Sheriff Lee Baca supports proposed civilian oversight panel


In the wake of a federal investigation into corruption and allegations of widespread inmate abuse, activists and politicians have been calling for the creation of a citizen's review board that would oversee the sheriff's department.

In the past, Baca didn't have much to say about the idea, but his position has changed.

"A citizen's commission is a way where the public can have voice, be heard, and then the department can respond," said Baca.

Currently, the Office of Independent Review, the ACLU and Special Counsel Merrick Bobb all provide oversight of the department in one form or another. Baca says the proposed civilian panel would be different.

"It will have a sense of formality, but it will also be somewhat informal, where people can come and speak their mind and be questioning whatever circumstances they have in terms of their complaints and that we would respond to them and we would get into some of the specifics," said Baca.

Critics of the sheriff say the proposed civilian panel won't make much of a difference if the sheriff doesn't adhere to the panel's recommendations.

"For over 15 years, close to two decades, many reports have been made to the sheriff's department by his attorneys, which he ignored," said civil rights attorney Sonia Mercado, who has sued the sheriff's department in the past. "Had he acted on those recommendations, the jail violence and discipline of deputies would have been abated and the department would be in much better shape than it is today."

"You can't just automatically say everything that comes in is going to get recommended for approval. And so we have to be sensible about what we do," said Baca.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will have the final say on whether the civilian oversight committee becomes a reality.

"I believe and I will continue to advocate for oversight of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department through a civilian body,' said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The board meets Tuesday morning, but Baca says he does not plan on attending.

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