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April 7, 2022

Court Appointed Panel Especially Faults Deputy Use of Force, Including ‘Head Shots’

LOS ANGELES — In a scathing report on how the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) under Sheriff Alex Villanueva has handled deputy use-of-force and other issues in its vast jail system, a panel of official monitors has asked for a status conference in federal court. 

The report was particularly critical of the use of “head shots,” referring to “punches to the head of an inmate.” The report, which is the tenth the monitors have issued, says, “We are no longer seeing progression towards professional management of force situations. It is time for the jail culture to stop supporting behaviors that are forbidden by policy.” 

The report also noted that the full extent of “head shots” problems is not known because of likely failures to disclose them. 

The court-appointed monitoring of the L.A. County jails was part of the 2015 settlement agreement in the Rosas v Baca case. 

“This report by the court-appointed monitors in the Rosas case decisively demonstrates that there is a serious and long-standing problem with deputies using excessive force in the Los Angeles County jails,” said Peter Eliasberg, chief counsel at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “Deputies brutally punch incarcerated people in the head, initiate unnecessary force rather than taking steps to avoid it, and then fabricate reports to justify their actions.”

In the report, the monitors were also critical of the lack of accountability among deputies, supervisors, and managers for the repeated failure to abide by use of force of policies.

The court-appointed panel, which has been monitoring LASD operation of the jails since 2016 as result of a consent decree, filed the report today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. As part of its request for a conference, the report says that former progress on some key issues has “plateaued” and “actually regressed on some others.”

“These problems fester because supervisors turn a blind eye to the excessive force and dishonesty, and no one is disciplined,” Eliasberg said. “Most concerning of all, the violations of the consent decree have gotten significantly worse since Alex Villanueva became sheriff."

Read the monitors' report: