"We want to make sure that we know what we’re talking about when we issue a report and we make recommendations," Bonner told KPCC.

Any recommendations should be "serious, thoughtful and sober," he said.

Without credible reports, the panel flirts with irrelevance because it has no formal authority over the elected sheriff – only the bully pulpit.

At its monthly meeting Thursday, the commission considered meeting more often. Commissioners also began discussing which issues are most important to address at the sheriff’s department.

Among them:

The commission came to no conclusions on these questions Thursday. It will resume its discussion at its July meeting.

"I don't think we've gone through the process of finding out what people want us to focus on," said Commission Hernan Vera. He suggested the panel wait on deciding priorities until it completes a series of town halls later this year.

The commission’s executive director, Brian Williams, suggested the group also look at collaborating with other agencies, such as the Sybil Brand Commission for Institutional Inspections, which explores how to improve conditions for incarcerated juveniles, men and women in L.A. County.