ACLU Jail LA County Board of Supervisors LASD Sheriff Lee Baca

New ACLU Report Shows Unnecessary and “Alarming” Use of Head Strikes….And the Grand Jury Subpoenas Roll In for LASD


In anticipation of the final report on Friday by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence—and the Sheriff’s reaction to that report— the So Cal ACLU issued its own report Wednesday morning, contending that jail deputies frequently use head strikes—many causing serious injuries—at a rate that is fundamentally out of line with the national standard among corrections officers.

Corrections expert Steve J. Martin, a former Texas correctional officer, turned attorney, turned nationally-known corrections consultant, examined the ACLU’s report and weighed in under oath. Martin said, among other things, that “….the number and extent of head injuries sustained in these use of force incidents strongly suggest’ that the deputies working in Men’s Central Jail “employ hard impact head strikes during force incidents”…”at alarming levels.”

Interestingly, Martin also said that, after reviewing the department’s own use of force stats compiled by the Jails Commission, he concluded “…that there were many more serious injuries, including head injuries, between 2009 and 2012 that the ACLU is aware of.”

Here’s a link to Martin’s full testimony.

And here’s more from Wednesday’s ACLU report:

…There is clear evidence that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (“LASD”) deputies have used head strikes with alarming regularity in the Los Angeles County jails. In many of those incidents the head strikes have caused significant injuries. The manner and frequency of such head strikes strongly suggests an inappropriate use of force by

In recent years, Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies have stomped on inmates’ heads, even after shackling those inmates’ hands. They have bashed inmates’ faces into concrete walls. They have fractured inmates’ facial bones – noses, jaws, cheekbones, or eye sockets. The ACLU is aware of least 11 inmates who have had their facial bones broken by LASD deputies in the past three years. One inmate has lost vision in one eye. Others have undergone surgery. Sixty-four people have made sworn statements describing incidents in which deputies targeted inmates’ heads for attack between 2009 and 2012. These are not mere unsubstantiated complaints. The ACLU has corroborated 12 of these allegations of head injuries with secondary evidence, such as medical records, photographic documentation, or civilian reports. In several other instances, inmate witnesses have corroborated reports of deputy-on-inmate head strikes.

If history is any guide, LASD will respond to this evidence by attacking the ACLU and blaming inmates. They will argue that inmates’ accounts of deputies using unjustified force are false, and they will allege that inmates were the aggressors.

But even assuming that the LASD is correct that the inmates were aggressive towards deputies, the attempt to blame inmates does not absolve the LASD from its use of excessive and illegal force. For even where inmates are the aggressors, the fundamental widely recognized rule regarding use of force by a custodial officer is that head strikes are almost never permissible. Accordingly, head injuries should be an exceedingly rare consequence of a use of force incident, even when inmates are aggressive.

There are some disturbing accounts of the use of head strikes in the report itself, like the story of “Mr. NN” picture above.


Several rounds of grand jury subpoenas have been delivered to members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department, some this week, some last week, and some reportedly trickling in still earlier.

This week’s flurry caused the Sheriff’s Department to send around a memo on Tuesday telling those receiving the things and not to go around bringing in any LASD documents or paperwork—even if the feds ask for them—without consulting the department’s legal watchdogs on the matter.

Here’s a clip from the memo:




It should be an interesting week.


  • Typical aclu and media – little to no understanding of law enforcement use of force. And, some of these so-called “experts” really aren’t.

    1. Every use of force stands on its own and requires separate review. Statistics have NOTHING to do with whether a particular use of force was reasonable or not. That is to say, “manner and frequency” means NOTHING.

    2. Statistics regarding injuries sustained by subjects, suspects, inmates, prisoners, etc also mean NOTHING when taken as a whole. Again, each incident must be judged by itself.

    3. Funny how the aclu NEVER focuses any attention or effort researching all the LEOs assaulted and/or killed every year!

    4. Credibility/reliability of witnesses and the specific threats presented by suspects, subjects, inmates, prisoners, etc to LEOs ARE ABSOLUTELY LEGITIMATE FACTORS when reviewing uses of force.

    5. “For even where inmates are the aggressors, the fundamental widely recognized rule regarding use of force by a custodial officer is that head strikes are almost never permissible.” Sorry but UTTER BULLSH!T

    6. “Accordingly, head injuries should be an exceedingly rare consequence of a use of force incident, even when inmates are aggressive.” Sorry but A STUPID CONCLUSION BASED UPON UTTER BULLSH!T

    ANYONE who acts violently towards LEOs or threatens to act violently towards LEOs is likely going to have force used upon them – and justly so. The vast vast majority of contacts, inside Custody as well as out on Patrol, did NOT result in uses of force. WHY? Simple. People did what the officers/deputies asked or told them to do. Period. Funny you never hear about all the contacts made, situations handled, and problems resolved that did NOT involve a use of force.

    We use reasonable force to stop threats and/or gain safe control of people or situations – that’s it. Once the threat is no longer there and/or we’ve established safe control, force is discontinued. If not, I would most likely agree that the additional or continued use of force would be unreasonable.

