At a press conference outside Sheriff’s Headquarters yesterday, the family of 11 year old Ashley Flores announced their intent to file what one would imagine will be a pretty hefty lawsuit against Sheriff McDonnell and the LASD due to a misrouted 911 call which they say resulted in Ashley’s death.
The family told CBS reporter Randy Paige they were forced to file a lawsuit because the Sheriff’s Department has not told them anything since the incident happened five months ago. They are literally saying that they are suing because the sheriff has not been up-front with them about what happened to their daughter and why.
“Waiting for answers, and nobody told me nothing,” Ashley’s father Alfonso Flores told CBS. “Nothing. Nobody. So, this is what I need for answers and justice.”
As CBS 2 reported last month (and with additional reporting from LASD watchdog Surruo.com), Flores suffered an asthma attack this past Christmas Eve. A 911 call was placed to Century Station but the deputy who answered the call–who was apparently untrained on the phone system–either misrouted the call or hung up on it entirely while trying to transfer it. Many minutes passed without a paramedic response and by the time help got to Ashley she was dead.
“Based on the current state of the investigation, but for the extended delay in getting medical help, Ashley would have lived. The claim alleges that the delay was caused by totally inadequate training and gross negligence by Los Angeles County and Sheriff McDonnell who are responsible for the training,” the Flores family said through their lawyer.
“The family wonders if this would have happened if they lived in an affluent community, and question whether their community is getting fair and equal treatment,” the statement concluded.
While an inflammatory accusation, it’s also probably a correct one.
In fact, sources tell us that Century Station (which serves the Lynwood area) has failed its annual audit of its “desk” operations for years, yet nothing has been done about it. The “desk” is LASD lingo for the 911 operation: calls for help coming in, the relevant details being collected, calls being entered into the dispatch system, and deputies being sent to calls. But it’s not just Century Station that has had problems. So, too, have other stations serving the county’s poorer and darker-hued communities such as Compton, South LA and East LA stations.
Stations with a good record of passing their desk audits tend to be in the more affluent/fair-skinned communities: Crescenta Valley, Lakewood, West Hollywood, Malibu.
So, what explains the difference?
There’s a long history of inconsistent standards between what happens at “ghetto stations” and all the others. They get worse equipment and cars, less training and there’s just an overall vibe of do-more-with-less. And the deputies serving those communities take pride in their ability to do just that. The deputies aren’t the problem. The problem is the Sheriff’s Department leadership that starves them of the resources they need and the community deserves. Leadership that doesn’t prioritize all communities equally.
This isn’t cynicism: it’s Politics 101.
Indeed, look no further than Sheriff McDonnell’s reported obsession with announcing the arrest of whoever killed Susan Leeds in white, affluent and politically-involved Rolling Hills. He reportedly demanded daily updates on the case, personally involved himself in it, and prominently announced an arrest at a press conference on Friday. (The alleged killer was released back into the community yesterday because the District Attorney said the case was rushed to cameras.)
How often do the victims of murders in Compton, South LA, East LA or Lynwood receive such attention? How often does the sheriff himself hold a press conference to announce the killers’ apprehension?
We all know the score here. LASD has long starved Century Station–and others in more urban areas–for resources and accepted failures that wouldn’t be tolerated in more affluent communities.
What’s really disappointing is that Sheriff McDonnell didn’t have the spine over the last five months to simply stand up and say, “We screwed up. We’ll pay for it and we’ll fix it.”
He’s not doing it because his lawyers (the real leaders of the Sheriff’s Department) are telling him not to. We’re going to be sued, they’re saying. You can’t admit anything.
That’s not leadership, sheriff. This is.