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Report lauds work of Sheriff’s Dept. monitor

Times Staff Writer

The Office of Independent Review, which oversees investigations into alleged misconduct by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, does a good job of making sure internal investigations and discipline are fair and has increased public confidence in the department, according to a report by the county executive.

The Board of Supervisors ordered the review last month after agreeing to spend more than $3 million to fund the unit for the next three years. The office is staffed by civil rights attorneys who consult with internal affairs investigators and make recommendations about discipline and training.

Supervisors sought the review at the request of the union that represents sheriff’s deputies. Steve Remige, president of the Assn. for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs, had told supervisors that he thought the department was already well monitored and that the money it spends on the review team could be better used to hire additional deputies.

The county report, released this week, concluded that the oversight group provides a valuable service to the county, including reducing liability to potential civil lawsuits by recommending training for deputies and by ensuring that deputies who violate policy are appropriately disciplined.

“By having the OIR monitor the department’s actions, LASD personnel are more cognizant to follow departmental policy,” according to the report by county Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka.

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Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review, said he believed the report accurately reflected the role his office plays in the sheriff’s discipline and training process.

“I’m pleased to see that the CEO’s office has reported that we actually make a difference,” he said. “The most important thing we do in my view is actually keep investigations and departmental decisions on discipline honest, and when they’re not we have the ability to tell the public that they’re not.”

Among its duties, Gennaco’s office reviews lawsuits filed against the department and produces reports, available online at www.laoir.com, about the outcomes of investigations into alleged misconduct by deputies in the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.

“OIR’s involvement gives the public confidence knowing that the LASD investigation is being monitored. The OIR’s ability to be objective and impartial gives the review process more credibility,” Fujioka’s report says. “The idea that the department will cover up or hide essential facts from the case will have less significance when the OIR is involved to ensure the integrity of the investigation.”

Sheriff Lee Baca launched the Office of Independent Review in 2001. The report “is a complete vindication of my desire to have transparency and to strengthen public trust of the Sheriff’s Department,” Baca said Wednesday.

Remige said he was not swayed by the report. He said the department already was one of the most reviewed law enforcement agencies in the nation, with an internal affairs bureau, a criminal internal affairs bureau, a county ombudsman, district attorney’s office reviews of uses of force and semiannual reports by Merrick Bobb, an attorney who monitors the department for the Board of Supervisors.

“It’s another layer of oversight that personally I don’t think we need,” Remige said.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com


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