Southern California breaking news and trends

Countywide 9-day DUI crackdown wraps up

DUI checkpoint LA Sheriff

DUI checkpoints are mostly about paperwork.

It starts with Deputy Robert Hill, postitioned in the center of a four-lane street. 

"Pretty exciting stuff, huh?" Hill says, as he turns towards the next car. The man inside is middle-aged and doesn't speak a lot of English.

"Hi, Sir, how're you doing tonight?" Hill starts.  "OK? OK. it's a DUI checkpoint, we're looking for drunk drivers. Any alcohol or drink tonight?"

"Some coffee," the driver says.

"Coffee? Not Irish coffee, right? No? Alright, thank you, sir. Have a good night."

If the driver doesn't have a license, or looks like they might be drunk, they might end up being sent around the corner to a parking lot outside Bally Total Fitness. There, a trailer and chairs are set up, basically a stand where deputies can complete the masses of paperwork involved in traffic citations.

One deputy is leading a man through a classic drunk check. 


Los Angeles County Citizens Commission's on Jail Violence hears testimony from current sheriff's employees

Friday's meeting of the Los Angeles Citizens Commission on Jail Violence featured testimony from several current members of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

Previous witnesses testifying before the commission have painted a picture of the Men’s Central Jail as a place where deputies frequently used force against inmates with virtual impunity. Captain Mike Bornman, Friday's first witness, worked at the jail in 2009 and 2010. Bornman said he found piles of complaints against deputies stuck in drawers that had never been investigated or entered into the tracking system.

The system was chronically overburdened with not enough staff, Bornman said, and "there appeared to be a lack of desire to hold people accountable."

Bornman testified that the jail supervisor at the time, Captain Daniel Cruz, repeatedly told him not to concern himself with making sure complaints were investigated. Bornman said that when he suggested they discuss the situationwith Cruz’s boss, Commander Bob Olmstead, Cruz balked. Commissioners asked Bornman what Cruz said, exactly. 


Investigation underway into suspended sheriffs deputies' conduct

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca in 2010.

A quick update on the news that seven Los Angeles County sheriffs deputies have been suspended with pay: the initial investigation into the allegations of possible misconduct will be led by the Sheriff's Internal Affairs division and will be overseen by the civilian Office of Independent Review. 

Reports from the LA Times allege the group--which reportedly includes members of the department's gang unit--behave like a street gang, with matching tatoos that glorify officer-involved shootings.

Sheriffs Spokesman Steve Whitmore says it's not clear whether members of the so-called "Jump Out Boys" have been involved in any misconduct. "What I can say is that Sheriff Baca and his management team take this very seriously," he says.

Whitmore says there isn't much information he can make publicly available at the moment. California law has a number of privacy protections for peace officers accused of misconduct and/or involved in personell issues. 


Who's crowding California's jails


Xomiele/Flickr Creative Commons

According to a new report, California's jails are full of people who can't afford bail.

California's county jails are overcrowded, and a new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a criminal justice reform think tank based in San Francisco, says much of the blame lies with California's commercial bail bond system. In "The Commercial Bail Industry: Profit or Public Safety?" author Amanda Gullings warns that jails will remain overcrowded until they develop alternatives to monetary bail.

According to the report, a large number of people are sitting in California jails because they can't afford bail. Seventy-one percent of California's jail population is pretrial--meaning, people are locked up in county jail but not because they've been convicted of a crime. There are various reasons these inmates are locked up despite not having been found guilty yet--immigration holds, warrants in other states--and the actual number of bailable inmates sitting  behind bars varies from county to county.