Sheriff’s Department tackles tough questions on homeless, mentally ill response

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department vigorously defended the work of its Mental Evaluation Team (MET) program on Monday night at a forum it co-hosted with the City of West Hollywood.

The virtual listening and Q&A session was organized to connect local leaders with public feedback about experiences with sheriff’s deputies and how the community feels about public safety — specifically, law enforcement response to mental health situations and homelessness in West Hollywood.

The MET program provides crisis intervention and targeted case management services to defuse potentially violent situations, as well as placing people with mental illness in psychiatric facilities, or linking them to outpatient services. They also perform in-service training for de-escalation, crisis negotiations during major incidents, averting use of force and reducing incarceration. 

The public comments at the meeting included some sharp allegations.

“The Sheriff’s Department is incredibly racist and classist,” said Jordan David. “Their efforts are focused on terrorizing black, indigenous, and people of color along with anyone who is poor or unhoused.”

David brought up claims that gangs had infiltrated the department, and demanded that deputies “show us your tats” to prove otherwise.

Capt. John Gannon stepped in to defend the department. 

“The data shows that MET has consistently saved and prevented the loss of life, let alone the loss of injuries, through potential uses of force,” he said. “Last year alone, because MET units were arriving in time to change the trajectory of the incident, 434 uses of force were averted.”

“For the record,” said Lt. Ryan Vienna, “I have no tattoos.”

“Can you speak to the impact of homeless encampment sweeps on your ability to maintain contact with vulnerable unhoused people that are displaced by them?” asked commenter William Seegmiller.

Lt. Vienna pointed to the Ramp program which was employed during recent encampment sweeps in Venice as evidence of their commitment to meaningful case management and successful outcomes.

“It’s important to the sheriff that we do that outreach in a way that is humane,” Vienna said. “He understands the underlying mental health issues that sometimes can plague our homeless populations.”

But the MET teams are just one cog in the machine, Capt. Gannon explained. “The MET teams are really there for the acute crisis that we encounter in the field and then they return to service. 

“We count on our providers to provide them with the prescribed care, but unfortunately many of these prescribed treatments are voluntary and a lot of people just walk out once the time expires and we’re back into the same cyclical nature.”

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Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
1 year ago

The Crisis of Homeless for their health, safety & welfare ALONG with the crime, danger and human & package waste on our streets is not a new problem and exists all over the US. There IS NO SOLUTION. If just ONE CITY anywhere had devised a programe beneficial to reducing the dangers to homeless and the homes & residents affected, were EVER PLANNED, TESTED & SUCCESSFUL .. We all would jump on this wide spread issue & problem. Thousands of people with degrees in the issue from top universities have never come up with any effective plan or steps to… Read more »

Olen
Olen
1 year ago

lol @Jordan David

Sinking Fast
Sinking Fast
1 year ago

With 71 Cases in 2013 and 54 in 2014 would be good to know what they were doing and not doing then when it was manageable.

WehoFan
WehoFan
1 year ago

Jordan David does not speak for anyone. His comment was disrespectful.

Bryan Watkins
Bryan Watkins
1 year ago
Reply to  WehoFan

Agree, and please explain the indigenous people of WeHo? You can not stop in a neighbourhood such as WeHo and claim services just because you are homeless. The sheriff is to simply enforce the laws on the books and not provide policy. That is set my politicians and citizens. If you don’t like the sheriff change the laws. The gay community has a great relationship with the Sheriff and it should not be tarnished by the current popular movement for unhoused people that stop in the community. We all accept homelessness as a part of society but we also are… Read more »

Curious
Curious
1 year ago

The Public Safety Commission should invite Jordan David to the next meeting so he can provide evidence to his claims that the Sheriff’s Department is “incredibly racist and classist.” To make a claim like that suggests he has facts, dates and details to support what he says.

Hopefully Councilmember Erickson (He/Him) will soon opine on his thoughts about this presentation. Does he support the WeHo Sheriff leadership and capabilities or not?

William Seegmiller
1 year ago
Reply to  Curious

Jordan did in fact relate his eye witness account of WeHo Sheriffs egregious handling of homeless person. I appreciated his confirmation that black and brown men were being selectively targeted by the no-warning $300 mask fine aka the “Shyne Fine”.

The MET team is doing great work and community forums like these are so important..Great work of the organizers and panelists.

JJ1
JJ1
1 year ago
Reply to  Curious

He has no evidence. All narrative. No substance. And it’s getting old.

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