Sheriff Lee Baca
Read the Office of Independent Review’s 10th annual report here.
At a hearing Friday, six investigative teams reported to the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) in downtown Los Angeles. Collectively they pointed the finger of blame directly at Sheriff Lee Baca for failing to adequately monitor and control use of force against inmates by deputies.
“The Sheriff failed to monitor and proactively control use of force. That senior management failed to adequately investigate allegations or the existence of excessive use of force,” said Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director, CCJV.
Krinsky said the report wasn’t meant to address if Baca was purposefully insulating himself from issues so he could have plausible deniability.
“What our teams presented today did reflect that the sheriff has not been fully aware of critical information that it was necessary and appropriate for him to been aware of and that information that we’ve received also did not reflect to us that his senior managers that failed to keep him fully informed have been held accountable. That there’s no record that they’ve been disciplined, demoted or faced any sort of serious consequences for their failure to inform the sheriff of key information and problems that were developing over a series of years.
In three weeks the findings report will be made public with a list of recommendations.
Attention to use of force by the Sheriff’s Department at the Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) began when the Los Angeles Times broke the news in August 2011 that the FBI had an inmate informant entice a deputy to smuggle a cell phone to him. The informant had been giving federal officials information regarding jail violence.
Subsequently, the American Civil Liberties Union announced the filing of 78 declarations alleging deputy abuse of inmates. These events underscored a discomfort level with the jail deputies who had a highly publicized fight amongst themselves at a 2010 Christmas part and revelations that some deputies had formed a gang-like clique that routinely abused inmates.
The Office of Independent Review (OIR) in their 10th Annual report yesterday pointed out many problems and solutions with the Sheriff’s Department with nary a mention of the man in charge – Baca.
(The OIR says they assisting the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence with background information and testimony whenever called upon.)
In their report, supervised by Chief Attorney Michael J. Gennaco, the use of inappropriate force by jail custodians has been “an intractable problem for centuries.” The report does call the recent attention drawn to the jails a “welcome phenomenon.”
The Men’s Central Jail finally has finally installed nearly 700 cameras, which the report hailed as a big improvement.
“The presence of cameras cannot be understated – those lenses provide an objective window to the cloistered jail community and have already provided an invaluable tool for objective accountability and insight.”
The report bemoaned the years of discussion and delay before they were installed and operational at MCJ. Cameras have also been installed at Twin Towers and the Inmate Reception Center, but “infrastructure” issues have prevented them from going on line.
There is now a debate on whether or not deputies should be allowed to review the video for use of force cases before writing their reports.
On a less optimistic note, the OIR expressed their dissatisfaction with the pace of investigations. Of the 78 declarations several contained allegations of impropriety but no allegations of criminal conduct and were therefore forward to the Internal Affairs Bureau for investigation.
The vast majority – roughly 70 cases – did allege potential criminal conduct and were assigned to the Jail Investigations Task Force. At the end of January 2012 only a “handful” of these investigations had been completed and sent to the District Attorney for review and a decision to file charges against any involved deputies.
The OIR report complimented Baca on creating a “Force Prevention Policy” that was originally penned on a napkin, but ultimately forged into policy.
“In our experience with other law enforcement agencies, we have never before seen such an explicit expression of an agency’s desire to prevent the use of force.”
The OIR did quibble with the fact that the disciplinary guidelines for violations of the unreasonable force policy may set the minimum discipline for such violations too low.