“Law enforcement treats these crimes like second-class crimes,” Scott said. “Cops believe it is a social worker’s job. They are looking for a reason to clear the case, and as a police officer, you have got to treat child abuse like any other crime.”

It was the worst case of child abuse that local officials had ever seen. The death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez became a grim symbol of the failure of Los Angeles County’s child welfare system. But it also has roiled the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, where several deputies have been disciplined. Records show deputies visited Gabriel’s home multiple times during the eight months prosecutors say he was being tortured and beaten. But the deputies found no signs of abuse and did not file paperwork that would have led specially trained detectives to do more investigating. 

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