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Sheriff's oversight office awarded new three-year contract

The supervisors' vote comes over objections from deputies' union.

September 19, 2007|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies will continue to be among the most closely monitored peace officers in the country under a plan approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors voted to award a new three-year contract to the five civil-rights attorneys who staff the Office of Independent Review, which monitors disciplinary investigations and training of deputies in the nation's largest sheriff's department.

The board approved the contract despite objections from the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the union that represents the department's roughly 7,000 sworn rank-and-file deputies.

Steve Remige, the union's president, said the $1.2 million the county spends on the independent monitor could be better used hiring deputies to patrol the county's streets. He said the department could monitor itself effectively without an outside unit.

"We've never been convinced that another level of oversight adds any value whatsoever to the perception of accountability," Remige said.

He said deputies are already monitored internally and by Merrick Bobb, an attorney hired by the Board of Supervisors to produce semiannual reports about the performance of the Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Lee Baca launched the Office of Independent Review in 2001. The oversight has helped the department improve internal-affairs investigations and tighten policies, spokesman Steve Whitmore said. "OIR's effectiveness has been self-evident. Nationwide, it's become a role model," Whitmore said.

Among its duties, the Office of Independent Review oversees internal-affairs investigations and makes recommendations about discipline, policy and training. It publishes results of internal-affairs investigations on its website,

"We ensure that if there's an allegation of misconduct that there's an investigation, and sometimes we have to force the department to make a decision on accountability," said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the oversight panel. He said that opposition from the deputies' union was evidence that he and his attorneys were making sure that the department holds deputies accountable for misconduct.

"If we were lap dogs and not doing anything and wasting $1.2 million of the county's money, I'm not sure they'd be complaining about it," Gennaco said.

At Remige's request, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky asked county staff to consider a method to evaluate the effectiveness of the panel.


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