The meeting was part of the DOJ’s ongoing investigation into alleged discriminatory policing by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lancaster and Palmdale stations as well as the separate, ongoing investigation into alleged harassment and mistreatment of Section 8 recipients in the Antelope Valley.
“We actually had two separate divisions of the Department of Justice fly out here, jointly, to meet with community leaders,” said Merit Commission head, Darren Parker, who convened the meeting. “It was a very successful meeting with over 25 community leaders.”
Parker said leaders from the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), The Community Action League, the Merit Commission, and the Human Relations Commission were present at the meeting.
“The meeting with the Department of Justice was extremely productive,” said NAACP President Juan Blanco. “They indicated that they were here to look into what could be considered improper procedures within the Sheriff’s Department.”
Parker said the meeting opened with introductions from the Department of Justice as well as from community leaders.
“This was an opportunity to put the faces and the names of the attorneys for the Department of Justice together with the faces and the names of the community leaders that had been sharing input over the last year,” he said.
The DOJ then took questions from each organization, regarding how both investigations would proceed, he said.
“The department was very clear that they are in the initial phases of the investigation, it being only a month and a half old,” Parker said. “It was noted by the Justice Department that this case got their attention because of the good work of the community, so that in itself is an achievement.”
Parker said the DOJ will now focus on getting direct input from individuals in the community who feel like they have been victimized by local law enforcement, as opposed to before when leaders forwarded complaints to the Justice Department.
“They want to hear from community members other than just the leadership,” said Blanco. “So they are requesting that individuals be put directly in contact with the DOJ so they can get first-hand information.”
Lancaster and Palmdale residents who feel like they have been mistreated by local law enforcement can contact the Department of Justice, directly, at 202-305-3192 to report these incidents. Residents seeking to report incidents of harassment and abuse in Section 8 are asked to contact the DOJ, directly, at 202-305-3826.
Additionally, Parker said the Merit Commission will host a town hall meeting within the month of October to gather testimony from residents, which will be forwarded to the Justice Department. The DOJ will directly follow up with these residents.
He says additional attorneys and investigators from the Department of Justice will visit the Antelope Valley, again, towards the end of October to continue their investigations.
“They are committed, not only for the short term, but for the long term,” Parker said. “They are going to do an intensive and fair investigation.”
In the meantime, Parker said the Merit Commission remains committed to working with local law enforcement.
“It has always been the purpose of the Merit Commission to collectively work together with law enforcement and others to make sure that we have the best quality of life for all residents in the Antelope Valley,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Justice was in the Antelope Valley on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week conducting its ongoing investigation. Tuesday’s meeting was one of several meetings that took place during the DOJ’s visit, Parker said.