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Sheriff's staff raised red flags about jail brutality 2 years ago

Reports tell of misconduct and shoddy investigations. One audited more than 100 violent encounters with inmates and found that deputies crafted narratives 'dramatized to justify' force.

October 29, 2011|By Jack Leonard and Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

Jail supervisors, McCorkle wrote, were failing to examine how the deputies could have avoided force and used safer tactics and equipment. None of the audited force investigation reports recommended discipline against deputies, and very few of the more than 100 cases identified potential policy violations.

In his memo, he also questioned whether deputies could intentionally disable cameras on Tasers.

In another audit, dated January 2010, then-Capt. Gregory Johnson reviewed seven force investigations for problems. His report does not include thorough accounts of each incident, but lists significant concerns about all of the cases.

In four of the seven, deputies failed to use their radios to alert supervisors and colleagues that they were in a fight, a practice generally required by the department.

He found several instances in which inmate injuries were not documented. A 25-year-old inmate was subdued by a team of deputies some time after staring one down. According to the inmate, a deputy ordered him against a wall, then grabbed his hands and pushed his neck in, telling him he was in jail for "raping a little girl."

"This entire incident could have been avoided," Johnson concluded.

He discovered that the deputy's report failed to account for a head injury clearly visible in the inmate's video interview. A supervisor's review also "misstates that the inmate's injuries were consistent with the force reported. It does not explain how the inmate sustained injuries to his forehead, ankles and right knee," Johnson wrote.

In that case, one of the deputies had been involved in seven use-of-force incidents in 11 months.

In his report, Johnson, now a commander, expressed skepticism at some of the official accounts. "No inmate witnesses in a hallway full of inmates…?" he asks in one.

"Report claims the contact occurred for the safety of the teachers?" he asked in another. "This is questionable as the teachers had walked past the incident."

Not long after the two audits, the department saw one of its top rookies resign after alleging that his supervisor made him beat a mentally ill inmate and cover it up. The Times reported that Deputy Joshua Sather said that shortly before the beating, his supervisor at the Twin Towers jail told him, "We're gonna go in and teach this guy a lesson."

In that case, sheriff's officials concluded that no misconduct had occurred. The probe apparently broke down, at least in part, because interviews with other involved deputies and the inmate didn't jibe with Sather's account. The inmate's listed injuries — only redness on his face — also seemed inconsistent with a beating.

Since the Times article appeared, the department has reopened its investigation into Sather's allegations.

FULL COVERAGE: Jails under scrutiny

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