By Ava Schwartzapfel
LOS ANGELES, CA— Officials here have asked for a status conference to be held in federal court after a scathing report filed late last week on how the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has handled jail issues under Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
The court-appointed panel has especially mentioned the of deputies’ use of force, including “head shots,” as well as other issues in their vast jail system.
In the report, “head shots” were defined as “punches to the head of the inmate,” noting the full extent of the physical abuse occurring in these institutions is unknown due to “likely failures to disclose them.”
This report is the 10th of its kind, stating, “We are no longer seeing progression towards professional management of force situations. It is time for the jail culture to stop supporting behaviors that are forbidden by policy.”
The monitors were also critical of the lack of accountability on behalf of deputies, supervisors and managers for the numerous failures to adhere to the use of force policies.
This court-appointed monitoring of LA County jails was implemented in 2015 as a part of the settlement in the Rosas v. Baca case, in which former L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca was aware of a pattern of beatings and lack of responsibility for it within his jails.
The eventual goal of the case was to change the prison culture by having LASD implement proper training and policies against use of force by jail staff.
More importantly, there was a line of discipline implemented for those who did engage in improper use of force. The current board believes that these changes are not being upheld.
Chief counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California Peter Eliasberg said, “This report by the court-appointed monitors in the Rosas case decisively demonstrates that there is a serious and long-standing problem with deputies using excessive force in the Los Angeles County Jails.”
He added, “Deputies brutally punch incarcerated people in the head, initiate unnecessary force rather than taking steps to avoid it, and then fabricate reports to justify their actions.”
In the request for a conference, the court-appointed panel also mentions that former progress on key issues has “plateaued” and “actually regressed on some others.”
Eliasberg also said that “these problems fester because supervisors turn a blind eye to the excessive force and dishonesty, and no one is disciplined. Most concerning of all, the violations of the consent decree have gotten significantly worse since Alex Villanueva became sheriff.”