L.A. sheriff officials on leave after 'troubling' allegations over inmate treatment

Ten Los Angeles County Jail employees were relieved of duty pending further investigation following an incident involving an inmate who was allegedly “restrained” for 32 hours, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Saturday.

McDonnell called the allegations of inmate neglect “troubling” and said he took the actions Friday, a day after he learned of the inmate's complaint. The incident has been reported to the FBI and various offices charged with oversight of Sheriff's Department misconduct.

The sheriff said he received allegations last week that an inmate booked June 19 at the department's Inmate Reception Center had been handcuffed for a “lengthy period of time” and had not been provided food, according to the sheriff's statement. Those alleged circumstances occurred after the inmate reportedly assaulted a female deputy.

During the time the inmate was restrained, he received medical treatment and a cup of water, according to the statement.

“The investigation into this incident is ongoing and will be thorough,” said McDonnell, who came into office on a reform mandate last year in the wake of widespread reports of inmate abuse. “It will not only focus on employee actions, but also on corrective policies and procedures.”

Two lieutenants, one sergeant, one senior deputy, four deputies and two custody assistants were relieved of duty pending further investigation. In addition, “a number of others” were reassigned to other duties, the department said.

McDonnell's announcement comes less than a month after three sheriff's deputies were convicted of beating a handcuffed inmate bloody and then lying to cover up the abuse. That case was the product of a wide-ranging FBI probe in the county's jails.

The sheriff’s statement about the latest inmate abuse allegations was released about 7 p.m. Saturday. Department officials declined requests from The Times for information on the inmate's name, age and reason for being booked at the Inmate Reception Center.

The inmate filed a complaint with the department June 27. According to the department's statement, the inmate ate upon entry to the jail. While he was restrained, he received medical attention and a cup of water, according to the statement.

Department officials notified custody personnel of the protocols regarding the restraint and feeding of inmates. They also ordered additional training and other “corrective action.”

“I am deeply committed to providing the highest levels of constitutional care to those in our charge and will quickly address and remedy any conduct, policies or practices that do not meet this expectation and high standard,” McDonnell said in his statement.

The FBI is conducting an investigation of the Sheriff’s Department’s management of county jails. At least 12 members of the department have been convicted of crimes, including civil rights violations and obstructing the FBI’s investigation.

The most recent convictions came last month, as two deputies and their former supervisor were found guilty of violating the civil rights of a man who was beaten and pepper-sprayed while handcuffed at Men’s Central Jail. The man, Gabriel Carrillo, had gone to the jail with his girlfriend to visit his brother, who was an inmate there. A federal jury deliberated for just four hours before delivering its verdicts.

The FBI is investigating a range of jail abuses that allegedly involved those at the highest levels of the department. In May, former Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka was indicted on obstruction charges, along with a captain.

Tanaka’s lawyer called the charges "baseless" and promised to aggressively defend him in court.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Times staff writers Richard Winton and Karen Kaplan contributed to this report.

Twitter: @DavidZahniser

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATED

10:12 p.m.: This article has been updated to include the fact that the Sheriff's Department declined to provide information on the inmate's name, age and reason for being booked at the Inmate Reception Center.

This article was originally published at 9:11 p.m.

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