LA has a long and troubled history of police misconduct. The law is moving toward bringing that misconduct to light, but one person has the power to do something about it today. District Attorney Jackie Lacey can make it clear to law enforcement officers that she won’t tolerate bad policing. DA Lacey should create a “Do Not Call” list of officers with a history of misconduct, dishonesty, racism, or bias. In addition to issuing an office-wide policy instructing her prosecutors to reject anyone on this list as a potential witness, she can also reject new cases and search warrant requests from those officers. Not only will this make the justice system fairer, it will make Angelenos safer.
You can Help — Demand Better from DA Lacey and Law Enforcement Officers
Bad policing in LA didn’t end after the Rampart scandal. Today, law enforcement officers are engaged in shocking misconduct and showing clear bias against the communities they are sworn to protect:
- Deputy Sheriff Michael Courtial has been newly granted a badge and gun after Sheriff Alex Villanueva reinstated him as a deputy during his first few months in office. He was fired last June after the department concluded that he used unreasonable force and failed to use de-escalation techniques in a 2016 incident: “After yanking the man onto the ground, the lawman punched him several times in his back and shoulders as other officers wrangled the suspect onto his stomach and into handcuffs, according to law enforcement reports.”
- Deputy Sheriff Caren Carl Mandoyan was previously discharged for violating department policies regarding domestic violence and making false statements to internal investigators before he was re-hired by Sheriff Villanueva. The LA County Board of Supervisors has taken the unprecedented step of going to court to try to block Mandoyan’s rehiring, arguing that the sheriff doesn’t have the authority to override decisions by the county Civil Service Commission, which upheld the deputy’s termination. A video was also released showing Mandoyan trying to break into a woman’s home after he lied about the incident to internal affairs.
- Deputy Sheriff Jose Ovalle poured taco sauce on an inmate’s shirt to fabricate blood from a jail brawl in 2003. He was a potential witness in criminal cases against 312 defendants, 237 of whom were convicted. Few received information about his misconduct. Ovalle currently works as a sergeant in the Sheriff’s Department’s Century station in Lynwood, and earned $264,387 in 2018.
- LAPD officer John Valdez has commented several times as a member of a right-wing Facebook group that frequently contains racist and anti-Semitic posts.
- The list of problematic law enforcement officer conduct goes on, and on, and includes instances of false reports, sexual assault, and horrific domestic violence to name just some.
What can be done?
In other cities, District Attorneys are taking responsibility for reining in bad police:
- San Francisco. Just up the Pacific coast from LA, San Francisco’s DA George Gascon has already implemented a “Do Not Call” list. When officers are identified as unreliable due to previous misconduct, they are no longer called to serve as witnesses. Also, after racist and otherwise bigoted texts from 14 San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers surfaced in 2015, his office established a blue-ribbon commission to investigate. The panel’s report studied “the extent to which bias was institutionalized within the SFPD’s policies and practices.” It also included recommendations “to address any bias or threat of bias.” Gascon adopted all of the commission’s recommendations for the DA’s office.
- St. Louis. In the wake of racist social media posts from St. Louis Police officers appearing in a database created by The Plain View Project, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner added 22 officers to her office’s exclusion list. Gardner first created the list last year with an initial 29 officers her prosecutors would not call to testify. Gardner said of the new additions: “Police integrity is at the core of the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system… When a police officer’s integrity is compromised in this manner, it compromises the entire criminal justice system and our overall ability to pursue justice.… After careful examination of the underlying bias contained in those social media posts, we have concluded that this bias would likely influence an officer’s ability to perform his or her duties in an unbiased manner.”
District Attorneys in these cities, as well as in Philadelphia, Houston, and Seattle, have recognized that they have the power and the responsibility to hold police accountable and make their communities safer.
Community Leaders Agree
Here in Los Angeles, over 20 community groups are calling on DA Jackie Lacey to implement common-sense reforms and start to fix what’s broken in local law enforcement: