Los Angeles News

Sheriff Baca agrees to recommended jails commission reforms

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is responding to a scathing report that blasted the management of county jails. He's brushing off calls for his resignation but is agreeing to some reforms.

"I take the blame for whatever's wrong," said Baca Wednesday.

This is the sheriff's first public comments on the scathing report by the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence. The report states that the problem of excessive and unnecessary use of force in L.A. County jails was the result, in part, of a failure of leadership in the department.

The Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence consists of some of the most respected people in Los Angeles County, including former U.S. attorneys general and federal judges. The commission's nine-month investigation concluded that there has been a failure of leadership in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The commission's report says Baca enabled or failed to deal with overly aggressive deputy behavior far too long.

"You've got to fight what is wrong to be a deputy sheriff. You cannot tolerate another deputy's bad behavior," Baca said. "And that has happened here."

According to the sheriff's department, in the past year use-of-force incidents in the jails have decreased by more than 50 percent. The decrease, according to the department, can be attributed to educational opportunities offered to county jail inmates, such as G.E.D. classes.

The report concludes there has been a persistent pattern of use of excessive force by deputies against jail inmates. It recommends the department should be revamped with a third assistant sheriff. It also recommends more supervision of the jails, and taking deputies out of the jails and putting them out on the streets.

The sheriff's department allowed Eyewitness News to talk to some inmates as long as the inmates were not identified. The inmates said there's still room for improvement, but there are still problems with relations with deputies.

"It's not right at all. They do a lot of foul stuff here," said one inmate.

"Things have calmed down. It is a good program, but at the same time, it's still disrespect though," said another inmate.

The Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence recommended that deputies be trained specifically to deal with inmates. Baca agrees with that.

Baca said he won't quit. He said the voters gracefully put him in office -- they could gracefully vote him out of office if they choose to.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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