According to a newly released statement by the board of directors of ALADS, the union that represents Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, many “frontline supervisors” in the county’s jail system do not adequately understand the department’s use of force policy, so are requiring use of force reports in cases where neither common sense nor LASD policy necessitates them. These purportedly unnecessary reports, wrote the board, serve only to falsely inflate force statistics and to make deputies jumpy about performing their duties lest they be viewed as “heavy handed.”
It is widely agreed that LA County’s chronically-troubled jails have measurably improved since the Southern California ACLU brought its massive class action lawsuit in January 2012 alleging widespread brutality in the jail system, and then in September of that same year, the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence issued its scathing report, documenting a “troubling culture in Custody, which has produced both on duty and off duty aggressive misconduct.”
However, when organizations as large as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department attempt fundamental reform, it is not uncommon for even the best intended efforts to be less than perfectly calibrated, thus sometimes causing new problems to be created while trying to correct old problems.
Admittedly, WitnessLA has not deeply investigated this issue, but we have heard plenty of credible anecdotal accounts from our sources that generally support what the ALADS board outlines with its statement.
Here’s a clip:
As the Department undergoes federal oversight of the jail system, a pattern has emerged of frontline supervisors in the jail incorrectly requiring “use of force” reports in cases where both common sense and Sheriff’s Department rules do not require such a report. The concept of a use of force should not be confusing. However, with an 111-page policy and supervisors who do not fully understand the force policies, this can typically lead to confusion and misinterpretation. Whatever the motivation of these supervisors, be it a failure to understand the department’s policies on use of force or a reflexive “CYA” reaction to the jail oversight, it must be addressed by Department leadership.
The problem persists that Sergeants do not fully understand the use force policy, and thus the Department is forced to either under report or over report incidents of force. The perception of the public then becomes one in which there is officer brutality occurring in the jail, when in reality deputies are just doing their job in a very dangerous environment. What makes this worse is when supervisors misinterpret department policies.
For example, is it considered a “use of force” when a deputy helps a jail inmate to his feet after the inmate had fallen? Department policy and common sense say “no”-yet recently; a jail supervisor insisted that a force report be written in that instance! If an inmate falls on their own and a deputy witnessed the fall and then comes to the inmate’s aide, a force report should not be required. In short, it appears anything and everything is being considered “force” and resulting in some Department’s management’s insistence a force report be generated.
Use of force policies must either be changed to be clearer, or there must be extra training provided so supervisors can better understand it.
The disturbing trend of requiring deputies to file a use of force report when not required both forces the line deputies into a “no win” situation, where they are in constant fear they will lose their jobs over a “new policy” that does not exist in writing, or being forced to ignore the actual current written policy that does not require such reports.
According to ALADS, LASD higher ups are aware of the problem, and concerned that the issue is artificially driving up use of force numbers..
As a solution, ALADS suggests additional training for custody supervisors and clarification of the language of the department’s written use of force policy so it is more user friendly.
TWO SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES FIGHT TO SAVE 1-YEAR OLD AUTUMN, SHOT IN COMPTON GANG SHOOTING
Gang violence has been generally down for the last decade in Los Angeles. Yet there was a spike in homicides last year, and even “down” doesn’t mean nonexistent. Gang shootings still blow far too many holes that can never be mended in LA County lives, families and communities.
When such a shooting does occur, it is, of course, Los Angeles police officers and sheriff’s deputies who usually arrive at the scene of the tragedy first, and hear the anguished screams of the family members affected.
The LA Times’ Cindy Chang writes of one such shooting that took place in Compton earlier this month. Two Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies, one a training officer, one newly transferred from custody to patrol, were first on the scene and—concerned that paramedics might not arrive in time—they frantically raced to the hospital with a baby girl named Autumn who had just celebrated her first birthday, but who had minutes before been shot in the head when a gangster drove up and blasted at the converted garage where she lived. It is believed that the shooter may have been aiming at her father.
Here’s a clip from Chang’s story:
The father cradled his 1-year-old daughter in his arms, screaming: “My baby’s been shot! My baby’s been shot!”
The little girl had a grievous head wound. She was ominously still, not moving or crying.
The sheriff’s deputies didn’t know how far behind the paramedics were. They decided to take her to the hospital themselves.
The father got in the back seat of the patrol car with his baby.
“We’re gonna get you there. We’re gonna get you there,” Deputy Ricardo Eguia repeated during the high-speed ride as the father sobbed.
On a night shift patrolling Compton, just about anything can happen. In six years on the city’s streets as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, Eguia has seen blood on the sidewalk and heard the anguished wails of family members all too many times.
But even here, gang violence reaching into a baby’s crib is not routine. The deaths of children stick with Eguia, from the toddler killed by a falling television to the baby girl named Autumn Johnson who lay motionless during the frantic journey to the hospital last Tuesday.
Autumn had recently celebrated her first birthday with cake and Minnie Mouse balloons. She was sleeping in her crib when a man stepped out of a blue Chevrolet Impala and began shooting at the converted garage where she lived. A single bullet struck her in the head.
Her father, 24-year-old Darrell Johnson, was an admitted gang member and may have been the intended target, according to investigators.
Homicide Capt. Steve Katz said Wednesday that the investigation was moving forward but he could release no new information. Authorities are offering a $75,000 reward for information leading to the identification, capture and conviction of the shooter.
“You start contemplating a lot of things because the child had nothing to do with anything,” Eguia said. “They’re sleeping in the crib, and now they’re not. Sometimes you don’t know what to make of it. Is it fair? Is it not fair? You don’t understand why those things happen.”
