LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — A federal judge gave final approval Monday to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit alleging Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies engaged in violence and abuse against jail inmates.
U.S. District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson made the determination nearly four months after the nation’s largest sheriff’s department agreed to federal court oversight and adopted a new use-of-force policy as part of a settlement agreed to in December.
The settlement agreement in Rosas v. Baca, which was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, marked the latest in several efforts to reform the scandal-plagued department beset with allegations of rampant abuse by deputies, costly lawsuits and federal convictions of deputies for obstructing an FBI probe into jail beatings.
“The issue was making sure that inmates weren’t subjected to unreasonable and excessive force,” ACLU Legal Director Peter Eliasberg said. “The nice thing is that this settlement agreement not only tells the Sheriff’s department what they have to do, but it also is monitored…”
Since the agreement took effect, three court-appointed monitors have overseen the department, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed the lawsuit in 2012.
Former inmate Michael Holguin, who took part in the lawsuit while testifying in the case, alleges he was beaten after requesting to take a shower, resulting in stitches to his head and a broken kneecap.
The lawsuit was filed as the FBI investigated claims of excessive use of force and then-Sheriff Lee Baca weathered increasing criticism for being out of touch with his department, which runs the county jail and also provides policing in unincorporated parts of the county and some suburbs.
Baca stepped down in January after 18 underlings were charged with federal crimes ranging from beating inmates and jail visitors to obstructing justice.
The settlement provides no monetary damages and the department didn’t admit any wrongdoing.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell issued a statement Monday, reading, “While more work remains to be done to implement all the reforms our Commission recommended, I am deeply committed to implementing and institutionalizing meaningful and lasting change.”
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