LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Figures released to the public Tuesday showed the number of use-of-force reports in Los Angeles County jails are outpacing last year’s number, but an attorney to the County Board of Supervisors said the trend is not cause for concern.
As of July 6, 310 use-of-force reports against inmates had been recorded in 2013. A total of 479 reports were recorded for all of 2012, according to the county.
Merrick Bobb, special counsel to the Board of Supervisors who has reviewed county jail conditions for decades, said he was following the numbers carefully. He noted that three-quarters of reported incidents involve the lowest level of force possible.
“At this point, I’m not terribly concerned,” Bobb said.
The lowest level incidents are those that do not result in complaints or injuries and are ruled to be in line with department policy, Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald said.
McDonald, who is tasked with running the jail system, said force is sometimes need to control mentally ill inmates, intervene in fights and “rescue” inmates.
Both Bobb and McDonald said a jump in the number of use-of-force reports was not surprising because of a new demand by the Board of Supervisors that all incidents be reported.
“It may be that force is being reported more faithfully than it was in the past,” McDonald said.
As the county invests in reforms and upgrades to jails, Supervisor Gloria Molina urged McDonald to root out the “bad guys” among jail personnel. Among the reforms underway in the department is a dual-track career path for deputies working in jails and those on patrols, with deputies rotated between jails and cell blocks in hopes of preventing potentially dangerous groups from forming.
Requests from the department for funds to establish a training bureau for deputies working in jails and hire 25 more jail supervisors are still under review by the county’s chief executive officer. At present, neither request has advanced to the board for approval.
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