Coalition pushes for independent oversight of sheriffs department

Cory A. Haywood | 3/20/2013, 5 p.m.

Jermond Davis waited anxiously in the front row to hear his name called so that he could tell his story to the public. All he needed was the podium, which at the time was occupied by a woman who with tears in her eyes spoke out against the brutality suffered by her son at the hands of deputy sheriffs.

He and roughly 19,000 inmates were packed into the jail cells of L.A. County.

"I was very shook," Davis said to a packed house of concerned citizens at a town hall meeting held Thursday at the 28th Street YMCA by the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. jails (C2ESV).

"It was scarier than getting shot at. I was getting beat by sheriffs, but what could I do. This is the law. Who can I tell? Better yet, who will believe me? What am I able to do?"

As a former gang member, Davis was charged with robbery and jailed for several months in 2006.

Today, the 26-year-old aspiring rapper wishes to bring awareness to the criminality that occurs within county jails by its overseers.

"I still deal with it," he added. "They [sheriffs] once put both my hands in cuffs and took me to a blind spot where no one else could witness and began punching and kicking me multiple times and attempted to go further with sexual gestures saying 'we should stick our shoes in his [expletive].' I don't wish that on anyone. So I'm willing to help the coalition in any way I can. I'm in it to the finish."

According to the information provided by www.endsheriffviolence.org, rookie deputies only receive two hours of custody specific-training during their stint in the academy. In addition, the same amount of time is devoted to mental-health specific training. The website also reveals that Blacks and Latinos account for 80 percent of the population throughout all Los Angeles jails.

In an effort to change the situation, the C2ESV is on a youth-led crusade to implement a permanent civilian review board over the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

Leading the charge to fair inmate treatment is the coalition's founding member and organizer, Patrisse Cullors, who wasted no time in delivering a chilling story of her own.

"Thirteen years ago my brother was incarcerated inside an L.A. County jail," she explained. "He was brutalized by four or five deputies. He was beaten so bad that he blacked out. When he awoke he was in a pool of his own blood. He thought he was going to die there. When my mother called the sheriff's department to check on her son, they continued to give her the run-around."

Culllors went on to say in a private interview, "This coalition is my family's justice. It's also justice for the rest of the families who have loved ones who for years have been treated like animals by sheriff deputies."

In October 2011, the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review released a report entitled, "Violence in the Los Angeles County Jails: A Report on Investigations and Outcomes." It states:
"The jail population of between 15,000 and 18,500 includes many sophisticated or hardened detainees, many with competing gang affiliations, and many others either awaiting trial or having been recently convicted for violent offenses.