At Nation’s Largest Jail System, New Indictments Add To Evidence Of Corruption And Brutal Beatings

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Federal officials have filed criminal charges against two deputy sheriffs in the nation’s largest sheriff’s department who allegedly issued brutal beatings to an inmate and then lied about it.

The deputies at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department allegedly kicked, pepper-sprayed, and beat an inmate with flashlights while he was “waist-chained,” and then later filed false reports accusing the inmate of having attacked them that led to pursuit of criminal charges against the inmate, according to the indictment.

The latest filing comes two months after 18 other officers in the department were indicted for similar allegations of brutality and corruption, in a county that has seen a spate of allegations of violence and misconduct, leading to extensive probes by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other entities. Among the allegations was that officers assaulted visitors to the jail, including the Austrian consul general. During testimony before a county commission created to address the violence, a department captain described a mantra among officers of striking inmates anywhere but “in the face,” so as not to leave evidence of the beatings. In a concurrent civil trial, video showed “deputies firing concussion grenades and pulling bloodied and limp inmates out of their cells” as inmates scream in pain.

Jails, unlike prisons, typically hold inmates who are either locked up pending their trial, or were convicted of lower-level offenses mandating short sentences (typically less than a year). But because the state of California has been plagued with its own allegations of unconstitutional overcrowding in its prisons, a system of “realignment” has moved state prison inmates into the jail system, making what is already the country’s largest jail system even larger and more overcrowded. Reformers have had some success in moves to get low-level offenders out of the jail system and into programs like a county fire suppression camp that both train the offenders and provide a public services.

While these allegations are limited to conduct inside the jails, another Department of Justice investigation in June found that officers in the county department systematically target blacks and Latinos for stops, seizures and excessive force. And another 2010 Los Angeles Times report found that the Sheriff’s Department hired dozens of officers who were previously fired for serious misconduct.