Officials: LA Sheriff's Department probe of jail abuse 'inadequate'

LA's Office of Independent Review called the department's internal investigation 'slanted'

LA County Sheriff Lee Baca ordered an investigation into ACLU allegations of inmate abuse in 2011.
Jason Kirk/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

An internal invesigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department into two-year-old allegations of inmate abuse was "inadequate" and "slanted," a report by an external authorities said this week.

The report came just weeks after LA County Sheriff Lee Baca was found liable for neglecting to stop jail authorities from abusing one inmate with heavy flashlights, amid an overarching statewide discussion on prisoners' rights.  

"We often found the Department's inquiries and investigations into these incidents were inadequate, sometimes slanted and insufficiently thorough," the 145-page report from the Office of Independent Review (OIR) says.

"This lackluster approach persisted largely because of poor training of first-line supervisors and inattention by jail operations managers."  

The investigation in question was launched by Baca after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in September 2011 filed declarations of abusive behavior. The declarations were made on behalf of 78 inmates.

"It's an important report. The OIR did exactly what it is supposed to do, and let us know where they believe we have shortcomings," Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore told Al Jazeera.

Whitmore reported that since the report, cameras have been installed in jails.

Ninety-nine percent of the deputies' reports of use of force, Whitmore said, "are the same as what the cameras show." He said this attests to the accuracy of the reports resulting from ACLU allegations in 2011.

Still, he says there is always room for improvement. 

"Can we do better? Yes we can," Whitmore said.

In the case of Gabriel Carrillo, an inmate who was allegedly pepper-sprayed, kicked and punched, the OIR found the sergeant who "directed the force" used against Carillo was also the author of the Use of Force Report.

"He, of course, is not a disinterested party in that he apparently ordered the takedown, the punches and knee strikes as well as the use of the (pepper) spray against Mr. Carrillo," the report says.  

Carrillo currently has a legal case pending against the Sheriff's Department.

A federal court found Sheriff Baca liable Oct. 17 for failing to address the practices that led to the beating of inmate Tyler Willis at LA County-based Men's Central Jail.

In 2009, the year that Willis was beaten, there were 258 instances of "significant use of force events," according to a probe by the government-affiliated Citizen's Commission on Jail Violence (PDF).

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