El Paso County Deputies Started a Fight Club to Reward Use of Force Against Prisoners

Use of violent force is never something to celebrate. Any time law enforcement officers legitimately use force or violence against people in the communities that they serve, it is at best an unfortunate part of the job that should be kept to the minimum amount necessary to control a situation.

Yet in the El Paso County Jail in Colorado, Sheriff’s Deputy Sandra Rincon was celebrated with a tiara, a “princess” plate, and a cake with the number “50” on top. The number, however, wasn’t her age. It referred to the number of times she had used force against prisoners, ranging from handcuffing to punching and kicking. She was the winner of what one of the county jailers called a “fight club,” crowning whoever used force most often as the champion.

The “fight club” competition was uncovered in the course of a lawsuit filed by civil rights attorney Darold Killmer, which charged sheriff’s deputies with using excessive force against his client, Philippa McCully. The deputies, according to McCully, knocked her legs out from under her and shoved her to the floor, fracturing her knee, tearing her ACL, and bruising her badly. After the “fight club” competition was revealed, the county settled McCully’s case for $675,000.

The uncovering of the “fight club” did lead to an investigation, but that investigation fell far short of being genuine and robust. The investigation largely minimized the culture of violence that led to the “fight club” coming to be in the first place. There were written reprimands, but no demotions, no transfers, or dock of pay for anyone involved, and there was no other disciplinary action along the lines of limited suspension. The competition was dismissed as little more than “bad judgment,” and the county denied that it resulted in increased use of force, even though incidents of use of force nearly doubled during the first two years of the competition. 

Use of force is no joking matter, especially in a time when community’s trust in law enforcement has been eroded by repeated incidents of excessive and even lethal force against unarmed community residents, especially people of color, usually with little or no accountability for officers involved. Excessive force is always wrong, whether the perpetrators are police officers on the streets or corrections officers in prisons and jails. 

The county’s dismissal of the “fight club” as simply bad judgment only exacerbates the distrust between the community and law enforcement. Indeed, it may further erode it. Rather than essentially turning a blind eye, the county should use this as an opportunity to revisit its use of force policy, double down on investments in training (not reduce them), and commit to greater accountability on the part of the sheriff’s department.  

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Anonymous

Jail guards are the most sadistic of the law enforcement collective.
Total scum of the planet.

Anonymous

Actually, Mr. Uneducated, they are not the scum of the planet, and there’s a better argument that the inmates are the scum! THESE officers yes, scum. There’s no need to overgeneralize the entire population as one.

Dr. Timothy Leary

You have to keep in mind that it is a jail, not a charm school. Different standards of behavior apply.

Captain Sanity

What is wrong with you?!? We're not talking about the criminals and their "different standards of behavior" -- we're talking about the COPS. The ones who are supposed to protect us & keep us safe are the ones beating the s**t out of people -- for a competition where the thug-cops are rewarded for it! These cops are VOLUNTARILY aggressive & violent; that makes them no different from the criminals over whom they are abusing their power.

Dr. Timothy Leary

Well Mr. Sanity, I suggest you should spend some time in jail.

Dr. Timothy Leary

Well Mr. Sanity, I suggest you should spend some time in jail.

Anonymously loud

I have spent short terms of time in county jails in two different states. The behavior that you are condoning is disturbing and completely inappropriate. The only standard of behavior that should apply is doing the dam job without hurting someone. Only a truly ignorant person would say that this behavior is a standard for dealing with human lives. I hope that someday you are treated with the same behavior that you condone here.

Dr. Timothy Leary

@Anonymously loud
"I have spent short terms of time in county jails in two different states." Are you proud of that?
I hope that whatever you did to get put in jail did not involve someone else's genitals.

Anonymous

I have found it to be the case that people who represent the types of irresponsible ideas such as yours, "Dr" Leary - usually end up on the wrong end of handcuffs themselves. And, since you specifically mentioned "genitals" in one of your comments - I think we all have a good idea of what will lead you to find out exactly what goes on inside jails.

That being said, you are complete, uneducated, moron. We have laws that restrict inhumane treatment of prisoners. This is a jail - a county lock up, which means many of these people are held awaiting trial, which means - they haven't been convicted of any crimes. Not that a conviction earns you inhumane treatment or abuse. If you think simply because you have lived a life of privilege that people not as privileged as yourself deserve this sort of treatment, I promise you, in this country it is easy to be convicted and be innocent. Were that to happen to you, I sincerely doubt you would desire the treatment these inmates received.

Jail and prison are for rehabilitation purposes. Other countries are doing it far better than ours - but then, they don't have "for profit" prisons either. Timmy, you are poor excuse for a human being, boy.

Anonymous

You've been messing with LSD again haven't you "Dr. Leary".

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