The Civilian Oversight Commission called Tuesday for a formal investigation into allegations that families of those shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies were harassed by patrol deputies after speaking out about the shootings.
“Staff has been apprised of several issues that have occurred out in the community, and these issues generally occur, according to the members of the community we’ve spoken with, after there has been a deputy-involved shooting or some significant action by the Sheriff’s Department,” said Brian Williams, executive director of the Civilian Oversight Commission.
The commission directed the Office of Inspector General to assess whether harassment occurred and the nature of the incidents. It also asked the Sheriff’s Department to conduct its own investigation into the allegations.
The allegations were made against patrol deputies at the East Los Angeles and Century stations.
The Centro Community Service Organization, Black Lives Matter L.A. and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California provided a letter to the commission about the alleged retaliation and harassment of grieving families.
Paul Rea, 18, of Monterey Park, was fatally shot by a deputy on June 27 during a traffic stop in East Los Angeles. Deputies said a scuffle broke out and a gun was recovered at the scene.
The letter from the civil rights organizations accuses deputies of arresting Rea’s sister, Jaylene, in retaliation for speaking out in the wake of her brother’s death.
After addressing a rally at the Hall of Justice about her brother’s death, Jaylene and other family and friends visited a memorial site. Patrol cars arrived, arrested two of Paul’s friends and when one of the men arrested handed a “blunt” he had been smoking and put out to Jaylene, a deputy searched, handcuffed and arrested her for obstruction of evidence.
She was in custody overnight for roughly seven hours and when her phone was returned to her, videos she had taken of the men’s arrests had allegedly been deleted, according to the letter.
The letter to the COC called the arrest “an example of a broader trend of retaliation, harassment, and discourtesy against grieving family members.”
Other families alleging harassment include relatives of Anthony Weber, Ryan Twyman and Anthony Vargas, according to the letter.
“Family members have feared that deputy sheriffs will taunt them, arrest them or even physically hurt them – not because they have done something wrong, but simply because they have spoken publicly about their loved ones’ deaths and have sought transparency and accountability,” the letter stated.
The COC also updated the public on a Family Assistance Program set up at the direction of the Board of Supervisors in July.
“This is a grassroots idea that now has developed into a seven-department collaboration, a multi-disciplinary team,” said COC chair Patti Giggans. “I feel like this is a flagship program for the commission.
“I think this will be a flagship program for the county. And I think the community-based organizations are going to continue their due diligence, their engagement to also make sure that it’s the most respectful, trauma-informed, transparent, considerate and compassionate program we have.”