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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Sheriff Lee Baca's Response To Jail Violence 'Has Been Insufficient,' Commission Asserts

Paresh Dave |
September 28, 2012 | 10:32 a.m. PDT

Executive Director

Baca's deputies have faced numerous allegations of abusing inmates. (Neon Tommy)
Baca's deputies have faced numerous allegations of abusing inmates. (Neon Tommy)

Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka have not taken sufficient steps to increase accountability throughout the ranks of their department or to stamp out violence and excessive use of force against inmates at Los Angeles County jails, a blue-ribbon commission's report asserted Friday.

The problem of abuse in jails has plagued the L.A. County Sheriffs department for more than two decades. Baca has been in office for 14 years.

"Over the years, some deputies have viewed force as a way to signal their authority over inmates and to establish 'who is running the jails,' rather than as a last resort in response to problematic inmate behavior," the report's summary stated. "These deputies have adopted a confrontational approach in their interactions with inmates, thereby heightening disrespect among deputies and inmates and increasing tensions in the jails. Management, in turn, has sent the wrong message by failing to address excessive force and a deputy culture resistant to supervision."

The report, authored by people such as a reverend, a retired judge, a retired state Supreme Court judge and Long Beach's police chief, called for Baca to respond directly to report and address the panel's dozens of recommendations. Baca's spokesman has said the department would conduct its own investigation to the vet the commission's findings.

The panel called for a new management structure within the department, including an Assistant Sheriff overseeing jails, as well consolidation of different watchdog units into a single office. It also recommended a clear use of force policy.

The commission's long-awaited findings come on the heels of the latest report from the ACLU describing some of the abuses in jails.

Unopposed, Baca was re-elected to his fourth four-year term in 2010. He has said if voters have issues with his leadership they would not re-elect him.

The report retorted, "His statement seemingly reflects a lack of genuine concern about and acknowledgement of the severity of the problem."

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