Crime & Justice

L.A. Sheriff Denies Knowledge Of 'Degrading' Strip Searches Of Women

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva at the graduation ceremony for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy class 433 at East Los Angeles College, Friday, January 4, 2019.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva at the graduation ceremony for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy class 433 at East Los Angeles College, Friday, January 4, 2019.
Kyle Grillot for LAist

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LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he had no knowledge of degrading strip searches of women inmates at a South LA jail that led to a $53 million civil settlement announced this week.

For two and a half years ending in 2014, Villanueva was a lieutenant at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.

During most of that time, deputies allegedly were engaging in inhumane strip searches of up to 60 women at a time in an open air bus garage, providing them with no privacy. A class-action lawsuit said deputies often verbally abused the women, some of whom were forced to undergo body cavity searches while sitting on the dirty concrete floor.

County lawyers said in a 2015 memo to plaintiff’s attorneys that Villanueva, along with other lieutenants at the jail knew about the policies, practices and procedures involving the strip searches. But Villanueva said through a spokesman that department policy prohibited men from even being present during strip searches of women, and that he had no involvement in the process.