Four Police officers from Southern California are facing accusations of having physically and verbally abused children at a boot camp, according to a statement issued by the authorities from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office, on Wednesday, August 5.
They were arrested on the 4th of August and were released after paying a $20,000 bail, said Tony Cipolla, who is the sheriff office’s spokesman.
Patrick Nijland, aged 47, Marissa Larios, aged 36, Edgar Gomez, aged 35 and Carlos Gomez-Marquez, aged 31 were instructors at Leadership Empowerment and Discipline Boot Camp that lasted the whole weekend between May 17 to 24. This was held at the National Guard base in San Luis Obispo.
About 40 children attended this boot camp program that was being held for the 17th time. This was a program designed especially for children who exhibit disciplinary problems and are considered to be at-risk individuals.
However, the corrective measures the four officers applied were extremely harsh and included verbal abuse and sometimes severe physical abuse. One of the boys who attended the program returned home with a fractured hand.
After the boot camp was over, many parents filed complaints. The investigation started on the 28th of May, after receiving reports of child abuse from Family Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Children. According to these reports, 15 children, whose ages varied from 12 to 17, claimed they had been beaten and verbally abused.
These children’s injuries ranged from bruises to the face and ribs to finger fractures. The four officers now face multiple charges, from willful cruelty to a child to abuse under color of authority. For now, they have been placed on administrative leave.
“We really take no pleasure in arresting members of the law enforcement profession. But at the end of the day, we realize that no one is above the law,” said Tony Cipolla.
The arrested officers’ lawyers have not released any statements yet.
The case is due to be submitted to the San Luis Obispo County district attorney’s office, where a decision will be made regarding whether or not their criminal charges will be filed.
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