From a cartoonist's standpoint, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is the gift that keeps on giving. With allegations that include corruption and inmate abuse, you have to wonder whether the really bad guys aren't the ones inside the cells but the ones guarding them.
Responding to numerous credible reports of dirty dealings by deputies, the FBI arrested a number of sheriff's officials in connection with a wide-ranging probe of alleged improprieties by a department charged with — remember? — upholding the law and protecting the public. Which includes inmates.
If the charges hold up, this will turn out to be one of the biggest corruption scandals in L.A. history. If these guys are guilty, they're guilty of some serious whoppers. "In one case, prosecutors say, an Austrian consul official trying to visit an Austrian inmate was arrested and handcuffed even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution," the indictment said.
A century ago, Austria would have declared war over that sort of thing.
Among the charges is an allegation that after deputies discovered one of their prisoners was sending evidence about deputy activities behind bars to the FBI — a cellphone with recent calls to the feds turned up during a search — they "disappeared" him into the byzantine L.A. County jail system, both to find out what the feds knew about them and to prevent him from talking.
My initial idea was of an Escheresque box-within-a-box, where it's hard to distinguish the prisoners from the informants from the jailers. But I thought that would be too high-concept to follow. Also, too many political cartoonists do Escher analogy 'toons.
As my mom says, simply simplify simplify, so I boiled it down to the disappeared prisoner with his interrogator, both men trapped in their own Kafka-like hells of wondering what happens next and who will prevail in the legal and public arenas.
It's weird, and that's what my cartoon is about, but what I hope readers will take away is what's really weird: that the public doesn't seem to care enough about what happens to their friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters -- because, after all, that's who winds up in jail. Fellow Angelenos, fellow Californians, fellow Americans.
Maybe you someday.
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