A YOUNG BLACK POLICE OFFICER HOPED TO CHANGE THE NYPD FROM THE INSIDE, NOW HE’S PART OF A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly stated that there are no longer any kind of arrest quotas in the New York Police Department, that he wants a focus on “quality arrests” not quantity. Judging from Bratton’s work in Los Angeles, the commissioner likely means it.
However, over the last two years, a once-idealistic 30-year-old NYPD officer named Edwin Raymond, has recorded his meetings with almost a dozen department supervisors up and down the chain of command in what he says is an attempt to show that the practice of pushing for arrest quotas isn’t dead at all. Only the rhetoric used to press for higher arrest numbers has changed.
In August 2015, Raymond and 11 other NYPD officers filed a class-action suit on behalf of the department’s minority officers, with the non-disappearance of the quota system front and center in their legal complaint.
“In Raymond’s mind, quota-based policing lies at the root of almost everything racially discriminatory about policing in New York,” writes Saki Knafo in an excellent longread about Raymond in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. “Yet the department has repeatedly told the public that quotas don’t exist.”
Here are some clips from Knafo’s story about Officer Raymond, his efforts to be a good cop in the face of pressure to produce higher arrest numbers, and the lawsuit that has resulted:
…The suit accuses the department of violating multiple laws and statutes, including a 2010 state ban against quotas, and the 14th Amendment, which outlaws racial discrimination. It asks for damages and an injunction against the practice. Although plaintiffs in other cases have provided courts with evidence suggesting the department uses quotas, this is the first time anyone has sued the department for violating the 2010 state ban against the practice.
Black and Latino officers have long contributed rare voices of dissent within a department that remains predominantly white at its highest levels. Raymond has cultivated a friendship with Eric Adams, a former police captain and the current Brooklyn borough president, who founded, during his time on the force, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an organization that advocates for law-enforcement professionals of color. Adams has had a hand in several recent policing reforms. As a state senator, he sponsored the bill that led, in 2010, to the New York ban against quotas for stops, summonses and arrests. Then, in 2013, he joined several current and former minority officers in testifying against the department in the landmark stop-and-frisk case Floyd v. City of New York, which culminated with a federal judge’s ruling that the department had stopped and searched hundreds of thousands of minority New Yorkers in ways that violated their civil rights.
Between 2011 and 2013, the publicity surrounding the case prompted the department to all but abandon the tactic — the number of annual stops fell by more than two-thirds over two years — but, according to Raymond and others, the pressure to arrest people for minor offenses has not let up. ‘‘Every time I read the paper, I thought, Why do they think the problem is stop-and-frisk?’’ Raymond says. ‘‘Although stop-and-frisk is unlawful, and it’s annoying, you’re not going to not get a job because you’ve been stopped and frisked,’’ he says. ‘‘You’re going to get denied a job because you have a record.’’
The lawsuit claims that commanders now use euphemisms to sidestep the quota ban, pressuring officers to ‘‘be more proactive’’ or to ‘‘get more activity’’ instead of explicitly ordering them to bring in, say, one arrest and 10 tickets by the end of the month. ‘‘It’s as if the ban doesn’t exist,’’ Raymond says. Other cops agree. At a Dunkin’ Donuts in Ozone Park, Queens, a black officer who is not involved in the lawsuit (and who, fearing retribution, requested anonymity) spoke at length about the inconsistency between the department’s words and actions, her anger building as she spoke, the tea cooling in her cup, until she concluded, bluntly, ‘‘It’s like they’re talking out of their ass and their mouth at the same time.’’
Raymond began recording his meetings with supervisors when he suddenly started getting low performance reviews for what he believed was his resistance to quotas, when even those same supervisors admitted he was otherwise doing a good job.
‘‘He does these honorable things,’’ said Willie Lucas, one of the other black officers who worked in Raymond’s district. ‘‘The first time I worked with him, we were doing patrol out in the East New York area. There was a mother, she may have been a teenager, and she was in some kind of distress, crying and really upset. Her baby may have been around 3 or 4 months old. I remember him going to talk to her and help her out. He was willing to ride with her to the Bronx, all the way out of his jurisdiction.’’
Raymond didn’t shy away from confrontation when it was necessary. While he was still at the academy, the department awarded him a badge of honor for breaking up a street fight during one of his lunch breaks, grabbing a metal pipe from one of the brawlers and pinning him to the ground. ‘‘When it’s time to get busy, I get busy,’’ he says. He says he typically stopped about three people a day, mostly for little things like holding the doors at a station. But usually he let them go with a warning. He worried about how an arrest could follow a kid through life.
Raymond realized that his supervisors didn’t approve of his approach. Some of them came right out and told him he was dragging down the district’s overall arrest rate, and said they had been taking heat from their own bosses as a result. In the summer of 2010, a commander stuck him with the weekend shift at Coney Island, the sort of unwanted job that cops call a ‘‘punitive post.’’ Other undesirable assignments followed: sitting around with psychotic prisoners in psychiatric emergency rooms, standing at ‘‘fixed posts’’ on specific parts of subway platforms with orders not to move, staring at video feeds of the tunnels from the confines of an airless booth called ‘‘the box.’’ As the pressures intensified over the next few years, Raymond decided he needed to do something to protect himself — even though it could also put him at greater risk. Convinced that his supervisors were punishing him unlawfully, and fearing for his reputation, he started to record his conversations….
It’s a worthwhile story to read in total, so read on.