New Jail Training to Focus on Avoiding Use of Force

Times Staff Writer

The Sheriff’s Department said Thursday that it is beefing up its training for deputies in county jails with courses on avoiding the use of force, as well as cultural awareness programs to better work with Latino and Asian inmates.

“These are young officers looking at a long career in law enforcement and they want to do the right thing,” said Assistant Sheriff John (Rocky) Hewitt. “Working hard in a jail setting is a strenuous job, and we want to be sure to give them the best training possible.”

Hewitt said the new training is largely in response to recommendations from the 1987-88 Orange County Grand Jury, which issued its final report last June. The grand jury suggested the training after reviewing 30 altercations between deputies and inmates.


The grand jury said excessive force was not used in 29 of those cases and, in one case, there was insufficient evidence to make a determination. After its review, however, the jury recommended that deputies be trained in how to avoid such incidents.

Reduces the Potential

“Any factor that reduces the anxiety level, reduces concurrently the potential need for force to be used,” the jury said.

Hewitt said Thursday that the department considered the jury’s report helpful and that it was researching or implementing all seven of the jury’s recommendations.

Under use of force, Hewitt said, the department plans to provide more supervision and record-keeping of violent incidents involving deputies and inmates. And it is researching the suggestion of a “special response team” for the jail that would include officers trained to negotiate with volatile inmates.

The Sheriff’s Department is currently involved in a lawsuit charging several cases of inmate brutality at the hands of deputies. Hewitt said that the department disagrees with the suit and that its new training programs are not a response to those charges.

However, attorney Dick Herman, who filed the suit, said Thursday that the new training programs were outlined in a statement filed along with the suit in August. He said that it was a good step for the department but that “there is still a long way to go.”


Cultural Distinctions

The deputies will also be trained in the cultural distinctions of the Asian and Latino communities as part of a program being designed by Rancho Santiago Community College.

“There are things that we need to know about their way of doing things that may be different than we are used to,” Assistant Sheriff Walter W. Fath Jr. said. “(Deputies) might misinterpret an action because there are things that we might do that might be an insult to them that we didn’t even know was an insult.”

James Lindberg, foreman of the both the previous and the current grand juries, said Thursday that he had not seen the county’s response to the final report and so he could not comment. He also said the jury plans to assign one of its members to follow up on all of the responses to be sure the county implements recommendations it agreed to and to question those on which it disagreed.

The grand jury’s report included dozens of recommendations ranging from the county’s procurement procedures to elderly care programs and waste water treatment facilities. Many of the recommendations are specific and technical such as suggestions on record keeping and staff structure.

Fausto Reyes of the county administrative office termed the overall report “mild” in that it did not suggest any drastic changes in the county government.

Some of the county’s responses in other areas were:

- The county said it could not afford a grand jury recommendation for the creation of a new position in the district attorney’s office that would focus on protection of the elderly.

- The Probation Department also said it did not have sufficient funds to provide language services for some juvenile defendants in its jurisdiction.

- The county said it was beyond its authority to consolidate special districts responsible for sewage as recommended by the grand jury.