Warning of dire consequences, Supervisor Gloria Molina pushed county lawyers to give her access to investigative reports of a deputy-involved fatal shooting in which one of the deputies had been a party to six prior shootings.
Molina, whose district includes Silver Lake, Highland Park, Monterey Park, West Covina, Walnut and Claremont, said she and the rest of the Board of Supervisors have a responsibility to review the DIS investigation to make sure that it is thorough and would pass muster with the U.S. Department of Justice.
"The DOJ may be considering indicting all of us for our irresponsibility. We don't know," Molina said.
Supervisors Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky objected, asking Molina to stick to making her case.
"Don't go overboard," Yaroslavsky said. "You don't know whether you will be struck by lightning in this building, but it's not happening."
The deputy in question was assigned a desk job after six shootings, Molina said. A Los Angeles Times story identified the deputy as Anthony Forlano, an 18-year veteran of the department.
Forlano was later sent back out on patrol and fatally shot a man in East Los Angeles. The man was armed and fought with deputies, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Michael Gennaco of the Office of Independent Review raised concerns about how the deputy was allowed to return to patrol.
Three of his earlier shootings had been reviewed by the District Attorney's Office and found to be cases of self-defense or the defense of others, according to The Times.
A sheriff's captain told the newspaper last September that Forlano was a good cop.
"We've have our bumps in the road with some of his tactics, but overall he's been outstanding," Capt. Robert J. Tubbs said at the time. "Tony has a propensity to be able to find criminal activity anywhere. He's a lightning rod. He's a great street cop."
Molina feels differently.
"I don't want him in my district," she said.
County attorneys have repeatedly denied Molina access to the investigative report, citing concerns about confidentiality, she said. Molina argued that she intended only to review the inspections "in strictest confidence and not to interfere with the independent prosecutorial function."
She said former sheriff Lee Baca, at one point before retiring in January, had told her he would give her the report. But since then, county lawyers have resisted.
"Our lawyers will not advocate on my behalf," Molina said. "I am really outraged about it."
She said she is seeking only those documents that are controlled by the Sheriff's Department, not the District Attorney's Office, which would apparently raise additional legal concerns.
"They have not been forthcoming because they hide behind the fact that it is under investigation by the district attorney," Molina said.
Lead county counsel could not be reached for comment.
Molina cited government code and a California Supreme Court decision in highlighting the board's duty "to supervise conduct of all county offices."
The Office of Inspector General -- which was established to provide some independent oversight of the sheriff's department, and whose head began work in January -- is not yet fully operational, Molina said, leaving it to the board to take responsibility.
"Accountability is vital to public trust and is necessary to assure county residents that this board is doing everything within its power to safeguard the public's safety," she said.
Molina plans to put the matter to a vote next week. If she garners support, the board will ask the Sheriff's Department to provide the reports. It has no legal authority to demand them.
—City News Service