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Sheriff and FBI investigate alleged abuse at West Valley Detention Center

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon
Courtesy of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon announced on Friday that his office is conducting an investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse by deputies at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Sketchy details of the investigation were initially leaked to a local blog that supports his opponent in the upcoming June 3 primary. The department issued a press release with actual details later in the day.

According to McMahon’s statement, the department received information early last month that several deputies may have been involved in mistreatment of prisoners. The department learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation received similar information and the two agencies are cooperating to assure a full investigation is conducted. The FBI is the lead agency and will submit the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office if warranted.

McMahon quickIy took ownership of the situation. “I will not tolerate any misconduct by department personnel,” McMahon said. “These allegations are being taken very seriously and this department is determined to get answers.”

As of April 8, 2014, three deputies are no longer employed by the department. Due to personnel rules and the fact that the investigation is ongoing, the department cannot clarify if the deputies were fired or resigned on their own.

McMahon is running for his first full term as San Bernardino County Sheriff. He was appointed to the position by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors upon the retirement of former Sheriff Rob Hoops.

The appointment process, which is required by the San Bernardino County Charter and the Constitution of the State of California, raised the ire of those supporting McMahon’s chief opponent, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Schrader. Schrader supporters expected the Board of Supervisors to appoint him to the position of San Bernardino County Sheriff, despite having never risen past the rank of deputy within his own department, and now use a local blog in an attempt to discredit McMahon's every move.

Schrader’s key financial supporters and volunteers are tied to the Constitutional Sheriff’s movement as well as “Sovereign Citizens.” According to the FBI website, “The FBI considers sovereign-citizen extremists as comprising a domestic terrorist movement . . ..”