LA sheriff’s department seeks oversight panel review of policies

The request came after an investigation into leaked photographs of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

Alene Tchekmedyian
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has asked its civilian oversight panel to review the agency’s policies in the aftermath of the scandal over deputies sharing photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others.

Patti Giggans, the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission chairwoman, said Saturday morning that the panel responded “in the affirmative,” saying that it would be happy to give input on department rules on taking photographs at crime and accident scenes.

“We accepted the invitation, his overture, and look forward to working with the sheriff on this,” Giggans said.

The Times first reported last week that deputies were sharing crash photos. The sheriff’s department received a written complaint three days after the Jan. 26 crash that a deputy at a Norwalk bar was showing gruesome images taken at the scene of the tragedy.

The leadership of the sheriff’s department, instead of following the normal investigative protocols, tried to keep a lid on the episode — even after determining that several more deputies had obtained photos, according to interviews.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva later acknowledged that he ordered the deputies to delete the photos, a move that legal experts and some inside the department said could amount to destruction of evidence.

“Had we done the original, usual routine, which was relieve everybody of duty and everybody lawyers up and all that, that would increase the odds tenfold that those photos would have some how made their way into the public domain. And that’s definitely what we do not want,” Villanueva said, according to KNBC.

After The Times’ reporting, Villanueva said he would launch an investigation. In a statement at the time, the department said “the Sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act. A thorough investigation will be conducted by the Department, with the number one priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families.”

An attorney for Vanessa Bryant, the Lakers great’s wife, called the alleged behavior by deputies “inexcusable and deplorable.”

Gary C. Robb requested an internal affairs investigation into the allegations and the “harshest possible discipline” for those responsible.

“This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families,” he said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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