Report: Calif. COs missed inmate's decapitation and misled investigators

The incident was one of several detailed in a semiannual report describing discipline in the CDCR


By Andrew Sheeler
The Sacramento Bee
        
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two California prison guards falsely reported that a decapitated inmate was still alive, according to a new report from the State Office of the Inspector General.

The incident was one of several detailed in a semiannual report describing discipline in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It looked at complaints, allegations of misconduct and incidents in which correctional officers used force between July and December 2020.

Overall, the report found the department acted too slowly in investigating alleged misconduct in dozens of cases. It found delays in discipline over the six months covered by the report resulted in "unnecessary costs to the state and taxpayers" totaling $174,578.

A new report from the State Office of the Inspector General describes several incidents in which prison staff allegedly mishandled their responsibilities.
A new report from the State Office of the Inspector General describes several incidents in which prison staff allegedly mishandled their responsibilities. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS)

"Over the past four reporting periods, the department has unnecessarily paid approximately $1,015,185 in salary and benefits to employees during the delays," the report says.

The report described the decapitation and its aftermath as an example in which staff, internal investigators and attorneys allegedly mishandled their responsibilities.

According to the report, one inmate decapitated another inmate in a cell that the two shared. The report does not specify what prison this incident occurred at, or when it occurred.

"Two officers conducted counts and, even though an incarcerated person was dead, allegedly falsely reported in their documentation that they observed the decapitated incarcerated person alive. A third officer and a fourth officer allegedly did not report that they had each observed the first two officers fail to properly conduct the counts," according to the report.

According to the report, the first officer allegedly lied during his Office of Internal Affairs interview, and the special agent in charge of the investigation did not interview several key witnesses, nor did the agent investigate whether officers appropriately placed the two incarcerated people together in a cell.

Later, the report says prison administrators "delayed conducting the investigative and disciplinary findings conference, delayed serving disciplinary actions on the officers, and entered into settlement agreements that reduced the penalties without identifying any new evidence, flaws, or risks that would have justified the reductions," according to the report.

The inspector general report stated that in that office's opinion, the department attorney should have requested additional investigation concerning whether the two inmates were appropriately in the same cell, and also should have recommended firing the first officer "due to the serious nature of both his actions and the consequences."

The report said that the department attorney also delayed drafting disciplinary actions for the first two officers, resulting in delays of discipline of 36 and 46 days after policy required.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in a statement to The Sacramento Bee stood by the disciplinary process in the decapitation after the Inspector General report published last week.

"Due to the extraordinary nature and complexity of this case, the department committed to ensuring a thorough and complete investigation. All of the disciplinary actions in this case were served within mandated statutory timeframes."

(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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