18 LA sheriff's deputies face US charges

2013-12-10 13:33
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Los Angeles - US officials on Monday unsealed five criminal cases against 18 current and former Los Angeles county sheriff's deputies, as part of an FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption in America's largest jail system.

The charges were announced at a press conference after 16 of 18 defendants were arrested earlier in the day.

They were expected to be arraigned later in US District Court.

"These incidents did not take place in a vacuum - in fact, they demonstrated behaviour that had become institutionalised," said US Attorney Andre Birotte jnr.

"The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the sheriff's department considered themselves to be above the law."

Four grand jury indictments and a criminal complaint allege unjustified beatings of jail inmates and visitors at downtown Los Angeles jail facilities, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men's Central Jail.

The FBI has been investigating allegations of excessive force and other misconduct at the county's jails since at least 2011.

Abuse of individuals

The official said the arrests were related to the abuse of individuals in the jail system and also allegations that sheriff's officials moved an FBI informant in the jails possibly to thwart their probe.

sheriff's department spokesperson Steve Whitmore referred calls to the FBI.

He said Sheriff Lee Baca would provide a comment later on Monday afternoon.

"We've co-operated fully with the FBI in their investigation and we'll continue to do so," Whitmore said.

Baca has acknowledged mistakes to a county commission reviewing reports of brutality, but he has also defended his department and distanced himself personally from the allegations.

He said he's made improvements including creating a database to track inmate complaints. Baca has also hired a new head of custody and rearranged his command staff.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the sheriff's department in 2012 claiming the sheriff and his top commanders had condoned violence against inmates.

The organisation released a report documenting more than 70 cases of misconduct by deputies.

The county's jails held more than 18 700 inmates as of Monday.

- AP

Read more on:    fbi  |  us
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