City News Service

Jailers Fail to Properly Check Cells 80 Percent of Time: LAPD Watchdog

Jailers at the Los Angeles Police Department’s busiest detention facility frequently failed to properly conduct welfare checks of cells to ensure inmates were safe, says the LAPD’s watchdog.

The review, conducted by Inspector General Alex Bustamante, found that 82 percent of 198 checks at downtown L.A.’s Metropolitan Detention Center were "out of compliance" with standards established by state regulations, LAPD policy or expectations from the department on how those checks are conducted, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In 26 of the 163 flawed checks, Bustamante found, jailers entered the two-level cell blocks where inmates are housed but failed to inspect the entire area of each floor. In the remainder of the cases, he wrote, jailers did not enter the cell blocks at all and often miscounted the number of inmates inside, according to the newspaper.

The LAPD requires jailers to check each inmate and cell -- whether empty or not -- every half hour, when they are supposed to "look and listen for obvious signs of distress or trauma," according to Bustamante’s report.

Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman said he found the failure rate to be deeply troublesome. The report’s finding that jails logs were inaccurate "raises another set of concerns entirely," he said. He noted that the checks are meant to ensure the safety not just of inmates but police and jailers too, saying the regulations were "crystal clear about what is required."

"The 82 percent compliance-failure rate suggests systemic failure," he said, according to The Times.

Matt Johnson, the president of the Police Commission, called the findings "very troubling" but noted there were no indications that the failed checks cited in Bustamante’s report led to any inmate injuries or deaths, The Times reported.

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