JusticeLA Statement regarding LASD Funding in WeHo



Janet Asante, (310) 722-1474
Ambrose Brooks S., (310) 847-0196


After Community Outcry, West Hollywood City Council Votes to Remove 5 Sheriffs Deputies in the 2023 Fiscal Year and Reconsider Law Enforcement’s Patrol of Pride

Los Angeles, CA—Monday night, West Hollywood (WeHo) City Council made a historic vote to reallocate $1.6 million from the sheriff’s contract to a different model of security. Council agreed to invest in its own alternative crisis response team as well as the replacement of armed Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies at next year’s Pride parade. 

WeHo is the first of 42 contract cities in LA County’s history to successfully challenge the skyrocketing costs of its annual service agreement with the LASD. In February, the WeHo Public Safety Commission recommended the City Council direct $3.6M out of the Sheriff’s contract into social services such as mental health, alternative crisis response teams, and permanent supportive housing. 

While this recommended reallocation of  $3.6M is a drop in the bucket of the overall $3.6 billion budget of the sheriff’s department, WeHo Captain Moulder claimed during the meeting that a lack of deputies has resulted in skyrocketing grand theft in the city. It has come to light that this grand theft refers to stolen cell phones at nightclubs. With 60 LASD Officers in the two square mile city, soaking up one sixth of the annual budget, the Department admitted that the thefts it solved summed up to 2 out of 249 stolen phones.

An unprecedented campaign to reallocate dollars from LASD to social services has been supported by the 17th president of the NAACP, founder of CalEITC4Me, former mayors, and more. City staff ignored data, residents’ demands, as well as the Safety Commission’s recommendations –– and proposed allocating an additional $1,030,000 to LASD this year plus $500,000 to audit the sheriff department’s self audit. 

Community organizations such as JusticeLA, Partners for Justice, Fund for Guaranteed Income, CURB, La Defensa, Dignity and Power Now, Gender Justice LA, Re-Imagine LA Coalition, and ACLU along with West Hollywood residents spent weeks making their concerns about this misappropriation of funds heard. As a result of this successful mobilization, WeHo will remove five deputies from the FY2023 contract.

Ivette Alé-Ferlito, Dignity and Power Now’s Director of Policy and Advocacy shared, “West Hollywood City Council’s decision to significantly reduce the reallocation of funding from the corrupt and fiscally incompetent Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is indefensible. As a Queer migrant organizer, I and many others in the community would like to see a full transformation of WeHo’s public safety system. The Public Safety Committee’s proposal to shift $3.6 million from the Sheriff’s budget was not that; it was simply a pragmatic step towards a more holistic vision that prioritizes care, and the Council could not deliver. The $2.4 million dollars they chose not to reallocate means that community-based services like HIV prevention, alternative crisis response, and mental health care will remain underfunded. Queer, Trans, Black, Brown, low income and otherwise vulnerable community members will continue to be most impacted by the Council’s lack of political will. We encourage West Hollywood leadership to stop tinkering at the margins and make the bold decisions their residents so desperately need.”

Ambrose Brooks, JusticeLA Coalition coordinator, remarked, “West Hollywood City Council’s June 27th budget vote is a step in the right direction: away from funding Sheriff’s violence and towards investing in care. The LA County Sheriff’s Department is charging contract cities tens of millions of dollars each year to criminalize Black, Brown, Queer, and Trans commnuities. All this while LASD imposes astronomical liability costs on cities with limited operating budgets. We thank Councilmembers Sepi Shyne, John D’Amico, and Lindsey Horvath, who openly recognized both these inequities and the fiscal irresponsibility of LASD, and voted accordingly. Other Los Angeles County contract cities must take the same path as West Hollywood, and also re-evaluate their costly contracts with LASD.”

During the Monday night meeting, WeHo residents expressed their frustrations with the Sheriff’s department budget and contract. And hundreds of letters were sent to Council over the past several months as residents learned the amount of money the city spends on one Sheriff’s deputy. WeHo’s bold yet insufficient decision to reallocate funds from the largest and deadliest sheriff’s department in the world laid down the gauntlet for other contract cities. The Council’s decision indicates what is possible, and what is next, in LA county –– the reimagination of public safety as investments in community-based alternatives to law enforcement. 


About the JusticeLA Coalition:
JusticeLA is a partnership of grassroots organizations, advocates, directly impacted communities, and stakeholders to reduce the footprint of incarceration by stopping jail expansion and reclaiming, reimagining and reinvesting dollars away from incarceration and into community-based systems of care.



