About 50 people rallied outside Los Angeles County's Central Jail on Monday in support of Sheriff Lee Baca, who is under fire for allegations his deputies routinely beat up inmates.
Bishop Edward Turner of the Power of Love Christian Fellowship said Baca has worked well with community activists and believes he’ll correct any problems at the jails.
“I’ve watched this man step up and bring about change at every level,” Turner said. He pointed to Baca’s inmate education programs and domestic violence seminars for inmates as evidence of his commitment to improve the jails.
Like many at the protest, Turner is a member of sheriff’s Clergy Council, which Baca appoints members to.
Sweet Alice Harris is a community activist from Watts who also praised Baca.
“We’ve got an open door where we can tell him the things that we need,” Harris said. She called those who want Baca to resign “outsiders.”
The FBI has launched a wide-ranging investigation into inmate abuse at L.A. County jails, which the sheriff runs. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has documented dozens of alleged cases of abuse.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Baca acknowledged there he was out of touch about problems in the jails and had failed to put into place reforms that could have minimized violence.
Baca said that on a recent trip to the jail, he discovered 69 uninstalled video cameras that were sent over a year ago to help monitor deputies and inmates.
Chief attorney for the L.A. County Office of Independent Review Michael Gennaco, who spoke with KPCC’s Patt Morrison on Monday, said camera installation is a crucial step towards furthering investigations.
“These cameras need to get installed as soon as possible, because they are evidentiary tiebreakers that either prove or disprove the allegations in many cases. We have found in the few cameras that are in the jail system that it has been a deterrence of force,” he said.
Baca also said his subordinates have insulated him from “bad news.” ACLU legal director Peter Eliasberg also joined the Patt Morrison show, and said it is “remarkable” that Baca had no prior knowledge of issues in the jails because past ACLU reports have been available for review.
“If he didn’t know, he was either burying his head in the sand or he has surrounded himself with people who completely failed to do their duty, which is keep him apprised of one of the principal functions of his organization, which is to run a constitutional jail system,” Eliasberg said.
Gennaco said that in 30 cases, deputies were subjected to discipline because hard evidence allowed for a thorough investigation. But until better ways to collect proper evidence are in place, “we don’t know whether those 30 are the tip of an iceberg or the tip of an ice cube,” Gennaco said.
KPCC's Andrea Wang contributed to the report.