The previous 24 months have been a tumultuous season for our community and the Department. And recent events involving L.A. City Council members have driven another wedge between the people and those elected to represent them. Keep in mind these officials oversee the resources that allow public employees to function.
The coming month will lend some clarity, and hopefully a commitment, to improve the relationship between the Department, the community and the political entities governing both. How this specifically affects Custody Assistants will come down to multiple factors, including reconvening our meetings with the Department to outline a plan to unwind the knot that is C/As and our use within the Department.
I recently sat through a training and asked, “Why are Custody Assistants included in this?” The term “Sheriff’s personnel” is blanket coverage for the Department, yet it does not specify who does what. When speaking with an attorney about our situation, I explained that the separation is clear when it comes to benefits and protections. But the lines are blurred when it comes to blame, inmate rights and civilian investigations.
There are legal questions that must be addressed regarding the custody ratio, how
C/As get included into policy without meeting with PPOA and what legislative protections we have that can be implemented on our behalf.
An incident of that nature came up during the height of the pandemic when C/As were initially left out of a potentially protective legislative bill. We were able to speak with the author and have Custody Assistants included.
Unfortunately, that bill ultimately failed after being saturated with other groups throughout the county and state looking for inclusion — many of them completely unrelated to custody and courts and our unique interactions with inmates and arrestees, including their medical concerns and the increasing population and broadening range of those affected by mental illness.
Our “civilian” status has been a major reason certain benefits have eluded us. Corrections Officers, whom I am often asked about in comparison, are sworn, which makes an immense difference.
What can we do to change our service status? What avenues can we explore that have not been taken? What role can legal counsel and legislation play? How does our bargaining unit affect us? These subjects will be my focus, and I will ask for legal responses and for references to be cited to explain why or why not something can or cannot be created or changed.
There is a lot still to unwind. People have never understood why some things simply can’t be done. The Corrections Officers needed a legal battle to effect change, and we need to utilize all tools and options at our disposal.
In closing, I’d like to acknowledge you all for the work you have done. Your exploits have not gone unappreciated and unrecognized by myself and the organization.
May you and your families have a blessed, safe and favorable Thanksgiving and holiday season. Enjoy the family and friends who drive and support you and the colleagues who see the immense value that you bring to work.