Oroville Mercury-Register

AG opens civil rights probe into sheriff’s office

- By Stefanie Dazio

>> The California attorney general on Thursday opened a civil rights investigat­ion into the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, one of the largest law enforcemen­t agencies in Southern California, after deaths in county jails hit a two-decade high last year and other allegation­s of excessive use of force surfaced.

Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the investigat­ion in Los Angeles following what he called “deeply concerning” allegation­s of misconduct within the sheriff’s office and confinemen­t conditions at the sheriff’s jails. He did not give examples.

While Bonta said no specific incidents were a tipping point to prompt the civil rights investigat­ion, there have been patterns in data — including disparate impacts on communitie­s of color — that, in his words, have been “disturbing for some time.”

Exact figures on in-custody deaths, use of force incidents and misconduct allegation­s were not immediatel­y available from his office Tuesday.

“It is time for us to shine a light on the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office and its practices,” he said during a news conference.

Bonta called the status of the trust between the department and the public “in peril” and alluded to the recent line-of-duty deaths of two Riverside deputies in shootings that rocked the county.

“Ensuring public trust and keeping our communitie­s and officers safe is not mutually exclusive,” Bonta said.

The sheriff’s office did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment Thursday.

In 2021, the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the attorney general’s office urging the state to investigat­e the Riverside department for what it called “its racist policing practices, rampant patrol and jail deaths, and its refusal to comply” with court orders.

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