JusticeLA Statement in response to Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Targeted Harassment of Journalists and Families

For decades the community has voiced outrage at the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s (LASD) continued repression of the First Amendment rights of protesters and journalists. The department brutalized NPR reporter Josie Huang. Alex Villanueva personally threatened to arrest Spectrum News reporter Kate Cagle, and ran campaign ads targeting a private citizen to incite violence––using their face and name in accusations that he is a “paid activist Marxist.” Villanueva also ran a surrealist campaign ad calling LA Times publishers “white Marxist racists,” telling the paper to “#S@!% Your Endorsement,” ironically after he completed an endorsement interview where he accused LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman of being a holocaust denier.

This week, the LASD amped-up their targeting of journalists. At Villanueva’s own press conference, he threatened LA Times journalist Alene Tchekmedyian with a criminal investigation due to her coverage of a security video showing a deputy kneeling on the head of a handcuffed incarcerated person for three minutes. Villanueva stated that he had no knowledge of the video’s existence, but reporters at KnockLA refuted this claim.

Villanueva referred to Alene Tchekmedyan’s coverage as an “obstruction of justice.” In a response from the LA Times legal counsel, “You are on notice that if the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department attempts to search the property or data of Ms. Tchekmedyian or any other L.A. Times employee in this matter, the department will have directly violated the PPA and clearly established constitutional law and L.A. Times will seek every available remedy against you, the department, and every individual official involved in
any such unlawful conduct.”

These incidents are not isolated actions of one rogue officer; rather, they reflect a coordinated effort to publicly attack, physically harass, and in the worst cases murder residents who speak out against the department’s misconduct––the very constituents which the department has been allocated $3.6 billion dollars to protect and serve. Indeed, the way LASD and Sheriff Villanueva respond to vocal critics and reporters reveals a worrisome intention to delegitimize and forcefully silence any opposition to the department’s history of obstructing justice. LASD has a multi-million dollar public relations budget deployed to manipulate the narratives about the department’s actions — all paid by our tax dollars. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is closely examining their police department’s public relations budget and it is time for Los Angeles county to do the same.

LASD’s tactics of intimidation extend well beyond their public relations machine. There are 18 reported deputy gangs within the LASD and an investigative unit known for its targeting of public critics of the department. On an almost daily basis, LASD intimidates and harasses the families of those who have been killed by deputies. The county cannot continue to look away from this egregious, long-standing abuse of power. We call on the Board of Supervisors and County CEO to address the blatant lack of
intra-department accountability within LASD by significantly reducing their public relations budget in the 2022-2023 budget, and take any and all accountability measures within their power. Public funding should not be used to intimidate, harass, and threaten the lives of reporters and community members. County action to hold LASD accountable is long overdue.



About the JusticeLA Coalition:
JusticeLA is a partnership of grassroots organizations, advocates, directly impacted communities, and
stakeholders to reduce the footprint of incarceration by stopping jail expansion and reclaiming,
reimagining and reinvesting dollars away from incarceration and into community-based systems of care


Statement: LASD needs to fund tech for remote access to court proceedings

JusticeLA urges the immediate release of our community members incarcerated pretrial; urges LASD to fund and expand technology for remote access to pandemic  court proceedings from their existing budget

At the close of January 2021, LA County presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor, of the Superior Court of California, issued a new General Order. The order authorizes judicial emergency continuances for Criminal and Juvenile Dependency court cases. The Judge stated that he made this order based on the high number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County. This order will extend the length of time that our incarcerated community members are held pretrial in both adult and youth jails across the County. Activists, community members, public defenders, organizers, legal scholars and policy experts are all horrified.

Despite the clarion calls of community, and the research proving the deadly impacts of COVID-19 in the jails, the Presiding Judge has issued an order that increases the deadliness of COVID for our incarcerated loved ones.

Eunisses Hernandez, Co-founder and Executive Director of La Defensa, highlights the urgency of opposing this order from the presiding Judge. She says, “Judge Taylor’s order shows blatant disregard for our community members’ humanity. This disregard runs throughout the entire criminal legal system. Judge Taylor is acting without considering the detrimental impact of COVID-19 on our incarcerated loved ones. The Judge is out of step with the Measure J voter-mandate to invest in care rather than punishment. He is also out of step with the LA County Board of Supervisors’ commitment to a care-first vision. The Courts must course-correct and prioritize the health and safety of our community members.”

The lived experience and testimony of our community members shows just how negligent and harmful the conditions created by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department inside the jails are. Rojas, LA Organizer with Young Women’s Freedom Center, shares the way that pretrial incarceration has harmed them, saying, “When I was incarcerated in the County jail pretrial, I had to bunk up with someone with asthma & breast cancer. It was so dangerous to have people with serious health concerns in cells with multiple people during the pandemic. LASD didn’t show any regard for our risk of getting COVID-19. They also gave out masks that were extremely poor quality — the masks were made out of ripped sheets, and didn’t prevent the spread of viruses. I was supposed to have Court in seventy-two hours, but I had to wait five extra days. I was kept in for eight days total. I had no charges but because of my parole they left me in there.” Rojas’ experience shows LASD’s irresponsible holding of our community members for prolonged periods, endangering their lives.

