This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
It is time to seriously consider a civilian oversight board for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider such a proposal next week. If approved, it could be a big step toward remedying some of the ongoing problems in our county jails.
The last few years have been tough for the department, which has been plagued by jail scandals, committee inquiries and even a federal investigation. Despite the efforts of committed professionals within and outside the department to monitor abuses in the jail system, the problems have continued. Meanwhile, the public has only been invited into the process once the situation has reached crisis dimensions.
A citizen oversight board has the advantage of providing a constant outsider view of the operations of the Sheriff's Department, very much in the same way that the Los Angeles Police Commission monitors the Los Angeles Police Department. Rather than gearing up to deal with the next inevitable crisis, the Board of Supervisors should focus on what monitoring will be the most effective in preventing scandals in the first place.