LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today approved the initiation of the process of amending the County Charter to meet the structural need for increased accountability of the Los Angeles County Sheriff. The motion authored by Chair Holly J. Mitchell and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis directs County Counsel to draft an ordinance for a special election that will allow voters to decide on an amendment to the County Charter that would grant the Board of Supervisors the authority to remove a Sheriff who violates the law or abuses power by a four-fifths vote.
“The State Legislature, the Board and voters have gone to great lengths to create a system of accountability and transparency. However, for decades, the current system has allowed abuses of power to thrive largely unchecked with serious consequences for public safety. It has become painfully clear that the Board must put this question to the voters. The proposed Charter amendment would allow the Board to expeditiously remove a Sheriff who violates the law,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell, representing the Second District. “Under the current system, voters must wait for a grand jury to convene or a recall election to be held. The voters deserve an opportunity to decide whether this is the right way to enhance accountability of the Sheriff and protect the lives and liberties of County residents.”
“Accountability over law enforcement is public safety,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District. “Ensuring our residents have the ability to vote on being free from law enforcement intimidation, harassment, and misconduct and holding them accountable for any ensuing harm and trauma is the Board of Supervisors’ responsibility, specifically over the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. This charter amendment would provide residents with the oversight they expect and the peace from law enforcement abuse they deserve.”
The California Constitution authorizes county charters to provide steps for the removal of county officers, including an elected sheriff. As a charter county, LA County requires a Charter amendment to be approved by voters. With voter approval, the County would create a process by which the Board of Supervisors could vote to remove a Sheriff for cause only, with grounds for removal including: a violation of any law related to the performance of Sheriff duties; flagrant or repeated neglect of duties; a misappropriation of public funds or property; willful falsification of a relevant official statement or document; or obstruction of any investigation into the conduct of the Sheriff by the Inspector General, Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, or any government agency with jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation.
“The county has a history of sheriffs who break the law and ignore — or worse, facilitate — deputy misconduct. The public demanded that the Board act on its duty to supervise the Sheriff and protect people in the most vulnerable circumstances. The Board heard us, and it did.” said Melanie Ochoa, Director of Police Practices at the ACLU of Southern California. “No matter who wins in November, structural change is needed to make sure that we don’t have another sheriff with a $3 billion budget, unlimited weapons, and no real process to achieve accountability while lives are at stake.”
The motion preserves the public’s right to vote and elect a Sheriff and will not impact the independent investigative and prosecutorial function of the Sheriff. The first directive of the motion instructs County Counsel to present a draft ordinance to call a special election on Tuesday November 8, 2022. The draft ordinance will come before the Board for at least two readings before receiving final approval to be placed on the ballot. The first review and vote for approval of the ordinance by the Board of Supervisors will take place at the Tuesday July 26, 2022 public board meeting.
To read the full motion, click here.