The head of a watchdog agency charged with investigating the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday he is concerned about an increase in injuries related to the use of force in county jails.
Inspector General Max Huntsman was responding to a report by sheriff’s officials on compliance with a longstanding federal settlement agreement under Rosas, et al. v. Los Angeles County Sheriff.
Overall, the use of force against jail inmates by staff was down in 2019 — the first year of Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s tenure — compared with 2018, according to LASD statistics. However, “category 2” force — incidents that result in any kind of injury — were up in the first and third quarters in a year-over-year comparison.
“I’m also concerned about the cat 3 force and that includes fractures and broken bones … things that we hadn’t seen for a while,” Huntsman told the board.
The IG said he was reviewing each of the four category 3 incidents carefully.
Asked about an uptick in incidents at the Inmate Reception Center, Assistant Sheriff Bruce Chase said the lack of medical staffing there sometimes leads to the need to employ force.
Huntsman tried to explain the connection, saying that there is often only one clinician at the IRC and inmates in need of mental health care may be left handcuffed while waiting to be seen.
“When people are handcuffed to a chair for 24 hours, sometimes they act out,” Huntsman said.
Separately, Huntsman sent a letter to the board indicating that the LASD has adopted a policy for body-worn cameras that does not follow all of the OIG’s recommendations and includes no input from the Civilian Oversight Commission.
Commander Chris Marks told the OIG that the Board of Supervisors’ timeline for the policy didn’t allow time for COC input.
According to Huntsman, Marks said the LASD intends to comply with AB 748, which requires the release of video in critical incidents — those that document serious use of force and force causing injuries. However, the department plans to treat all other videos as investigative records and will not release them in response to any California Public Records Act request.
Marks told Huntsman that cost was the issue driving that decision, according to the IG.
Huntsman told the board his office would continue to review the policy, which has already been approved by the relevant unions — making it difficult to renegotiate.
The process to select a vendor for the cameras is underway and expected to take four to six months. Deployment is expected to take two years from the date of a signed contract.
The cameras are planned to be rolled out to patrol deputies. In-place cameras in the jails are used to capture interactions there.
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