El Paso County Sheriff issues reprimands in so-called "fight club" probe

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Sheriff Bill Elder's department has finished its investigation of a so-called "fight club" in El Paso County's jail — a situation in which it was alleged that deputies were beating up inmates as part of a game.

A so-called "fight club" led to a county investigation. (This photo is not of an injury related to the club or the Sheriff's Office.) - DION GILLARD/FLICKR
  • Dion Gillard/flickr
  • A so-called "fight club" led to a county investigation. (This photo is not of an injury related to the club or the Sheriff's Office.)
Although some people were mildly disciplined, Elder's department denies the situation was similar to the movie by that name and states that no deputies were trying to put notches on their belts by beating up inmates.

That said, it's worth noting that this investigation was conducted by Elder's own department. It started some time last spring and was handled by the chain of command. "Once the investigation began, based on the complexity and the size of the investigation, it was determined the investigation would be completed by Professional Standards," the Sheriff's Office says in a release obtained Thursday by the Independent in response to an open records request submitted earlier this month.

The upshot is that besides the findings that are listed here, Elder has ordered "an assessment of use of force agency wide," which could lead to change policy or revamp training. The study is ongoing and the Sheriff's Office gave no hint at when it might be done.

Here are the actions resulting from the internal investigation:
1. No sustained violations of Sheriff’s Office policy regarding inappropriate use of force
2. Six letters of counseling were issued regarding the policy violation: Conduct Unbecoming. Three of the six letters were given to supervisors.
3. Four letters of reprimand were issued regarding these policy violations: Conduct Unbecoming, Respect for Commanding Officers, Citizens and Other Employees, and Performance of Duty.
4. The actions of five EPSO deputies were reviewed and it was decided they did not violate policy and acted according to policy. (allegations unfounded).
Here is the entire four-page account of the "fight club" investigation:
See related PDF SummaryOfInvestigation.pdf
We first reported on allegations of a fight club in the Criminal Justice Center last May in a blog.

We followed up with an update based on comments from Elder during a meeting he held with the media on Aug. 8, 2016.

From our blog:
Asked about the "Fight Club" investigation in the Criminal Justice Center, Elder said a internal affairs probe is underway of a situation he disputed as similar to the movie of that name. He said more interviews are being conducted before the investigation concludes in two to three weeks. He said he won't make the entire IA report public, but something will be released.

Sources have described a game inside the jail in which detention deputies kept score of how many inmates they could brutalize and get away with it. One former deputy told the Independent he reported what he viewed as "a lot of deputies' use of force" but his concerns were dismissed.

"A lot of deputies are there who just want to go to that next step and fight somebody," the source said.

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