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Custody use of force incidents on increase


Over first six months of year

Use of force incidents increased 34 percent in the downtown county jails in the first half of 2021 relative to 2020, but custody officials said this week that a 14-percent decrease from 2019 levels is more relevant.

Assistant Sheriff Brendan Corbett led a recent presentation to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on the department’s compliance with the 2015 Rosas settlement agreement, which was aimed at reducing guard-on-inmate violence in county jails. The settlement covers the downtown Men’s Central Jail, Twin Towers Correctional Facility and the Inmate Reception Center.

A total of 593 use-of-force incidents were reported in the first six months of 2021, which is 14 percent lower than the same period in 2019, but 34 percent higher than in 2020. The one category in which the numbers were down from 2020 were incidents generating the most serious injuries.

Those “category 3’’ injuries were down to four from five reported incidents in 2020 and two in 2019. All category 3 uses of force are investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Corbett said the three-year comparison made sense because “2020 was a bit of an anomaly … not only (because of) COVID, but all the outliers along with COVID, which were the closure of the courts … the closure of visiting … the excessive quarantines we had … a lot of things that added to our complexity.’’

Corbett also pointed out that while the jail population dropped from 2019 to 2021, potentially contributing to fewer use of force incidents, the percentage of inmates awaiting transfer to state prisons—a higher-risk, more volatile population—stood at roughly 20 percent at one point during 2021.

Inspector General Max Huntsman said he agreed with the multi-year comparison and would even prefer a five-year look back.

Both Huntsman and the board expressed surprise at Corbett’s announcement that body-worn cameras would be rolled out in the jails, making it easier to track the circumstances leading up to any use of force and discipline violators.

“I applaud his news that they are going to bring in body cameras … the audio is critical,’’ Huntsman said, reminding the board that fixed surveillance cameras were always intended as a stop-gap solution. “Although I do think we’re going to have to wait for our lawsuit to allow us to have access to the body camera footage.’’