Crime & Justice

LA Sheriff's oversight panel asks for shooting, discipline data

Shortly after his swearing in, new L.A. Sheriff Jim McDonnell promised more transparency at the department.
Shortly after his swearing in, new L.A. Sheriff Jim McDonnell promised more transparency at the department.
Erika Aguilar/ KPCC

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The civilian panel overseeing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department voted unanimously Thursday to urge Sheriff Jim McDonnell to release more shooting, use of force and discipline data.

The nine-member Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission approved a motion asking the department to place a wide swath of information on its website:

Commissioner Hernan Vera said the vote broke new ground for the oversight panel, which was created in January.

"It’s the first time that we are making a demand of the sheriff’s department and one that the community obviously really supports," he said.

The commission does not have the power to compel the sheriff to release the information. It asked the department to report back in 60 days on how it will proceed.

Two years ago, McDonnell, under growing pressure to make the troubled department more transparent, promised to place more data on the department’s public website. But the effort immediately was plagued by problems, including: privacy concerns expressed by the deputies' union; inconsistent data collection across the department; aging technology and a dearth of civilian employees devoted to entry and analysis, said department spokeswoman Carol Lin.

The department could not yet provide estimates for how many more employees it would need, she said.

The civilian commission is motivated in part by a 2014 report by L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman, who said the sheriff’s department lags behind other law enforcement agencies when it comes to releasing information to the public.

"A majority or large number of large urban police forces provide much more detailed information on their website," Huntsman told KPCC.

Obtaining data on the department’s use of non-lethal force – batons, fists or dogs – can be extremely useful, he said.

"Non-lethal force is an important indicator of how good your department is at de-escalating," said Huntsman.

Community groups also urged the commission to pressure the sheriff to release more information.

"If we have good data, we can make good decisions," said Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition.

“If we have no data or bad data, then we’re really legislating and policing by emotion," she added. "And emotion, unfortunately, is often driven by race, class, gender and age.”