LASD Los Angeles County

LA County Payouts for LASD Misconduct and Other Lawsuits Rise Alarmingly

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

During the last fiscal year, 2015-2016, Los Angeles County spent $131.8 million on judgment and settlement payments, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs, according to a report from County Counsel. The county’s total litigation expenses jumped 11% higher than the previous fiscal year ($119 million).

The LA County Sheriff’s Department accounted for $62.6 million—more than half of the county’s total legal expenditures.

The LASD’s total specifically for judgments and settlements was $50.9 million, the LA Times’ Richard Winton reports. That number has skyrocketed from the $5.6 million paid out five years ago, according to the Times.

In fact, the sheriff’s department was responsible for 12 out of 18 of the settlements over a million dollars.

There were seven deputy-involved shootings that resulted in settlements ranging from $1.4 million to $5 million. The $5 million settlement went to the family of 30-year-old John Winkler, an aspiring TV producer who was held hostage in West Hollywood in 2014. When Winkler ran from the apartment in which he had been held hostage, deputies mistook him for the armed suspect and fatally shot him. One of the deputies bullets hit a second fleeing hostage, Liam Mulligan, in the thigh. Mulligan filed a civil suit and was awarded a $2.5 million settlement.

In 2012, a civil jury found that LASD deputies used unreasonable force when they fatally shot Alfredo Montalvo at the end of a chase in 2009. The jury awarded Montalvo’s wife and two children $8.76 million.

Deputies suspected Montalvo of drunk driving (the toxicology report revealed he was not drunk) after the 29-year-old was spotted driving over a curb in Lynwood. Montalvo gave chase, rather than pulling over for the deputies. Montalvo crashed into two parked cars, ending the pursuit. Deputies ordered the man to exit his vehicle. Montalvo’s car was wedged between the two parked cars, so he reversed in order to open his door and comply with the orders, according to the attorney representing Montalvo’s family. According to deputies, the man gunned the engine multiple times and then rammed into one of the sheriff’s vehicles surrounding his car. Deputies fired at Montalvo 61 times, killing him. After the jury awarded the family nearly $9 million, the county appealed. Between 2012 and 2015, the judgment and attorneys fees earned interest. If the county ended up losing its appeal, the total amount paid to the family would have surpassed $11 million. So the county voted to approve the $8.85 million payout.

Most of the nearly $9 million judgment was paid by insurance. According to the County Counsel report, the county paid $1.43 million of total amount.

Between 2012 and 2016, 75% of the LASD judgments and settlements were reportedly for cases that involved use of excessive force.

The majority of the settlements stemmed from lawsuits that, like the Montalvo case, took multiple years to move through the legal system. It’s worth noting that there were fewer new lawsuits against the county during FY 2015-2016 than the previous years. There were 132 cases filed against the LASD last year (59 were related to excessive force and 18 involved shootings)—a 25% drop compared to the 2012-2013 numbers. The county also experienced an increase in the number of dismissed cases in which the county was not held liable.

BEYOND THE $132 MILLION

The judgment and settlement money that the sheriff’s department cost the county does not provide the full picture of the LASD’s lawsuit’s story. There are 42 cities that contract with the sheriff’s department. Those cities were forced to cover portions of the LASD settlements last year.

Cities paid out $12.7 million toward LASD payouts, according to the Times. The cities’ insurance carriers coughed up $19.4 million more.

The payouts have reportedly made it more difficult for cities to procure insurance to cover litigation related to law enforcement, prompting some local leaders to call for the county to pay more of the litigation costs.

WHAT’S CAUSING THE INCREASE IN PAYOUTS?

Experts point to a growing distrust in law enforcement, as well as the public’s close watch on deadly force incidents, as reasons for the jump in payouts over previous years.

Because of these factors, experts say that jurors are more likely to award higher settlement sums to plaintiffs, the Times reports.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell expressed concern over the rising costs of litigation—funds that “could be spent to help the community—but acknowledged that some of the cases involved serious misconduct that “won’t be tolerated” by the department.


Photo credit: Steven Straiton.