Rojas continues, “I had a different bunkie each day, and they never separated anyone for COVID-safety in the holding tanks. They even put me in a cell with no water.” Rojas’ experience is not isolated: countless members of our communities have reported conditions of abuse and the stark impossibility of social distancing in the County jails.

The JusticeLA Coalition has long been fighting against pretrial incarceration, taking a strong stance against the use of risk assessments that increase the length and severity of pretrial detention. JusticeLA has partnered with others in coalition to author policy that will preserve the presumption of innocence for our community members who are charged with, but not convicted of, a crime. We are working to preserve the presumption of innocence and ensure the pretrial release of our community members through an LA County pilot program, as well as through statewide policy advocacy.

Titilayo Rasaki, Policy Associate at Essie Justice Group, who leads pretrial justice policy work, shares, “It is essential that we don’t cause further harm to our community members by exposing them to COVID-19 while they are waiting for their court hearings. It is immoral that the LA County Presiding Judge Taylor wants to extend our loved ones’ pretrial incarceration. The harm caused by this decision extends out to the disportionately Black women with incarcerated loved ones. Families and communities are fighting to free their loved ones while struggling to keep families financially afloat, and tend to the weighty mental health burdens of children with incarcerated parents. It is inconceivable that the Presiding Judge is standing in the way of the safety, health and human rights of our loved ones, and blocking their release. ”

In addition to the urgent need for pretrial release, the JusticeLA Coalition calls for video conferencing technology to be used temporarily during the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during Court proceedings. LASD has failed to provide appropriate conditions to socially distance in Los Angeles County jails; as a result, our community members  are forced to quarantine, leading to them missing their court cases.  Video conferencing technology will move along court cases that were previously on hold due to the need to quarantine in jails. We are clear that the funding for this video technology should come out of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s (LASD’s) existing budget, rather than be another reason why LASD advocates to extract more of our community’s tax dollars. We note that Progressive District Attorneys have called for these video conferencing capabilities. In addition, we note that if our loved ones were allowed to come home to handle their Court case from their home community, instead of being detained pretrial, the Sheriff’s Department would not need to pay for video conferencing in the first place.

COVID-19 had already extended the average length of pretrial incarceration for our loved ones by many months. The presiding Judge’s new order will extend the length of time our loved ones are incarcerated for by even longer. Research from the UCLA Bail Practicum has shown how dangerous and harmful the extended stays of our community members in pretrial detention are. In December 2020, the UCLA Bail Practicum released a report, “Counting the Days: The Story of Prolonged Detention During COVID-19,” that highlighted the deadly impacts of prolonging pretrial detention in the LA County jails. 

Alicia Virani, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at UCLA School of Law and a former public defender, says, “It is disturbing to see the Presiding Judge of LA County ignoring the will of the people and the scientific data that shows how our already-most-vulnerable community members are being exposed to the threats of COVID-19 at heightening risk levels because of prolonged pretrial incarceration. With this new order from the Presiding Judge, we are moving in a direction that is diametrically opposed to the health and safety of our loved ones. The County needs to devise procedures to release people instead of continuing to increase arrests and delay court dates, which has led to an unacceptable backlog of criminal cases. Releases are the only effective way to keep incarcerated people and court staff safe, and to protect people’s constitutional rights.”

Other JusticeLA Coalition members share Virani’s concern. Rebecca Brown, Legal Fellow from Court Watch LA, underscores the urgent need to release people back into our communities, saying, “The Los Angeles Superior Court, as well as the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, have a number of strategies available to them to make the superior courts safer. We implore those offices to urgently implement the use of strategies that will not result in longer periods of pretrial incarceration for our community members.”

Brown continues, “The court and prosecutors need to reconsider what cases are being filed and heard at this time.  Forcing people into court for traffic infractions or low-level misdemeanor offenses is contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in the courts, while continuing to criminalize poverty in the midst of the pandemic. And, over 445 court employees have tested positive for COVID-19, showing risks across all parts of the system. The solution to this crisis is not incarcerating people for indefinite periods of time, but a meaningful re-evaluation of Los Angeles’s criminal legal system.” Brown raises the critical point that, for something as insignificant as a traffic ticket, our community members are being forced into incarceration. This explicit criminalization of poverty, which can lead our most vulnerable to COVID-19  exposure, is deeply unjust. None of our community members should risk exposure to COVID-19 due to pretrial detention. Presiding Judge Taylor’s order must be rescinded, and the Courts must speed the progress of slowed cases with temporary access to video conferencing technology. Ultimately, we must release our loved ones so that they can return home.