Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca promised Sunday to address allegations of civil rights abuses and use of excessive force in the county's jails after a series of complaints and calls for his resignation by the ACLU.
In a written statement, Baca said he has set up a task force to probe the 78 allegations of administrative and criminal misconduct, which was filed by the ACLU last week. At least two federal probes into the jail system are also underway.
35 full-time investigators will be assigned to "thoroughly investigate each of these allegations" including reopening some previously closed cases. The results would be made available to the Office of Independent Review, Baca said.
"While safety and security for staff and inmates are paramount, we have to treat the inmates as our community," Baca said. "And we want it to be the best community it can be. This can in part be gained through Education-Based Incarceration."
The ACLU has demanded Baca's resignation saying the jail system is corrupt. Baca pledged to take abuse allegations "very seriously'' but said he would not resign.
In an interview with NBC LA's News Conference, Baca admitted that there may be between 10 and 20 deputies who been involved in misconduct.
“In certain cases, yes,” said Baca. “And that is the whole problem here that we are facing right now. And we’ve got a significant plan to solve this problem through education based incarceration and town hall meetings within the jails."
Deputies who cannot follow the rules will be fired and any employee who is guilty of mistreating or abusing inmates will be prosecuted, Baca said.
On Saturday, Baca promoted three captains to commanders to help oversee activities at the jail.
The management team will use town meetings with inmates as one tool to make sure basic needs -- food, medical and mental health requirements, and shelter -- are provided to jailed people, Baca wrote. The county jails hold a sizeable percentage of detainees who have yet to be put on trial, and some who are innocent.
In past years, news reports have detailed a group of deputies operating on the jail's third floor who have adopted gang-like activities, such as "third floor'' tattoos and initiation rites. One such group was reportedly involved in a gang-like fight with other sheriff's deputies at a department Christmas party at a banquet hall.
Last week, former jailers said they had been ordered to beat detainees, some of them who had been exhibiting signs of mental illness. The ACLU also released affidavits from jail volunteers about vicious beatings by uniformed jailers on detainees.
A maelstrom of attention has been focused on the jail system, and in the midst of that, the coroner is investigating why a detainee died Thursday, two days after being slugged in the head by a deputy. The detainee, awaiting trial for theft, was identified as George Rosales.
In the background of the investigations and task forces in L.A. County, the state corrections last week began transferring inmates to county and city jails across the state, a solution to chronic prison overcrowding and an order from the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce the state inmate population by 11,000 over three months.