Pandora’s Cop Box: Woman’s Video of Harassment Shows Why LA Sheriffs And Deputies Face Federal Charges

A thread– another not so viral video tucked away in some secluded pocket of YouTube. For myself, when it came to Los Angeles’ Sheriff department, that one thread was the be-all-end-all. Like a breadcrumb trail, it lead me down a ravine towards an already messily opened Pandora’s Box beyond all expectations. The LASD and it’s leadership has been under federal investigation for some time but, as of yet, not by the people. That’s what the anonymous woman behind that first thread was trying to do. It’s what led us all to the story herein–like the third of a trillion night terrors.

November 30th 2015, Los Angeles Metro Blue Line subway station, 4:46 AM. An anonymous woman makes her way past several parked cruisers, reputedly catching a train. She understandably asks herself what the issue could be, stopping only momentarily to observe the squad. It takes less than 20 seconds for one cruiser to reverse and two LASD deputies to approach her. “I’m not interested in talking to you”, she says as her phone camera continues recording, she repeats. “Okay, we’re going to talk to you”, one deputy swiftly says, “you’re being detained right now.”

They grab her without explaining why she’s being detained–apparently for surveying a police operation. One officer demands she surrender her phone, “so you don’t drop it.” When she exclaims, “you can not do this”, they coyly refute, “yes we can.” The deputy’s tones, though calm and assertive, have an off quality. As if they were talking to a child, a subordinate, something less.

Obviously distraught, the woman continues to protest her accosters, one playfully saying, “don’t drop your phone. Don’t drop your phone.” Next comes the uncanny, segmented clacks of sealing handcuffs as the camera, and audio, cut to black. She published the video months later under this YouTube account: “STOP Los Angeles Sheriff Department Intimidation Acts and Abuse of Power.” It wasn’t her first video, nor the last, pushed through a channel with a call for help as it’s name.

Her YouTube showcases five videos with the latest, published just five days ago, claiming to show LASD deputies accepting illegal bribes at a nightclub. It’s rare to see such a comprehensive look at a single departments misconduct, from routine harassment to more “advanced” corruption. Should any of us be surprised this same department, and its leadership, is in the midst of a press coverage boom as you read?

Retired LASD Sheriff Lee Baca, the Tri County Sun Times reports, will plead guilty in a federal court within the week! Baca reputedly lied twice about hiding an inmate from an FBI investigation of LASD crimes and brutality in jails. Sheriff Baca went as far as to relocate the inmate to a different jail under a fake name, the LA Times reports. Each of these acts, from lying to the feds, to the inmate relocation cover up, to the brutality in jails, carries separate charges. These are just the latest developments in a long and eventful timeline catalyzed by the FBI’s Operation: Pandora’s Box, which initially inquired into the jail allegations.

Baca, according to the TriCounty Sun Times, even issued orders to deputy’s to intimidate the FBI’s investigator. “Do everything to put handcuffs on her”, he reputedly demanded. When the heat from the fed got too hot Baca abruptly retired, leaving his burning empire decapitated. If the jury concedes to a particularly steep punishment, Baca maintains the ability to withdraw his earlier confession. Outstanding…

I wonder if the more than a dozen LASD deputies who faced charges due to the FBI’s probe years earlier have the same privilege. Some of those officers, according to an 2013 NPR piece, were hired via illegal recruitment protocols Baca enforced at LASD. Baca reputedly hired dozens of officers, many with “troubled histories”, considered friends or relatives of department officials. “Troubled histories” is a gross understatement, truly.

One deputy’s “troubled history” involved admitting to kissing and groping a 14 year old when he was 28. Another, NPR reports, was charged with raping an unconscious woman and then was convicted of sexual battery. That individual was actually the “sheriff’s driver.” Of the officers investigated by the DOJ, the bulk face charges of obstruction, excessive force, and even bank fraud. Seeing LASD remains under federal scrutiny, and it’s members face charges, it’s surprising to see them still so openly drawing attention to themselves.

Although it might satisfy some to see the Baca’s deputies charged, what would that really do? Baca walking away scot free only sets an example for the next LASD sheriff as to how far they can take things with impunity. Each and every city where DOJ has dropped from the sky to scrutinize a department harbors countless locals who don’t trust the fed. People just as much expect the DOJ to use this entire thing for P.R. as they expect all officers, Lee Baca included, to walk away untouched. Department Of Justice investigators would do well to demonstrate their campaigns’ genuineness for a tired, suspicious population by charging Baca and his men. There’s no reason why citizens should have to create YouTube accounts specifically to bring attention to a situation such as this. In the 21st century it’s inexcusable, uncalled for in all parts, and it must be corrected. Clock’s ticking DOJ, hopefully you earn the people’s trust before you can’t control Pandora’s box anymore.

Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a writer and freelance journalist native to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His writing can be found on Cop Block, The Pontiac Tribune, and The Fifth Column News. Video's produced by Isiah are published under the tag YungCartographer Productions.