Last week, Sheriff Lee Baca did a massive mea culpa when he met with the Times Editorial Board and told them he didn’t know, but should have known, about the pattern of abuse of inmates by Sheriff’s deputies in his massive jail system.
Okay, at first bounce the sheriff’s Captain Louis Renault stance was not terribly believable. But let’s say the sheriff is telling the truth-–or a version of the truth. More likely, what he means is that he was told that the ACLU was exaggerating with all those reports over the years, and the occasional bad apple who did use too much force had been investigated and either disciplined appropriately or, when necessary, fired. So not to worry.
We know from our own sources that there are those within the Sheriff’s Department who were concerned about what they were seeing in the jails, and attempted to alert people at the top of LASD command staff, but were roundly ignored—or in the case of Captain John Clark who tried to institute reform at Men’s Central Jail, was shut down, then moved out of the custody section of the Sheriff’s Department altogether. Somebody—or several somebodies— did that ignoring, and that sidelining.
Plus there were the issues like the multiple boxes worth of video cameras-–67 cameras in all— that were supposed to be installed in Men’s Central Jail more than a year ago, but weren’t and instead sat in a captain’s office, according to Baca.
So what about all that? What about that captain who ignored the order to get the cameras installed? What about the command staff who blocked reform and ignored the reports by concerned supervisors and lessor command staff that Bad Things Were Happening in the jails?
Shouldn’t some heads be rolling by this time?
When I happened, by chance, to speak about the jails issue this past weekend with former LA Mayor Richard Riordan, his most emphatic point on the matter was that it shouldn’t be merely the deputies who actually engaged in the abuse who were punished. “The supervisors should be held responsible, and the command staff above them. We should follow the responsibility as high as it goes.”
I don’t believe Riordan actually used the term heads should roll, but he said so in so many words.
Keep in mind that the former mayor, while fair-minded, is not a bleeding heart. Yet his tone was emphatic: Awful things were going on in the county’s jails and those who knew about it, and could have put a stop to it, needed to be held to answer.
If change is to occur, the individuals who turned a blind eye to years of scathing ACLU reports, individual complaints, and high ticket lawsuits, cannot all stay in the same positions they occupy now. Actions—or lack thereof—have to have consequences.
Can you imagine former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton leaving in place a high level officer who failed him and the department in the manner that Baca is suggesting?
By the same token, Baca needs to have someone (or several someones) at a very high level in his command staff who has both the desire and the stomach for the aggressive reform that the sheriff claims now to want. Based on his past actions, it would seem that Undersheriff Paul Tanaka is not that person.
Baca is meeting with the ACLU next Tuesday. Both sides appear to be approaching the get together with sincerity. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that talk.
In the meantime, for true reform to take place surely there needs to be some kind of shakeup at the upper levels of the Sheriff’s Department.
LA WEEKLY STORY ABOUT JAILS VISITOR BEING BEATEN IS NOW BEING INVESTIGATED
The LA Times has a story on that story, and it’s a must read.
Here’s the original story by Chris Vogel. in the Weekly about the alleged beating incident.