Filed Date: 1992
Closed Date: 2014
Clearinghouse coding complete
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.
Blase Kearney (7/9/2012)
Ginny Lee (3/23/2017)
Kolts, James G. (California)
Bobb, Merrick J. (California)
Kolts, James G. (California)
Bobb, Merrick J. (California)
Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.
State / Territory: California
Filing Date: 1992
Closing Date: 2014
Case Ongoing: No
Independent investigative body (James G. Kolts and Merrick Bobb), appointed to conduct investigation of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: No
Class Action Outcome: Not sought
Special Case Type(s):
Prevailing Party: Unknown
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Order Duration: 1993 - 2014
Content of Injunction: