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Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Under Investigation For Civil Rights Violations

California Attorney General Investigating Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Over Allegations of Excessive Force, Civil Rights Violations

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA (February 25, 2023) – The California attorney general is investigating the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department after numerous allegations of excessive force.

The probe is set to determine whether Sheriff Chad Bianco’s department has engaged in a series of conduct that violates state and federal law. California Attorney General Rob Bonta released the following statement.

“All Californians deserve fairness and respect from the institutions that serve them. When some communities don’t see or feel they are being treated equitably by law enforcement, it contributes to distrust and hurts public safety.”

County officials have said that they will fully cooperate with the investigation, which the Sheriff’s department has described as politically motivated. The investigation comes amid a sharp rise in the number of in-custody deaths in Riverside County jails. 

At least 20 inmates have died in custody since January of 2022. This outpaces the death toll in many other counties across California. Family members of the deceased inmates say that they were not informed about deaths for days or weeks on some occasions. 

Liability For In Custody Deaths

California has a long and sordid history with respect to its treatment of inmates. According to one report by the US Justice Department, “San Luis Obispo County (California) Jail violated the rights of prisoners by, among other things, failing to provide adequate medical care and subjecting some prisoners to excessive uses of force.” Riverside County, in particular, has paid out millions of dollars in settlements after a series of lawsuits following in-custody deaths. While since 2015, Los Angeles County has been under a consent decree regarding its mental health care and use of force throughout its jail system.  There are many steps that Sheriff’s Departments and jails should take in order to prevent in-custody deaths and excessive force. 

  • Correctional officers should be well-trained to identify when an inmate is in medical distress. 
  • Jails should be adequately staffed.
  • Inmates should receive a pre-health screening before being admitted.
  • Allegations of excessive force should be thoroughly investigated by an outside agency. 

All inmates in California have a right to live free from the excessive force of officers acting under the color of law. They also have a right to reasonably adequate healthcare. Failing to give inmates reasonably adequate care is a deprivation of their constitutional right to due process and equal protection under the Fourth Amendment. When a jail is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of any inmate, this could form the basis of a negligence claim. 

There are many ways that a jail in Riverside County may have acted with “deliberate indifference.” For example, a jail may have failed to give an inmate proper care when they were in the midst of a medical emergency. Many medical emergencies are prompted by opioid overdoses. Overdose deaths can largely be prevented when inmates are given adequate care and medications such as naloxone. There are a number of steps that should be taken after any inmate death or instance of excessive force. 

  • Allegations of excessive force should be thoroughly investigated by an outside agency. 
  • The body camera footage from all officers involved should be reviewed. 
  • Medical records related to the incident should be preserved. 
  • An independent autopsy may need to be performed. 

Any person that is injured by the excessive force of officers may be able to seek accountability through a civil rights claim. The family of any inmate that died may be able to seek some measure of justice through a wrongful death claim. Damages in a civil claim can help cover many of the expenses that can come with the sudden loss of a loved one. Sadly, though, Sheriff’s Departments will often fight hard to deny liability for in-custody deaths and avoid oversight. 

Investigating Instances of Excessive Force and Wrongful Death In Riverside County Jails

We at the Carrillo Law Firm, LLP extend our deepest condolences to the families of all of those that lost loved ones in-custody at a Riverside County jail. This oversight by the California Attorney General is long overdue. It is our sincere hope that the investigation will lead to lasting reforms for the better treatment of Riverside County inmates. 

Has someone that you loved been harmed while staying at a Riverside County jail? There are a number of laws designed to protect your rights. Our team of civil rights advocates are here for you. We care deeply that inmates in California are aware of their rights and that those rights are being protected. Whether you just have legal questions or need any type of support we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at 626-799-9375.



Michael works on high-profile cases that have garnered national media attention. His practice today focuses on child sexual abuse cases, police misconduct cases, catastrophic injuries and other wrongful death matters. He is a passionate advocate for his clients including the countless child sexual abuse victims he currently represents.