Four Southern California police officers were arrested on suspicion of child cruelty after allegedly abusing more than a dozen youngsters at a boot camp, it was reported Wednesday.
Huntington Park officer Marissa Larios, Patrick Nijland and South Gate officers Carlos Gomez-Marquez and Edgar Gomez were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a statement from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said each officer was released after posting $20,000 bail.
The four officers were drill instructors at a weeklong boot camp for troubled youngsters that was held in May at the National Guard base in San Luis Obispo, a coastal town in between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Nearly 40 youngsters attended the L.E.A.D. program, short for Leadership, Empowerment and Discipline. It had operated for 17 years without a single complaint. However, after the most recent camp, parents said their children reported being slapped, kicked, stomped and beaten bloody at times. One boy even returned home with a fractured hand.
Investigators identified 13 alleged victims ranging from 12 to 17 years old, Cipolla said.
The injuries included "bruising to the face, bruised ribs, a lot of abrasions," he said. "I think generally roughed up would be a good description."
The four officers were arrested on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child and other crimes including abuse under color of authority.
"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," Cipolla said.
The case will be submitted to the San Luis Obispo County district attorney's office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges.
The South Gate officers have been placed on administrative leave, according to a Police Department statement Wednesday. The department takes allegations of wrongdoing seriously and is cooperating with investigators, the statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.