Civilian Oversight Panel Issues Subpoena to Sheriff Villanueva After He Repeatedly Fails to Attend Oversight Meetings
Los Angeles, CA – The Civilian Oversight Commission for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department hosted a virtual Commission meeting today. During the meeting the Commission unanimously voted to approve the issuance of a subpoena, ordering Sheriff Villanueva to attend the next meeting of the oversight body.
After failing to attend or send personnel for the third consecutive meeting, the Civilian Oversight Commission utilized its newly granted subpoena power for the first time, by ordering the Inspector General to issue a subpoena to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his representatives to attend the May 21, 2020 meeting of the Commission. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors granted the Civilian Oversight Commission the authority to subpoena Sheriff personnel and documents in the furtherance of the Commission’s work. Also, in March of this year, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, which also granted subpoena power to the Oversight Commission.
“After repeated requests for the Sheriff to attend our Commission meetings, no one from the department has shown up,” said Commission Chair Patti Giggans, Executive Director of Peace over Violence. “The meetings now conducted virtually twice a month due to the critical COVID-19 crisis are very well attended by the public. We are in a pandemic which calls for more oversight, more collaboration, more input into policy, not less. The role of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission is a public mandate and one that every commissioner takes seriously.”
Giggans continued, “Today, the Commission received more than 400 emailed public comments from community members, so there is high public interest in what we are doing. Unfortunately, we have to resort to subpoena to compel the Sheriff to be present to answer questions and for us to engage in our oversight function. The Los Angeles community expects the Commission to fulfill our mandate and to do our job.”
According to Brian K. Williams, Executive Director of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, on May5 2020, a letter was transmitted to Sheriff Villanueva specifically requesting his attendance at today’s Commission meeting to address issues involving the proposed station closings. On May 6, 2020, Williams was informed that the Sheriff would not attend. “This is the third meeting in a row where the Sheriff’s Department has not been represented, this is unfair to the Commission, the community and the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department whose voice we also need to hear.”
The issue of the Sheriff’s attendance at today’s meeting came to a head during a discussion of the Sheriff’s Department’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis within the County jail system. Out of the current 11,837 inmates within the County jail system, 170 have tested positive for the virus and 3,785 are currently under quarantine. Questions were raised about the current conditions and care of the inmates within the system.