LA County Sheriffs Charged with Systematic Abuse, Corruption in Federal Case

According to the Los Angeles Times, 18 current and past members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have been charged with abuse of inmates, misconduct, and obstructing an investigation. Here's the U.S. attorney leading the case:

"The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law. Instead of cooperating with the federal investigation to ensure that corrupt law enforcement officers would be brought to justice, the defendants in this case are accused of taking affirmative steps designed to ensure that light would not shine on illegal conduct that violated basic constitutional rights.”

So what sorts of things did the officers do? In one case, they arrested the husband of the Austrian consul who was visiting the jail and then, when the consul herself complained, they cuffed her for no legitimate reason. And there's this:

One of the indictments details three separate incidents in which prosecutors alleged that a sheriff's sergeant encouraged deputies he supervised at the visiting area of Men's Central Jail to use excessive force and unlawful arrests of visitors.

Visitors were taken to a deputy break room, which could not be seen by the public, and beaten by sheriff's officials, the indictment said. One visitor had his arm fractured.

In a separate but related case, seven other officers tried to block an FBI investigation into misconduct. A sheriff's department officer harassed an agent outside her house and then some tried to pull this off:

The document shows that federal authorities allege that the officials hampered the federal probe after the sheriff's department discovered that an inmate was working as a federal informant.

The officials moved the inmate — identified only as AB in the indictment — and changed his name, even altering the department's internal inmate database to falsely say he had been released, according to the indictment.

Read the whole thing here.

Most people in law enforcement at all levels are not only well-meaning, they play by the rules. Which makes it all the more imporant to watch the watchers.

Hat tip: Dan Gifford.

In October 2009, LA County Sheriff's Department officers hassled Shawn Nee, an award-winning photographer, taking pictures in the city's subway system. Watch this video of the disturbing confrontation - and then get even angrier when you learn that the officers were lauded by their bosses:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Most people in law enforcement at all levels are not only well-meaning, they play by the rules.

    "Most" is a strong word to throw around Gotham, Nick.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    And they don't play by the rules when they knowingly give a free pass to the few rotten ones.

    I figure 10% are naive noble creatures, 10% are thugs, and 80% are thug-enablers.

  • Ken Shultz||

    From the LA Times article:

    The indicted officials are: Lt. Stephen Leavins, who was assigned to the unit that investigates alleged crimes by sheriff's deputies; Sgts. Scott Craig and Maricella Long, who were assigned to the same unit; Lt. Gregory Thompson, who oversaw the department's Operation Safe Jails Program; and Deputies Gerard Smith, Mickey Manzo and James Sexton, who worked for Thompson.

    http://www.latimes.com/local/l.....z2n5Dw06L4

    Never mind the names--look at their job titles. These are the people you're supposed to go to about abusive Sheriffs or your safety in the jail.

    Incidentally, the conditions in LA County Jail are notorious to the point that people have been known to plead guilty and forgo a trial--just so they can get out of County and moved to a state prison. ...and it's been that way for decades.

    I've heard people say they'd rather do a year or two in state prison than 30 days in LA County.

  • AustinRoth||

    Most people in law enforcement at all levels are not only well-meaning, they play by the rules.

    I used to naively believe that, but then I grew up. I think it is more accurate to say that most law enforcement personnel, consider themselves the law itself, never to be questioned, always to be obeyed, and with no consequences except in the most egregious cases of misconduct.

    In other words, like pretty much all of government.

  • Ken Shultz||

    There is a certain personality that seems to be drawn to being a cop.

    When I was in boarding school, I had a friend who--more than the rest of us--really enjoyed terrorizing the freshman.

    When he became a cop, I thought, yeah, that was pretty predictable.

  • MJGreen||

    It depends on what is meant by "the rules." They have their own informal system of rules, and I'm sure most do follow that pretty closely.

    As for well-meaning... I guess if most means 50%+1, that may be accurate. Possibly. Maybe not.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law.

    Only "some"?

    Bullshit.

  • Paul.||

    So how are the police not an occupying force again?

  • croaker||

    I can't wait for that third amendment case in Utah to hit the courtroom.

  • Response||

    There are over 9000 sheriffs and deputies in Los Angeles county. Most are well-meaning and play by the rules. I would, however, agree that it takes a certain personality to be an officer of the law. But to assume a significant percentage are bad (where those commenting are questioning the use of "most") is simply difficult to qualify given the high number of officers and the relatively few incidents.

  • shortviking||

    Most are either bad cops or stay silent about the ones who are.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    And what Response fails to understand is that cops who stay silent about the bad cops are 99% as bad as the bad cops. This isn't about keeping quiet because a co-worker overstays lunch by a few minutes or steals a thumb drive or power adaptor. This is keeping quiet about beatings, fraud, corruption, and all sorts of thuggish behavior which they are hired to prevent.

  • Response||

    I am actually open to listening to peoples thoughts on whether the entire sheriffs department is corrupt, but you are going to need more than people just saying it is. I find it hard to believe all (or even some significant percentage) of the 9000+ officers being corrupt. I don't have the numbers to back that statement up. But I'm sure those that are confident against my statement will and I would be happy to review that research.

  • SweatingGin||

    "In one case, they arrested the husband of the Austrian consul who was visiting the jail and then, when the consul herself complained, they cuffed her for no legitimate reason. "

    It's just been revoked!

  • SweatingGin||

    Alternative would be a Stripes quote:

    "Do the words 'Act of War' mean anything to you?"

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement