Eighteen current and former Los Angeles County Sheriffs were arrested recently under federal charges for brutally beating inmates and visitors in the Los Angeles jail. The LA Sheriff’s Department patrols a huge section of Los Angeles County and runs an enormous jail system—it is the fourth largest police department in the U.S. after New York City Chicago and Los Angeles police departments.
The viciousness of these beatings cannot be understated. A deputy who trains recruits in the jail forced these recruits to beat up prisoners, including beating up a mentally ill inmate. Inmates were struck, kicked, and pepper-sprayed “to teach them a lesson” when it was judged by the deputies that the inmate had been “disrespectful” to another jailer.
Relatives visiting an inmate were subjected to similar beatings. Los Angeles Times reported that “Three visitors were taken to a deputy break room, which could not be seen by the public, and beaten” by the sheriffs.Deputies were reprimanded “for not using force on visitors” who failed to show respect to the jailers. One of those visitors, Gabriel Carillo, who was visiting his brother, had his arm broken by the sheriffs while he was handcuffed. Carillo filed charges, but the prosecutors dropped the case. When he heard about the arrests of the deputies, Carillo said, “I feel like now people are starting to believe the cops aren’t always telling the truth. Don’t just take their word because they have a badge. Look at the facts.”
The sheriffs disappeared one inmate when they found out that this inmate was an FBI informant against the sheriffs. In what they called “Operation Pandora’s Box,” the sheriffs moved this informant to another location and identified him only as “AB.” The sheriffs then altered their records, stating that this person had been released, while continuing to isolate him. They refused to let any other law enforcement meet with this prisoner. The Los Angeles Times on December 12 reported that “Sheriff Lee Bacaplayed a significant role in how his department handled” this inmate.
In another incident, an Australian consulate official, when visiting an Australian inmate, was arrested and handcuffed despite not committing any crime and despite the fact that foreign diplomatic officials are supposed to be immune from prosecution due to their legal status in the country. According to the LA Times the official’s wife was allegedly treated in a similar way by the deputies.
Other charges against the sheriffs include “conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements, and civil rights violations.” After they carried out beatings, the sheriffs discussed how to keep their stories straight and conspired together in writing reports that falsely accused the beating victims of assaulting sheriffs.
The sheriffs tried to intimidate those who were investigating them. In one incident, when an FBI agent, who had been working on this case, came outside of her home, she was approached by two sheriffs and falsely told that a warrant was being prepared for her arrest. They also intimidated and harassed whistleblowers in the department.
In response to all of this, Sheriff Lee Baca said that “99% of our employees are on the right track.” Baca got it right: these thugs are all on the “track” of doing what pigs do—which is to “serve and protect” the system of capitalism-imperialism that rules over people, with all their brutality and murder.
Hector Villagra, the Executive Director of the ACLU in Southern California said that the federal indictments against the current and former sheriffs “suggest the entire tree may be rotten.” An LA Times editorial stated, “Any inclination to pass off more than two years of news reports and official probes detailing inmate beatings as simply the result of a few rogue deputies should be shelved.”
The latest charges come on the heels of two other major investigations into the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
In the Lancaster-Palmdale area, 70 miles north of the city of Los Angeles, the LA sheriffs have been targeting Black people who live in public housing—stopping them, seizing their property, using force against them. Two-thirds of Palmdale residents are Black and Latino. The sheriffs have been racially profiling and stopping people and then doing what is now being called “unjustified back seat detentions”—detaining people in the back seat of a patrol car for minor offenses, which is unconstitutional according to the 4th Amendment. According to an article on huffingtonpost.com, “In one instance, a domestic violence victim was placed in a patrol car, which agitated the suspect and led to both a physical struggle between the man and deputies and the victim getting pepper-sprayed because she also grew upset.”
The other investigation is into a clique within the sheriff’s department called the Jump Out Boys. This is a gang of sheriffs, part of the elite gang unit, who get invited to be in the clique because they gain “more respect after being involved in a shooting.” LA Times columnist Steve Lopez reported that a former sheriff stated that this “badge of honor” was won by “Deputies (who) were breaking bones purposely in order to get a tattoo that gave them member ship in a guard subculture of thugs…”
The Jump Out Boys is just one of a number of racist cliques in the LA Sheriff Department. Other cop gangs have been called the 3000 Boys, 2000 Boys, the Grim Reapers, Little Devils, Regulators and Vikings, and they have been active in creating an atmosphere of killings, beatings, falsifying reports, and perjury in order to cover up their illegitimate conduct. One cop gang—the Lynwood Vikings, “has been known as a ‘neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang,’” according to the LA Times.
The LA Weekly reported that the 3000 Boys has been assigned the duty to do an “internal” investigation on the Lynwood Viking sheriff’s gang! This is like the fox guarding the chicken coop.
Those of us who are out on the streets of Los Angeles in the Black and Latino communities, building the movement for revolution, are getting a sense of a real clampdown going on in those communities, and what the LA Sheriffs are doing is one part of this—killing, beating, arresting, and jailing a whole section of the population. The prisons and jails of this country are filled to the brim with Blacks and Latinos, both men and women and particularly youth. The California prisoner hunger strike this summer exposed the torture of solitary confinement going on in the prisons, but this torture and brutality exists in the county and city jails too. People need to take a stand against this mass incarceration, brutality and torture. From the jails of Los Angeles to the prisons in New York and across the U.S., this shit has got to be stopped!