LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The state of California is launching a civil rights investigation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the largest sheriff’s department in the United States, officials announced Friday.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the state Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation will seek to determine “whether LASD has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.”

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The civil investigation comes on the heels of allegations of excessive force, retaliation, and other misconduct, as well as a number of recent reported incidents involving LASD management and personnel, Becerra said.

“There are serious concerns and reports that accountability and adherence to legitimate policing practices have lapsed at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” he said. “We are undertaking this investigation to determine if LASD has violated the law or the rights of the people of Los Angeles County.”

As part of the investigation, DOJ attorneys and special agents will consider information from community members and organizations, local officials, oversight entities, LASD, individual officers, and more.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a tweet he welcomed the investigation.

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“Our department may finally have an impartial, objective assessment of our operations, and recommendations on any areas we can improve our service to the community,” he said. “During my administration, we have routinely requested the State Office of the Attorney General to monitor our
investigations, and we will provide immediate access to all information in our possession. We are eager to get this process started, in the interest of transparency and accountability.”

The California Constitution and California Civil Code section 52.3 authorizes the Attorney General to conduct civil investigations into whether a law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or
federal law.

Last fall, the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission called for Villanueva’s resignation, claiming that he’s resisted oversight of the department and failed to hold deputies accountable.

The Commission’s Executive Director Brian K. Williams and Chair Lael Rubi released a statement, which read in part, “We welcome this important inquiry as a step toward realizing our collective goal of a department that is transparent, accountable and one which operates in a manner consistent with our constitution.”

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis thanked Becerra for beginning what she called “this significant and timely investigation into the LA County Sheriff’s Department.”

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“In response and with the community’s support, the Board of Supervisors has not only created the Office of Inspector General and the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission but has also continued to utilize all tools available to us, to hold the department accountable for action and inactions against the residents of LA County,” Solis said.