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Commission slams LA County sheriff in report on jails investigation

September 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A scathing new report targets Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, claiming he and other department officials failed to deal with charges of excessive force on jail inmates. Sheriff Baca has already responded to the charges.

The Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence consists of some of the most respected people in Los Angeles County, including former U.S. attorneys general and federal judges. The commission's nine-month investigation concludes that there has been a failure of leadership in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"The fact is, the sheriff does not seem to be someone as a manager who wanted to hear about problems. He seems to have had his head in the sand," said Commissioner Robert Bonner. Bonner is a former U.S. attorney, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and a federal judge.

Commission member Jim McDonnell is the Long Beach chief of police. He also is critical of the sheriff.

"While some actions may have resulted from the reports being issued, there have been no sustained system-wide effort to address these allegations to date," said McDonnell.

The report concludes there has been a persistent pattern of use of excessive force by deputies against jail inmates. It recommends the department should be revamped with a third assistant sheriff. It also recommends more supervision of the jails, and taking deputies out of the jails and putting them out on the streets.

"I assume and believe that it will have unanimous support from the Board Of Supervisors that the recommendations being made today ought to be implemented by the sheriff in his department," said L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

Sheriff Lee Baca was unavailable for an interview Friday, but a spokesman said he will soon respond to the report in detail. Before the report was released, the sheriff talked with Eyewitness News about what he's done.

"We have a force-prevention policy, we have a commanders management task force that circumvents bureaucratic gaps, and we also have a more intensified training program," said Baca.

There was heated discussion on the commission over whether the sheriff should be asked to resign. But as one commissioner said, it's the sheriff who is the agent of change in this case. Now all the pressure is on Baca.