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Sheriff Lee Baca faces commission over jail abuse allegations

July 27, 2012 | 10:13 am

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and his top aide are scheduled to face a county commission created to examine allegations of abuse inside the department's jailsLos Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and his top aide are scheduled Friday to face a county commission created to examine allegations of abuse inside the department's jails.

Baca has been accused of neglecting his lockups and ignoring direct warnings about rampant excessive force and gang-like deputy cliques. His second-in-command, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, has been accused by current and retired sheriff's supervisors of openly encouraging a climate in which deputy misconduct went unchecked.

The commission was created by the county Board of Supervisors after it was revealed that the FBI was investigating allegations of abuse inside the Sheriff's Department lockups, the largest jail system in the nation.

FULL COVERAGE: Jails under scrutiny

In hearings over the last several weeks, the commission has already heard dramatic testimony from advocates and former prisoners. The most notable testimony, however, has come from past and current sheriff's supervisors, who have been given clearance to speak candidly before the commission.

At the panel's last meeting, a current sheriff's supervisor testified that a former Men's Central Jail captain allowed misconduct to go unchecked by jailers. He said at one department Christmas party, Capt. Daniel Cruz joked about force on inmates during his speech, toasting to "not in the face," an apparent allusion to blows on inmates that don't leave marks.

Another current sheriff's captain, Patrick Maxwell, testified that Tanaka encouraged supervisors to allow deputies to "work in the gray area," which he interpreted as encouraging policing that violates the law and policy.

Cruz and Tanaka have disputed those allegations.

Months of reporting by The Times revealed that long before public scrutiny of the jails bubbled over, top Sheriff's Department officials were raising alarms about excessive force and shoddy investigations by supervisors. A top commander told The Times that he tried to warn Baca about rampant excessive force and the formation of excessive deputy cliques on two occasions but was ignored. Former Cmdr. Robert Olmsted said Baca's aides also ignored his alarms, telling him it was impossible to change the jail's culture.

Baca has pledged to take a more active role in the jails.

As the investigating commission's hearing got underway Friday morning, dozens of Sheriff's Department officials assembled in the audience, a huge increase compared with past hearings.

L.A. County jails: Commission examines abuse allegations

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and his top aide are facing a county commission created to examine abuse allegations inside the department’s jails. Baca has been accused of neglecting his lock-ups, and ignoring direct warnings about rampant excessive force and gang like deputies.

Storified by LA Times - LA NOW · Fri, Jul 27 2012 09:45:06

undersheriff tanaka is on, says when he was overseeing custody as assistant sheriff, he received no reports of deputy cliques.Robert Faturechi
"I wanna know who's on the streets patrolling" says commissioner about #LASD turnout."yeah, ha ha" mumbles homicide detective sarcasticallyRobert Faturechi
jail hearing packed. sea of suits, and tan and green. #LASD http://pic.twitter.com/ZaeV3x5yRobert Faturechi
dozens of sheriff's officials here as sheriff and undersheriff face off with jails commission. show of support? http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-jails-sg,0,4834651.storygalleryRobert Faturechi
sheriff baca and his #2 face off with the jail abuse commission today. here's a gallery of our work on the subject: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-jails-sg,0,4834651.storygalleryRobert Faturechi

ALSO:

FULL COVERAGE: Jails under scrutiny

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

Jail deputies acted like gang members, ex-sheriff's officials say

-- Robert Faturechi

Photo: Sheriff Lee Baca. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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