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Ex-LA jail commander says he warned of abuse

February 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department commander blames the continued problems at the Men's Central Jail on the sheriff and the department's command structure.

Robert Olmsted, a 32-year sheriff's veteran who was the top jail commander when he retired in 2010, says he warned Sheriff Lee Baca and other managers that excessive force by deputies against inmates was a common problem at the jail.

Olmsted says he's the target of a rigged Sheriff's Department internal investigation designed to shield top brass from blame in jailhouse excessive force probes.

He also told them he was concerned about deputies forming aggressive cliques.

According to Olmsted, the sheriff knew about excessive force when he was telling everyone he hadn't been told about it.

"Did he know from my standpoint? Yes, but nobody up and down the chain wanted to do anything about it," Olmsted said.

Baca this year started an investigation into why complaints were blocked, if they were.

"None of this needed to occur," Olmsted said. "It didn't need to occur if we had good, solid leadership that would be able to take on the captain at Men's Central Jail at the time. This is supervisory cowardice."

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore says the sheriff asked for the investigation and denies there is going to be a whitewash.

According to Whitmore, the investigation into whether roadblocks are put up anytime there is a complaint is close to being completed.

City News Service contributed to this report.