July 19, 2022

Article at San Diego Union-Tribune

View original

Jail beating of transgender woman result of ‘systemic failure’ by Sheriff’s Department, CLERB finds

Kristina Frost was badly beaten after sheriff's deputies placed her in a cell with three men at the Central Jail in 2020.
Kristina Frost was badly beaten after sheriff’s deputies placed her in a cell with three men at the Central Jail in 2020.

As Kristina Frost’s federal lawsuit persists, Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board says deputies should be required to book people into jails that match their gender identity

The civilian oversight board that investigates Sheriff’s Department misconduct allegations has found credible a spate of complaints filed by a transgender woman who was badly beaten after being placed in a cell with three men at the San Diego Central Jail.

The county’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board is also recommending that department policies be revised to require deputies to book people they arrest into jails that match their gender identity.

“The assault and injury were the result of a systemic failure on the part of (the Sheriff’s Department) exemplified by insufficient policies and procedures, a lack of sensible and appropriate communication among numerous staff members and no apparent forethought by several employees as to the ramifications of placing a transgender female in a cell with three cisgender men,” review board investigators found.

“The evidence supports the allegation, and the act or conduct was not justified,” they concluded.

The findings, released last Friday following the volunteer board’s Tuesday night meeting, reflect a sharp turnaround from last month. According to the June records, all 10 complaints listed in the Frost case either were not sustained, were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or had the deputy actions deemed justified.

Kristina Frost was arrested in November 2020, wearing women’s clothing and carrying a California driver’s license identifying her as a woman, and was placed in a Central Jail holding cell with three men.

One of those men beat her severely, breaking her jaw, and deputies failed to respond immediately, she says in her federal lawsuit.

“His closed-fist punches to Ms. Frost’s face resulted in serious bodily injuries, including a broken jaw so far requiring two surgeries to repair,” states the suit, which also names Deputy Mason Cassidy as a defendant.

Lawyers from the Office of County Counsel are defending the Sheriff’s Department and Cassidy in the civil litigation.

The Sheriff’s Department said it has updated its training manual and one policy since the Frost attack. The manual now reads: “An arrestee should be taken to a facility that coincides with the arrestee’s gender identity.”

The review board recommends a further update to the manual to specify that “an arrestee shall be taken,” rather than “should be taken,” to a jail that houses people of their gender. Recommendations from the citizens’ panel are not required to be implemented.

The sheriff’s current policy regarding LGBTQ people says: “After the initial (intake) assessment is complete, the individual will be kept separate from other incarcerated persons for their safety during the intake process.”

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Last year, a sheriff’s spokeswoman, Lt. Amber Baggs, said that Frost had declined to pursue a criminal complaint against the man she says attacked her, and that the man had told authorities he did not initiate the attack. Frost’s suit said she had been sleeping and awoke to him beating her.

In all, the review board sustained five of 13 separate misconduct and discrimination complaints lodged by Frost, who was arrested for what her lawsuit says was a minor offense.

Four complaints were deemed justified, meaning the deputies’ actions were determined to be justified and lawful, and three were not sustained, meaning the board found insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegations behind them. One complaint was dismissed because it involved jail medical staff, who are outside the board’s jurisdiction.

The review board investigators first sent their findings to the volunteer panel last month, when 10 complaints were considered but none were sustained. That initial report found five of the complaints were justified. Four others were not sustained, and one was dismissed for concerning medical staff.

All of those findings were withdrawn from the June agenda after Frost’s lawyer, Brody McBride, raised concerns during public comment about the board’s effectiveness.

“This, I think, is the last straw for me,” he said. “I don’t see the usefulness of CLERB here. It’s actually doing a disservice because it’s giving the Sheriff’s Department an air of oversight that isn’t there.

“This organization needs to be disbanded,” he added. “Our tax dollars are better spent elsewhere.”

Paul Parker, the review board’s executive officer, said the oversight panel had expressed concerns with the recommended findings submitted in June, and the matter was continued to allow time for a more thorough examination.

Parker said he spent two days reexamining the Frost case and decided to present the revised findings to the board, including the five sustained examples of misconduct and discrimination.

Frost‘s lawsuit remains pending in San Diego federal court. No trial date has yet been scheduled.