One day after Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies shot and killed a Black man in South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to spend $25 million to buy body cameras for the sheriff’s department.
Several members of the community spoke out against the shooting of the bicyclist at the meeting, calling in during public comments. Some demanded that the Board continue to support laws and motions that push forward its “Care First, Jail Last” initiative started in March to prioritize rehabilitation and prevention over incarceration and punishment.
While the sheriff’s department has not announced the victim’s name, friends and family have identified him as 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee, who was stopped by deputies for a vehicle code violation and later killed.
Because the officers did not have body cameras, the sheriff’s department and the community have debated whether or not Kizzee had a gun, said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.
“The fact is, we have no way of proving that any of this is actually true,” Hutchinson said. He reiterated that had the deputies had body cameras on them, it would be much easier to uncover the truth behind such shootings.
Hutchinson demanded that the Board of Supervisors conduct oversight and do more than supply officers with body cameras since they control the department’s budget.
“Make it mandatory that all L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies not only wear body cameras, [but] that [officers] have to wear them and they have to be on at all times,” said Hutchinson.
The shooting further weakens the trust between Black community and the county’s law enforcement, especially as allegations of underground gangs within the sheriff’s department surface.
A Los Angeles Times report described a whistleblower’s account of members of one such gang, known as the Executioners, within the Compton sheriff’s station. According to the whistleblower in the Times article, these members often say a suspect had a weapon to justify excessive force, though the colleagues called onto the scene never found the weapon.
Though the sheriff’s department opened an investigation into the allegations, some members of the community do not need the existence of the gangs to speak out against current treatment by certain deputies.
“We continue to see the human crisis unfold in Los Angeles County with the sheriff’s department, that is murdering our folks, that is murdering Black people,” said South Los Angeles resident Mark Anthony Clayton Johnson during public comments.
Sheriff Alex Villaneuva addressed the board and offered condolences to the victim’s family and noted that the dead bicyclist was the cousin of a department employee, but didn’t specify who that employee was.
Villaneuva said the department holds its officers accountable for wrongdoing, but some members of the community are not convinced that deputies will use the body cameras as intended. Shelitra Dill, who described herself as a close friend of Kizzee, said even deputies wear body cameras, they won’t be punished for using excessive force or taking other inappropriate actions.
“Do you think one of those cops in one of those cliques is going to care about a body camera seeing what he’s doing?” Dill said.
Hutchinson went on to describe other high profile shootings from the sheriff’s department, including the death of 18-year-old Andres Guardado who was shot by two deputies back in June.
“There’s clearly a pattern here,” Hutchinson said. “The sheriff’s department is out of control.”
Annenberg Media reached out to the sheriff’s department for additional comments, but the department said no further information is available at this time.