50 Comments

  • The Times report misses a huge chunk of LASD litigation costs: defending managerial and executive misconduct based on lawsuits from employees and civil service claims against non-merit based management decisions on promotions, transfers, harassment, and retaliation. That is a direct result of McDonnell’s failure to clean house and his use of Banaka’s corrupt management team, which has now morphed into an entire new generation of corruption and incompetence.

    Congrats are in order, Fresh Eyes! You screwed the pooch royally.

    • Thanks for the breakdown of the loot being doled out at the taxpayers expense. Just looking at the LA TIMES article, one would think that the payouts are only because of rogue deputies dealing with the public. Unless explained, the readers wouldn’t have a clue. Thanks once again.

  • Going to court with video to show the jurors puts you in a much better position than simply raising your right hand. Always record the police and never answer questions. Your life might just depend on it!

  • Sheriff Jim McDonnell expressed concern over the rising costs of litigation—funds that “could be spent to help the community—

    “I could really use another $300,000.00, I have my eye on some blue pants, a blue shirt, and a blue tie, that I REALLY think would complete my deputies TACTICAL package, keeping them and the public safer and helping the community in turn, Jim said.”

  • Way to not put any work in witness la. Yes; there were a lot of lawsuits against the department but you don’t mention a single one by department members against management. Sheriff McDonnell and his executives, including Diana Teran are running wild with their fire or discipline first theory. Witness la, why not write an article about current executive mis-management and lawsuits by department members. You can start by just checking how many neat promoted Assistant Sheriff Denham has against him.

    • I second that motion.

      It should be interesting to compare how many management actions against Deputies are chickenshit as opposed to being valid.

    • OTOH, I just looked up Diana Teran. She is a lawyer, worked as such for the OIR–remember them?–and has her Baccalaureate from one of the Claremont Colleges.

      She is now an advisor to the Sheriff on “Constitutional Law Policing.”

      I would say that if she wants to fire a Deputy for breach of Constitutional Policing–which is apparently her thing– then there might be some validity for that action, based on her resume.

  • WLA never had the guts to call out BANAKA during their rain of terror. It took the FBI to start that. WLA worshipped Baca.

    What makes you guys think they’re going to call out Buckles?!?!?

    • Ownership: Cleanse yourself of that Judas spirit. WLA can only work with the information that’s presented to them from pretty reliable sources. To factually speak, many pieces of LASD complex puzzle were brought to light because of WLA. Never bite or snap the hand that feeds you.

  • Funny, I just read the Witness LA story posted immediately before this one. That story was very critical of the probation department for NOT spending 21 million dollars of tax payer money. The writer of that story (Celeste) wasn’t in the least bit concerned that the probation department may be wasting money, only that the department wasn’t wasting it fast enough. In fact ,Witness LA is always advocating blowing tax payer money on all kinds of silly stuff. Witness LA ,it’s pretty obvious you buy into the whole anti cop narrative thing but pretending to be worried about the government wasting money is a bit rich.

  • Here’s One; That’s as naive a statement I’ve heard in quite some time. WLA can only work with the information given to them? Really? You can’t be that stupid!!

    They can inquire and investigate. That’s their job!! Not rely on anything except what they responsibly dig up in a unbiased manner. It’s called responsible journalism!! Something WLA failed at while giving Baca a free pass for over a decade.

    • Considering the “Code of Silence” in LASD during the Bananka Reign, most would tip their hat to WLA. You may be one of few who does not disagree, but that’s your perogative.

  • “Fresh eyes,” “Buckles,” LMAO! Before you know it, the election cycle for Sheriff will start and McDonnell’s Democrat machine will be in high gear pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars dollars into his coffers. After all, he is an important pillar in their temple of power. So for those out there who are considering to throw your hat in the ring, you best have a winning plan and……..money.

    If you think you can win by just saying your a good person, stay home and put a roast in the oven and have friends over for a nice dinner. The ONLY way you can remotely come close to being a viable candidate is to show, to prove, Sheriff McDonnell is either 1. Corrupt or 2. Hugely incompetent. He is an incumbent, already entrenched in the eyes of the uninformed and distanced voting public.

