A few days ago, Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman released a report that reveals recent changes in the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s policies relating to the use of restraints on inmates in the county’s jail system. The new policies, the OIG writes, are designed to ensure that that the use of “tethering” and other restraints on inmates does not result in “a substantial risk of mental and/or physical harm,” is not used as a “punishment,” and does not break any state laws.
The new report focuses on four incidents in which prisoners were tied to a fixed object for a prolonged period of time though the use of a “restraint device”—waist chains, handcuffs, and/or a foot hobble—and the inmates were, in fact, harmed as a result.
In one January 2015 incident, a restrained inmate died when, according to the report, jail deputies who were supposed to have made regular welfare checks failed to notice evidence of distress that was later found to be visible on video.
A PUBLIC SEARCH
The first incident the report outlines occurred on August 26, 2014, in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility (TTCF), and involved an inmate who refused to be strip searched, then began physically resisting in general. In response to his recalcitrance, deputies “placed a hobble” on the inmate’s feet and “tethered the hobble to a handcuff ring on the counter of a visiting cubicle.”
The deputies then stripped the prisoner naked and conducted a search in his restrained position. The problem arose when they did so in an area that was visible “to the public.” According to the report, after the search, the inmate remained naked and restrained and visible to anyone walking by for 90 minutes or more.
(There is evidently video footage of all this, so the length of time that the naked, tethered inmate was on public view is not in dispute.)
This stripping of someone in front of other people who are not officially involved in the action appears also to be disallowed by the California penal code, section 4030, which states:
All strip, visual and physical body cavity searches shall be conducted in an area of privacy so that the search cannot be observed by persons not participating in the search.
In addition, the inmate’s 90-minute restraint—which was, according to the video, far, far longer than anyone needed to perform the necessary search—also ran contrary to the custody division’s general policy on search procedures:
“Searches are not to be used to inflict physical stress or punishment on prisoners. Prisoners shall not be required to remain in any search position for more time than is reasonable and necessary to complete a search.”
CHAINED AND INJURED
On September 2014, a week after the incident at TTCF, a prisoner who was detained in the North County Correctional Facility (NCCF) was suspected of concealing contraband in his rectum and was placed on what was called “contraband watch”—known informally as “potty watch,” which basically means that the inmate is isolated in a restricted area while deputies wait for him (or her) to use the toilet, at which point, if there is contraband, the deputies can retrieve it.
This inmate, however, was handcuffed and waist-chained for extended hours in only underpants and boxer shorts, resulting in injuries to his midsection and wrists.
The inmate mentioned in the report was reportedly one of several dozen who were similarly restrained at NCCF, according to a 2015 story by the LA Times Cindy Chang. The now-prohibited restraints-tied-to-a-fixed-object strategy during potty watch was, at the time part, of a reportedly vaguely worded policy at NCCF—a policy that was not generally used at the other jail facilities.
According to WitnessLA’s own sources, potty watch was reportedly over-used at NCCF in particular, well before 2014, to the point that inmates complained to us about being sent there after a court appearance, because they felt they might be subjected to prolonged periods of being isolated and naked, or nearly naked, even when they believed there was no indication that they were hiding contraband. Interestingly, they did not report this alleged over-use of the strategy in the county’s other jails.
DEATH IN RESTRAINTS
The third incident detailed in Huntsman’s report occurred in the High Observation Intake Housing (HOH) section of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. This is the case in which a prisoner died while he was restrained. As with the other incidents, the inmate was attached via his handcuffs to a fixed object— his cell door—for a “prolonged period of time.”
The situation began when an inmate came back from court and began behaving strangely at the Inmate Reception Center (IRC). After having his vitals taken and seeing a psychiatrist after hours of delay, at 9:37 a.m. on January 13, 2015, the prisoner was brought into HOH where he was asked to remove his “undergarment” and put on a “safety garment.” He refused. So he was put in a cell, and tethered with his left wrist handcuffed to a waist chain that traveled through the cell door’s tray slot and then was secured to the door handle on the outside of the cell door.”
According to the report, the prisoner was kept in this restrictive position for approximately 10 hours and 25 minutes.
Much of the point of HOH, according to the OIG’s report, is to allow for an inmate to be closely monitored on a temporary basis. But, although deputies reportedly checked on this tethered prisoner on multiple occasions, no one noticed that the man was becoming more and more physically distressed. The video account of his time in the cell showed that the inmate stopped moving altogether at 7:30 p.m. but, according to the OIG (who reviewed the video), during a supposed 7:45 welfare check, “the deputy appeared not to look into the prisoner’s cell…” and reported no destress,
At 10:16 p.m. deputies finally actually entered the cell, and found the inmate “unresponsive.”
