We’re not against the police. We’re not against the police department, but we are against police who commit misconduct (and those who help cover it up).
The family of Wakiesha Wilson, a 36-year-old African-American woman who was found dead in her cell at an LAPD jail on March 27, 2016, will announce Tuesday with their attorney Carl Douglas the filing of a $35 million claim for damages.
For those not familiar, on March 27, 2016, Wakiesha was found dead in her jail cell at the LAPD Metropolitan Detention Center. Her family knew that she was alive, well and in good spirits earlier that morning.
On Saturday, March 26, 2016, Wakeisha called her mother Lisa Hines from her jail cell. She was in good spirits and after explaining that she had been arrested for a minor crime, asked that her mother come to court that following Tuesday when Wakeisha expected to be arraigned and then released. She spoke of looking forward to Ms. Hines picking her up, and driving her back to her home to Moreno Valley.
The next day was Easter Sunday. Wakeisha called her mother early that morning at about 7:30 a.m. During that conversation, she was again in good spirits, and wished her mother a Happy Easter. Since that was also her aunt Sheila Hines Brim’s birthday, and Wakeisha wanted to send birthday wishes so she promised to call her mother back later that day when her aunt Sheila would be there celebrating her birthday. For those who don’t know, Wakeisha had great love and affection for her aunt Sheila, and was intent on calling her mother back later that day so she could be sure to wish aunt Sheila a happy birthday. During this conversation, Wakeisha reminded her mother again of her scheduled court appearance in two days, and expressed her anticipation of being released and returning to her home.
Wakeisha’s mother traveled to the Criminal Courts Building on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 expecting to be reunited with her daughter. Court staff told Ms. Hines, however, that her daughter’s name was nowhere to be found on the court’s arraignment docket. She questioned Court personnel about her, but no one had any useful information about Wakiesha. It would be days later when Ms. Hines learned from the Los Angeles County Coroner that her daughter was found dead in her jail cell on Easter Sunday, only minutes after completing the call with her mother. Days later.
Both Wakeisha’s mother and her aunt have been regularly attending meetings of the Los Angeles Police Commission—often in tears begging for answers from a stone faced Chief Charlie Beck. In fact, I can’t think of one week that either Lisa Hines or Sheila Hines Brim was not at a meeting of the Commission flanked by members of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles asking for answers–along with all of the other families.
Hopefully this claim for damages is step toward finding out what exactly happened to a woman who was housed in the LAPD’s $80 million 160,000-square-foot state-of-art fancy schmancy Metropolitan Detention Center that we recently found out was the only LAPD jail that still relied on paper logs to record the date, time, and the serial number of the officer performing cell block checks.
A recent report from the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) on their investigation of the LAPD’s inmate and safety checks at its Metropolitan Detention Center showed that the Department’s cell block checks didn’t comply with minimum standards and expectations.
The OIG’s audit found that of the 198 cell block checks reviewed —when detention officers bothered to do them—163 or 82.3 percent were found to be out of compliance with existing policies and expectations. Officers either didn’t go into the cell block to perform the cell check or didn’t bother to check the entire cell block when inside.
The report further noted that in 137 of 198 (69%) cases, detention personnel did not enter the cell blocks at all during their inmate inspections.
According to the report the Department’s jail security camera video footage is systematically erased after 30 days. So at the time of the OIG’s request, the Department conveniently did not have the capability of providing video footage that was more than 30 days old.
Approximately half of the Department’s cell block checks that did not comply with the minimum standard and expectations involved cell blocks that were empty and were not checked at all. This means that there was no recordation of an inmate inspection or safety check on the paper log, and video footage confirmed that no attempt was made to approach the cell block in order to enter.
The OIG’s investigation also found that detention officers did not have clear direction on the actual use of their own card swipe system during cell block checks, resulting in the inconsistent application of this system.
Let us not forget that last year, LAPD Sergeant Ronald Traynor brought suit against the Department alleging he was transferred and denied promotions in retaliation for uncovering missed inmate cell checks and other alleged wrongdoing
Traynor claimed that many cell checks were not occurring and that not all inmates were being properly secured, according to the lawsuit.
Traynor’s investigation of a detention officer “led him to believe that the DO was possibly abusing prescription drugs,” the suit states.
Traynor reported these problems to his supervisors as well as his observations that some detention officers were not making sure that other employees were fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure inmates, the suit states.
Needless to say folks, this story is far from over. Stay tuned!