California is launching a probe from the LA County Sheriff’s Department

California Atty. General Xavier Becerra announced Friday that he is launching a civil law investigation in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, an agency accused of deputy conduct, disputed shooting and resistance to Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s supervision.

Becerra’s office will investigate whether the department, the country’s largest sheriff’s department, has engaged in unconstitutional policing.

“There are serious concerns and reports that accountability and compliance with legal law enforcement practices have ceased in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” Becerra said in a statement. “We’re working to find out if LASD violated the law or the rights of Los Angeles County residents.”

The report sparked a series of allegations of high-profile shootings and in-department misconduct that provoked widespread protests and demands from community organizers and lawmakers for independent investigations.

In September, a congressional subcommittee asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the regular abuses committed by “criminal gangs” of LA county MPs using aggressive tactics and using violent charges. Records show the county paid roughly $ 55 million in lawsuits and legal claims in which MPs were accused of belonging to a secret clique.

Los Angeles County has become a crossroads in the national debate on law enforcement reform and follow-up. This debate has become urgent because of last year’s assassination of George Floyd and other abuses of black men and women. Sergeant Alex Villanueva has clashed with the Supervisory Board since taking office in December 2018, as the board has challenged the sheriff’s decisions that members are misbehaving. Recently, Villanueva and the board were confused in the county’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic and budget cuts.

The sheriff’s civilian oversight committee, a oversight group appointed by supervisors, took an unprecedented step calling for Villanueva’s resignation last fall, saying he had set foot in critical reforms, opposed department oversight, and did not hold MPs accountable.

As a sign of growing mistrust between county leaders and the sheriff, the board of supervisors authorized the committee last year to summon internal records and testimonies. A few months later, voters confirmed the move, and Governor Gavin Newsom followed a state law that gives police-level summoning powers to police oversight bodies.

When Villanueva opposed a subpoena to testify about the treatment of the COVID-19 epidemic in prisons, the county sued him and tested a new check on his power.

Villanueva challenged the legality of the subpoena, describing it as “public shame” at a press conference. One judge ruled that the committee had good powers. However, lawyers representing LA County dropped the case after the sheriff volunteered for the board’s December meeting and agreed to appear again this week.

While civilian surveillance efforts have provided external control over policing, they have been criticized for not having enough power to force real change in California, where the police have significant privacy and other protections.