Three years after Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell responded to the Rosas Settlement Agreement addressing inmate abuse and vowed to see county jails become a safer place for inmates, county supervisors learned Tuesday how deputies are complying with the agreement.
The Board of Supervisors watched a slide presentation, “Department Compliance with the Rosas Implementation,” which called for improved training for deputies on use of force and for developing a grievance system for inmates.
“What we’re seeing in the jails is a service atmosphere instead of disciplinary atmosphere,” Assistant Sheriff Kelly Harrington told the board during the meeting, which was live-streamed online at bos.lacounty.gov.
The Sheriff’s Department (LASD) implemented 101 of 104 of the provisions spelled out in the Rosas Agreement, supervisors were told.
Between April 2017 and March 2018, the LASD opened no criminal investigation into alleged violations of the department’s use of force policy or misconduct, officials said Tuesday.
“There were no reports of multiple officers assaulting inmates,” Harrington said.
In demonstrating how LASD deputies have undergone improved training about the use of force, Harrington shared a few Custody Force Training statistics.
Use of Force
Nearly 3,700 LASD personnel were approved by outside monitors in November 2016 to attend about 170 classes on the department’s use-of-force policy. The same monitoring group approved 646 LASD personnel to attend 61 refresher classes on the same subject, a year later.
Harrington said the LASD now follows up on complaints filed by inmates — whether the complaints are small, such as having no soap in the shower, or more serious complaints of abuse.
Since the LASD implemented provisions of the Rosas Agreement, inmate complaints now fall into one of four categories :
- No injury or complaint of pain.
- Non-injury use of force
- Identifiable injury
- Injury requiring investigation by the LASD’s Internal Affairs Bureau
Violence inside county jails and concerns over use of force by deputies came to a head in 2012 when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit against former Sheriff Lee Baca.
The lawsuit alleged Baca and high-ranking officials condoned a pattern of abuse and violence by deputies in county jails, on inmates. It was filed on behalf of Alex Rosas and Jonathan Goodwin who, according to the complaint, “were savagely beaten and threatened with violence by deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”
When the federal district court handed down its Rosas Settlement Agreement in April 2015, McDonnell said: “Today’s decision enables us to continue to move forward, in partnership with stakeholders and county leaders, with ongoing efforts to improve training, accountability mechanisms, inmate grievance systems and needed staffing in our jails.”
Tuesday’s slideshow updated supervisors on how the Rosas Settlement has since been implemented.
At one point, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger asked Harrington if there was a limit to how many grievances an inmate could file.
Harrington, noting that some inmates file complaints daily, said the department looked at the “best practices of other jails” in setting limits.
“Some jails have limits on the number of grievances an inmate can file,” he said, noting there is no limitation on grievances involving use of force.
Supervisor Janice Hahn asked Harrington about cases not being reported.
“There are so many cameras, so much monitoring, by video and by the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) and by other folks constantly in the jails — we’re not just taking the word of the LASD,” Harrington said.
LASD Commander Joseph Dempsey said each inmate complaint — except use-of-force complaints — is forwarded to the appropriate agency: Food complaints are sent to Food Services, medical complaints to Health Services, and so on.
“We haven’t had sufficient staff for several years,” Hahn said, questioning whether the county had sufficient staff to handle the complaints.
“For the jail environment, I feel comfortable with our staffing levels to investigate the use of force complaints,” Harrington replied.
Los Angeles County, and the Santa Clarita Valley, are still witnessing fallout of jail violence widely reported in 2014.
On March 5, prosecutors dismissed a case of alleged cruelty filed against former LASD Sgt.
David J. Moser, 53, who was one of three former sworn officers charged on May 16, 2016, with cruelty to a prisoner at the Pitchess Detention Center.
The two other defendants charged with cruelty in the same incident — James Hawkins, 35, and 63-year-old Rex Taylor, now retired — are scheduled to appear in court at the Santa Clarita Courthouse next month for a readiness hearing with respect to a potential trial date.