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Criminal Justice

Federal Monitors In The Antelope Valley Say LASD Settlement Agreement Stymied By 'Inexplicable' Internal Delays

A child wearing sneakers, jeans and a red shirt sits on a concrete ledge at the edge of a grassy terrace, holding a red and white sign that reads "No more cops in AV schools." One hand is touching a surgical mask that covers his mouth and nose. A woman wearing a red shirt and jeans shorts and also wearing a mask sits next to him.
Participants at a Cancel the Contract protest in Lancaster to get police officers out of local high schools.
(Bethany Mollenkof
for ProPublica)
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The federal monitors don’t mince words.

In a searing report, the team tasked with overseeing the beleaguered federal settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over racial profiling allegations in the Antelope Valley sounded the alarm on an unfolding “crisis.”

“[W]e continue to find progress being waylaid by unnecessary obstacles and inexplicable internal LASD delays,” the monitors wrote, citing a variety of concerns including a lack of leadership and executive involvement, a “lack of urgency,” and “insufficient resources.”

In 2015, the DOJ and the Sheriff’s Department entered into a court-ordered settlement agreement and agreed to reforms that included protections against racial profiling.

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That agreement grew out of findings from a two-year DOJ investigation which found that deputies routinely racially profiled Black residents in the Antelope Valley.

Monitors requested that the department’s North Patrol Division chief or a commander representing him actively participate in future meetings with the monitoring team.

“Our time and experience here has shown that the lack of consistent involvement by executive leadership — both in meetings and on a daily basis moving the enormous amount of work of Department personnel — has proven to be debilitating,” they wrote.

Monitors outlined a startling picture of an agreement gone sideways.

“[W]e continue to find progress being waylaid by unnecessary obstacles and inexplicable internal LASD delays."
— from federal Antelope Valley Monitoring Team report

Two years ago, they flagged a federal judge on the lack of progress towards the settlement goals. The latest report states that from the examples they cited then, “not a single area of concern has been resolved to date."

Monitors also wrote that in the seven years since the settlement agreement was signed, the Sheriff’s Department has not assessed any of the numerous data analyses and reports produced by the monitoring team regarding deputy stops and detention information, not has it analyzed their use of force data.

The monitors said the department hasn't upgraded its data system to track incidents where deputies “draw or point their firearms” to conform with a required audit.

According to the monitors, LASD also hasn’t submitted a plan to implement regular testing on training retention.

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We’ve reached out to the Sheriff’s Department for comment on the report, and will update this article if it responds.

A man with a goatee stands in front of a lectern on an outdoor lawn, holding a microphone while he speaks to people in the foreground. Two people behind him hold a banner, but the words are partially obscured by the speaker. The words "contract" and "valley" can be seen clearly.
Barron Gardner speaks at a Cancel the Contract protest in Lancaster, which called for officials to remove sheriff’s deputies from local high schools.
(Bethany Mollenkof
for ProPublica)

Racial discrimination continues to be a concern in the Antelope Valley.

L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies disproportionately contact, cite, and arrest Black students in the Antelope Valley, and those students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled at higher rates than other racial groups, according to a report by the County Inspector General’s office.

The analysis was spurred by a year-long investigation into allegations of racial discrimination in Antelope Valley high schools by LAist and ProPublica.

Our investigation found that Black teenagers accounted for 60% of deputy contacts in Lancaster high schools, although they made up only about 20% of the enrollment in those schools.

Antelope Valley residents have questioned the glacial progress of the settlement agreement for years.

“We’ve lost faith in this process, to be quite frank,” said Xavier Flores, president of the Antelope Valley League of United Latin American Citizens, at a virtual town hall meeting with the federal monitoring team last year.

What questions do you have about criminal justice in Southern California? 
Emily Elena Dugdale covers smaller police departments around Southern California, school safety officers, jails and prisons, and juvenile justice issues. She also covers the LAPD and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.

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