SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal class action brought by a Juvenile Hall counselor on behalf of child claims alleges detention officers abused the children in their care and conspired to cover it up. The long list of abuses includes "punching, kicking, choking," and "inappropriate touching of a sexual nature to a minor under the age of sixteen," according to Alfred Lam, who is also the attorney for the class.
"Multiple violations of the United States Constitution under the 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendments for use of excessive, unreasonable, and unnecessary force; conspiracy to use such force and the cover up of violations thereof in using such force" are among the many allegations in the 42-page complaint filed on behalf of Resident Minors of the City and County of San Francisco.
Lam claims the District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) "has a 'pattern and history' of refusing to investigate and prosecute CCSF juvenile detention officers involving the same or similar action, behavior, and conduct giving rise to child abuse and neglect."
Lam claims that one child who was detained "several years before 2000" at San Francisco's Juvenile Hall was forced by a much larger officer "into the public urinal area to drink the fluid."
The complaint also states: "On or about February 7, 2007, minor No. 16 reported to authorities that because of his nightmares, stress, and horror that he was subjected to, he had difficulty sleeping and was in constant fear and worry that officers would come into his room and beat him up because just three days earlier he witnessed two officers go into another minor's room and severely beat that minor for no apparent reason."
In another case: "Throughout 2006 and 2007, several minors, including minor No. 14, made numerous complaints of unlawful force and abuse by officers inside CCSF JH to Captains No. 1 and No. 2. However, their typical responses were 'Who (in CPS) are they going to believe, you little punk ass criminal or Peace Officers?'" (Parentheses in complaint: CPS stands for Child Protective Service.)
Lam claims Juvenile Hall officials failed to properly investigate an officer who eventually was arrested and imprisoned for distributing child pornography over the Internet.
"Why would any state agency hire a pedophile into a position of authority to watch over juveniles? Again, this is a 'fox guarding the chicken coop' mentality," Lam says in the complaint.
"All of the aforementioned incidents represents only the 'tip of the iceberg' into the magnitude and severity of the problems occurring on a daily basis at CCSF JH between officers and minor residents," the complaint states.
"Unfortunately, the well-known 'code of silence' by management and staff members keeps these problems from ever being resolved as employees witnessing or being involved in the incidents are too afraid to come forward or know it will be futile."
The class demands punitive damages for civil rights violations, conspiracy to deprive them of constitutional rights, gross negligence, and assault and battery.
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