SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced he is launching a civil rights investigation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the largest sheriff’s department in the United States. The investigation will seek to determine whether LASD has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation comes on the heels of allegations of excessive force, retaliation, and other misconduct, as well as a number of recent reported incidents involving LASD management and personnel. Today’s action by DOJ also comes in response to the absence of sustained and comprehensive oversight of LASD’s operations.
“Those of us in positions of public trust know that the job comes with the solemn obligation to be accountable to the people we serve. Because of the nature of the work involved in law enforcement, that duty of care is heightened," said Attorney General Becerra. “There are serious concerns and reports that accountability and adherence to legitimate policing practices have lapsed at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. We are undertaking this investigation to determine if LASD has violated the law or the rights of the people of Los Angeles County.”
Under the California Constitution and California Civil Code section 52.3, the Attorney General is authorized to conduct civil investigations into whether a law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or federal law. As opposed to a criminal investigation into an individual incident or incidents, a pattern or practice investigation typically works to identify and, as appropriate, ultimately address potentially systemic violations of the constitutional rights of the community at large by a law enforcement agency. With regards to LASD, the Attorney General has made no determinations at this time about specific complaints or allegations or about the agency’s policies and practices.
Given that interaction and cooperation with the community is at the core of law enforcement’s work in providing public safety, the Attorney General encourages anyone with information relevant to this investigation to contact DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section at Police-Practices@doj.ca.gov. During the course of the investigation, DOJ attorneys and special agents will work diligently to consider all relevant information, including from community members and organizations, local officials, oversight entities, LASD, individual officers, and more.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to improving public safety and the criminal justice system by advocating for reforms and working with local authorities to implement new policies. Last week, he obtained groundbreaking settlements to protect the rights of youth in Los Angeles County’s juvenile justice system. Last month, following an extensive investigation, the Attorney General secured an agreement to reform a wide range of practices at the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Last year, following significant misuse, he revoked access to CalGang records created by the Los Angeles Police Department. Attorney General Becerra also launched a review of the Vallejo Police Department and called for action statewide on police reform, encouraging leaders across the state to actively work toward achieving lasting, forward-thinking, and comprehensive reform. In 2019, he secured an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African American and Latino students, and students with disabilities. In 2018, as a result of the Trump Administration abandoning its role, the Attorney General stepped in at the request of the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department to provide independent oversight of the police department’s reform efforts.