Rescue efforts were initiated, but it was too late. The inmate was pronounced dead “shortly thereafter.” The autopsy revealed that the prisoner died of methamphetamine toxicity.
THE 32-HOUR, NO-FOOD, NO-TOILET, TIE-DOWN
The last incident depicted in Inspector General Huntsman’s report may be the best known:
It began on June 19, 2015, when an inmate who was booked on an arson charge, was restrained after he “ripped up his t-shirt,” threatened to hurt himself, then head-butted a female deputy, injuring her.
As a result, for 32 hours he placed in a chair with his hands both cuffed behind his back and attached to waist chains, which were—in turn—attached to a bench. He remained in this restrained position for approximately thirty-two hours, during which time he received no meals, only one cup of water, and no access to a toilet.
We reported about the incident here.
In the aftermath, no one seemed to have a level-headed explanation as to why this treatment was deemed reasonable or appropriate.
Much of the report is devoted to detailing the changes in policy that are being put into place as a result of each of the incidents, and in response to the incidents collectively. While different, the report notes, [the incidents] all share a “common link,” namely that in all four instances the inmate “was left tethered to a fixed object” for an extensive period of time “without proper care and supervision.”
These changes announced in the report have been a long time in coming, according to Peter Eliasberg, the legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, which brought the massive class action suit against the department—Rosas v. Baca—the settlement of which has measurably influenced the new policies, according to the OIG’s report.
“The fact that these incidents occurred is evidence of lousy use of force policy that did not make clear how restraints should be appropriately used,” Eliasberg told us. “And bad policy often leads to bad incidents.”
On the positive side, he said, “what the OIG is reporting is that the department has had to overhaul its use of force policies” and come up with much better ones.
In addition to having to be approved by the department, and by the Rosas monitors, the policies also have to be approved by the Department of Justice, according to their settlement agreement with the department regarding correcting abuse in the county’s jail system.
“But having good policies is just one leg of the stool,” Eliasberg continued. “You have to train to those policies, and then when incidents happen, you have to hold people to the policies that are in place.
But designing good policies for a complex agency the size of the LA County Sheriff’s Department takes time, as both Eliasberg and the report make clear.
“Change is often slow,” Eliasberg said. “But you don’t just want to get it done. You want to get it right.”
I guess “fresh eyes” has been looking the other way!
You wonder how one can be “hooked up” for 32 hours and nobody thinks it’s a bad idea! The policy may not be the problem…
Common sense is uncommon–Voltaire
What became of all those ROD behind the IRC 32 hour shackle caper? ROD is ONLY supposed to be behind serious allegations of misconduct that if proven to be true would result in termination or demotion. I’m not downplaying the incident, but to ROD 10 employees, really? It is my understanding that one of the managers involved was a very close and personal friend of Chief Fender. Was this all a huge overreaction, “Oh Sheriff, I’m all over this. Boy I’m setting the tone, boss, they’re ROD!”
Yes Spade one is a manager (Lt) and was brought back in civilian clothes for a “special project”. I also understand she has gotten to attend out of state training too. Must be nice. Have you seen the latest Captain promotion? Yet another precinct walking Tanaka guy to get the nod. I guess it also helps to be on Para’s leg. Big Jim can’t seem to see the forrest through all the trees. And I agree with an earlier post by LATBG, where is the survey put out to the PPOA membership. It is time that be released.
“The situation began when an inmate came back from court and began behaving strangely at the Inmate Reception Center (IRC). After having his vitals taken and seeing a psychiatrist after hours of delay, at 9:37 a.m. on January 13, 2015….The inmate was pronounced dead “shortly thereafter.” The autopsy revealed that the prisoner died of methamphetamine toxicity.”
Recommend reading Red Square at Noon by Natalia Gorbanevskaya.
Wow another family member promoted wow. Sheriff when is this going to end. I would like to make a bet, what are the odds that the third family member makes Captain. How about it JW you should know the odds, maybe your brother could call your bookie and find out. It never changes, same old shit, another day. Sheriff you are a lost soul and listening to the wrong people. You are not promoting leaders, you are promoting losers and people that have a reputation for kissing ass. Yes men!
For those readers interested in reading the report itself, you’ll now find a link in the first sentence of the story. I should have linked it to begin with, but I plum forgot as I was madly writing.
Yet, it’s there now.
Have a terrific weekend! I’m in West Glacier, MT, staring at the Middle Fork of the Flathead river as I type.
