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Criminal Justice

LA County's Inspector General Raises Concerns With Sheriff's Department Conduct

Several Black people are seen at a protest against the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by a sheriff's deputy. One woman is holding a smart phone, another woman in a white tank top is holding a microphone. A woman wears a mask that reads BLACK LIVES MATTER and a t-shirt that reads BLACK LIVES MATTER PERIOD.
Dijon Kizzee's family members hold onto Sheila Jackson as she tells gathered protestors what his death means to them.
(Chava Sanchez
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A new report from L.A. County's inspector general raises concerns about the Sheriff's Department's response to a press conference put on by protesters to decry alleged mistreatment by deputies.

The event, hosted by the National Lawyers Guild in September 2020, took place in a South L.A. parking lot to provide a "public forum" for people who said they had been mistreated by deputies while protesting the killing of Dijon Kizzee, who deputies fatally shot the previous month.

At the press conference, deputies showed up in riot gear. A Sheriff's Department spokesperson told the L.A. Times the manager of a business in the area asked them to clear the crowd out of the parking lot.

But Inspector General Max Huntsman says he found no evidence to support that claim.

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He said he could not find any documentation of a complaint from a business owner. And the parking lot in question is in front of the Department of Probation, which belongs to the county.

"It's important that government gives factually accurate information to the public at all times," Huntsman said. "And that's especially true with law enforcement."

In a statement, the Sheriff's department refuted those claims and doubled down on its claim that a manager from a nearby business requested assistance to remove individuals away so they wouldn't interrupt business hours.

"Because the manager asked to remain anonymous, we did not obtain any further information," the statement said.

Cynthia Anderson-Barker with the National Lawyers Guild says there should be more transparency about the department's conduct in such situations.

"The Inspector General has made that happen by highlighting this incident, which is emblematic of how Sheriff Villanueva runs his department and hides wrongdoing," Anderson-Barker said.

The Inspector General's report also notes several deputies who responded to the news conference were not wearing nameplates or identification numbers, which state law requires.

But the Sheriff's Department claims the threat of doxing prompted the response team to remove name displays from their uniforms and helmets. Still, the department says they "utilized a numbering system specific to each squad for identification purposes" at the time.

"Since this incident the Sheriff's Response Team had name tape and helmets stickers made with badge numbers to be worn on the front of the helmet and the front of the vest," the Sheriff's Department said.

Huntsman points out his job is not to discover whether a violation of rights occurred. His office exists to conduct independent fact-finding of the government and inform the public about what's going on.

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"And so the way in which this happened is of concern," Huntsman said. "And it's part of a series of actions by the sheriff's department, under this administration that [is] particularly concerning."

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