Charges were filed yesterday that involve approximately 17 current and 2 former deputies who have been accused of beating inmates and visitors, falsifying reports, as well as obstructing justice, conspiracy and corruption. The criminal complaint and grand jury indictments contain, among other charges against the deputies, allegations that records were falsified, visitors to and inmates at the L.A. County Jail were unlawfully detained and excessive force was imposed. One of those charged was a Lieutenant who oversaw the safe jails program and another Lieutenant was responsible for investigating allegations of crimes committed by sheriff’s personnel. Three deputies were also accused of mortgage fraud.
The U.S. Attorney said “These incidents…. demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized [and] shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law.”
County Sheriff Lee Baca said he has made improvements to the Men’s Central Jail, such as a newly hired head of custody, reorganizing the command staff, and to create a database to track inmate complaints.
The fact remains that while there have been enhancements and changes to the L.A. County jails, and they have been under scrutiny for brutality and corruption, the ongoing investigations seem to have taken far too long to rise to the level for charges to be ultimately filed.
On December 2, 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of CHELSEY HAYES V. COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, Case #09-55644 , heard this civil rights Complaint brought under the Federal statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California law wherein a minor daughter alleged violations of her 14th and 4th Amendment rights and her deceased father’s 4th Amendment rights when San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies acted negligently in shooting and killing her father who allegedly was suicidal and wielding a knife during a response to a domestic violence call.
In the underlying case, the Court said there was no evidence the sheriff’s fired their guns for any other purpose than self-defense and, therefore affirmed the District Court’s Decision by declaring there was no violation of plaintiff’s rights under the 14th Amendment. On the other hand, the Court reversed the lower Court after it determined a jury could conclude the use of deadly force by the sheriffs was not objectively reasonable and that under California law supported a basis for a wrongful death claim.
A compelling argument was made on behalf of Hayes that the sheriffs could have avoided the incident by obtaining more information about the suspect or requesting a psychiatric emergency response team (“PERT”) when the first deputy responded to a domestic violence call at a neighbor’s house and learned there had been no physical altercation, and before the second deputy arrived and they both entered the home. At that point it became a matter of whether the officers used excessive force.
The above reported Decision can be found at the following link: https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/12/02/09-55644.pdf