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

Dr. Timothy Leary why do you keep mentioning sexual acts? Odd. Disturbing. And off topic from this article. People in jail do not deserve to be treated more poorly than anyone else. They are serving there time and are still people. Abuse is never acceptable to anyone anywhere. How can you think otherwise? Apparently you have been living in a bubble of safety and privledge.

Dr. Timothy Leary

I do it to provoke your anger and indignation. Without me on this blog, it would only contain mundane, & lawyerly B.S.

Anonymous

The only comments that are mundane and worthless here are the homophobic interjections and sex-thirsting provocations of Dr. Timmy here. He believes that his "quips" (if even the most dull could consider them as such) are "thought provoking". Infuriating and trolling in nature, yes. The only thoughts it provokes are those that make many wonder why this guy doesn't have anything better to do than be a poster-child for the perfect US citizen....one that buys into FOX news and believes everything that he was taught about history in the 3rd grade (too much credit? Maybe!). Beat the bad, but if the bad is me, then nevermind...."I have rights!". One that believes they are such a "bad-ass" contrarian of sorts while the receiving end finds it laughable. Mindless. Cookie cutter. Yawn.

Anonymous

This is a travesty! You can't torture people! We have no respect for the lives of our citizens. If they're going to attack prisoners they're asking for a riot. I really hope she gets hurt. Everyone who thinks it's ok is a criminal too. Human rights extends into prison. What's next? Experimenting with how long they can go without food? This is pure evil. I hope the community demands action. I hope the state hears a lawsuit. ✌️

Chris

Of course none of the cops involved were punished. They are NEVER brought to prison for their crimes.

brandy

I worked in adult local corrections for 30 years, 26 in supervision and management. This type of behavior occurs where supervisors are uninvolved and managers have their heads in the sand. Being jailed is hard enough. This type of abuse of power is sickening

Dr. Timothy Leary

In other words you were just a pencil pushing, paper shuffling, desk jockey that did not have to daily deal with the bad apples that show up at the jail.

Anonymous

You are not a real doctor Timmie. You are an asshole pretending to be of privilege. Actually if you think this behavior is acceptable you are a piece of shit.

Anonymous

Shit I saw staff start fight club scenes when I was thrown in a psych hold for having depression. Staff would egg on the patients with the worst disabilities and then take bets who would end up "on the board" (tackled, restrained and sedated)

Dr. Timothy Leary

Some of you people commenting here need to be thrown into a Arab Muslim jail. That's where they whip the bottoms of your feet. What do you think about that?

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