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Baca Appoints Tanaka to Head Up Task Force, Jails Probe Needs a Christopher Commission…& More

October 11th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


SHERIFF BACA APPOINTS PAUL TANAKA TO HEAD UP SPECIAL JAIL INVESTIGATIONS TASK FORCE

We all welcome the fact that Sheriff Baca has appointed a Special Jail Investigations Task Force to pull apart the issue of alleged deputy abuse of inmates inside the LA County Jails.

But it is deeply disappointing that, according to the Daily News’ Christina Villacorte, he has appointed his second in command, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, to head up the task force. As I’ve outlined here, WitnessLA reporter Matt Fleischer learned from a well-placed LASD whistleblower that, as early as 2006, Tanaka personally blocked an important reform effort to break up the problematic deputy “gangs” inside Men’s Central Jail that have now been blamed for many of the worst cases of alleged abuse of inmates.

Put another way, this is one more demonstration of why a law enforcement agency simply cannot investigate itself—especially with a scandal as entrenched, serious and longstanding as the patterns of misconduct and abuse of inmates by sheriff’s deputies inside the LA County jails.

For that we need outsiders like the Feds.

And an independent commission.

This past Spring, WitnessLA called for a Christopher Commission-type investigation of the jails. In Tuesday’s LA Times, the editorial board calls on the LA County Board of Supervisors to appoint just such an independent commission—in addition to Federal probes.

Okay, dearest Supervisors, the ball is in your court.


LA COUNTY SUPERVISORS WILL HOLD A CLOSED DOOR “RUTHERFORD” MEETING ABOUT A JAILS-RELATED LAWSUIT ON TUESDAY MORNING

First a bit of back story:

In 1975, the ACLU first sued Los Angeles County and then Sheriff Peter Pitchess on behalf of all inmates in the county’s jail system, one of whom was named Dennis Rutherford. The suit charged that conditions were so bad inside LA’s jails that collectively they violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The case, Rutherford v. Pitchess, was decided in the inmates’ favor and drastic improvements were ordered by the judge, with the ACLU named as the monitoring agency that verified whether or not the ordered improvements were put in place.

In the thirty-six years between then and now, the case that was once known as Rutherford v. Pitchess, became Rutherford v. Block then Rutherford v. Baca. Today it is simply known as Rutherford.

All these decades later, the ACLU is still monitoring a situation that, as the latest reports and media stories show, is not even close to resolved. In December of last year, ACLU lawyers described the problems as so acute that they asked U.S. District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson to order a new trial in the case based on “an escalating crisis of deputy violence, abuse and inmate suicides” at Men’s Central Jail. in other words, things had arguably not gotten better, they’d gotten worse.

Nearly a year later still, the ACLU’s most recent report, plus various media revelations, make clear that the “escalating crisis” continues to spin out of control.

Which brings us to today.

According to the LA County Supervisors’ meeting agenda, 10 a.m. the Supes will be “meeting with legal counsel” about “existing litigation”—having to do with Rutherford.

“This case arises out of allegations of civil rights violations in the Los Angeles County Jails,” states the agenda.

The timing of the meeting, of course, seems interesting given the latest incarnation of the jails scandal.

But perhaps it is also fortuitous. In fact, once the Rutherford discussion is out of the way, perhaps the Supes could talk about appointing that independent commission.


WHY THE OBAMA REVERSAL ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA?

Ron Kampia at the Huffington Post writes that the Obama administration has gone from best to worst when it comes to medical marijuana policy.

Here’s a clip:

During his run for the presidency, Barack Obama instilled hope in medical marijuana supporters by pledging to respect state laws on the matter. And for the first two years of his term, he was generally faithful to his promise. Yet suddenly, and with no logical explanation, over the past eight months he has become arguably the worst president in U.S. history regarding medical marijuana.

First the DOJ instituted the crazy law that Montanans hate about those with marijuana cards not being able to buy guns or ammo.

Then the threat by the Feds to shut down California pot clinics. (A swell use of resources.)

But there’s more. Read the rest.

MEANWHILE THE CONGRESS MAKES ITS OWN DRUG WARRIOR MOVES

A new House bill that would impose US drug policy globally just passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.

Radley Balko has the story for Huffington Post.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD, Medical Marijuana | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. New report on abuse within LA County jails (including an attack on a mentally ill inmate) and the need for video cameras in Men’s Central Jail. « InvestmentWatch Says:

    [...] on Tuesday night's Which Way LA? broadcast that Undersheriff Paul Tanaka acted appropriately when Tanaka blocked 2006 reform efforts that would have helped to break up the problematic deputy gang-like cliques inside Men's Central [...]

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