Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department ‘on a routine basis has been using unreasonable force’ in jails
By End the Lie
A report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California revealed that jailers with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have routinely struck inmates in the head unnecessarily with various objects, fists and even against jail bars causing “horrific head injuries.”
This is the same department looking at operating drones over Los Angeles, even though drones are already being operated domestically by the U.S. military in concert with law enforcement, and the same department whose deputies have actually detained people and accused them of being in league with al Qaeda simply for taking pictures.
“Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies are responsible for horrific head injuries, such as broken orbital bones and deep cuts on the face and head, which often send inmates to the hospital,” according to the ACLU of Southern California’s report which includes 64 sworn statements from former and current inmates and civilian eyewitnesses compiled since 2009.
The report is entitled “Sheriff Baca’s Strike Force: Deputy Violence and Head Injuries of Inmates in LA County Jails” focuses on attacks in which the deputies targeted the inmates’ heads.
An ACLU news release also gets into the Rosas v. Baca case filed in March against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in an attempt to force the reform of county jails.
Along with the 64 sworn statements, the report includes corroborating documentation including photographs, medical records for 12 of those cases along with the opinion of Steve Martin, a former correctional officer and nationally recognized expert in corrections.
“[B]ecause closed fist head strikes, strikes to the head with blunt objects, using force so that inmates’ heads strike solid objects such as walls or floors, and/or kicks [to the head] by deputies produce needless and oftentimes serious injuries (and oftentimes corresponding officer hand injuries), and such tactics are not typically as effective in neutralizing inmate resistance as many other approved tactics that are less potentially injurious, such hard impact strikes to the head should be very infrequently used,” said Martin, according to the report.
The Sheriff’s Department regularly claims that these incidents are a result of inmate aggression, but the ACLU says that still does not justify the practice.
“Even if you take the Sheriff’s Department at its word, there’s a difference between reasonable force and unreasonable force. And the Sheriff’s Department on a routine basis has been using unreasonable force,” said Peter Eliasberg, the ACLU of Southern California’s legal director, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Eliasberg’s point is quite valid, especially when one realizes that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has had a policy in place for two decades which states that deputies may not intentionally strike inmates’ heads unless they are in danger and the specific circumstances justify the use of deadly orce.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Department monitors, however, have said the department’s commitment to enforcing that policy has wavered.”
The policy was also updated in the last year to also include forcefully bringing an inmate’s head into contact with a hard object like a wall or jail bars.
Yet the disturbing abuses appear to continue unabated with the ACLU report stating, “Deputies have stomped on inmates’ heads, even after shackling those inmates’ hands.”
“They have bashed inmates’ faces into concrete walls,” the report continued. “They have fractured inmates’ facial bones.”
The accounts of the abuse handed out by the jailers is nothing short of horrific including one inmate who reported that a deputy kicked him in the head and jaw multiple times while he was on the floor.
“He was kicking me so hard that I saw a pool of my own blood on the floor,” wrote the inmate.
The timing of the release of the ACLU’s report on September 26, 2012 is quite interesting given that a final report by a county commission tasked with investigating allegations of abuses in jails is slated to be released on September 27, 2012.
It will be quite interesting to see if the findings of the county commission line up with those of the ACLU of Southern California but personally I’m not betting on it.
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