SAN LUIS OBISPO, California — ABC 7 news in Los Angeles reports that four police officers have been arrested on suspicion of physically abusing at least 13 children. The abuse occurred at a police “boot camp” for at-risk youths, with the officers serving as “drill instructors.”
The four officers, three men and one woman, work for two departments: two came from Huntington Park PD, and two from South Gate PD.
The children were participating in the police organized program, “LEAD,” or Leadership Empowerment And Discipline, which takes place over the course of one week in May, and is located at the Army National Guard base, Camp San Luis Obispo.
Reportedly, there were 36 kids in attendance earlier this year, with 13 of them claiming that they were assaulted by the four police officers. The kids were aged 12 to 17.
The officers now face multiple charges, including willful cruelty to a child, criminal battery, abuse under color of authority, and criminal conspiracy.
Reports of abuse first arose back in June, with parents and the attorney representing the children claiming that the officers had beaten and tormented the kids in various ways. Kids were reportedly taken into “dark rooms,” where they were punched and kicked in the face, head and stomach. Several kids suffered broken arms. Others sustained fractured fingers and damaged backs after officers would walk on the kids as they lay on the ground. In at least one instance, a child was handcuffed to the floor of a bus and made to endure an entire trip in this position.
It is unclear to what extent the Army National Guard was aware or unaware of the abuse. Earlier, California National Guard Major Mark Johnson declined to comment on the investigation or the relationship the Army National Guard has with the police department for using the San Luis Obispo facilities.
The commander of the camp, Joe Righello, made a written statement where he said that Huntington PD had been allowed to use the National Guard facilities for the LEAD program since May 2007. Righello also stated that National Guard personnel participated in LEAD by monitoring training course usage, maintaining equipment and holding safety briefings. However, he declined to answer any questions concerning what the procedure or responsibility for a Guardsman would be in light of a LEAD participant becoming injured at Camp San Luis Obispo.
The four officers were released after they posted bail, which had been set at $20,000 each.
Story written by Jack O’Brien, who maintains the blog Liberty Set Square