The County of Los Angeles voluntarily engaged PARC and its staff to monitor the fourth-largest law enforcement agency in the United States, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, for more than 21 years. It has been hailed as "the most successful citizen oversight agency in the United States."
In December 1991, Los Angeles County named a blue-ribbon commission to investigate and review the operations of its Sheriff's Department ("LASD"). That report found troubling evidence of excessive force and lax discipline.
In January 1993, the County appointed Merrick Bobb, PARC's Executive Director, to serve as Special Counsel to monitor the status of the Department's implementation of the commission's recommendations.
For the next 21 years, PARC and its staff were engaged to monitor all aspects of the Sherriff's Department. It produced some 34 semiannual reports and a special report.
Scope of Work
The primary charge of Special Counsel, and eventually PARC's work, was to ensure the implementation of reforms relating to use of force, officer-invovled shootings, and supervision.
Over time, PARC was called upon to assess many additional aspects of LASD's operations, performance, and accountability mechanisms, such as:
- Anti-gang strategies;
- Recruitment and hiring;
- Litigation and risk management;
- Officer training;
- The investigation and treatment of citizen and inmate complaints;
- Canine deployment; and
- Medical care in jails.
Best Practices. In drafting new policies, establishing new procedures, or designing new training, Special Counsel and PARC evaluated LASD's policies in light of best practice–as established by assessments of law enforcement agencies nationwide, model policies from national organizations, legal and academic research, and consultation by experienced professionals and law enforcement experts. In the span of the 21 years of monitoring, PARC pressed LASD to learn from fresh insights and new approaches adopted elsewhere.
Transparent Internal Review & Discipline. Internal investigations of critical incidents must be rigorous, fair, objective, and timely. Reviews and assessments of those investigations must be critical, comprehensive, transparent, and willing to consider tough issues and questions–even if the officer ultimately is found to do everything consistent with Department policy and the law.
Data-Driven Performance Management. LASD was one of the very first police departments to build a sophisticated business intelligence system, which it called the Personnel Performance Index ("PPI"). PARC continually assessed how well PPI was functioning and made recommendations for improving the system so that supervisors could base decisions on objective facts and data.
Ongoing Oversight & Collaboration. PARC established a steady presence at LASD, which allowed for an ongoing relationship based on trust, respect, and collaboration. PARC partnered particularly closely with the Department's dedicated Risk Management Bureau, which tracks and coordinates litigation against the Department.
Reduced Risk Exposure. The number of new lawsuits against LASD overall and the number that required payout (in settlements or verdicts) went down in the period during which LASD followed PARC's recommendations.
Reduction of Inmate-on-Inmate Violence. When four inmates died during a short timeframe, the County turned to PARC to conduct a confidential investigation and make recommendations for preventing future deaths. The adoption of those recommendations brought down inmate-on-inmate violence due to lax supervision of inmate movement.
Culture Change. At the start of the project, LASD suffered from vigilante posses of deputy "gangs" doing as they pleased and intentionally circumventing the Department's formal chain of command. Force was not regularly reported and rarely thoroughly investigated. Special Counsel and PARC helped to create a culture in which the investigation and review of force incidents are taken seriously. Likewise, the experiences of female, black, Latino, and LGBT officers were found to have improved.
Effective Identification of Problematic Performance Trends. PARC showed that the information tracked by the Department's computerized performance database captured the types of data that were associated with problematic or undesirable performance.
Increased Integrity of Internal Reviews & Investigations. Across 21 years, the number of inadequately investigated or reviewed force incidents and civilian complaints steadily plummeted.
Conduct ongoing oversight of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department with respect to use of force, officer performance management, supervision, discipline, training, and effectiveness.
KEY ISSUES ADDRESSED
Use of Force
Less-Lethal Force Instruments
Litigation & Risk Management
Hiring & Recruitment
Internal Review & Discipline
34th Semiannual Report (August 2014)
33rd Semiannual Report (September 2013)
27th Semiannual Report (August 2009)
14th Semiannual Report (October 2001)
9th Semiannual Report (June 1998)
1st Semiannual Report (October 1993)
+ Additional Resources
"Lawyer Who Helped in LAPD Inquiry Named to Probe Brutality by Deputies," L.A. Times (Jan. 1992)
"System for identifying problematic deputies a success, report says," L.A. Times (Sept. 2009)
"Keeping the thin blue line straight and narrow," L.A. Times (Sept. 2005)