    At a happily retired and cross country view of Los Angeles County, some of the issues a candidate can lay on the lap of “Buckles,” are, 1. Retention of Tanaka EPC. 2. Promotion of Tanaka EPC. 3. Promotion of Tanaka managers and supervisors. 4. Tanaka Captain and above scandal and misconduct. 5. Pure incompetence and continual “politics as usual,” by McDonnell. 6. Mismanagement and waste (gold). 7. Morale decimated to an all time low. 8. Crime stats on the rise, arrests going down. 9. Discipline not fitting the offense. 10. Civil Service overturning cases that NEVER should have been brought to the tabe. (McD will say he is draining the swamp of problem employees). 11. Ask the public do they feel any safer since McD was anointed?

    If you think PPOA will support you, forget it. Moraguchi will do as he always does, nothing but check which way the wind is blowing. ALADS, Ron will want to do the right thing, but he has a Board to contend with. ALADS could be a supportive force as long as they stick to the issues that are winners and are prepared to go ALL IN against the Sheriff. If they won’t, forget them, you are on your own.

    Whoever you folks are, you best already have a financial base, a message, a professional political management team and LOTS of money. If you think you are going to raise $500,000 to $1,000,000 on the backs of your friends at work, take some aspirin and then take a nap because you have a fever. You best have, or get (pronto) your ducks in a row. And you best have your best set of brass knuckles and your most cherished knife (figuratively) at the ready and fight to win. Otherwise, build a fire and read a book. Speaking of, it’s raining so I’m going to follow my own advice, but at least it’s not snowing, for now. Let the games begin.

    • Love it, but again WLA will not use the power of investigating the truth. Why is it that civil service over turns discharges? Public information, go to web site. Percentage is very small 17% on a yearly average for past 4 years of over turning discharges. The hearing officers for the most part Attorneys by day or some legal experience . The department loses in civil service and contracts with private Law firms to fork out money on battles they will lose. Forgot oh its just tax payers money, all being directed by the real Sheriff and decision maker Diana Teran. The name has come up twice and WLA will ignore it until maybe LA Times picks it up.

    • Ron Hernandez swears that ALADS Board of Directors is united, which doesn’t mean squat. Many will believe it when they see it.

      • McDonnell is going down, and it will be a challenge from where he least expects it. He should resign ahead of the elections, because it won’t be pretty. It was easy to run against tan and green after Banaka pooped in the punch bowl. All “Fresh Eyes” McDonnell had to say was “I’m not one of them!”

        Calling it a Spade, you are right about Moriguchi. He apparently sold his soul to the devil in hopes of getting a bump before retirement. Exhibit A is the round-filed survey that was conducted a year ago. Search parties are still out looking for it, and apparently odds are better at finding Amelia Earhart’s remains or Bigfoot than the PPOA survey. Moriguchi deliberately concealed damaging information about McDonnell, information that would be useful in dethroning the fake sheriff. Let’s hope ALADS does the right thing and backs a credible challenger.

        McDonnell is a failed sheriff, period. The community and the LASD need to elect a transformational leader, not a slack-jawed, manicured manager. Fresh Eyes wasted four years of everyone’s time, and he needs to go. For everyone who cherishes what the LASD once was and can still be in the 21st century, it’s time to get off your ass and get involved. I don’t plan on apologizing for what agency I retire from, you shouldn’t either.

        • LATBG – I see that you’re going easy on ALADS since you know Ron. The faces at ALADS change annually but the game remains the same. So without slamming Ron Hernandez who is temporarily leading ALADS, we’ll have to hope, cross our fingers and wait to see changes.

  • @ Spade……Keeping everything in perspective, ALADS nor PPOA will band together or separately to campaign against Mac D. You can bet on it.

  • Witness LA, try doing some work and not just repeating what the la times does. Sheriff McDonnell gave complete control to Diane Teran and the “constitutional policing advisors”. They do whatever they want, including completely ignoring POBR. It is gonna end up costing taxpayers money when they start seeing all the lawsuits that are coming. The truly sad part is the captains, commanders and chiefs afraid to stand up to her or the sheriff. Either to worried about next promotion or just weak in general. I love how deputies, sergeants and lieutenants have to play by the rules but the executives do whatever they want.

