Too little too late

Baca quietly implements revised inmate release policy in the wake of Richardson death

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 11/24/2011

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has quietly revised the Sheriff’s Department’s nighttime release policy, a move that comes more than a year after the discovery of the remains of Mitrice Richardson, an honors student at Cal State Fullerton who was arrested by deputies for failing to pay a bill at a Malibu restaurant in September 2009, then released from custody shortly after midnight without a phone, money or a car. Richardson’s skeletal remains were found 11 months later in a wooded area less than six miles from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

Following a Nov. 9 meeting with Pasadena women’s rights advocates Gerda Govine-Ituarte and Shirley Spencer, an officer with the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area, Richardson’s psychiatrist, Ronda Hampton, and her aunt, Lauren Sutton, Baca announced that the department’s nighttime release policy had been changed back in May, which was news to Richardson’s family and friends, according to Spencer.

Titled “Property Retained at Time of Arrest,” the policy reads: “The arresting deputy shall, when practicable, book with the arrestee certain personal items or items of personal identification in possession of the arrestee at the time of arrest (e.g. driver license, passport, credit cards, cellular telephone, etc.) when the items would provide proof of identification and/or facilitate the identification/booking or release procedure.”

Richardson’s friends and family members said Baca’s policy change is not enough. They called for an independent committee to investigate the death and the circumstances surrounding it. They also called for the disbanding of the Office of Independent Review, a county agency that reviews incidents involving the Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies. The OIR investigated the performances of sheriff’s personnel involved in the Richardson case and found that, while things could have been done better, the deputies did nothing improper in processing Richardson at the lockup and later releasing her.