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Deputies at Jails Lack Full Training, Report Says

November 25, 2003|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Inadequate training in the use of force has left many sheriff's deputies at Los Angeles County jails potentially unable to defend themselves or control violent inmates, a report released Monday concludes.

The review, prepared by the staff of Merrick Bobb, a special counsel to the county Board of Supervisors, found that deputies transferred into the jail system frequently don't receive formal training until sometime after they have started the job.

As a stopgap, some receive training as they go, but that isn't sufficiently regulated by the Sheriff's Department, according to the report.

"Such unregulated training ... unnecessarily exposes the county to potential liability," the report said. "Nor can this unregulated training be relied upon to effectively provide for officer safety."

Bobb and his staff, who have monitored the Sheriff's Department for the last decade, found that the database for incidents ranging from use of force to discrimination or discourtesy does not identify the employees involved or adequately categorize the complaints to allow jail staff to address problems.

In addition, Bobb and his staff reported that only one person was knowledgeable about the software and that information was often late or inaccurate.

Last month, another report also was critical of the handling of complaints from jail inmates. That report was written by the Office of Independent Review, which was created as an independent watchdog by Sheriff Lee Baca after the Rampart corruption scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department.

Attorney Michael Gennaco, who heads the review office, said that deputies investigating injuries alleged by jail inmates asked leading questions, made biased interpretations of inmate statements, did not account for injuries, submitted incomplete reports or did not file reports.

Gennaco recommended that supervisors at county jails, which house 20,000 inmates, be trained to conduct objective, thorough investigations into use-of-force incidents.

The newest report did find, however, that incidents in which deputies used force totaled 1.47 per thousand inmates from January through September of this year, compared with 1.95 per thousand inmates for all of last year and 3.85 for all of 2000. The decline came despite a current inmate-to-deputy ratio that is double that of 1999.

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