A group of California children say they were beaten, slapped and tortured by police at a boot camp recommended by their schools for behavioral problems like talking back to their teachers.
Police are investigating claims that the children, ages 11 to 17, suffered cuts and bruises after being subjected to beatings by Huntington Park and South Gate police officers in an isolated room during the one-week boot camp in San Luis Obispo, their attorney, Greg Owen, said.
Owen says the alleged beatings came to light when a mother took her son to an emergency room and hospital staff called Social Services because they believed she had beaten the child.
The boy however, told investigators his injuries resulted from beatings by police officers at the boot camp.
Police say about 39 children participated in the Leadership Empowerment and Discipline (LEAD) boot camp May 17-24 at a California Army National Guard base, Camp San Luis Obispo.
“They were threatened if they told they would be found and get hurt badly,” Owen said, adding that he was representing 10 children but believes that there may be more, including others from previous camps.
South Gate police officials say the program, introduced in 1998, spans 20 weeks and is designed to “change the destructive behavior of an at-risk youth.”
One boy suffered broken bones in his hand after an officer stepped on it because he was not performing a push-up properly, Owen said.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department has launched an investigation into the matter and South Gate police officials say they believe “in complete transparency and take all allegations seriously.”
Police held a meeting with parents, who each paid $400 for the camp, Sunday, to “provide assurance that any matters of concern will be investigated thoroughly.”
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