The Office of Independent Review released its 10th annual report on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Thursday. The report pays a great deal of attention to the policy changes to address deputy violence in L.A.'s jails, but it also highlights the high number of deputy firings and improvements in internal investigations.
The 194-page report is the OIR’s largest review of the department. OIR Chief Attorney Michael Gennaco said increased pressure and scrutiny has motivated the Sheriff’s Department to do better.
“I think that because, in fact, there has been pressure by the outside world more recently into this ... that pressure has motivated the department to do better,” said Gennaco. “But there is a much more for room for improvement in every process.”
Here is a list of key findings in the OIR report:
Internal investigations are more closely scrutinized and those employees accused of using force are looked at more closely. Force analysis reports in 2009 and 2010 were done well, but no recommendations or remedial plans were created to handle use-of-force incidents. OIR also did not receive copies of the force analysis reports. A handful of law students spent eight weeks observing the jails and speaking with inmates. In a recent policy change aimed at greater transparency, the department published its manual of policy and procedures online. The Sheriff's Department fired an unprecedented numbers of deputies last year — an indication that solid investigations supported the discharges.
In 2009 and 2010, 45 deputies were fired. In 2011, 60 deputies were dismissed, the highest in a decade.
Genacco said the firings were spread throughout the department: from the jail guards to patrol deputies. Many of the firings were the result of off-duty misconduct.
“It is a good thing that deputies who violate their authority are fired,” said Gennaco. “Departments who have a small number of peace officers who are fired may not be holding their officers to a sufficiently high standard.”
Gennaco said he believed the increased firings are the result of department officials enforcing policies already in place.
The report recognizes a 2011 downward trend in LASD employees arrested for driving-under-influence. The OIR congratulated the department’s efforts to enhance disciplinary guidelines for alcohol-related misconduct, but Gennaco said that the improvements could be slipping away. Through June, 24 employees had been arrested for DUI. That’s compared to 13 during the first six months of last year.
Deputy involved shooting numbers were down in 2011 from the previous year, according to Gennaco. Also down were deputy-involved shootings in which the suspect had no weapon.
But Gennaco said deputy-involved shootings are creeping back up this year. He said the county has invested in a training simulator that coaches deputies on when to shoot and when not to.