The Los Angeles Police Commission Has A Use Of Force Committee — Which Meets In Secret — Which Is Against The Law Since It’s Pretty Clearly Subject To The Brown Act — So Today I Sent A Complaint To The Public Integrity Division Of The Los Angeles County District Attorney — Which Meant Essentially Nothing When Jackie Lacey Was In Charge — But Conceivably Things Are Different Now — Maybe?

This post is about a complaint I sent to the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney alleging that the Use of Force Committee of the Los Angeles City Police Commission violates the Brown Act by meeting in secret. If you want a copy of the complaint without having to wade through my nonsense, here it is!

The Los Angeles Police Commission does not hold its meetings in a public-friendly manner. They severely limit comment time, for instance, and they also, at least pre-COVID, regularly have members of the public arrested. But as bad as they are they mostly don’t violate the Brown Act while doing it.1

However, it turns out that they have a bunch of committees, and it really looks like at least one of them, the Use of Force Committee, is itself subject to the Brown Act. But it meets in secret, and has done at least since 2011. This is against the law, of course, so today I sent this complaint about it to the Public Integrity Division of the LA County District Attorney’s Office.

Under Jackie Lacey these Public Integrity jokers didn’t do much,2 but perhaps things are different now? I guess we’ll find out! Read on for an html version of the complaint, although you’ll have to look at the PDF to see the evidence.

Here’s a text copy of the complaint. I used a script to generate the html so it’s a little eccentric. To see the exhibits look at the original PDF.

Synopsis

  1. The Los Angeles Police Commission has a committee, the Use of Force Committee, which does not hold its meetings in public and does not post agendas.

  2. I argue here that this committee is in fact subject to the Brown Act and that therefore it is a violation of the law to hold its meetings in secret.

Background

  1. [lapc] The Los Angeles Police Commission (“Police Commission”) is a five member body established by the Los Angeles City Charter.1

  2. Currently both Eileen Decker and Dale Bonner are members of the Police Commission.

Laws

  1. [ba] The Brown Act at 54952(b) states:2

    As used in this chapter, “legislative body” means: … A commission, committee, board, or other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decisionmaking or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body. However, advisory committees, composed solely of the members of the legislative body that are less than a quorum of the legislative body are not legislative bodies, except that standing committees of a legislative body, irrespective of their composition, which have a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body are legislative bodies for purposes of this chapter.

Facts

  1. [01] The Los Angeles Police Commission has a committee called either the “Use of Force Committee” or the “Use of Force Subcommittee” (“UOFC”), which has existed at least since 2011.3 See on page .

  2. [03] The Police Commission’s description of the purpose of the UOFC has hardly changed over the last ten years. Here are descriptions from 2011 and 2018:4

    These Commissioners will work closely with the Department on use of force issues. Additionally, these Commissioners shall also review all officer-involved shootings involving animals and make recommendation to the Board. The Office of the Inspector General provides staff support. (2011)

    Vice-President Decker and Commissioner Bonner will be the point of contact relative to specific matters regarding Use of Force policies and procedures. The Executive Director and Inspector General provide staff support. (2018)

    See and on pages and respectively.

  3. [04] The UOFC met ten times in 2020 to discuss and review both policies and specific instances of uses of force. The agendas are found in on page below.

  4. [05] The UOFC met in March 2021 and likely on other occasions as well, although I have not been able to obtain evidence of meetings other than in March. See on page below.

  5. [06] The UOFC currently has six members, two of whom are Commissioners Decker and Bonner. The other four are not Commissioners. They are LAPD Chief Bea Girmala, Inspector General Mark Smith, Assistant Inspector General Django Sibley, and Police Commission Executive Director Richard Tefank. See on page below.

  6. [07] The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a standing committee to be “a permanent committee especially of a legislative body”.

  7. [02] The Los Angeles Police Commission has referred to the UOFC as a “standing committee”. See on page . In particular see page 3 in the internal numbering.

