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.
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: