Dignity and Power Now (DPN) – a California-based activist group affiliated with George Soros’ philanthropic network – recently launched a website targeting “Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies involved in serious misconduct.” Pictures and salaries are posted, along with summaries of alleged “problematic” behavior by the featured law enforcement officers. The site went live last week – two days before Soros’ Open Society Foundations announced it had awarded a paid fellowship to a prominent DPN organizer.
“It’s unfortunate that some groups use the web as a vehicle to spread this type of information that in some cases, is not accurate, or appropriately vetted and has the potential to be inflammatory and jeopardize the safety of the deputies and their families,” the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) said in a statement.
The online gallery, which can be found at TheProblematic.org, is DPN’s response to a recent appeals court ruling. The decision blocked L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell from presenting the district attorney with a list of approximately 300 deputies – all found to have committed serious misconduct while on duty. Citing privacy concerns, the deputies’ union sued the sheriff’s department to protect the officers’ identities.
“We decided to make our own list with data collected from news sources, public records and the survivors of sheriff violence,” said DPN founder Patrisse Cullors, who is also a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. “This website is designed to give the public insight into who are the deputies harming their communities. Right now even the sheriff can’t do that, and that makes it impossible to hold the sheriff’s department accountable. Bottom line: somebody has to do it.”
Cullors, who seeks to dismantle law enforcement, is using the controversy as an opportunity to call for a stronger Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission. The new board was established last November after Cullors spent several years advocating for its creation. Currently, the panel can only recommend policy changes. But DPN says the commission, which backs McDonnell’s efforts to hand over the names, should be granted subpoena powers to call witnesses and obtain documents – such as the personnel records in question.
If the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office acquires the names, it could potentially share the information with defense lawyers eager to discredit deputies on the list.
As the Los Angeles Times reports:
The 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brady vs. Maryland obligates prosecutors to turn over any evidence favorable to defendants, which could include information that undermines an officer’s credibility.
Police personnel files – including the findings of administrative proceedings and even an officer’s name in connection to any internal investigation – are confidential in California.
But many police agencies across the state regularly give local prosecutors the names of officers found in internal investigation to have committed certain types of misconduct as part of the prosecution team’s so-called “Brady obligation.”
Earlier this year, activists affiliated with DPN blocked traffic at a demonstration near downtown L.A. to bring attention to the sheriff’s secret list. Some protesters displayed signs that read “Expose the 300 Problematic Deputies.” DPN also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Sheriff McDonnell and co-sponsored a petition to “stop protecting bad cops” which generated more than 12,000 online signatures.
“The systemic violence and misconduct committed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have deeply impacted marginalized communities, causing harm and trauma for many families and their loved ones,” Cullors said almost two weeks before DPN launched the site spotlighting sheriff’s deputies. “There is a long legacy of police violence against vulnerable communities in Los Angeles and officers who act irresponsibly are rarely held accountable or prosecuted for their misconduct.”
DPN is urging the public to use the new website to provide tips related to “bad deputies that are still on the job.”
The president of the deputies’ union accused DPN of manipulating news reports and posting misinformation.
Meanwhile, Sheriff McDonnell said he would ask the California Supreme Court to review the decision which prohibits him from sharing the list with prosecutors.
“If we do not find a legal path to provide the information as required by the U.S. Supreme Court, the consequences could be severe,” McDonnell said in a video to LASD personnel. “In the criminal cases where you make arrests, convictions may be overturned. We could be held civilly liable if someone is wrongfully convicted and a court finds that the sheriff’s department improperly withheld information relevant to the case. Or worse, local, state and federal prosecutors could elect not to file or bring them to trial at all.”
McDonnell has until August 21 to file the appeal.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.