Conclusions

The UOFC does not consist solely of members of the Police Commission

  1. As shown above in Paragraph [06] the UOFC has six members, only two of whom are members of the Police Commission.

The UOFC has a continuing subject matter jurisdiction

  1. The purpose of the UOFC, as shown above in Paragraph [03], is to discuss and recommend to the Commission regarding LAPD uses of force, both particular instances and general policies. This is the subject matter jurisdiction of the UOFC.

  2. As shown above in Paragraphs [01], [03], [04], and [05], the UOFC has existed at least since 2011 and continues to meet regularly to discuss uses of force.

  3. Therefore the UOFC has a continuing subject matter jurisdiction.

The UOFC is a standing committee of the Police Commission

  1. “Standing committees” aren’t defined in the Brown Act, so it’s reasonable to look to the dictionary for a definition. As shown above in Paragraph [07], the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a standing committee to be “a permanent committee.” The UOFC has existed in its present form at least since 2011, which is certainly permanent.

  2. As shown above in Paragraph [02], the Police Commission itself considers the UOFC to be a standing committee, or at least they did in 2015. But given that the UOFC has existed in its present form since then, if it was standing in 2015 it’s still standing.

The UOFC is subject to the Brown Act

  1. As shown above in Paragraph [lapc], the Los Angeles Police Commission is established by the City Charter and is therefore a legislative body per the Brown Act (see Paragraph [ba]).

  2. [five] The Brown Act states that every committee of a legislative body is itself a legislative body except a committee that meets all of the following criteria:

    1. [baex1] It is advisory.

    2. [baex2] It consists solely of members of the legislative body.

    3. [baex3] Those members constitute less than a quorum of the establishing legislative body.

    4. [baex4] It is not a standing committee with a continuing subject matter jurisdiction.

    5. [baex5] It is not a standing committee with a meeting schedule determined as specified.

    See Paragraph [ba] on page above.

  3. The UOFC has members which are not members of the Police Commission (see Paragraph [06] above). Therefore it fails criterion [baex2].

  4. As shown above in the UOFC is a standing committee. Furthermore, as shown in the UOFC has a subject matter jurisdiction. Therefore the UOFC fails criterion [baex4].

  5. A committee of a legislative body must meet all five of the criteria in Paragraph [five] in order not to be subject to the Brown Act. The UOFC fails at least two of the five criteria.

The City of Los Angeles is in violation of the Brown Act with respect to UOFC meetings

  1. As shown above in the UOFC is a legislative body of a local agency and it is therefore subject to the Brown Act. However, the meetings aren’t open to the public and the agendas aren’t posted anywhere, both of which are requirements of the Brown Act. Therefore the City of Los Angeles is in violation of the Brown Act with respect to UOFC meetings.

Requested Action

  1. I request that the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney investigate this complaint and, if the allegations are sustained, take all necessary action to require the City to comply with the Brown Act with respect to the Use of Force Committee of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Exhibits

[0050]

Exhibit – Police Commission Committee Assignments 2011

[0100]

Exhibit – Police Commission Committee Assignments 2015

[0150]

Exhibit – Police Commission Committee Assignments 2018

[0200]

Exhibit – Police Commission Use of Force Committee 2020 Agendas

[1200]

Exhibit – Police Commission Use of Force Committee March 2021 Agenda


  1. See Section 571.

  2. The Brown Act is part of the California Government Code and all references are to that code unless otherwise stated.

  3. This is the earliest date I have evidence for. It almost certainly has existed for longer.

  4. The 2019 Committee memorandum doesn’t mention the UOFC even though it currently still meets at least once a month. The Police Commission did not issue a committee assignment memo in 2020 although the UOFC met throughout the year.

  1. Which speaks to the flaws in the Brown Act much, much more than to any virtue the Police Commission may possess.
  2. At least they didn’t do much about non-headline issues. I’m still looking into exactly what it was that they did do all day.
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