      • PPOA decided to back Janice Hahn for the 4th district supervisor’s seat even before the nomination period had started! Their track record is pretty deplorable, for sure. It will be interesting to see what these two unions do, as it will all come to a head in 2018. The US Supreme Court will eventually rule on agency shop fees, and with a solid conservative majority, I would say agency shop is doomed. That means both unions will lose a big chunk of their membership overnight, unless they were to EARN the loyalty of their members by showing some courage.

        Attention ALADS and PPOA boards of directors: to put it bluntly, pay attention to your membership. Put the endorsement to the vote of the membership, and put the dues to work backing the candidate who your members support. Not the cheesy donation of $1500 you have Ray Leyva, more like $2 MILLION each as an independent campaign expenditure. $4 million will do a lot of damage to Fresh Eyes, and your boards can actually defend the interests of your members.

        Well, ALADS and PPOA, what’s it going to be? To quote Tombstone, are you going to just sit there and bleed or do something about it?

        • Alads board will not comment on this blog. Ron always stated that WLA is not the forum for Q & A pertaining to Alads. You’ll probably have to go to the meetings. He has to be careful of what is said. Be it legal or “all talk with no action”. Ron likes to talk so he’s chomping at the bit.

      • Not scared, as you can tell by me using my real name. It would be irrespobsible of me to debate hot topics, on this site. But, if you are a member, you are welcome to come to the meetings, to call me out on topics. If not, email or call, more than happy to talk.

        However, I will warn you if you come to our meetings you have to sign in, with your real name, and you’ll have to take off the fake nose and glasses!

        • No need for debates and chit-chat regarding hot topics. The age old sins of ALADS predate you and will be there when you leave. Save the online quips for your meetings. Treece & Shinee is where your focus should be. Those two are no different from the top two, dethroned in LASD.

          • @Shad 49, you are absolutely right, especially if you sit back and expect us to solve all “your” problems while you anonymously complain!

        • Ron, Treece & Shinee is the problem of every deputy under the rank of Sgt.
          Don’t get pissy with me when you already know what the real problem is. All you need to know is that every deputy is getting screwed by those two. I am not the enemy. Just do your job.

          • @Shad 49, “my job?” Last time I checked “my job” title was Detective for LA County Sheriff’s Department. I agreed to take on this roll to “help” get ALADS going in the right direction. Little did I know arrogant people, like yourself, would expect me to do all the work for them!

            We are hoping to have some bylaw changes, as soon as our Governance Committee finishes with their recommended changes, of note will be board candidate qualifications. If you think you can do a better job lets get your name on the ballot.

            I don’t want to scare you, but you can’t run as “Shad 49.”

          • @ Ron. Ok Sherlock Holmes, with your detective background and being pretty much privy to Shinee’s shenanigans, what can the deputies do to assist you? We know that you aren’t a miracle worker, however your votes came from the deputies. The window of opportunity is small.

    • A look at the LASD Organization Chart–it can be Googled if the WLA reader doesn’t otherwise have access to one–shows that there are two “Constitutional Policing Advisors”: Diana Teran and Mark Smith.

      They are both lawyers, and they both have direct access to the Sheriff.

      Interesting times are ahead.

  • Even if Los Angeles Times reports an investigation first, Witness LA delves deeper with inside information. Such diatribe towards WLA when the pace of change isn’t soon enough for some. Today is Witness LA and tomorrow will be the LA Times. Such ungrateful bastards. Have your unions step up their game.That’s what they’re for…. Am I right?

  • Save your breath for a revival of ALADS. Remember the Power Struggle at ALADS with Macias & Hayhurst in March 2013. Well it’s still stewing & brewing for over 3 years at a tune of 1.5 Million smackeroonies. Yes 1.5 million in ALADS Attorney fees (LA Superior Court #BC540789) Guess who’s paying for it? You won’t see this in ALADS Dispatcher.

