Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca takes questions on an ACLU report on Sept. 28, 2011.
(Photo: Damian Dovarganes, AP)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - At least seven current and former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies were arrested Monday by the FBI as part of an ongoing investigation of inmate abuse in the nation's largest jail system.
A law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the arrests who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity confirmed the arrests of lower to mid-ranking deputies by federal agents. The official said no assistant sheriffs or undersheriff had been arrested.
Federal authorities called a news conference Monday afternoon to announce criminal corruption and civil rights charges filed in the case.
The FBI has been investigating allegations of excessive force and other misconduct at the county's jails since at least 2011. The official said the arrests were related to the abuse of individuals in the jail system and also allegations that sheriff's officials moved an FBI informant in the jails possibly to thwart their probe.
Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said he was aware of an indictment but referred calls to the FBI. He said Sheriff Lee Baca would provide a comment later Mondayafternoon.
"We've cooperated fully with the FBI in their investigation and we'll continue to do so," Whitmore said.
Baca has acknowledged mistakes to a county commission reviewing reports of brutality, but he has also defended his department and distanced himself personally from the allegations.
He said he's made improvements including creating a database to track inmate complaints. Baca has also hired a new head of custody and rearranged his command staff.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Sheriff's Department in 2012 claiming the sheriff and his top commanders had condoned violence against inmates. The organization released a report documenting more than 70 cases of misconduct by deputies.
Last month the county announced the appointment of veteran Los Angeles County prosecutor Max Huntsman to head a new office of inspector general that will oversee the Sheriff's Department.