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4 California police officers arrested for allegedly abusing youngsters at boot camp

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The Huntington Park Police Department posted this photo on Facebook on May 17, 2015, of the LEAD boot camp held in San Luis Obispo. (Photo via KTLA/Los Angeles)

The Huntington Park Police Department posted this photo on Facebook on May 17, 2015, of the LEAD boot camp held in San Luis Obispo. (Photo via KTLA/Los Angeles)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — Four Southern California police officers have been arrested on suspicion of child cruelty for allegedly abusing youngsters at a boot camp.

Two Huntington Park officers and two from the South Gate force were arrested this week by deputies from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, which says they were released on bail.

Messages seeking comment from the officers weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.

The investigation involved allegations that children were cut, bruised and beaten bloody in May during a boot camp for troubled youths that the two police departments ran in San Luis Obispo.

One boy reportedly had a fractured hand.

Investigators identified 15 alleged victims ranging from 12 to 17 years old.

The one-week camp was held from May 17 to 24 at Camp San Luis Obispo, a California Army National Guard Military Base in San Luis Obispo, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the allegations.

Seven children initially came forward with accounts of abuse, a lawyer for the children’s families said in June when the allegations were first reported.

The campers were slapped, punched, beaten and had their hands and backs stepped on while they did push-ups, Santa Clarita-based attorney Gregory Owen stated at the time.

The children were taking part in an intervention program for at-risk youth — called Leadership Empowerment and Discipline, or LEAD, Owen said.

“These officers would pull these kids into ‘the dark room.’… And in the dark room, they would take these children … by the neck, push them up against the wall,” Owen said at a news conference in June. “Then they would strike them. They would beat them in the side, in the stomach, in the ribs, and in the face.”

The children were also allegedly threatened that they would be harmed if they told anyone about the abuse.

The South Gate Police Department says it takes allegations of wrongdoing seriously and will cooperate with investigators.

KTLA contributed to this report.