Use of Pepper Spray on Juvenile Inmates up Sharply in Recent Years: L.A. County Officials

The use of chemical spray to subdue juvenile offenders in Los Angeles County detention facilities has risen sharply in recent years, prompting the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to order an investigation into safety conditions for youths and staff.

The supervisors, who have raised concerns about the use of so-called pepper spray in the past, have again been focusing their attention on its deployment inside the nation’s largest juvenile detention system.

Led by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board asked the county’s Office of Inspector General to investigate why the county’s Probation Department, which handles youth detention and rehabilitation, deploys the spray so frequently.

“Use of force is a serious issue and we simply must know more in order to ensure the safety of these young people — and the employees,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Simply stated, no department can police itself, the old axiom. Outside eyes are often essential and, surprisingly enough, can be helpful.”

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