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Sheriff's captain fostered a culture of jail abuse, witness says

July 6, 2012 |  5:58 pm

The Los Angeles County sheriff's captain who ran Men's Central Jail fostered a culture of brutality by protecting dishonest deputies and permitting his underlings to use excessive force on inmates, his former lieutenant testified Friday. 

Capt. Daniel Cruz even joked at the department's annual Christmas party about hitting inmates, according to Michael Bornman, now a department captain. While toasting deputies at the party, Cruz allegedly asked a banquet hall full of jailers: “What do I always tell you guys?”

In unison, Bornman said, the jail deputies -- many of whom were laughing -- responded “Not in the face.”

“That’s right,” Cruz replied, according to Bornman. "Not in the face." Bornman said the slogan was an apparent instruction to strike inmates on parts of the body where the blows wouldn't leave marks.

Bornman testified Friday before the county commission created to address allegations of brutality in the sheriff’s jails. He told the commission that as a result of Cruz’s 2009 comments he purposely avoided the department's Christmas party the next year. At that party, violence broke out among deputies, including several who had allegedly formed a gang-like clique.

“I could’ve predicted what happened there,” Bornman said.

Bornman's testimony, along with that of another department captain, painted a picture of a dysfunctional department whose supervisors are reluctant to address deputy misconduct and are sometimes antagonistic toward those who do.

Cruz did not return calls to his home for comment. He was relieved of duty last year as internal investigators examine his tenure at the helm of the downtown L.A. jail. Much of the commission's work is focused on that lockup.

The commission, which is investigating allegations of jail violence, was created by the county Board of Supervisors soon after news broke last year that the FBI was looking into allegations of inmate abuse and other jail misconduct.


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