New website wants tips on bad sheriff’s deputies
TheProblematic.org is a collaborative project asking the public to report any violence experienced at the hands of sheriff’s department deputies
Video: YouTube/Jasmyne Cannick
L.A. watchdog group launches collaborative website after court quashes list of problematic sheriff’s deputies
LOS ANGELES – After California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold a lower court’s injunction blocking Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell from releasing to prosecutors a list of 300 sheriff’s deputies with a history of misconduct, Los Angeles watchdog group Dignity and Power Now, that fights for the dignity and power of incarcerated people, their families, and communities, is asking the public to submit tips on bad sheriff’s deputies still on the job.
Inspired by the Guardian’s The Counted project, which counted the number of people killed by the police and other law enforcement agencies in the U.S. between 2015 and 2016, Dignity and Power Now has launched TheProblematic.org, a similar collaborative project aimed at holding sheriff’s deputies accountable by asking the public to report any violence they’ve experienced at the hands of a member of the sheriff’s department.
The launch of the website comes after disgraced former County Sheriff Lee Baca was convicted of making false statements to federal investigators, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice and given a three-year sentence.
“We decided to make our own list with data collected from news sources, public records and the survivors of sheriff violence,” explained Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter co-founder and Dignity and Power Now founder. “This website is designed to the 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. The Civilian Oversight Commission isn’t doing it and the courts aren’t doing it,” Cullors said.
As of this writing, there are 21 sheriffs’s deputies featured on the TheProblematic.org website, including Deputy Tai Plunkett who accosted a private investigator in Montrose, Calif. in 2014.
Ken Sheppard, a veteran private investigator known for busting reality TV series “Bridezillas” star Anita Maxwell for insurance fraud, was conducting surveillance in Montrose in 2014 when video shows Plunkett approached Sheppard’s vehicle, asked him what he was doing and then grabbed hold of Sheppard’s wrist and refused to let go.
When Sheppard removed an earpiece, Plunkett pointed his service revolver at Sheppard and cocked the trigger. A department sergeant and deputies arrived to defuse the incident. Sheppard filed a civil lawsuit, but a jury sided with the sheriff’s department. The case is currently under appeal. Plunkett remains employed by the sheriff’s department.
“A lack of transparency is one of the biggest challenges in improving law enforcement conditions for our communities,” said Michele Ynfante, Dignity and Power Now Civilian Oversight Campaign Lead. “There is no way to determine if a situation was handled appropriately if only high-level sheriff employees have access to records and the results of an investigation.
“This secrecy jeopardizes the safety of the community — specifically Black and Brown communities that are disproportionately policed and imprisoned. Fear should never be an excuse to allow abusive deputies to run amok in unaware communities,” Ynfante added. “We shouldn’t and can’t place blind trust in the sheriff’s internal disciplinary systems to do their jobs. It’s been proven again and again that Bonnie cannot objectively investigate Clyde.”
Members of the public are encouraged to visit TheProblematic.org and submit tips they have on sheriff’s deputies engaged in misconduct that are still on the job. Video, audio, and photos are accepted and all submissions are confidential unless victims ask to be identified. Tips can also be submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The site will be continuously updated with information.