A federal judge in Sacramento, California, has approved a settlement for inmates at Placer County Jail.
The settlement, brought on allegations of abuse and use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, includes a fund of more than $1.4 million. While the agreement remains tentative, permanent approval is expected by or in March.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman signed off the class action settlement on Friday. Brought against Placer County, the Sacramento Bee says the suit came into being after ‘Sheriff Devon Bell’s revelation’ that three deputies had been arrested for using excessive force on inmates.
Each of the three deputies were taken into custody after they tried to cover up the abuse.
Charges are still pending against two of the three sheriff’s officials who were arrested last year. The allegations of abuse stacked against former Sgt. Megan Yaws have since been dropped, due to a lack of evidence.
Details on the purported abuse at Pacer County haven’t been released in full. The Auburn Journal and FOX40 both say that several inmates were beaten by corrections and sheriff’s staff. One former inmate says he was groped, slapped and kicked before being twisted “like a pretzel.”
“There was no purpose to the abuse,” claims the suit. “It was the result of poor emotional control, attitudes of superiority and sadistic pleasure-seeking by Placer County Sheriff’s Office correctional officers.”
Attorneys for both parties say changes have already been made in the sheriff’s office. Training regimens have been implemented for deputies and at jails.
The suit was filed by Penn Valley lawyer Patrick Dwyer and Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark Merin.
“Mr. Merin and I believe that the county is making a serious effort to change operations at the jails so this does not occur again,” Dwyer said Friday. “There’s been a real forward movement by the county.”
A spokesman for the sheriff’s department said many of the changes required by the settlement have already been made. Along with adjustments to training routines, the agreement necessitates the installation of video cameras within jails, an increase in storage space for video files, and a revised use-of-force policy.
“This is a step in the process toward getting this whole thing resolved, and I’d say some of the most significant steps are making improvements at the jails, and looking back and making sure these things do not reoccur,” spokesman Lt. Andrew Scott said.
Scott said Pacer County jails have boosted staffing and supervision; Sheriff Devon Bell created a professional standards unit shortly after the scandal was uncovered and revealed to the public.
“That’s one of the things that is seen as extremely important as the sheriff’s office goes forward,” Scott said.
The settlement, reports the Bee, ‘calls for the office to track all use-of-force incidents and provide quarterly reports on the to inmate lawyers through December 2019.’