  • @Here’s One, right! WitnessLA and Bob Olmsted kicked over more Banaka rocks than anyone else. Heavens knows the LASD ship was out of control for years before the incompetent Fibs got involved – imagine smuggling a phone in to CJ that was registered back to the Fed Building – but at least something was finally done. We all know the media loved our “quirky” Sheriff, and as pointed out by others in this thread, running against the incumbent is very difficult. So we were “stuck” with a fool and a tyrant running the organization.

    ALADS and PPOA sat on their asses and NEVER said a word. We can blame OURSELVES for that as well. They are OUR unions, but no one gives a shit when it comes time to vote or even have serious conversation about what joke the unions really are. Bud Treece and boys have had a racket going at ALADS for a gillion years and EVERYONE knew it and did NOTHING!

    So quit pointing fingers and look in the mirror.

    • With Floyd Hayhurst at the helm, Alads DID NOTHING in order to cover for Tanaka. Old news but it’s worth being repeated. As someone previously stated, the names change but the game & gang remains the same. Bud Treece & Dick Shinee – “Pimps of ALADS”

      • @ Full Circle….True about membership not voting. There is no real interest, maybe because of Bylaws still in place which were made to enrich Hayhurst & Crew. Any member should be able to run for office without a 2 yr minimum of attending meetings. Still a racket.

        • @ Ronald Hernandez … Re, ALADS. Why would anyone use their true name when addressing ALADS, especially knowing the evil retribution that will follow? You have the master roster of every deputy, on file. Sounding off at the monthly meetings is the same, thus WLA.

          • My partners an I sounded off at the monthly meetings for years, and yet here we are alive and well!

            I think you are trying to create fear and sway those who might be inclined to get involved, or speak up for themselves.

            Evel retribution! Hyperbole much?

            I’m curious, what do you tell that victim/witness when they want you to solve the incident at hand, with a named suspect, but they don’t want to get involved.

          • As the monthly meetings go, you were just beginning as Hayhurst’s reign was ending. The sweep of the 2016 ALADS election allowed you to step in. The ultimate objective is put the spotlight on Shinee & Treece and expose them for who they truly are. Hopefully you’re working it.

  • Jim McDonnell is Sheriff of L.A. County due to a carefully engineered political/media process which culminates with winning a majority of votes in the General Election.
    That process begins when members of the L.A. County ruling political establishment become concerned that incumbent Sheriff Baca could be vulnerable to challengers in the next election.
    The establishment selects a potential successor who meets their requirements and who is willing to follow instructions to get elected.
    A media event is created to introduce the selection and pre-position him as the favorite to follow Baca.
    Behind the scenes, Baca is approached gently and respectfully to accept that he must forfeit his incumbency or face a disparaging overthrow.
    As the candidate filing deadline draws near, Sheriff Baca makes a dignity-preserving announcement detailing his spontaneous resignation plans.
    That sets off a flurry of media attention and a shortly spaced sequence of announcements to fill the blank spaces on the ballot with the approved second tier candidates.
    The apex of this period is the reintroduction of McDonnell, the chosen successor, which has been staged not to communicate positions or policies, but rather to highlight pure political musculature.
    We are given full view of the juggernaut in order to confirm the inevitability of his eventual victory.

  • You are correct wth your analysis. For the record ALADs has and always (one time they did not) will endorse the incumbent. That usually is backed by the inner circle in Sacramento. ALADS will need Balls & Gall plus a heap of money to go against McDonnell. Trust me….they will not do it. It will take a revolt or revolution, not to mention falling in the bathtub for change.

    • I agree with the how but not the why. They weren’t worried about Baca’s vulnerability, they wanted him gone. The establishment told Baca to get rid of Tanaka and clean house, Baca balked so he was replaced. I don’t think McDonnell will make the same mistake.

      • McDonnell has already made the same mistake, and on steroids. The former Tanaka acolytes are now in full control of the department, creating a whole new generation of ass kissers and bootlickers. The political establishment, i.e. “they,” will never admit they were wrong with McDonnell, so expect the onslaught of fake success stories the accommodating local media will begin running on cue. The wannabe king makers, the board of supervisors, the Rick Carusos of the world, have a very warped sense of entitlement and a misguided notion that only they understand the big picture. Their influence is pretty much waning, as voters now have multiple platforms with which to get their preferred information, and many of them are without the filters the establishment has dictated historically through the LA Times and their corrupt editorial board.

