LA County Supervisors grill Sheriff Baca on jail violence reforms

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Frustrated by the pace of jail reforms, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday quizzed Sheriff Lee Baca on his plans to stop inmate abuse at Men’s Central Jail. At times, Baca struggled to answer supervisors' inquiries about how he intends to better supervise his deputies.

Supervisor Gloria Molina wanted to know about plans to rotate deputies throughout the jail, so they won’t develop gang-like cliques that brutalize inmates.

“When would you see that being implemented?" Molina asked.

Baca started to answer. “Soon, I mean we’re... we’re doing it now to a degree.”

The supervisor persisted. “'Soon' is when?”

“Well, I have no way of predicting the endpoint,” the sheriff said.

Molina sighed. “Sheriff, let’s start again.”

Baca said he needs to consult the powerful deputies union before he can start the rotations. Union leaders have said they don’t like the idea.

The FBI has launched an investigation into L.A. County jails in the wake of dozens of allegations of inmate abuse — not just from inmates, but from jail chaplains and even from a former deputy who worked at the downtown lockup.

At today's hearing, supervisors also grumbled about the long-delayed installation of cameras inside Men’s Central Jail to monitor deputies’ behavior. Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who in the past has defended Baca, expressed frustration with Baca's plan to install them in the next five months.

“The board was very adamant — we want the cameras installed," Antonovich said. "The need for them was yesterday — not five months from today.”

“I don’t disagree," the sheriff said. He said he would try to accelerate the timeline.

The sheriff maintained he’s making progress on reforms with a new set of jail commanders and a revised force prevention policy.

“It’s my intent through the force prevention policy and my involvement with the jail operations to reduce force to the absolute barest minimum," Baca said.

He said his department’s already cut the use of force at Men's Central Jail by a third. He said the average monthly use of force has gone from about 45 incidents to 17 in October.

The Board of Supervisors has established a seven-member Commission on Jail Violence to examine the issue. So far, the members include former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and former federal judges Lourdes Baird and Dickran Tevrizian.

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