Sheriff Baca, Supervisor Molina clash over reforms to Men's Central Jail

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Supervisor Gloria Molina clashed Tuesday over jail reforms.

At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Molina grilled the sheriff on his plans to reduce inmate abuse by his deputes at Men's Central Jail in downtown L.A. That facility is the focus of an F.B.I. investigation into dozens of abuse allegations. Jail chaplains and a former deputy have said they witnessed the abuse.

Molina suggested Baca was moving too slowly on reforms, and that his reports to the board were of little value.

"It’s like, 'I’m going to give you all this garbage and you can take this garbage and shove it around however you want,'" Molina said to Baca. "I don’t think you’re taking this very seriously."

Baca interrupted her.

“Oh, to the contrary, supervisor, I don’t think you’re taking what I’m saying seriously.”

"I am," Molina shot back. "I’ve been listening and reading your reports."

Such frustration isn't new. The L.A. County supervisors have been growing increasingly aggravated at the pace of jail reforms, and Molina has previously voiced her concerns.

Under increased scrutiny, the sheriff said he’s installed new cameras at the jail — years after the equipment first arrived. Installation began in November of last year, but some of the 69 cameras had been sitting in boxes for over a year.

The sheriff said he has revised use-of-force policies to prohibit deputies from banging an inmate’s head against walls, and required medical personnel to report suspicious injuries to the jail captain. Many of those reforms were included in recommendations by the board.

Baca also said he’s negotiating with the labor union that represents deputies to create a special guard position for the sake of continuity at the jail (although, he added, that's likely years away). A jail commission comprised of citizens is also examining conditions at L.A. County lockups.

The sheriff argued last November that 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.

This story has been updated.

With contributions by Paige Osburn

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