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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K mansfield

About 25 years ago white nationalists of the right wing started joining police forces and the military. Their authoritarian brethren civilians (so far as we know), like the commentor who calls himself timothy leary will always excuse barbaric behavior as long as it is directed at the weak, the darker skinned, the poor etc. Appealing to their humanistic sympathies doesnt work because their ideology is that the strong will trumph through violence, and sympathy is weakness. Period.

Anonymous

This is disgusting in a nauseating way. This police dept. Is famous for being aggressive. And abusive. Now there is an explination for their acts of cruelty, and NOBODY is going to do anything about it? What happened to serve, and protect. How can one trust these officers, with anything. They enjoy, and reward police brutality, how can it be that they are NOT being held accountable!!

Dubz

Dr Timothy maybe you should spend some time in jail and when they beat the shi*t out of you for no reason you can sit the f*ck down and shut up. Don’t talk about what you don’t know about.

Dr. Timothy Leary

Did you spend some time in jail, Dubz? Did you have sex with men of the same gender?

Anonymous

When you don't live the life, you will never understand. All of these " people" have great ideas but no understanding of the system. Even in the worst cultures, I have never witnessed anyone just use force without the situation requiring it. You are not talked to like we are, spit on, etc. Until you can live the life, keep your mouth shut. Focus on the families who can't do a better job raising their kids. Just an idea. We live in a society where Athletes are paid millions and the people who protect you are paid minimum wage, or almost. Next time you or your family need help , call the NBA or NFL. Until then, keep it on lock.

b-Bird

Minimum wage, huh? Where I live the highest salaries among government officials are police working OT or at least saying they did. So I guess they took the job for its "perks" instead, like intimidating people and using unnecessary physical force.

Anonymous

So being spat on gives you the right to be cruel and abusive? It's a two-way street, give respect to get it. I wonder you're so jealous of athletes.

Anonymous

Right. They all do it for a reason. Not because the entire institution is counterproductive to "corrections" and needs to be run differently. The entire philosophy, ethos, system, bureaucracy, culture of the prison system, and broader culture of law enforcement and penal and court system needs to change. That what gets coughed out of this mess in terms of the corrections officers that perform, the shoddy wages they are paid, and the militancy that gets bred into the same machine that imprisons 25% of the entire worlds population is up for debate as much as anything, but focusing on the experience of any given rank within this it in order to deflect any critique of what comes out of it is faulty and myopic, and should not be perpetuated.

Anonymous

RECRUITS INTO THE ARMY ARE TAUGHT THAT "the enemy" are gooks, and they are trained to kill them. Football players are trained to "tear them up" Boxers provoke head wounds that leave their opposites in a vegetative state, while millions cheer them on. The prairie settlers fought what they called savages defending their own lands. White people are taught that Blacks are inferior and fair game to insult, aggrieve and kill. Americans are shit- I dont say that- history does- and the proof is that there are comments here that support this animal-like behavior by the guards.

Dr. Timothy Leary

I have been accused of being "off topic" here. Your condemnation of Americans is also "off topic". If you are in America, love it or leave it. If your are not in America, than more than likely, anybody would be better off in jail in America or whatever jerk ass, Youstinkastan, country you are in.

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