Case: L.A. County Sheriff's Department (Kolts Report and Implementation)

No Court Case | No Court

Filed Date: 1992

Closed Date: 2014

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In the summer of 1991, following four controversial officer-involved shootings of minorities, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Judge James G. Kolts to lead an inquiry into the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) and its handling of brutality complaints.Judge Kolts appointed attorney Merrick Bobb as general counsel to lead the inquiry. Mr. Bobb was previously part of the Christopher Commission's investigation of the LAPD in the wake of the Rodney King incident. He assemb…

In the summer of 1991, following four controversial officer-involved shootings of minorities, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Judge James G. Kolts to lead an inquiry into the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) and its handling of brutality complaints.

Judge Kolts appointed attorney Merrick Bobb as general counsel to lead the inquiry. Mr. Bobb was previously part of the Christopher Commission's investigation of the LAPD in the wake of the Rodney King incident. He assembled a team of more than 60 lawyers, accountants and other professionals, who conducted a six month investigation. The probe included holding public hearings to gather citizen input and reviewing some 124 civil cases brought in 1987 through 1992 against LASD deputies for excessive force.

In July 1992 the Kolts Commission issued its 358-page "Kolts Report," an in-depth analysis of LASD's operations, with particular focus on the department's handling of brutality claims. The report note large scale incidents of brutality and excessive force by deputies, coupled with lax discipline and supervision. Of the 124 civil cases the team reviewed, it noted that the LASD paid out in excess of 18 million dollars in settlements and verdicts.

The Kolts Commission made recommendations for wholesale changes in departmental policies. The key recommendation was for the LASD to emphasize at every level of its command structure that excessive force would not be tolerated by the department. The commission also recommended direct civilian involvement and oversight in the review process of citizen complaints. Other primary recommendations included (1) implementing a department-wide use-of-force reporting and tracking system, (2) creation of a formal policy banning head strikes to suspects, unless deadly force would be justified, (3) putting an end to the practice of discouraging citizens from filing complaints of misconduct, and (4) aggressively disciplining officers engaged in brutality and the overhaul of the internal affairs bureau.

Following the issuance of Kolts Report, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt its recommendations and retained Merrick Bobb as special counsel to continue to monitor the LASD and prepare semiannual reports describing the progress made by the LASD to implement departmental reforms targeted to ensure that "the LASD is doing all it could and should to prevent avoidable and unnecessary injury or death in the jails and on the streets." (25th Semiannual Report). The LA County voluntarily engaged Police Assessment Resource Center(PARC) and its staff to monitor the fourth-largest law enforcement agency in the United States, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, for more than 21 years.

Special Counsel Merrick Bobb and his staff oversaw the LASD, initially for a three year period, which was later extended. Bobb's team continued its oversight and issued 34 semi-annual reports, addressing myriad issues facing the LASD, including, excessive force (29th Semiannual Report), in-service training, use of canines, shootings (30th Semiannual Report) handling of mentally ill suspects and county jail operations, identification of problem officers and remediation, (27th Semiannual Report), prisoner complaint processes (28th Semiannual Report), how pregnancy is handled in the jail system (25th Semiannual report), the treatment of prisoners with immigration detainers (28th Semiannual Report). The primary charge of Special Counsel was to ensure the implementation of reforms relating to use of force, officer-invovled shootings, and supervision.

In drafting new policies, establishing new procedures, or designing new training, Special Counsel and PARC evaluated LASD's policies in light of best practice–as established by assessments of law enforcement agencies nationwide, model policies from national organizations, legal and academic research, and consultation by experienced professionals and law enforcement experts. In the span of the 21 years of monitoring, PARC pressed LASD to learn from fresh insights and new approaches adopted elsewhere.

As a result, the number of new lawsuits against LASD overall and the number that required payout (in settlements or verdicts) went down in the period during which LASD followed PARC's recommendations. Across 21 years, the number of inadequately investigated or reviewed force incidents and civilian complaints steadily plummeted. Also, at the start of the project, LASD suffered from vigilante posses of deputy "gangs" doing as they pleased and intentionally circumventing the Department's formal chain of command. Force was not regularly reported and rarely thoroughly investigated. Special Counsel and PARC were found to have helped create a culture in which the investigation and review of force incidents are taken seriously. Likewise, the experiences of female, black, Latino, and LGBT officers were found to have improved.

After the 34th and final report, oversight of the program ended.

Summary Authors

Blase Kearney (7/9/2012)

Ginny Lee (3/23/2017)

Related Cases

Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, Central District of California (1990)

Musso v. County of Los Angeles, California state trial court (2001)

Beaudoin v. County of Los Angeles, California state trial court (2001)

CRIPA Investigation, Los Angeles County (CA), No Court (1996)

People


Judge(s)

Kolts, James G. (California)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Bobb, Merrick J. (California)

Judge(s)

Kolts, James G. (California)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Bobb, Merrick J. (California)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 1st Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

Sept. 1, 1993

Sept. 1, 1993

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 2nd Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

April 1, 1994

April 1, 1994

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 3rd Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

Dec. 1, 1994

Dec. 1, 1994

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 4th Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

June 1, 1995

June 1, 1995

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 5th Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

Feb. 1, 1996

Feb. 1, 1996

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 6th Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

Sept. 1, 1996

Sept. 1, 1996

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 7th Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

April 1, 1997

April 1, 1997

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 8th Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

Oct. 1, 1997

Oct. 1, 1997

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 9th Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

June 1, 1998

June 1, 1998

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: 10th Semiannual Report by Special Counsel Merrick J. Bobb & Staff

Feb. 1, 1999

Feb. 1, 1999

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Resources

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: California

Case Type(s):

Policing

Key Dates

Filing Date: 1992

Closing Date: 2014

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Independent investigative body (James G. Kolts and Merrick Bobb), appointed to conduct investigation of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department

Plaintiff Type(s):

City/County Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Los Angeles Country Sherrif's Department (Los Angeles), County

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

None of the above

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Unknown

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Order Duration: 1993 - 2014

Content of Injunction:

Monitor/Master

Issues

General:

Assault/abuse by staff

Communication skills

Conditions of confinement

Confidentiality

Confinement/isolation

Disparate Impact

Disparate Treatment

Excessive force

Failure to discipline

Failure to supervise

Failure to train

False arrest

Grievance Procedures

Improper treatment of mentally ill suspects

Improper use of canines

Inadequate citizen complaint investigations and procedures

Incident/accident reporting & investigations

Language access/needs

Over/Unlawful Detention

Pattern or Practice

Pepper/OC spray

Racial profiling

Record-keeping

Records Disclosure

Search policies

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination