The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's civilian oversight panel has agreed to examine the agency's policies on taking photographs at crime and accident scenes in response to the controversy over deputies sharing photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva asked the Office of the Inspector General to begin an investigation into his agency in a letter on Wednesday. The letter also referenced Villanueva's intention to request the Civilian Oversight Commission provide input on LASD policy.
"It is evident our photography policy is deficient and this incident has identified a need for me to direct the creation of new policy regarding the taking, possession, distribution of photographs and recordings, etc., by on-duty LASD personnel," Villanueva said in the letter.
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Villanueva said last week that eight deputies were involved in taking and sharing photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant and other victims at the scene of the Jan. 26 crash in Calabasas, and that he ordered the photos to be destroyed.
"That was my number one priority, to make sure those photos no longer existed," Villanueva told NBC4.
The deputies involved are facing possible disciplinary action after the department conducts an investigation.
"It was such a hard scene dealing with the families first-hand at Lost Hills Station... reassuring them that we're doing everything possible, and then to find out days later that this happened, it's just a sense of betrayal," Villanueva told reporters.
"All photos that we know of that were in the possession of the individuals were deleted."
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Los Angeles County coroner's office were the only agencies that were supposed to be taking photos at the scene of the crash, Villanueva said.
In a statement issued by the department, Villanueva said he was "deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act."
The sheriff's department and other Los Angeles-area law enforcement agencies have struggled with keeping confidential information in high-profile cases from being shared in the past.
An attorney representing Bryant's widow Vanessa Bryant says she specifically asked sheriff's officials on the day of the crash to declare the area a no-fly zone to guard against photographers trying to cash in on the tragedy.
"At that time, Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured us all measures would be put in place to protect the families' privacy and it is our understanding that he has worked hard to honor those requests," a letter from the attorney
states. "We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light ... We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents."