|Seven Los Angeles sheriff's deputies arrested in jail probe||| Print ||
|Written by TAMI ABDOLLAH, Associated Press|
|Monday, 09 December 2013 16:28|
LOS ANGELES (AP) — At least seven current and former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies were arrested Monday by the FBI as part of an ongoing investigation of inmate abuse in the nation's largest jail system.
The arrests of lower to mid-ranking deputies by federal agents was confirmed to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the arrests who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity. The official said no assistant sheriffs or undersheriff had been arrested.
Federal authorities called a news conference Monday afternoon to announce criminal corruption and civil rights charges filed in the case.
The FBI has been investigating allegations of excessive force and other misconduct at the county's jails since at least 2011. The official said the arrests were related to the abuse of individuals in the jail system and also allegations that sheriff's officials moved an FBI informant in the jails possibly to thwart their probe.
Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said he was aware of an indictment but referred calls to the FBI. He said Sheriff Lee Baca would provide a comment later Monday afternoon.
"We've cooperated fully with the FBI in their investigation and we'll continue to do so," Whitmore said.
Baca has acknowledged mistakes to a county commission reviewing reports of brutality, but he has also defended his department and distanced himself personally from the allegations.
He said he's made improvements including creating a database to track inmate complaints. Baca has also hired a new head of custody and rearranged his command staff.
Retired sheriff's Cmdr. Bob Olmsted, who is challenging Baca for the voter-elected position of sheriff in 2014, said in a statement Monday that the arrests "underscore the high level of corruption that has plagued the Sheriff's Department."
He said as a commander he tried "several times" to notify the sheriff and his command staff about "ongoing abuses and misconduct" in Men's Central Jail, but his "concerns fell on deaf ears."
"I knew I had to act, and as a result, I notified the FBI of the department's culture and acceptance of excessive force, inmate abuse, sheriff's gangs, and corruption," Olmsted said.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Sheriff's Department in 2012 claiming the sheriff and his top commanders had condoned violence against inmates. The organization released a report documenting more than 70 cases of misconduct by deputies.
Last month the county announced the appointment of veteran Los Angeles County prosecutor Max Huntsman to head a new office of inspector general that will oversee the Sheriff's Department.
The county's jails held more than 18,700 inmates as of Monday.
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