Questionable Inmate Handling At LA County Jail First Reported Two Years Ago

November 2, 2011

LASD Mens Central Jail Downtown Los AngelesThe LA Times has reported that command staff within the LA County Jail system first raised alarms about inmate abuse to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca almost two years ago.

The latest investigative article brings continued scrutiny to the nation’s largest jail system.  Reports of brutality against inmates, employee misconduct, and the use of unnecessary and excessive force by sheriffs and other jail personnel have mounted in recent weeks.

One of the reports found that deputies crafted narratives ‘dramatized to justify’ force. Reportedly, jailers delayed using weapons that could end fights, like pepper spray and stun guns, to ‘dispense appropriate jailhouse justice’.

Although supervisors had, at times, recommended additional training for sheriff’s deputies, enforcement of the recommendation was lax. Finger-pointing within the department continues to be a problem. Sheriff Baca has said that only a “small percentage” of jail personnel contributed to the problem.

Commander James Hellmold, who is part of a team assembled to implement jail reforms, indicated taht the memos never reached Sheriff’s desk. Some of those reports, he said, still lacked information pertaining to how inmates may have provoked violence.

Other reports written by jail supervisory staff criticize a consistent failure to examine how alternative safety enforcement methods could be employed.   One staff member wrote he questioned whether “deputies could intentionally disable cameras on Tasers”.

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