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Report: Deputies Aim For Inmates’ Heads In Jail Scuffles

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Dozens of current and former inmates in Los Angeles County jails claim to have suffered head blows from deputies during scuffles, resulting in at least 12 serious head injuries since 2009, according to a report released Wednesday.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports the allegations come amid calls for reform from the mother of a former inmate cited in the report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The report, “Sheriff Baca’s Strike Force: Deputy Violence and Head Injuries of Inmates in LA County Jails” (PDF), compiled testimonies from from 64 inmates and former inmates who say they were attacked by deputies who use force first targeting the head.

The findings served to add further scrutiny to the department’s use-of-force policy and cites a “miniscule number of unreasonable force findings” in alleging that deputies under Sheriff Lee Baca have failed to accurately report, investigate and discipline excessive force incidents.

Sandra Neal, the mother of one inmate cited in the report, told reporters that her son was beaten by deputies in March while in a holding cell after being arrested for a non-violent crime.

“Within the first few hours of detainment, he was beaten by L.A. Sheriff’s,” said Neal, whose son was later released and cleared of all charges after he suffered multiple facial fractures, a collapsed lung, broken teeth and cracked ribs.

Neal said she later received a letter from the Sheriff’s Department stating the deputies acted within policy.

Baca — whose department and jails are the subject of a federal investigation of deputy violence against inmates and a Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence — defended his jails and use-of-force policy last week during testimony before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“All of the dynamics in the jail(s) are fully understood, fully addressed and force is at an all-time low,” Baca said. “We are best in the nation and that includes Rikers Island and Cook County, which others like to say are better models. In fact, they’re coming to us, asking more about what we’re doing to improve the situation.”

Despite the scathing report, however, ACLU Legal Director Peter Eliasberg said there is reason for optimism with the arrival of a new jails commander.

“He has both admitted the failures and is taking aggressive steps to fix them,” Eliasberg said.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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