16:37 GMT28 February 2020
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    A police-sponsored boot camp for children aged 12-16 is under fire after seven children have come forward to allege physical and verbal abuse by police officers during the week-long program.

    The Leadership Empowerment and Discipline (LEAD) program, which ran from May 17 to 24 at Camp San Luis Obispo in Southern California had 36 kids participating.  Police officers from Huntington Park and South Gate acted as the drill instructors and were supposed to help “develop leadership and discipline while offering guidance and support to reduce family conflict.”  The program cost $400 per recruit.

    The program, formerly known as the “Junior At-Risk Program,” has been in existence for 20 years and these are the first allegations of this nature that have ever surfaced.

    Four days after the program ended, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office was sent a report from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services containing allegations from one of the children who attended.  The department responded by having investigators interview the rest of the attendees and six other children spoke about the abuse they allegedly encountered.

    Attorneys handling the case told the local CBS affiliate that the children were “slapped, punched, and stepped on their hands and backs while doing push-ups” and “took them into a dark room where they were beaten if they did not meet the expectations of the camp supervisors” and “given towels to clean the blood off of themselves prior to exiting the room after the beatings.”

    Parents have also spoken out, saying that children were punched in the face and had their hair pulled during the abuse.

    The majority of the allegations of beatings centered on two brothers, both officers at the South Gate Police Department, known as the “Gomez Brothers.”  Recruits from the bootcamp allege that they would be pushed against a wall with forearms on their throats and were beaten by both brothers.

    The officers have both been suspended from the LEAD program, but have reportedly faced no discipline within their departments and are still on active patrol, despite the violent allegations and on-going investigation.

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    Tags:
    Police Brutality, Child Abuse, Boot Camp, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, South Gate, Huntington Park, California
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