A new report released Monday night by the Office of Independent Review looks at a pile of allegations of past abuse in the Los Angeles County Jails, and finds that most of the cases cannot be conclusively resolved due to the poor quality (or nonexistence) of timely investigations into the alleged incidents after they actually occured.
Here are the details:
In the fall of 2011, the ACLU filed 76 declarations “alleging wide scale and pervasive abuse of inmates by deputies in the County jails,” explains the October 2013 OIR report. “And while those allegations have helped stimulate positive reform,” it is “critical to thoroughly investigate and fairly analyze each individual allegation.”
This look backward is necessary, the report continues, in order to “hold people accountable for what occurred in prior years,” and “where possible and appropriate, to learn from past mistakes. Constant vigilance of deputies’ use of force in the Department’s custody settings remains vital going forward.”
With this in mind, the OIR examined the LASD’s handling of 31 of the ACLU’s 76 allegations.
Unfortunately, however, the OIR folks found that gathering enough salient facts to make a solid judgement regarding these cases proved to be easier said than done.
As a consequence, out of the 31 cases of allegations of abuse the OIR examined, it was forced to label the majority “Unresolved.”
Here is a general summary of some of the other dispositions of the original 78 allegations. including the 31 contained in the OIR report.
*ICIB has submitted a total of 65 cases to the District Attorney for filing consideration. In 49 of those, the D.A. has declined to file criminal charges against any of the involved personnel, most often citing a lack of sufficient evidence to prove that a crime occurred. Prosecutors have filed charges of assault under color of authority against one deputy for allegations stemming from an ACLU allegation and have charged two other deputies involved in the same case with making false reports. That case is not among the ones we review here because the criminal case is still pending. The remaining 15 cases are still pending with the D.A.
*Of the 31 cases we discuss in this report, none have led to an administrative finding of unnecessary or excessive force.
*Five of the cases reviewed here led to discipline for deputies for policy violations
related to the use of force.
*Eleven cases discussed in this report resulted in training or policy changes related to a systemic issue brought to light by the allegations.
When we asked the OIR’s Chief Attorney, Michael Gennaco, what he felt was the most significant about his organization’s 145-page account, he pointed to the frustrating lack of resolution.
“It shows how difficult these cases are to prove when they are investigated so many weeks or months or years after they have occurred.”
Gennaco further explained that a great many of the cases profiled in the report were not investigated until the ACLU filed a complaint, which made getting to the bottom all but impossible.
“If you haven’t done a proper investigation upfront, “ he said, “at this point, there is often nothing you can do…”
Even when the cases were investigated at the time, he added, “the protocols for investigation that were in place were often insufficient.” As a consequence, those doing the investigating “did a lousy job.”
There were cases in which inmate witnesses were not interviewed, or were inadequately interviewed.
This, in turn, made it all but impossible for the department—or the OIR—to do a conclusive investigation many months after the fact.
The matter was made even more difficult if LASD supervisors knew about the force accusations, but didn’t cause the matter to be investigated properly. Now, the report notes, it is too late. The year long statute of limitations has run out.
Both Gennaco and the report stress that, since 2011, much has been improved in the way use-of-force complaints are investigated and that, even with the best investigations, some cases simply cannot be adequately resolved because the allegation comes down to a matter of he said, he said-–an inmate’s word against that of deputies.
“All this is why cameras are so important,” he said.
Gennaco also commented on the fact that, while more than 1500 video cameras have been installed in the County’s downtown jails, cameras have yet to be fully installed in various Castaic facilities.
As to why it is taking so long to get cameras in all the county’s jails, Gennaco sighed.
“I have no idea,” he said.
Click here to access the report if you’d like to read the OIR’s accounts of some or all of the 31 cases for yourself.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our hearts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of well-respected veteran LA County juvenile probation officer, Kenneth Hamilton, who was killed early Monday morning by a hit-and-run driver in Boyle Heights. Hamilton, who in his off hours was also a beloved high school baseball coach, was hit when he was returning from his work at the department’s Eastlake Juvenile Hall.
ABC-7 has the story.