Allegations that sheriff’s deputies harass families who openly protest deputy killings of their loved ones will be addressed in a report set to be released today by a coalition of civil rights groups.
Findings in the report by the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, the Centro Community Service Organization and the Check the Sheriff Coalition will be addressed during a news conference and rally planned outside of the downtown Hall of Justice.
Scheduled speakers include Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, and several family members of people killed in shootings by deputies, including Anthony Vargas, Paul Rea, Ryan Twyman and John Horton.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell are also expected to introduce a motion asking the county’s inspector general to update a 2020 investigation of harassment by the Sheriff’s Department and report back in 60 days with alternative ways to handle complaints of harassment, intimidation and other misconduct.
“Unfortunately, for many families in Los Angeles County, the healing that could occur after the tragic killing of their loved one is often hampered and delayed by the continued harassment and retaliation by the (Los Angeles County) Sheriff’s Department,” the motion states in part.
“Families deserve the right to grieve and mourn without fear of retribution.”
The motion calls out deputies for parking in front of families’ homes, damaging items left at memorial sites, taunting family members with rude remarks and gestures and recording their movements. Solis and Mitchell say more serious forms of harassment have included stopping and arresting family members.
In a letter to Inspector General Max Huntsman in response to his office’s November 2020 report, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department takes the matter very seriously and promised that any violations would result in “swift and certain” discipline.
Villanueva said the report failed to produce any actual evidence of such misconduct. The sheriff’s department itself produced 400 pages of investigative material in response to an earlier request by the Civilian Oversight Commission and the inspector general added nothing new to that analysis, according to Villanueva.
Villanueva also said Solis’ office called to ask the Sheriff’s Department to address resident’s complaints about one of the memorial sites and that deputies received complaints from those in the neighborhood around the memorial to Rea about being harassed by visitors to the site.
Nonetheless, Villanueva said he would consider the recommendations, which included adopting a policy governing memorial sites, thoroughly investigating complaints and making certain they are classified appropriately.
Because many families are believed to be too fearful to report harassment, the motion proposes that the inspector general expand the range of its last investigation, which focused only on filed complaints.