'We are not going away'
Friends Group fights to change sheriff’s nighttime release policy in wake of woman’s disappearance
By Justin Chapman 03/25/2010
They may not have gotten exactly what they wanted from LA County Sheriff’s Department officials in the hot seat over the disappearance of a woman who has not been heard from since being released from custody in the dead of night in September.
But members of the Friends Group, an arm of the city’s Commission on the Status of Women, let law enforcement officials know that they won’t forget 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson, who went missing Sept. 17 after she was released at 12:35 a.m. from the sheriff’s Malibu/Lost Hills Station.
“We’re not going to go away on this,” said Shirley Spencer of the Friends Group. “There needs to be increased awareness of our rights. While there are super nice people in the Sheriff’s Department, there are also issues that need attention.”
On March 17, Spencer’s group hosted a low-key panel discussion on the sheriff’s nighttime jail release policies that included input from Chief Neal B. Tyler, who oversees the Malibu/Lost Hills Station, as well as the sheriff’s Crescenta Valley and Altadena stations. The event at the Pasadena Central Library was aimed at giving family members a better idea of where the search for Richardson stands.
The department maintains that the current policy is both legal and necessary. But Spencer called the county’s custodial nighttime release policy “imprudent” when it should be “compassionate.” People — especially women — should not be released from jail at night without access to money, a phone, transportation and proper clothing, Spencer said.
The Friend’s Group plans to collect stories of women inmates released at night and meet again with sheriff’s officials for updates on the search for Richardson.