A few days ago, Sheriff Lee Baca gave an interview to the Finish-American publication based in Los Angeles, The Finn Times.
The interview, excerpted below, speaks for itself.
Q. There has been some trouble especially in Men’s Central Jail. Former commander Robert Olmsted has emerged as one of your toughest critics. He said in a recent LA Times interview, that he tried to warn you that deputies were getting away with using unnecessary force, beating up inmates. He says you ignored his warnings. What do you say to his allegations?[Well], his allegation is completely out of context. I knew of the force issues, because of six deputies that got into a fight at a Christmas party. He tells me after I learned already. That’s not a very good warning. He should have told me before he retired. And that’s my response to his concern. He and I spoke. He told me he tried to warn his supervisors, but when I spoke to his supervisors, they said he didn’t try to warn them. So, the guy strikes me as being a little odd. If he knew about these things, why didn’t he tell me while he was working there instead months later when he is retired and left the department.”
Q. Maybe he was afraid that there would be retribution if he came forward before his retirement?
Well, he should be strong enough to understand that anything that is under his command, he has the responsibility to correct himself and not blame others above him.
Q. But in one way or another, there was a communications error and the information did not reach you in a timely manner?
Q. You mentioned the Christmas party brawl between the deputies. Those were the deputies who worked at Men’s Central jail?
Correct, which Robert Olmsted was the captain there and he was also a commander over that captain. So, it was totally in his control. If he knew about this, he should have done something.
Q. KTLA did a report about the so-called 3000 block gang of deputies, who have their own hand signals just like members of street gangs. Those were the deputies who got into this Christmas brawl. How have you dealt with?
Well, those deputies, first of all, they were not a gang. And secondly, they didn’t have hand signals for themselves. They took a photograph off duty and used what were commonly thought of as gang type signals. But it is not a fact that they were operating like a gang in jails. We don’t have gangs in county jails. Every deputy has specific assignments. They don’t work together as a group. They are spread out to all the different cells. So, they were friends. The KTLA report with even the allegations that they were a gang are completely false. They were just new deputies assigned to the sheriff’s department – been on for 2,3 years. You don’t have a chance to form a gang under those circumstances. So, my answer to this is that the news took it upon themselves to make this sound like this is worse than what it really is. Nonetheless, I fired six of the deputies for getting into the fight. You initiate a fight, that’s unacceptable. That’s where they made their mistake and now they are gone.
Q. The former commander Olmsted also claimed that in Men’s Central Jail there was a culture of disobedience – writings on the office walls saying “don’t feed the animals”, things like that. Have you heard of this kind of a culture prevailing in Men’s central Jail?
It’s not a culture as much as it is an act of wrong doing by – who knows who. When this happened, commander Olmsted was the captain of the Central Jail. He should have done a criminal investigation. He did not. He basically said, let’s just fix the problem in terms of painting over graffiti. A report was made, but in my opinion a crime report should have been initiated. And in that place we would try to find out who did this and then severely discipline this person who did it. So, you see, a few mistakes have been made along the way. But this is not me trying to be critical of commander Olmsted, but at the same time I rely on captains and commanders to fix problems. And it appears to me that commander Olmsted, then captain Olmsted didn’t fix the problem to the extend that he should have. That’s all I’m saying.
Q. So, have you looked into this “don’t feed the animals” signs and other forms of disobedience, or wrong doing?
I have, but you cannot go back three years and say, we sufficient timeliness. It should have been done at the time it was discovered, when Olmsted was captain. He should have commenced a criminal investigation.
Q. I have seen some reports, where inmates have come forward, who have said that they have been beaten up by the deputies in the jail system. Is that still happening?
Inmates say they’ve been beaten up, but they don’t say, what were the circumstances in which they were involved in fights with deputies. It’s easy to say that they were beaten up, but those who have not reported the force – the deputies are supposed to report all the force they use – we discharge those deputies who don’t report all the force. No one has been harmed to the extent that they are permanently incapacitated, or even killed in the hands of deputies. The biggest concern that the inmates have is other inmates attacking them. Most of the fights that the deputies get into are provoked by the inmates. But I do believe that we can do a better job. That’s why I have a force prevention policy, because some of the inmates, who the deputies themselves have used the force, tell me, are people, who have mental issues. And they don’t have any context as to how to control themselves. So, when the deputies try to move them from one place to the other, whey resist and then force is used and then there is a fight. Of course, let me make clear that in a jail operation, where inmates are violent, the deputies must always win. If we don’t have control a hundred percent during fights, we wouldn’t have anyone that we would be able to protect within the jail system, particularly inmates on inmates. So, every inmate that attacks a deputy or gets into a fight with a deputy, is ultimately going to lose. That’s the reality. And for some that have lost, they say, I was beaten up. But they never say what they did to strike the deputy…..
Um…..one hardly knows what to say.
So instead, I would recommend that you read what the ACLU will announce at its press conference at 10:30 a.m. this morning (Wed. morning.) It’s embargoed until then, but I’ll be putting it up in a separate post, immediately after the embargo is lifted.
Compare and contrast. That’s all need be said.