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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Los Angeles County, CA June 3, 2014 Election
Smart Voter

Jim McDonnell
Answers Questions

Candidate for
Sheriff; County of Los Angeles


The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and asked of all candidates for this office.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

Questions & Answers

1. What can the Sheriff do to deal more effectively with mentally ill prisoners incarcerated in County jail?

Our justice system must focus on alternatives to incarceration and treatment options for mentally ill and homeless individuals. Partnerships with community organizations specializing in mental health treatment would better serve this segment of society, reduce recidivism and reserve costly jail space for truly dangerous offenders.

During my thirty three year law enforcement career as both a leader in the Los Angeles Police Department and now as Chief of the Long Beach Police Department, I have seen the problems and inefficiencies that result when we use the jails to incarcerate our community's mentally ill and homeless population. Instead, leaders in the justice system must work together to increase our investment in specialized treatment programs, develop enhanced community safety nets dedicated to prevention and rehabilitation, and promote alternative living options. We must also prepare our officers for the varied situations they will encounter with citizens struggling with mental illness by increasing training focused on de-escalating crises and promoting nonviolent methods of response so that a mental health concern does not evolve into an avoidable use of force. These sensible policies would improve public safety while also conserving costly jail space for truly dangerous offenders.

While many inmates with mental health challenges may have committed crimes in the past, managing their mental health treatment would not only reduce their likelihood of reoffending but also save tremendous judicial and custodial resources in the process.

2. What can be done to reduce recidivism, and specifically how would you work with outside organizations to achieve rehabilitation goals set but not yet carried out?

My experience as a leader in the law enforcement community on a local, state, and national level has given me unique insight into the demands facing L.A.'s next Sheriff in today's complex environment. I have partnered with numerous law enforcement and community-based organizations that have explored new and more effective approaches to justice system diversion, risk assessment, sentencing, pretrial detention and reentry that would allow the jails to be used more cost effectively and only for those who truly need to be separated from the community.

A critical component of effective policing strategies lies not just in ensuring that best practices are used in responding to crime, but also in focusing on violence prevention and intervention strategies. With over thirty years of experience working in the community to make our neighborhoods safer, I am a firm believer that early and proactive youth intervention programs not only prevent crime, but help struggling families and strengthen the community at large. It is this thinking that has guided my endeavors in the communities I have worked with as well as in high-level state and national bodies developing new justice system approaches.

As Sheriff, I would also redouble efforts to address recidivism by bolstering the education and reintegration programs in the county jail system. Too many inmates leave our jail facilities and reenter our community without basic literacy skills and, as a result, with a diminished ability to be productive members of our community. We have an opportunity to work with community organizations to educate inmates and thereby give them a second chance as well as renewed hope for their future. These "smart justice" approaches need to be as much a part of the fabric of law enforcement thinking and engagement as more traditional responses to crime fighting.

3. What steps do you feel should be taken to correct the problems of brutality that have been identified with the County jails?

It was my privilege to serve as a member of the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence (the "CCJV"). After an extensive investigation, our Commission issued a detailed report that brought to light many of the abuses that have occurred in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and our county's jails. As our Commission found, the LASD has had a pervasive problem of excessive use of force in the jails that has existed for far too many years and has jeopardized the very foundation of the department's culture. These documented and deeply troubling concerns + in custody as well as in other parts of the department + did not occur in a vacuum. They were, fundamentally, the result of a failure of leadership.

As a Commission, we issued 63 specific recommendations to restore professionalism and establish accountability, transparency and a safer environment for all + including those who work in the jails. I am committed to implementing all of the Commission's recommendations.

Due to a lack of leadership and disturbing conduct by high level managers that undermined attempts to promote accountability or impose consequences for excessive force, some within the LASD have followed the poor example of a few and acted outside the bounds of policy, the law and common sense. There are clear examples of misconduct, including corruption, inappropriate use of force, and participation in unprovoked violence both on- and off-duty. These acts by a few have resulted in criminal indictments, civil rights investigations, millions of dollars in litigation costs and judgments, and strained relations with our community. This misbehavior was exacerbated by lax, untimely and inconsistent enforcement of discipline.

As Sheriff, I would make clear that these past practices can no longer continue and will no longer be tolerated. I would put in place enhanced discipline procedures whereby there is (a) zero tolerance for false statements, dishonesty or a code of silence, (b) prompt and thorough investigations of force incidents (including more staff resources for the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) and Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau (ICIB)), (c) the assignment of strong leaders and personnel to those bureaus, to thoroughly handle investigations, clear any existing backlogs and speed up the investigatory process, and (d) appropriate and consistent penalties for excessive use of force. I would also work toward the creation of a separate Custody track whereby individuals suited for work in the jails are hired and trained for that assignment, valued in the work they perform, and have opportunities for advancement.

The public must have confidence that individuals entrusted with the public's protection are operating within legal and constitutional bounds, ferreting out and addressing misconduct, and enforcing discipline in a consistent and timely manner. It is only through these approaches that troubling past practices of the LASD will be remedied and reforms implemented in a lasting and meaningful manner.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' answers are presented as submitted.

Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: April 3, 2014 10:49
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