    We now return you back to your regularly scheduled agendas.

  • Again, the ACLU never met a use of force they liked.

    What’s hilarious to me, in an ironic fashion, is how Lee Baca thought he could turn the ACLU into an ally.
    Tisk tisk. They could very well be the reason for his downfall. Coupled with the changing tone of the media not giving him a pass for being an absentee sheriff. The media seems to be waking up to the reality that the guy hasn’t done his job.
    The opinion that he comes off as warm and likeable and gives a hell of a speech is now taking a backseat to the reality of his job performance.

  • Hey, Sucks, so the expert whom the ACLU relied on, who is a former correctional officer who consults with US DOJ and has written force policies for the US government and scores of other correctional institutions is not a real expert? You, however, a guy who goes on websites and throws around capitalized swear words, is a real expert? How many force policies have you written for the US government?

  • Hey,Blackmun, that FORMER correctional officer has been very highly paid for his apparent “expert” opinions. Too some people, money talks. Look into his backround and you’ll find out it’s less than competent.


    Last night I posted a link to Martin’s full sworn statement in the post above. It also includes a lot of his CV. Before you go on with your arguments, have a look at what he has to say. He’s very measured and specific, and very clear about the fact that there are times that force is unavoidable. But also clear that there are other times when it IS avoidable, and undesirable for all concerned.

    Anyway, I don’t want to paraphrase. Have a look for yourself and see where you might agree or disagree.

    I apologize for not getting it up for everyone sooner. I’m in the midst of driving back from MT to LA and my posting time has been… limited. In any case, it’s up now.

    And tomorrow the commission delivers its report. (I’ll be there, of course.) So more to come very shortly.

  • Well I read the report and here’s what I found –
    over a three year period, while handling an average Daily Population of over 19,000 gang members, felons, parolees, and certifiably insane men, with a higher inmate to officer ratio than ANY other agency in the United States, Deputies used force that resulted in head injuries on about 30 inmates. The report does not break down how many inmates got head injuries from being tackled to the ground or being shoved into a wall after the inmate initiated an attack, nor does it break down how many inmates were struck in the face while they were wrestling with a Deputy for a weapon. It also does not show how many Deputies were injured during the same period. More facts would be appreciated.

  • Coyote Waits,

    By the way, I’m talking about Martin’s statement, not the ACLU report.

    The ACLU report doesn’t have the information you seek because the department won’t give it to them.

    I’d like to see all that too, but WLA can’t get it with anything short of a subpoena, which obviously is not within our powers.

    But the commission investigators have a lot of that stuff. They did not release the raw data, but it was summarized in their findings (which you can find on their website, that I’ve linked to a bunch of times).

    Please read Martin’s report as it has more info based on his examination of the commission’s findings.

    Obviously we agree that all this should be fact based, not emotion-based, or partisan.

  • Here’s the problems with Martin’s synopsis.

    He says deputies use head strikes “at alarming levels”.


    The ACLU is “aware” of 11 broken facial bones IN THREE YEARS!!!!!

    Dealing with 19,000 inmates. 11 broken faical bones IN THREE YEARS!!!!!

    Of course, then you have the totally predictable claim by inmates that it’s much worse.

    So let’s, for the sake of argument, triple the number of broken facial bones. 33. IN THREE YEARS!!!!

    Three years x 12 months a year = 36 months.

    If we triple the number of verifiable incidents of broken facial bones over the 36 month period, deputies are breaking less than one facial bone per month.

    When dealing with hard core gangsters/predators/criminals.
    19,000 of them.

    Celeste, do you find that indicative that deputies are using head strikes at an “alarming rates”??

    Mr. Martin would certainly have a VERY different perception of what “alarming levels” are than the average John Q.

    Of course, he probably stands to make a lot of money off of his expert testimony if in fact this goes on and on.

    Agenda? Profit?

    You decide if less than one broken facial per month (if we triple the numbers) indicates that the deouties are out of control.

  • Hey Blackmun, I’d be more than happy to compare my training and experience and subject matter expertise in law enforcement use of force and defensive tactics with you or anyone else being “consulted” by the aclu.

    Btw, writing policy in and of itself doesn’t mean squat. There are a LOT of policies out there that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. If you wrote GOOD policy, on the other hand, that would actually mean something. Ditto on being a “consultant”. BFD.

  • ACLU says:
    If history is any guide, LASD will respond to this evidence by attacking the ACLU and blaming inmates.

    LMAO. Oh. The ACLU and the LASD have been on opposite sides of the fence throughout history? Not in Baca’s early years. His relationship with them was quite amicable.. They even praised him in the press for his progressive stance on things.
    That was short lived.
    Right back to the ACLU never meeting an ass kicking they approved of. No matter who the sheriff is. No matter how frequent/infrequent. No matter the circumstances.

    Welcome to the real world Leroy.
    You’re the enemy in the eyes of the ACLU.
    You’re not special. You can’t make them see things your way.

