Saying the troubled Los Angeles Sheriff's Department should be placed under greater scrutiny, the county Board of Supervisors stepped up its search for an inspector general Tuesday but stopped short of creating a proposed citizens oversight commission.
Also Tuesday, the board voted to ease overcrowding in local jails by sending 500 low-risk inmates to camps where they can be pressed into service by the Fire Department.
Next week, the board will consider transferring 500 other inmates -- those with the longest sentences -- to a municipal jail in Taft, Kern County.
With the LASD under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over excessive use of force and other misconduct in jails, and alleged civil rights violations of mentally ill inmates as well as minority recipients of federal housing assistance in the Antelope Valley, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina urged colleagues to appoint an oversight commission.
"It ought to be seen as a tool that can assist in ensuring modern constitutional policing and to build public trust," Ridley-Thomas said.
But Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe noted such a body cannot have any substantive legal authority over the sheriff, an elected official.
"All this would do is create another soapbox that will have, at the end of the day, a lot of activity but no achievement," Yaroslavsky said.
The board postponed voting until next month and instead created a committee to vet inspector general candidates.
The blue-ribbon Commission on Jail Violence had recommended hiring an inspector general almost a year ago, but a headhunter failed to find suitable candidates.
American Civil Liberties Union for Southern California legal director Peter Eliasberg said the county wasted a lot of time by turning to a headhunter instead of consulting the public.
"They spent months going down that road, and paid that headhunter a boatload of money," he said.
Patrisse Cullors, founder of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence, said the need for an inspector general is "urgent."
"I'm definitely frustrated, mostly because there hasn't been a lot of transparency (with a headhunter in charge of the search)."
The committee created Tuesday includes retired judges and civil rights leaders. ___