By Kelly Davis.
When Clifften Korsch was being booked into jail in August 2014, he refused to communicate with sheriff’s deputies in English, instead speaking in his native German. So one deputy made him watch a video of Adolf Hitler speeches.
The allegation is among several Korsch made in a complaint filed two months after his arrest with the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board, an independent oversight body that investigates complaints against county sheriff’s deputies and probation officers. Among the allegations, Korsch said deputies mocked him for wearing black fingernail polish and called him a “faggot.”
While CLERB investigators found insufficient evidence to prove most of what Korsch said happened, they agreed that a deputy forced Korsch to watch the Hitler video. A summary of the investigation, which will be discussed at CLERB’s Jan. 16 meeting, recommends the board rule the allegation “sustained,” meaning the act occurred and the deputy’s behavior violated department policy.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, Korsch was arrested on Aug. 27, 2014, in Vista for allegedly threatening maintenance staff at his apartment complex with a billy club after he complained about a gas leak. A staff member called the sheriff after he went to Korsch’s apartment on another matter and Korsch opened the door “holding what appeared to be some type of long rifle,” according to a Sheriff’s Department press release. When deputies searched Korsch’s apartment, they found a handgun, shotgun, assault rifle, hunting rifle and military vest and helmet. The CLERB case summary notes that Korsch is a U.S. military veteran.
While Korsch was being processed for booking, CLERB’s case summary says, he became agitated and started yelling in German. That was when an unnamed deputy began playing a YouTube video of Hitler speeches “about killing Jews, and other non-Germans.” According to the case summary, the deputy told CLERB investigators that because he didn’t understand German, he had no idea what Hitler was saying. The summary doesn’t say why the deputy made Korsch watch the video in the first place, but investigators determined the act “served no legitimate purpose” and “was not justified.”
Korsch couldn’t be reached for comment.
CLERB investigators found the deputy’s actions were discriminatory and violated policies regarding conduct, courtesy and use of department equipment.
Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said in an email that disciplinary action’s been taken against the deputy. She said she couldn’t elaborate because it’s a personnel matter.
“However, after careful review of the facts, Command Staff did act on it comprehensively and expeditiously,” Caldwell said.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said Korsch ultimately pleaded guilty to possessing a billy club — an illegal weapon in California — and four counts of exhibiting a deadly weapon other than a firearm. He received three years of probation.