  • I’m driving at 80+ miles an hour on my way back to LA, so the comment approval process is a bit spotty.  (Am presently transiting the Mojave Desert.) If I missed anyone I’ll catch up when I’m again stationary and will look for anyone I may have missed. But, no, no one is on the Bad List. Sorry for any oversights. 

  • Ok, I’ll get through the lost data coverage, etc. Here’s my take. Way back when flashlight head strikes were necessary because there was nothing left to hit. Head injuries look bloody, but really aren’t life threatening.

    Back in Block’s era, there was an issue with head strikes. He threatened to fire people for this action.

    Here’s my point, you act like an ass and if your only appendige exposed is your head, then you get the lump. Suspects, inmates, have a choice, comply or resist. You resist, then force used as necessary is the prong in the court of law.

  • Just curios, why is MCJ the only facility under the microscope relating to Significant Use of Force issues, allegations of slack supervisors and managers and head strikes? Plenty of high security inmates throughout the Division. Just asking.

  • Folks: All this debate about how many and where and why is useless! I posted before “garbage in garbage out.” People have already testified that uses of force were either NOT reported or NOT investigated. And that’s why we are in the mess we are in! And what was reported wasn’t conducted according to policy. If these jackasses had done their jobs and held to their Oath of Office we would be writing about some other agencey instead of ours!! Even the new report where Baca said force is at a all time law is false! We have NO idea because of these jerks (once again) not doing their jobs! Can’t wait until tomorrow!!

  • I agree London. The reason the LASD is in the mess it’s in isn’t because of force being out of control.
    It’s about a few things, that when you add them up, result in the mess.
    The ACLU is upset about the force issue. They could care less about the corruption. Make no mistake about it, it’s all about inmates having force used against them that is their motivating factor.
    Couple that with there being some former and current employees who were in a position to know being willing to come forward and testify and you have the recipe for the mess the LASD is in.
    Some of the people that Baca or Tanaka gave the shaft (real or imagined) are now in position to give a little payback. And it’s the unreported/uninvestigated force incidents that provides them the avenue to their ultimate destination.
    Some are fed up with Baca. Some have nothing but animosity toward Tanaka.
    The top two are now getting it from all directions. They won’t be able to be prosecuted for the force incidents. Deputies will fall behind those.
    The corruption? Whole different story.
    It’s a tangled web. Who knows who will get caught up in it.
    At a minimum it will most likely stop Tanaka, the heir apparent to the throne, from being sheriff one day.
    Make no mistake about it, that was the ultimate goal of some of the witnesses from the beginning.

  • I wonder how many aclu personnel or aclu-types (i.e. anti-LE/pro-criminal) have ever been a victim of anything, much less a victim of something seriously bad…

  • Ok so the commission finished the report, all the big shots said they told everyone Tanaka the Sheriff, the Chief, but who is going to get it? The Deputies. Everyone needs to understand that the Department fostered this environment. Head strikes were accepted with the mentality that the deputy was training in MMA and resorted to their training. Once it was ok’d by the supervision this type of force increased. This resulted in more head strikes. It was a cycle. MCJ was known as R2 for custody. So everyone thought their kaka had no odor.
    Don’t get me wrong, ultimately those who used force excessively need to be punished. But those that condoned, ignored the reports, or worked to hide the facts, they need to be punished. But they won’t. They will hide behind “I didn’t know, or I wasn’t told” or the real funny one,
    “That is not true.” These defenses don’t work for those who thought they were following orders or trying to get into the “car” or”cigar club” or in favor with those above. Why do they always work for the people who were suppose to be responsible but weren’t?
    The ACLU doesn’t understand what goes on in the jails, there will always be force. Those who scream the ACLU is always wrong, need to understand balance. Force is sometimes all some people understand. But the word reasonable comes to play.
    I used to say Jerry Dunphy became a conservative after he was attacked. There is truth to that, but that doesn’t mean you just beat people. And in law enforcement, when it is condoned by those who lead, they need to be responsible.
    My apologies for the length

  • If we are talking about “head strikes”, it must be made clear exactly what kind of “head strikes” we’re talking about (which is another issue I have with Martin’s opinions – he doesn’t clarify and from his inappropriate force verbiage, it’s clear that he doesn’t know our force policy/ies either)

    Per policy, there is nothing wrong with personal weapons (hands, feet, elbows, knees, head butts, etc) strikes to the head as long as the suspect and/or circumstances were “assaultive” and/or “high risk” or “life threatening” and/or “serious bodily injury”.

    Impact weapon (authorized or improvised) strikes to a suspect’s head are permitted only in “life threatening” and/or “serious bodily injury” situations/circumstances.

    And yes, I’m very familiar with the Feb update.

    Under assault or threat of assault (think pre-fight indicators), personal weapons strikes to a suspect’s head are per policy and reasonable – and just because YOU might choose to respond or react with a different option, doesn’t make the strikes unreasonable or out of policy. Id est, if personal weapons were used within policy, there would be NO reason NOT to “ok” them.

    If, on the other hand, personal weapons were employed against or outside of policy OR if they were used After the suspect was no longer a threat and/or safe control had been gained, then that should have Never been “ok’d” and should have been dealt with swiftly and surely.

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