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CA Attorney General Rob Bonta Launches Investigation into Riverside County Sheriff

California Attorney General Rob Bonta
Eric Risberg
California Attorney General Rob Bonta

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has opened a civil rights investigation into the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Bonta cites what he calls an “unacceptable” rise in deaths in the county’s jails.

Bonta announced the investigation in response to allegations of concerning conditions in the county’s jails— including excessive force.

“Amid concerning levels of in-custody deaths, troubling allegations of excessive force, and other misconduct, too many families and communities in Riverside are hurting and looking for answers,” said Bonta at a press conference in Los Angeles on Feb. 23.

19 people died in Riverside County jails in 2022. According to data from the California Department of Justice, that’s the highest number in at least 15 years.

In a video released on social media, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco called the investigation politically motivated.

“This investigation is based on nothing but false and misleading statements and straight out lies from activists including their attorneys. This will prove to be a complete waste of time and resources,” Bianco said in the video.

According to 2021 data from the state Department of Justice, internal investigators looked at 19 complaints from the public into the Sheriff’s department. Investigators found that in a dozen of those cases, the officer had acted improperly.

The California Civil code authorizes the Attorney General to conduct civil investigations into whether or not a law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or federal law. A pattern or practice investigation does not look at individual incidents. Rather, the investigation works to identify systemic violations of constitutional rights of the community at large by a law enforcement agency. At this time, Bonta has not made any determinations about the complaints.

Bonta encourages anyone with information relevant to the investigation to contact the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section at Police-Practices@doj.ca.gov.