LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he had no knowledge of degrading strip searches of women inmates at a South LA jail that led to a $53 million civil settlement announced this week.
For two and a half years ending in 2014, Villanueva was a lieutenant at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.
During most of that time, deputies allegedly were engaging in inhumane strip searches of up to 60 women at a time in an open air bus garage, providing them with no privacy. A class-action lawsuit said deputies often verbally abused the women, some of whom were forced to undergo body cavity searches while sitting on the dirty concrete floor.
County lawyers said in a 2015 memo to plaintiff’s attorneys that Villanueva, along with other lieutenants at the jail knew about the policies, practices and procedures involving the strip searches. But Villanueva said through a spokesman that department policy prohibited men from even being present during strip searches of women, and that he had no involvement in the process.