July 21, 2014

LA County Sheriff’s Department, Then and Now

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We aired a story in "Mind Your Own Business" about an FBI investigation of inmate abuse and corruption in LA County jails that escalated into a massive battle between the Feds and the LA Sheriff’s Department. The most recent trial concluded with six sheriff’s department officials convicted of obstruction of justice.

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We asked the LA Sheriff’s Department to send us a written statement about the changes the department has made since the investigation came to light three years ago.

Here’s their full statement:

In September, 2011, the first of two lawsuits was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) documenting multiple allegations of deputy misconduct within the Los Angeles County Jail system. The second lawsuit came in January, 2012, citing additional allegations. In addition to this, Federal authorities initiated an investigation in the Los Angeles County Jail system, which prompted heavy scrutiny on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s management of the jails.    

In response to these allegations, the Department immediately established a corrective action plan to address concerns about custody operations.  Over the past few years, the Department has made a multitude of changes which have transformed the custody environment. Some of these changes include innovative ideas which have not previously been implemented in large jail systems.  

The goal was to promote community trust, implement a force reduction plan, change the deputy culture in the custody environment, encourage respect based communications with inmates, review and implement new training for staff assigned to the jails, prepare and revise all directives/policies necessary to implement recommendations from outside entities, analyze force incidents, reduce inmate-on-inmate violence, and develop and implement a custodial career path for deputies.  

Some of those changes were:

  • Creation of an Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau Task Force to investigate ACLU declarations and jail misconduct.
  • Creation of the Commander Management Task Force to implement jail reforms.
  • Creation of the Custody Force Rollout Team and the Custody Force Review Committee to improve investigations and the evaluation of force incidents.
  • Immediate transfer of 19 sergeants and 2 lieutenants to Men’s Central Jail for additional supervision.
  • Complete revision of the Department’s Force policies and included a Force Prevention policy.
  • Creation of a Use of Force Manual.
  • Initiation of Town Hall Meetings for inmates to voice their concerns directly to supervisors and facility management.
  • Enhanced staff training for ethics, force prevention and dealing with the mentally ill.
  • Appointment of a new Assistant Sheriff and management team for Custody Division.
  • Expansion of the Education Based Incarceration program to help in rehabilitative efforts.
  • Expansion of the Custody Training and Standards Bureau.
  • Expansion of the Jail Mental Health Evaluation Team.
  • Enhanced penalties for excessive force and dishonesty.
  • Creation of the Internal Investigations Division, now known as Professional Standards Division.
  • Creation of an internal audit unit known as the Internal Monitoring, Performance Audits and Accountability Command.
  • Mandate daily review of all force by executives.
  • Installation of a CCTV video system in Men’s Central Jail, Twin Towers Correctional Facility, and the Inmate Reception Center and is currently adding additional cameras with a five-year installation plan for all jails.
  • Prohibit the use of large flashlights and issued small, tactical flashlights to all Custody personnel.
  • Implementation of a Dual Track career plan for sworn personnel which allows deputies to remain in a custody assignment their entire career if they choose.
  • Mandate custody line personnel rotate assignments every six months within each facility.
  • Revision or creation of over 70 policies.
  • Purchase of Body Scanners for inmate searches. Two are being tested currently at the Inmate Reception Center.
  • Implement 52 of 60 Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence recommendations.  One is still in progress and the remaining seven are being worked on but require additional funding.

As a result of the changes made, the Department has fundamentally changed the culture of the custody environment. Use of force incidents have dropped significantly, in comparison to 2011 and earlier. Civil lawsuits and claims from custody related incidents have also been reduced.   

The Department continues to constantly evaluate all aspects of custody operations and is committed to changes that will enhance the Department, personnel and the community within the jails.