SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra revealed Friday the CA Dept. of Justice is conducting a civil rights investigation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – the biggest sheriff’s department in the U.S. – to determine if the department “engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.”
“There are serious concerns and reports that accountability and adherence to legitimate policing practices have lapsed at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. We are undertaking this investigation to determine if LASD has violated the law or the rights of the people of Los Angeles County,” said Becerra.
He added that “Those of us in positions of public trust know that the job comes with the solemn obligation to be accountable to the people we serve. Because of the nature of the work involved in law enforcement, that duty of care is heightened.”
The LASD has been accused of serious misconduct, including excessive force and retaliation. The DOJ said its opening the probe because there has not been “sustained and comprehensive oversight” of LASD, including an accusation of mismanagement.
Becerra noted the state AG can “conduct civil investigations into whether a law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or federal law…a pattern or practice investigation typically works to identify and, as appropriate, ultimately address potentially systemic violations of the constitutional rights of the community at large by a law enforcement agency.”
The AG emphasized he has made “no determinations at this time about specific complaints or allegations or about the agency’s policies and practices.”
Becerra’s said he “encourages anyone with information relevant to this investigation to contact DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section at Police-Practices@doj.ca.gov. He added that DOJ attorneys and special agents are gathering information from the community, including individuals and organizations as well as individual officers in the LASD.
Late last year, a congressional subcommittee requested the U.S. DOJ investigate allegations of systemic abuses by “criminal gangs” of L.A. County deputies that use aggressive tactics and prize violence. LA County paid out roughly $55 million in lawsuits and legal claims in which deputies have been accused of belonging to a secret group.
AG Becerra said he is “committed to improving public safety and the criminal justice system by advocating for reforms and working with local authorities to implement new policies,” noting that last week he “obtained groundbreaking settlements to protect the rights of youth in Los Angeles County’s juvenile justice system.
The AG Friday also cited:
- Last month, following an extensive investigation, the Attorney General secured an agreement to reform a wide range of practicesat the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
- Last year, following significant misuse, he revoked access to CalGang recordscreated by the Los Angeles Police Department.
- Last year launched a review of the Vallejo Police Department.
- In 2019, he secured an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address system-wide violationsof the civil and constitutional rights of African American and Latino students, and students with disabilities.
- In 2018, as a result of the Trump Administration abandoning its role, the Attorney General stepped in at the request of the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department to provide independent oversightof the police department’s reform efforts.
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