Feds launch jails investigation against LA County Sheriff’s Department

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Sheriff Lee Baca

Another federal agency has launched a probe into whether the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department routinely abused inmates, the Los Angeles Times reported. This latest investigation adds to a thick cloud of controversy hovering over Sheriff Lee Baca’s department, which services the Malibu area.

According to a letter sent to Sheriff’s officials this week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has undertaken an investigation separate from that of the FBI in determining whether deputies have consistently used excessive force against inmates and neglected to provide sufficient care for mentally ill inmates since 1997.

The DOJ has “become increasingly concerned about use of force and alleged abuse by jail deputies and staff,” according to the letter obtained by the Times.

The same allegations have been under investigation by the FBI since 2011. 

A blue-ribbon commission last year accused Sheriff Lee Baca and his undersheriff of enabling officers to abuse inmates. 

“Internal sheriff’s memos showed that top supervisors raised alarms about excessive force and deputies inflicting ‘jailhouse justice’ on inmates. Sheriff’s officials have come forward with tales of beatings,” according to the Times.

Corruption allegations also surfaced earlier this year when a deputy at the Malibu/Lost Hills Station said he had worn a wire for the FBI after he revealed to them that a captain at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s station told him and other subordinates at the station to sell tickets to a 2011 fundraiser for Carmen Trutanich’s unsuccessful bid for district attorney.

Baca is up for reelection next year to a fifth term in what is expected to be a hotly contested race against his former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Cdr. Bob Olmsted.