Los Angeles County jails still use excessive force: report

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 28, 2012 3:28 PM
Los Angeles County jails still use excessive force: report

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles County jails have not done enough to reduce unwarranted use of force, such as deputies grabbing an inmate by the throat for smirking or beating a handcuffed man, a report on the country's largest county jail system said on Friday.

The findings of the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence, created by county officials in October 2011, are the latest in a string of critical reports on the jail system, including one last year from the American Civil Liberties Union that said some deputies had formed gangs that encouraged assaults.

"Notwithstanding the recent reforms, the Commission does not believe that the problem of excessive use of force in the jails has been 'fixed,'" the report said.

"Multiple witnesses, both inmates and non-inmates, described numerous instances in which (sheriff's) personnel used force when no threat was present, used force disproportionate to the threat posed, used force after the threat had ended, or enabled inmates to assault other inmates," it said.

A spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said the sheriff was examining the report. The spokesman, Steve Whitmore, said no immediate changes were being made in response to it, but that "everything's going to be looked at."

Among the incidents the report cited was an inmate being grabbed by the throat, pushed into a glass window and thrown onto the ground for smirking at deputies.

One inmate told the commission that when asked why he was being moved from his cell, he was handcuffed and punched in the back of the head before other deputies ran to the scene to join the beating.

The report comes as Baca faces pressure to reform the jail system, which hold over 18,000 inmates and has faced problems from overcrowding. According to county numbers, the jails have seen incidents of significant use of force fall to 418 in 2011 from 588 in 2006.

The report made a number of recommendations, including revamping the discipline system for department personnel. In recent years, the sheriff's department has disciplined deputies for unreasonable use of force in less than 1 percent of jail incidents, the report said.

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Vicki Allen)