An Los Angeles County Sheriff's official said Tuesday Sheriff Alex Villanueva gave a verbal directive to senior commanders to reevaluate any open investigations into employee misconduct, and within months, dozens of incomplete cases had been shelved without resolution.
A report from the County's Inspector General said 31 misconduct cases had been, "inactivated," without sufficient explanation in January and February, which often reduced discipline or sometimes eliminated punishment for wrongdoing.
Fourteen other cases were inactivated in accordance with the Department's long-standing policy.
"It's troubling when you have a significant number of internal affairs investigations of misconduct, some of it serious misconduct, that have been deactivated before the investigation is complete," Commissioner and former U.S. Attorney Robert Bonner said during a meeting Tuesday. "I mean, that's just, on it's face it's troubling a bit."
The Inspector General's report said some cases were closed before internal affairs detectives had completed work and others were closed after punishment recommendations were made. The report said the pace of the so-called "inactivations" appeared unusually high for a two-month period.
In a written response to the report the Sheriff's Department said the examples cited in the Inspector General's report were a, "superficial snapshot," of selected cases that had resulted in changes to employee discipline.
Chief Deputy Inspector General Dan Baker said he disagreed.
"They weren't selected cases, they're all the cases the department inactivated," he said.
The Oversight Commission asked the Sheriff's Department to provide any additional documentation about the reasons for the case inactivativations, and suggested the Department put the Sheriff's verbal directions into a written policy.
Also at Tuesday's meeting the Commission asked the Inspector General to open a new investigation into cliques or clubs of deputies that have formed at many Sheriff's stations and jails.
"This is an issue that requires bold leadership and action from the Commission," said Brian K. Williams, the Commission's executive director said in a prepared statement. "We are working to create transparency and accountability within the Sheriff's Department, and this is an important step to do just that."