The question of whether to appoint a civilian oversight commission for the troubled
In a letter Tuesday to the county Board of Supervisors, which was co-signed by Inspector General Max Huntsman, Scott expressed some skepticism about civilian oversight, cautioning that there must be "safeguards against overzealous review."
In deferring the question, Scott and Huntsman cited ongoing negotiations about how much access the inspector general would have to investigate the department's inner workings.
Huntsman has hired six people and is hoping for a staff of about two dozen. He said he was still waiting for a county ordinance that would define the office's duties and its budget.
The board may still disregard the recommendation and move forward with creating a commission.
"The Sheriff's Department cannot police itself. That truth is not going to change with the passage of more weeks or more months; it is not going to change even with the advent of a new Sheriff," Ridley-Thomas said. "That's because the problems of the agency are not of the making of one person or even a handful of rogue deputies, rather they are systemic."
Huntsman's appointment by the board last November represented a major shift in oversight of the Sheriff's Department. Previously, an Office of Independent Review monitored internal discipline, and a special counsel employed by the Board of Supervisors issued regular reports.
A civilian oversight commission would work with the Office of the Inspector General to police the department, which has seen federal criminal charges against 21 employees. Last month, a Department of Justice report described a dramatic increase in jail suicides.
"How to set something up that will be effective at, day to day, convincing the police department to behave in a way you consider most effective? It's a very complex question," said Huntsman, a former supervisor in the district attorney's public corruption division.
Buddy Goldman, chief of the Sheriff's Department's South Patrol Division, helped shape the recommendation. He said that designing a citizens' commission without first establishing the inspector general would be a recipe for disaster.
"Whenever you rush into these kinds of things, they universally fail," Goldman said. "You don't build two processes, where you're trying to build the same thing at the same time, leading to neither process getting the time and facilities to get off to a good start."
Patrisse Cullors, founder of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails and a strong advocate for citizen oversight, said she feared a delay could stretch for years, leaving a commission that would be "like the stepchild of oversight."