LA Sheriff Accepts Findings of Inmate-Abuse Report

Sheriff Lee Baca embraced recommendations made by the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence.

By Patrick Healy
|  Wednesday, Oct 3, 2012  |  Updated 8:53 PM PDT
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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca accepts the findings of the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence, which blamed him and his leadership for ignoring jail violence and deputy misconduct. Baca says

Patrick Healy

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca accepts the findings of the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence, which blamed him and his leadership for ignoring jail violence and deputy misconduct. Baca says "significant use of force" is down 53 percent this past year. Patrick Healy reports from Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2012.

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Inmate Abuse: "We Do, Indeed, Have a Problem"

Although Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steven Whitmore cites a decline in excessive use among deputies, a recent ACLU report and a commissioners’ hearing on Friday chided the department for not doing enough to curb incidents of alleged inmate abuse at the hands of LA County Sheriff’s deputies. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2012.

ACLU Report Claims Inmates Are Under Attack

The civil rights group released a report on Wednesday blasting the county for what they say is abuse of inmates. Registered nurse Sandra Neal, also the mother of an inmate, says her son – who is in jail for failing to appear in court on a traffic charge – suffered facial fractures, nasal fracture, a collapsed lung and cracked teeth in an altercation with deputies. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore says the department has investigated the claims and "probably will dispute" charges that supervisors were in on the alleged attacks. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2012.
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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca responded on Wednesday to a scathing report issued last week that in large part blames him for "ignoring" prison violence and deputy misconduct and creating an environment of inmate abuse.

"I do have deputies that have done horrible things,” he said. "You cannot tolerate another deputy's bad behavior, and that has happened here."

Although he accepted the findings of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, there was nuance to Baca’s response. While embracing their recommendations, he also said that the LA jail system is a national leader in reducing force.

Five days after the harshly critical report, Baca invited his command staff, media and several dozen inmates to the chapel inside Men's Central Jail to hear his response. Baca, an elected official, said he is on board with the report.

"I agree with every single recommendation that the jail commission has provided," he said.

That means closer supervision, civilian oversight by an inspector general and restructuring executive command, among other reform suggestions.

But there were nuances to the sheriff's acquiescence. To the finding that the chain of command kept him in the dark, Baca said it was not intentional.

"They didn't see the problem as it was coming," he said.

And despite criticism of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka for allegedly discouraging discipline, Baca said he wants to keep Tanaka for his administrative expertise.

"He's my assistant, that's what undersheriff means. I'm in command of the department. There is no number two," Baca said.

Baca described the improper use of force incidents cited by the Commission as "anecdotal." He said use of significant force against inmates has dropped 53 percent this past year, crediting initiatives to expand education for inmates, and improve communication with the deputies who staff the jail.

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