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

Troll

Anonymous

I actually think it's sad that, unless you turn to Jesus, you are going to rot in Hell when you eventually die after your pitiful, privileged, hate-filled, unproductive "life."

Anonymous

As opposed to what dumbass? Getting raped in an American one like you did? Oh wait, not rape if you sold yourself for summer cigarettes right?

Richard Alpert

Dude, I TOLD you to take your damn meds! You are embarrassing yourself.

Anonymous

I have actually worked in prison. This is appalling! To those of you that think that the treatment fits the situation.... you are disgusting. While we all want to see the guilty pay for their crimes...do you even know what the crimes were? Was it failure to appear in court for a traffic violation? Was it rape? Murder? You don't know and to make such a blanket generalization like "it's prison, not charm school", you are a complete idiot. Don't enable these jackass COs to play "fight club" with my tax dollars. They are disgusting for the most part. And before you jump to another assumption, no, I was not a CO myself, so don't make yourself look more mentally and morally inhibited than you already are. No one should be beat down for the sake of it regardless if the are a prisoner or not. That's what is wrong these days, we still have this barbaric and outdated mindset of fist and fight over what is actually "right".

Anthony Allen

Are we really suprised by anything so called law enforcment does?

Anonymous

For fuck's sake, Dr. Timothy Leary died in 1996. Just keep quiet you 14 year old troll. Even if you are 40 with a badge, your brain is 14.

Anonymous

Sounds like the Gestapo is in charge if that prison and the county approves ongoing violence..

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