Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna has created an Office of Constitutional Policing after using the last two months to “travel across LA County” meeting with the 18,000 members of the Sheriff’s department who are dedicated to keeping the community “safe”.
“In my brief time here as your Sheriff I can already say I am in awe of the courage and skill I have witnessed from all of the employees that either wear the uniform and the badge and those who don’t,” said Luna. “This is an incredible department.”
“This department faces some real challenges like multiple consent decrees, court judgments, settlement agreements, the existence of deputy gangs, and lawsuits that cost our taxpayers millions in settlements and judgments,” said Luna. “I will have zero tolerance for this type of conduct.”
The new office will be tasked with helping with eradicating all deputy gangs, from the department, in collaboration with the Undersheriff, the Civilian Oversight Commission, and Inspector General Max Huntsman.
“In addition, this office will work to improve compliance with the multiple consent decrees,” said Luna.
Luna announced Eileen Decker as the Director of the new department who will report directly to Luna.
“Today is my first day as Director and the employees of this department are talented and courageous and I have the highest respect for the difficult work they do,” said Decker. “As a federal prosecutor, deputy mayor, and as police commissioner, my career has been dedicated to public safety and public service.”
She vows to be committed to ensuring the department has appropriate policies, practices, and training in place to follow them.
It is unknown how much this new office will cost Los Angeles County taxpayers.
Luna was asked if the deputy gang issue was “on par with what he believed, is it worse, is it less”?
“That is exactly why Eileen is here with us. I came in here with my eyes absolutely wide open and asking a lot of questions; learning and listening and as I do so the public…the community believes that this is occurring and at the end of the day we are accountable to the community and the County and until we prove otherwise the problem exists.”
“This is a challenge this department has faced for decades and won’t be solved overnight,” said Luna. “I want people to talk about the people who work here and the work that we do as opposed to talking about gangs and deputies that hopefully be in the past.”
Luna was asked to what extent does he believe there is a problem with constitutional policing if he appointed a constitutional policing advisor in his two months of office?
“I believe there are some challenges here but they’re not challenges that can’t be overcome,” said Luna. “You have to realize any executive taking over a large department anywhere in the United States has to be aware of these types of issues.”
“Let’s take the deputy gang issue out if we’re talking about constitutional policing that is in question just about every day when you look at police departments across this country,” said Luna. “THis office is not only focused on the gang issues and consent decrees, but they will continuously be looking at policies, training, and systems of accountability to make sure everything falls in line and not only do we meet national standards we exceed them.”
Previous Sheriff’s had constitutional policing advisors as well and Luna was asked how would he describe the difference between what was in place before versus what he has created.
“The big difference is that we’re going to. have more than just two attorneys, we are going to have an entire team and with the position, Eileen will be holding is a Chief level position in the department and she will be sitting in the room in a lot of our meetings and she’ll have so much say in how we move forward as a command staff,” said Luna.
“So this is more than an advisory role,” asked a reporter
“Correct,” said Decker. “The prior constitutional police advisors were not as engaged in the oversight of all the consent decrees, and court settlement agreements that have come into play in the last few years. Working with the monitors to ensure compliance and ultimately try and get the department out of all the consent decrees so that the department is managing itself again. There will be a team of people: attorneys, investigators, auditors, compliance individuals all involved in these efforts.”
“We’re not messing around,” said Luna. “There was a unit called the Public Integrity Unit which no longer operates within this department.”
Luna was asked why he disbanded that unit?
“I didn’t see a need for what they were doing and as I sat down with other law enforcement partners, like District Attorney George Gascon, and I want to make it clear that if there is public corruption we’re not looking the other way we are just going to work on it in collaboration with partners which will be much more effective.”
How will this office respond to deputy-involved shootings?
“For the deputy-involved shootings that we have we are going to look at each and every single one of them and it’s a topic of discussion in tomorrow’s Civilian Oversight Commission, but this office will also be looking at best practices throughout the country,” said Luna.
In eliminating the public integrity unit, were you able to determine if it was involved in politically motivated investigations?
“Walking in…and when I was campaigning it was obvious that that office was creating a lot of distrust within our community and so coming in our new Undersheriff April Tardy was tasked with looking at it and evaluating what was going on…and looking at each case …and we wanted to get as much information as we possibly could to make sure we weren’t missing anything and that more importantly any critical cases would be referred to the appropriate agencies (State AG, DA, FBI) so to answer your specific question about ‘political witchhunts’ I didn’t see anything that I’ve read so far…I am learning things every day.”
Then the Sheriff was asked a more ‘hard hitting’ question.
“Two months in as of now do you have any specific leads? Numbers? Names? You know names people that your’e looking for,” asked a reporter.
When Luna went to answer what he thought was a question about staff for the newly created office the reporter said she was referring to the names of deputy gang members.
Related: Inspector general identifies 41 sheriff’s deputies who allegedly belong to gang-like groups
Inspector General Max Huntsman previously said he had the names of 40 deputies he identified as gang members.
“We’re working with our partners and the inspector general and there are some investigations going on but this is where this is not only a message to the community but really a message to our employees to make sure when they see or hear of any type of activity like this that they come forward because I’m telling you what 99% of the employees I’m running into they don’t like this department being talked about in that gang fashion. They’re embarrassed by it,” said Luna.
“So as of now, you don’t have any specific names?” she asked.
“I do not have any names as I stand here before you,” said Luna.
This is great news for all of Los Angeles County. Any respectable law Enforcment official recognizes the need NOT be under consent decrees. Good move.