        • @ LATBG : While seeing exactly what you’re saying, I see and agree more so with “Oh Well” who has previously and emphatically stated with consistency, that short of a scandal, McDonnell will be Sheriff until he himself says ” No Mas”. He stepped in when there were no viable choices. He is backed by “Who’s who” in LA County’s Political Arena. A tough call.

          • LATBG,
            Concerning the issue of McD’s incompetence, we need only to look at the last sheriff to realize that competence is not the determining factor for one getting reelected as LA County Sheriff.
            Baca was openly laughed at and mocked behind his back. He was known as Moonbeam. It was the worst kept secret in county politics that he was in way over his head.
            How many times was he reelected? How is it possible for a man that was so stunningly incompetent and an absentee sheriff to hold the office for 15 years?
            I have to conclude that incompetence is not the issue that will get McD defeated in an election.

            Still, you can hope. There’s always hope. We all need hope.
            For me personally, I think it’s prudent to temper that hope with a sizeable dose of reality, lest I cross the line from hoping into fantasizing.

          • Oh Well, I agree with your assessment. Overcoming the formidable political establishment, hell-bent on promoting incompetence, as long as its their incompetent son, will be an uphill battle. But as with all major achievements in history, they were never accomplished by those who said it couldn’t be done.

  • @ LATBG, everything you have stated in this thread is absolutely correct. But it is still going to take a candidate who very well funded, one who has a machine behind him/her, a network with political capital. It is going to take a candidate who really has the goods on Buckles which may or not be there. His comeback back is always going to be how he came into a corrupt and dysfunctional organization with his trademark “fresh eyes” approach and drained the swamp by firing everything that moves, setting new standards, putting his team into place and regaining the trust and respect from, “the community.” He will proclaim that he did all the heavy lifting, the FBI is now gone and all that is left is a few sour grapes. And of course, he will have a fortune in political donations flowing into his campaign along with the endorsement of everyone from the Department of Animal Control on up.

    I think it has established that ALADS and PPOA will do nothing for anyone but themselves. They could throw lots of shade on Jimmy McD, but never will. They will golf clap and whisper, “We are with you, Sheriff. We just have to lay low to pacify our members, you know how it is.” Remember how LAPD’s union dethroned Parks? Full page LAT ads, television commercials, the works. And they were successful is not getting his contract renewed. That won’t happen in the Sheriff’s race. Good luck to anyone running. It would be wonderful to see LASD return to greatness with leadership, the troops will pull the ropes, but it will take a real Sheriff to make it happen. Meanwhile, I’m kinda getting into this new gig of retirement, it’s not bad.

  • Hate to bring this up but let’s not forget the “trainwreck”, “hack”, “hatchetwoman”, “snake oil saleswomen” the BOS brought in from Sacramento to show the custody division how its done. They were shocked and wowed by the progressive pro-criminal gospel she espoused. The far left leaning, personal agenda following, biased-infused, off their rocker power base in the county and state are out of control.

    The article in the times and WLA does lead one to infer the County is only paying out money due to the wrongdoings of the staff against the public. In many instances the County will simply settle cases that involve the public and department as County counsel has limited stomach to fight. However, in those cases were department members sue, the County pulls out all the bells and whistles to fight the employee. They often try to simply wait the employee out until they are financially ruined and can’t fight any longer. It would be fitting if the staff members to launch a class action lawsuit against the department, sheriff and County. Inmates have done it with the backing of the ACLU and won. Finding an unbiased jury in LA County would be the real challenge.

  • @C.O.D. and anyone else, all I can say is come down get involved or simply vote when you have the opportunity……or you can just stay on this blog and take shots at me!

    Whatever makes you happy, but obviously the latter is less productive.

    • Hey Ron, have you conciderd partnering with POPA and question the boss about the new Custody Cmdr and the Brady issue??

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