LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations released a report Monday recommending changes to policing in the region, calling for an end to qualified immunity, reallocation of funding to community initiatives and assigning use-of-force investigations to special prosecutors outside the D.A.’s office.
“Redefining Policing with Our Community” offered 34 recommendations that seek to “build a new normal that prioritizes human dignity and repairs the damage done by discriminatory policies and practices,” according to the commission. [View the report here.]
Launched as a part of a 2015 project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, the report takes into account feedback from seven public hearings and multiple other meetings with residents and advocates, including women of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community and more than 50 community-based organizations.
The Human Relations Commission also convened meetings with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and other police departments in cities throughout the county.
“To assess policing in L.A. County 50 years after the Watts Rebellion was an ambitious undertaking,” said Commissioner Isabelle Gunning, chair of the commission’s Committee on Policing and Human Relations. “Through this report, our hope is to bring about systemic and cultural changes in policing that will honor George Floyd and the many others whose lives have been lost or damaged.”
The nine key strategies underlying the recommendations include increasing transparency and accountability, revising use-of-force policies, ending overpolicing and underprotection of vulnerable communities and enhancing community-based alternatives to law enforcement.
Some of the recommendations include:
— changing federal and state laws and local policies to end qualified immunity and provide public access to information about police officers involved in complaint and misconduct investigations, including their prior history;
— significantly increasing funding, including at the expense of law enforcement budgets, for community-based initiatives such as sobering centers, youth development programs and community response teams;
— assigning use-of-force investigations to independent special prosecutors housed outside of law enforcement agencies and the district attorney’s office; and
— requiring deeper analysis and more frequent dissemination of data collected through the Racial and Identity Profiling Act to eliminate anti-Black racism, bias and discrimination.
Members of the Board of Supervisors indicated their support for many of the recommendations in the report.
“It is unconscionable that our communities of color are treated differently on account of race and ethnicity, and this plays out every day in their interactions with our criminal justice system. We need to push for true police accountability and denounce police brutality and harassment,” Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said.
“Our Black and Brown families should not live in fear of being racially profiled when they go out for a walk or a jog in our neighborhoods. We must take bold action to redefine public safety and ensure that the criminal justice system works for all of us, regardless of race.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the findings presented a chance for meaningful change.
“Recent events have provoked a conversation about how we expand alternatives to law enforcement and how we continue along the continuum of reimagining public safety,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Many of the recommendations laid out in this report are yet another opportunity for the county to invest in change that is systematic, lasting, and that gets to the root of the issue rather than skimming the surface.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the recommendations mirror some of those presented to the board in an earlier report and urged action.
“This report is one more call to action at a critical moment in the county’s rethinking of our justice system,” Kuehl said. “Many of the recommendations echo guidance offered to the supervisors in the Alternatives to Incarceration ‘Care First, Jail Last’ report last March. What we need to do to improve community health and safety is clear. Now it’s time to move forward quickly to implement these reforms.”
Civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who served on President Barack Obama’s taskforce on 21st Century Policing said change is desperately needed.
“This report provides an important perspective emerging from the commission’s extensive engagement with community and law enforcement,” Rice said. “It calls for changes that can move us forward on the urgent transformation in the culture and mission of policing that we so desperately need.”
The full report, along with hearing transcripts and other supplemental materials can be found at https://hrc.lacounty.gov/.