Los Angeles County Sheriff

By Cindy Chang and Joel Rubin
August 5, 2015

Capping years of scandal, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has agreed to federal oversight of its jail system in an effort to end abuse of inmates by sheriff’s deputies and to improve chronically poor treatment of mentally ill inmates.

The agreement announced Wednesday establishes an independent monitor, overseen by a federal judge, who will make sure the reforms are carried out. Richard Drooyan, a former Los Angeles Police Commission president who served on a blue-ribbon commission that was highly critical of Sheriff’s Department operations, was appointed as the monitor.

The move comes as federal prosecutors continue to pursue criminal charges against several sheriff’s officials, including the department’s former second-in-command — Undersheriff Paul Tanaka. Prosecutors already have won convictions against deputies accused of abusing inmates or of obstructing federal investigators looking into jail violence.

Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies use electronic devices to log the location of each inmate in the High Observation Mental Health Housing unit in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

Last June, federal officials stated their intent to seek the agreement in a strongly worded report that described a spike in jail suicides, many of which they termed “preventable.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who took office in December and previously served on a citizens’ commission on jail violence, says he welcomes federal oversight of the nation’s largest county jail system. Many of the reforms required by the settlement are completed or well underway, he said.

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