Unbelievable. This article illustrates the breathtaking incompetence of Chief Fender and Parra, who continue to blithely march on, thinking somehow, magically, everyone under their command can adapt to their crisis management style, knee-jerk policies, and lack of follow through. Part of the problem stems from their inability or lack of desire in holding their buddies, ass-kissers, and professional bootlickers accountable for their incompetence. Screw-ups at the worst, face what they call a “soft landing,” that special assignment that hard working, honest, quality people can never aspire to.
At the best, as evidenced by the latest intent to promote to captain, is a mind-boggling promotion! I never knew that almost getting your crew killed at a station, pissing on subordinates, and being a general a-hole to all was a promotional career path. Who knew?
McDonnell: Your previous civilian A/S was a disaster, who’s only response to every problem in the jails was to defer to her corrupt/incompetent division chiefs. She came from a dysfunctional organization, the CDCR, and now she’s replaced by another clueless fool from the same place. It’s time Jim to find your spine, swallow your pride, and pick up the phone. I’m sure you have Olmsted’s number. If anyone can turn this mess around, it would be him. He has both the knowledge AND the ability to cut to the chase, get rid of the dead wood, and rally the division around a plan to set the ship in the right direction for all parties concerned.
Jim, so far your answer to everything has been brass buttons and mediocrity, with a healthy dose of incompetence. That is who you chose to surround yourself with and take advise from, so be it. You reap what you sow.
Celeste: Wish I was with you sipping on a cold one. Enjoy!
At LATBG, you are pounding your head against a wall. Fresh Eyes continues to demonstrate his complete disconnect to 95% of LASD. As with Baca, as long as the liberal Los Angeles media continues to provide him cover, he will do what he’s done, not much. The Times and all of the LA media are part of the liberal Democrat machine, you see the same with Clinton. Case in point; the recent Compton/SEB shooting. Where is the Sheriff? MIA! Who is holding the bag? Katz. And that is no offense to Steve, but the media briefing should have had one person and one person only, the Sheriff. The local media will do as they had done for Baca incident after incident, year after year, nothing but fluff. The ONLY person I can see who might possibly call it a spade, is Huntsman. His mandate is to in investigate, review, expose and report to the BOS what others will not. Max may simply provide policy recommendations post incident or things he stumbles across where he feels there is a need for improvement. And hopefully, he will expose Tanaka like incidents of corruption and unethical executive misconduct. Unlike our previous OIR who strolled around LASD with Ray Charles sunglasses, a white cane with red tip and a tin cup filled with pencils for sale, I have higher hopes and expectations for Huntsman.
By the way, who is the latest controversial captain promotion? No doubt a Tanaka protégé. But Fresh Eyes didn’t know that, right?
Boss please start forgetting about uniform stuff you have a lot of good Deputies that everyday do their best! What have you done for your Troops lately? Our Custody Dep’s and C/A’s are pushed to their limit’s with the forced overtime.
Yep saw the new captain promotion. No changes for the sheriff’s department. Same old bag of do nothing yes men and women. Sheriff continues to get bad advise from the Tanakaites. Time to go. No leadership for the troops again.
Thanks, Bandwagon. We’re serious about our Moose Drool up here.
#11, not only was the latest Captain promotion NOT a Tanaka Protégé, he and his brothers were despised by Tanaka. He was despised by most of Tanaka’s “posse” as well.
At #11……Are you correct? re: Tanaka Posse Promo or is #15 MyGoodness correct. At this point, it doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to be correctly informed.
I believe #15 is correct, as it was pretty well known from the beginning of their careers they were “Baca Boys.” In fact you could almost prove when PT was really calling the shots, when their ladder climbing slowed.
More like Doyle Campbell boys, and once he retired the brothers reattached their lips surgically to the next available ass that could promote them. A family tradition, just ask Chiefs Fender and Parra, who had to get the rear of their trousers resized to accommodate the surgery.
Nope, I’m going to say no. 11 really is correct. Yes the brothers were all Baca yes men, and would go out of their way to be anywhere Baca was. However big brother Jim learned how to stroke EP’s ego. This started many many years ago. And if you know the brothers, you know big brother Jim runs the show. Big brother Jim brought the other two on board and the three of them did any and everything possible to continue to stroke EP’s ego. This included EP’s run with too tall Paul. And nobody got in EP’s way. However when EP and too tall Paul had a falling out, the brothers stayed true to their immortal deity, at which time all of their careers stalled. Fast forward and “fresh eyes” comes on board. He learns of EP’s non-sense while running for office, however does nothing about it once elected. EP continues to get those loyal to him, and back in the day, too tall Paul promoted. Kudos to all of them as they have been able to continue to ride the right coat tails. I myself can get up every morning and look myself in the mirror knowing I never gave up my morals.
@Not again, I stand corrected that is the perfect description.
JB its time to release the file. scandalous
#19 Not Again: It doesn’t get more spot on than that!