An editorial in the L.A. Times today called on the new seven-member commission charged with investigating Los Angeles County's jails to put real pressure on Sherriff Lee Baca to improve conditions in the troubled facilities. Facing mounting pressure from the media and public, in October Sherriff Baca announced the formation of the commission to study serious allegations of brutality against inmates — including deputy-on-inmate assaults, deputy-instigated inmate-on-inmate assaults and the use of excessive force — detailed in a recent ACLU report.
As the Times states:
Clearly there is a problem. The FBI is investigating multiple allegations of misconduct by sheriff's deputies. The Times has reported on numerous cases of abuse and violence by deputies, including a rookie who resigned after he was allegedly told by his supervisor to beat a mentally ill inmate. And over the last two years, about 30 deputies had to be disciplined for beating inmates or covering up abuse. One jail monitor said she witnessed deputies beating an inmate even after he was obviously unconscious.
The new commission’s influence remains to be seen, and it’s doubtful that an internal investigation shaped by Baca himself will be the agent of change that is so desperately needed. That’s why we’re asking you to join us in calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to pursue a thorough, independent investigation into the allegations brought to light by the ACLU.
In the meantime, as the editorial says, “though it is toothless in some respects, the commission has an important role to play… a thorough, no-holds-barred investigation could put real pressure on Baca to take action. Clearly, that pressure is needed.”