Civil Rights Groups Demand Changes at Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Over two dozen organizations are calling on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to increase oversight of the sheriff’s department. The campaign follows a rise in jailhouse deaths, which has prompted an investigation by the state’s Attorney General. The sheriff’s department is also facing multiple lawsuits and allegations of corruption and civil rights abuses. 

The organizations, which include the ACLU, sent a letter to supervisors Tuesday. They’re demanding a new oversight commission with subpoena power. They want the sheriff’s department to be separated from the coroner’s office. Finally, they want the county to explore alternatives to incarceration.

 A study this year found that counties with a combined sheriff-coroner were more likely to underreport officer-involved homicides in official databases. Sheriff Bianco had promised to establish an oversight commission previously, but has failed to do so.

“Sheriff [Chad] Bianco’s refusal to protect individuals in custody and his failure to rein in misconduct within the department are clear indicators of his inability to execute the most basic functions of his post,” the letter says. “As the fiduciary agents of the Sheriff’s Department, it is your responsibility to take appropriate action in response to systemic dysfunction.”

Nineteen people died in Riverside County jails last year. Between 2010 and 2020, the county paid out nearly $77 million in legal settlements stemming from sheriff’s department misconduct.

Read more at the Desert Sun.