Monday, December 17, 2018
- It was the sort of story KPCC loves. “LA Sheriff Eliminates Some Deputy Disciplinary Rules And Weakens Others.” As the tale went, Sheriff Villanueva “eliminated or weakened” a whole host of disciplinary rules. The ACLU chimed in, saying the Sheriff’s actions undercut jail reforms and violated a consent decree. And the worst part of the story from the pedestal KPCC thinks it occupies? That the Sheriff not only did all this voluntarily, but that “Villanueva’s move would appear to preempt any action the [Employee Relations Commission] might take in complaints filed by ALADS.” Oh, and KPCC managed to mention that, “The deputies union strongly supported Villanueva in his campaign to unseat former Sheriff Jim McDonnell, spending more than $1.3 million on his behalf.”
There was only one thing wrong about the story. The underlying premise was completely inaccurate. Sheriff Villanueva’s decision to revert to the 2012 Disciplinary Guidelines wasn’t voluntary.
ALADS did file complaints with ERCOM in 2013 and 2017 challenging two sets of changes to the Department’s Disciplinary Guidelines. ALADS’ argument was pretty straightforward. For 40 years, California law has required employers to negotiate with unions over changes in disciplinary standards. ERCOM, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), and the courts have held time and time again that because discipline impacts job security, transfers, promotions, compensation, and assignments, it is the most important component of negotiable “working conditions.” When the Department changed the Guidelines in 2013 and 2017, it ignored this body of law and refused to negotiate with ALADS.
During a three-day hearing earlier this year, the Department couldn’t keep its story straight as to why it changed the Guidelines. For example, Former Undersheriff Neal Tyler was the lead witness for the Department. In describing why sweeping changes to the 2017 Guidelines were made, Tyler
cited the campaign promises of former Sheriff McDonnell
, the need to comply with
Brady v. Maryland
, the recommendations of the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, and an increase in off-duty DWI charges against deputies. What Tyler couldn’t explain was why changes needed to be made in 2017 to comply with the 53-year-old decision in
or the five-year-old CCJV recommendations. Tyler admitted that he could not point to even one of the 2017 Policy Changes that were the product of the CCJV’s recommendations, and conceded that there was no “long-term trend” in DWI incidents.
ERCOM Hearing Officer Shari Ross issued a sweeping ruling
in favor of ALADS
holding that the Department was required to negotiate with ALADS over any changes to the Guidelines, and ordered the Department to revert to the 2012 version of the Guidelines. The Department appealed Ross’s ruling to ERCOM. On November 26, 2018, ERCOM upheld Ross’s order that the Department revert to the 2012 Guidelines.
That’s right, Sheriff Villanueva’s decision to revert to the 2012 Guidelines wasn’t voluntary at all. He was required by law to do so. KPCC’s implication that the Sheriff was fulfilling some sort of campaign promise to ALADS wasn’t just snide, it was flatly wrong.
What’s worse is that one of the reporters on the story spoke with both ALADS Executive Director Derek Hsieh and Will Aitchison, the lawyer from the Public Safety Labor Group who represented ALADS in the hearing. There simply was no excuse for getting the basic premise of the story so fundamentally wrong.
KPCC has made it clear again. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. That said, ALADS will always work with our media partners to get the real story to the people of Los Angeles County.