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L.A. Sheriff's Department busts one of its own. What took so long?

December 15, 2012|By Sandra Hernandez
  • Sheriff Lee Baca has said that the department is dealing with problems at L.A. County jails.
Sheriff Lee Baca has said that the department is dealing with problems at… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deserves praise for an investigation that led to the arrest of a deputy assigned to the jails for allegedly beating two inmates and filing false reports about the incidents.

The arrest, however, also raises some troubling questions. For example, why did it take the department so long to investigate alleged beatings that took place in 2009 and 2010? A spokesman for the department said its internal criminal investigation bureau first launched a probe earlier this year into reports that Deputy Jermaine Jackson beat inmates.

I understand that the Sheriff’s Department must be very busy and reports of abuse aren’t always credible or easily verified, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

At least one of the alleged beatings was caught on tape, according to the department. And Derek Griscavage, an inmate at the Twin Towers jail, complained about the abuse, even contacting the ACLU and providing a sworn statement describing how Jackson allegedly assaulted him in December 2010. In the affidavit, Griscavage describes losing consciousness shortly after he was forced to walk to an area of the jail where four or five deputies were waiting. He woke up in the hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose, black eyes and other injuries.

The Sheriff’s Department’s own protocol requires a preliminary inquiry if inmates sustain serious injuries. Did those investigations find Jackson didn’t violate department policy? If so, are the  department's detectives asking what went wrong, and whether Jackson acted alone or with the tacit approval of others?

The Sheriff’s Department won’t say whether other deputies are under investigation, only that  Sheriff Lee Baca is certain this is an isolated incident.

Forgive me, but that's hard to believe. After all, a citizens jail commission found that the department suffered from an institutional culture of arrogance and impunity. That same commission found that deputies "have used force against inmates when the force was disproportionate to the threat posed or there was no threat at all." 

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