After claims of civil rights violations rampant in the L.A. county jails came to light following a two-year investigation, 18 of the city’s current and former sheriff’s deputies have been hit with an array of criminal charges; and 16 of those deputies — most of whom are still currently working in the department — were taken into custody by FBI agents yesterday.
At a press conference, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said, “The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law”:
Instead of cooperating with a federal investigation to ensure that corrupt law enforcement officers would be brought to justice, the defendants in this case are accused of taking affirmative steps designed to ensure that the federal government would not shine light on illegal conduct that violated basic constitutional rights. (source)
Four grand jury indictments include charges of unjustified detainments and beatings of not only jail inmates but jail visitors as well. One victim allegedly suffered a broken arm and dislocated shoulder that left him permanently disabled. According to the allegations, some of the deputies would have others file false reports to cover up their assaults.
The probe apparently culminated in some of the deputies actually attempting to hide an FBI informant, falsifying records to make it appear the informant had been released before they booked the man back in under a fake name. Two sergeants also reportedly attempted to intimidate an FBI agent at her home into giving them information on the case.
Earlier this month it was revealed that the department had hired nearly 300 officers with histories of misconduct in 2010, including reports of past sex abuse, inappropriate firing of weapons, and having sex at work and hiring prostitutes. Two hundred of those applicants had been rejected at other agencies and several have already been accused of new misdeeds since they’ve gained employment with the L.A. County sheriff’s department.
The deputy who admitted to a relationship with a teenage girl was also fired from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department after he was accused of using excessive force on prisoners and harassed inmates.
Even so, David McDonald said he was surprised when the L.A. County sheriff’s department hired him as a jail guard.
“How can you put me back in the jails when I already had a problem there?” McDonald told the Los Angeles Times.
McDonald’s problems followed him to his new job, where he’s been disciplined for using physical force with an inmate. (source)
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has not been charged with anything and has denied that the new string of arrests hint at a larger issue within his department. ”There is no institutional problem within the Sheriff’s Department when it comes to correcting itself,” he said.
This pattern of what appears to be widespread, institutionalized corruption falls in line with a report released by The National Institute of Ethics predicting that bad hiring practices at law enforcement agencies across the country starting in the ’90s were spelling out the nation’s doom by giving uniforms to shoddy applicants who would have never been allowed to be cops even a decade earlier.