The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion at Tuesday’s meeting that will see an ordinance be drafted that provides the Probation Oversight Commission with the authority to receive complaints related to school law enforcement services within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The proposed ordinance is set to be brought back to the board within 150 days.
The motion, authored by 2nd District Supervisor Holly Mitchell and co-authored by 1st District Supervisor Hilda Solis, seeks to “establish a process, independent from LASD, for receiving and referring complaints by members of the public, including students and/or families, as well as a process for receiving public comment and advising on systemic issues raised by LASD personnel and members of the community,” according to the agenda. The proposed ordinance should also have a Probation Oversight Commission member act as a liaison between the LASD and the communities that those school resource deputies serve.
“Every child has a right to quality education that’s provided in a safe school environment,” said 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley. “I have personally witnessed the good that having a deputy or officer on a school campus can provide, but I’ve also, especially in my district heard about the problems associated with those that are not being a valuable resource.”
The proposed ordinance would not allow for the Probation Oversight Commission to conduct investigations or discipline LASD personnel.
The supervisors read from a report from the Office of the Inspector General that shows that Black and Hispanic students had disproportionately higher contact with SRDs. The report also showed that SRDs were in contact with students as young as 5 to 7 years of age, something that multiple supervisors felt was unnecessary.
Mitchell went on to read more analysis from the report, including: students feeling unsafe about making complaints; students feeling intimidated or targeted for being themselves or for their appearance; and students reporting antagonization from SRDs to get a reaction and cause problems to escalate.
“These responses underscore the need for a process that is safe, responsive and independent of the department that complaints are made against,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell went on to say that this ordinance would not reduce or eliminate services provided by SRDs. The purpose, she said, is to simply assist school districts and the LASD with the complaint process.
“It’s very unlikely that a student will feel comfortable talking about the misconduct of a school resource deputy to another school resource deputy, or even a school administrator,” Solis said. “This proposed process wouldn’t preclude a student from going to a school resource deputy who they trust, but this can provide different pathways to convey concerns for those who need it.”
According to previous reporting in The Signal, representatives for multiple local school districts have expressed support for SRDs.
“Our youth don’t get to choose their county supervisor, but they will live with the long-term consequences of our decisions,” Mitchell said. “And when it comes to their education and safety, our decisions can make all the difference.”
Barger brought up concerns that community members in the Antelope Valley have presented to her. She said that some school districts have been using SRDs as disciplinarians, which Barger said is “not their role.”
“I have been an advocate for school resource officers when used appropriately,” Barger said. “More work needs to be done to make sure the roles and responsibilities of a deputy in a school are clearly defined, and then understood and then enforced and that there’s monitoring taking place.”
The proposed ordinance would have the Board of Supervisors hear reports from the Probation Oversight Commission every 180 days, according to the agenda.
Wendelyn Julian, the executive director of the commission, spoke during public comments and commended the board for allowing the commission to help move the county toward “justice reimagined.”
“We already have a small but mighty outreach team and we’ve worked hard to win the public’s trust,” Julian said. “We can’t promise solutions on individual complaints, but with relatively small investment, we can track and improve accountability, transparency and a safe place.”