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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Shredder

Your comment is stupider than your name, if you haven't spent time in jail shut your pie hole. You are the type of person that has created our society, and now you complain about all the shootings ect. Fix what you created Dr. Timothy Leary, and stop commenting on what you know nothing about! Opinions are like a-holes everybody has one and they all stink. Stupid is as stupid does!

Simon

So you're telling us that you're a sociopath who finds thinking things through is just too hard. And what a surprise that your obsession is rape.

Anonymous

Bootlicker

Anonymous

Aaaa

Jon Hardison

I so desperately want to be surprised. I so desperately want to believe there were good officers and just a few bad eggs. But stories like this bring back memories of "the culture" and the expectation that one who wears the badge should ever turn on another.
Simply declining to participate isn't good enough. How are we to believe these officers are any better than the prisoners they oversee if the rules they choose live by are identical?

Cody

Given that there is a huge racial disparity between the people who are in jail - we shouldn't believe that police offers are better than prisoners.

The law is a construct, even at its best.

Anonymous

I totally believe this story - and it's happening elsewhere. I have a loved one who is incarcerated - the horror stories he tells me are just awful. :-(

Audrey Hatfield

Unfortunately, nothing will happen to these "public servants." Why? Because Dan May is our district attorney. Everything's a double standard in El Paso County. Case in point, the cop that just got slapped on the wrist for being a child molester.

Anonymous

Asshole nazis

Anonymous

This right here is exactly why my generation of young persons no longer respects the police force! And… Can you fucking blame us?!

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