Tuesday , June 18 2024
Inland Empire Political News.001
Inland Empire Political News.001

Sheriff Department Scandal Raises Serious Questions

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon has only one notable comment: “It’s an isolated incident” according to news reports.


The abuse of inmates at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga is currently being investigated by the FBI. It is not a joint investigation. The FBI doesn’t perform joint investigations with agencies under scrutiny.

This past week, a Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit was filed on behalf of six plaintiffs, all claiming physical and mental abuse including tasing of their genitals and sodomy. Yes folks, that’s what the lawsuit states. There are apparently more plaintiffs coming forward.

“Isolated” incidents do not occur over a 14 month time span. They do not occur in a paramilitary organization like a Sheriff’s Department, in a heavily video-monitored prison institution, without knowledge of persons in charge. They certainly do not occur with multiple victims.

To date, the Sheriff’s Department has fired three employees. But, the situation goes much deeper. In any organization, particularly one with the duty to enforce laws, cultures develop. Those cultures can be positive or negative. They are determined by what is either encouraged or, more often, allowed within the command structure. That includes those disciplines encouraged or allowed in the Sheriff’s Academy itself.

Dealing with the criminal element in our society is no easy task. It can test law enforcement officers mentally and physically. It can also be dangerous. This is why law enforcement officers receive rigorous and regular training to ensure their safety and that of the public. It is also the reason that law enforcement is held to a higher standard than the general population.

The sadistic behavior that has been occurring at West Valley Detention Center is appalling. While any agency the size of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is bound to get “a few bad apples,” the fact that these abuses were committed against multiple prisoners over a period longer than a year is evidence of a larger problem, a problem that extends far up the chain of command.

This is no longer a situation where the dirty laundry just needs to be taken to the cleaners. As Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca learned, these types of behaviors require a top-down review by independent, outside agencies. In Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors took Sheriff Baca to task over the abuses in their jail. Sheriff Baca resigned.

Unfortunately, San Bernardino County does not appear to have the leadership that our friends in Los Angeles enjoy. There appears to be very little scrutiny from our elected leaders. Only silence.

If this silence continues in the tradition of the San Bernardino County Good-Ole-Boy culture that continues to exist, you can be certain of one thing; the sadistic behavior will continue, and taxpayers will end up holding the bag.

The Board of Supervisors needs to tell the public what it intends to do about this mess. They don’t need to worry about the liability issue, the County is liable. Period. End of Story. The pity party is over. It is time to tell the public what the County intends to do to make sure such abuses don’t happen again. It is time for them to tell us how they intend to hold those in charge of creating this culture accountable.

It is time for them to lead.

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