#JusticeBriefs LASD

Thoughts about this week’s four LASD suicides

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Darrin Harris, 56, an active-duty commander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was one of four members of the LASD who killed themselves within a 24 hour period this week.

The first death was reported on Monday morning at 10:30 a.m., the second one a little after noon the same day, the third one in the early evening, and the fourth one on Tuesday around 7:30 a.m., according to the department.

The string of four suicides has left many reeling.

“Our LASD family has experienced a significant amount of loss and tragedies this year,” said Sheriff Robert Luna in a written statement.  “We are stunned to learn of these deaths, and it has sent shockwaves of emotions throughout the department as we try to cope with the loss of not just one, but four beloved active and retired members of our department family.”

Luna urged department members, regardless of rank or position, “to check on the well-being of other colleagues and friends.”

Commander Harris was a spokesman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station who was then promoted to become a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. After that, he was a captain who led the department’s transportation services.

Another of the four, Greg Hovland, was a retired sergeant who worked in the Antelope Valley. Hovland is the only retiree of the four.

The other two department members were not initially named, but both are believed to have worked in the LASD’s custody facilities.  One, a woman, age 60, was reportedly a custody assistant at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

The fourth, a male, was located at a hospital in the city of Pomona, and is believed to have worked at the North County Correctional Facility, also in Castaic, CA.

A retired member of the department who had supervised Harris early in the  commander’s career, texted us his thoughts about the painful news. 

Causes and effects

“He was squared away,” the retiree wrote of Harris. “He survived the Tanaka b.s. and had a good career.”

But something changed.

Another retired LASD member who has known colleagues who have committed suicide, wrote about what he saw, in retrospect, as signs and symptoms.

“Feeling that supervisors don’t care about you” is one of those signs, he wrote.

According to Boston University researcher Anthony Ford, in recent years, police officers are more likely to die from suicide than in the line of duty.

Former police officer turned clinician, John Becker, writes on the topic that supervisors have a role to play in changing those numbers by ensuring open communication.

“Simply asking a subordinate how their shift went that day would encourage communication,” he writes.

A healthy department will have fewer complaints and lawsuits, fewer officers calling in sick, fewer grievances and resignations, and even fewer on-the-job injuries, and fewer suicides, according to Becker.

Another well-connected LASD retiree echoed Becker when he wrote to us about watching deputies pushed into much more overtime and extra shifts than is healthy.

“It’s a freaking nightmare,” he said.  

And that nightmare must be addressed from the top.

“We are urgently exploring avenues to reduce work stress factors to support our employees’ work and personal lives,” said Sheriff Luna in one of his statements regarding this week’s suicides.

May it be so.

26 Comments

  • @Celeste- This is a very loaded topic… one the public we serve isn’t ready to understand.

    Our agency isn’t unlike others; larger agencies have had similar spurts of losses… each one heartbreaking… but does the public really care?

    I truly appreciate when I see John Q Citizen line their family up when the hurst carrying my partners body passes by… maybe their young son or daughter salutes. Or maybe the fire department hangs a large flag for ring funeral procession to drive under while heading to graveside. I’ve gone under too many flags in my short tenure… but that only happens when a public servant is killed in the line of duty… but what about when they take their own life? Just another statistic.

    That’s all we are to the agencies we work for; a liability and ultimately a pension. The public loves to turn their phone on at the end of a violent and dynamic incident, to see an officer fight to subdue a career criminal who, if they lost their life will be rendered for the kindergarten photo shared by their family that comes out of the woodwork to collect.

    We work 60-80 hours or sometimes even more for what? We work (or get drafted) to work holidays to babysit habitual offenders who can’t stay out of jail… or respond to family disturbances; while our own family wishes we were home. We have to make split second decisions based on articulable facts, that ultimately will play a role in how the public we serve will view us.

    We are desensitized by the chaos the public turns a blind eye to. It becomes second barrier to all of us… it becomes our norm, because we work more than we don’t. I don’t mean that literally; but we are ultimately programmed to think and act a certain way, and that’s hard to turn off.

    We live in the greatest county in history; the freest one at that… and protecting that comes at a price; a price people aren’t willing to pay anymore.

    That’s why we’re overworked; and stretched thin. But does the public really care? As long as we answer our calls for service, and abide by whatever bull$h1t new laws are put in place by politicians who have never done our job; the public doesn’t care. How do you turn that off; and make the job appealing?

    The pay isn’t worth it, that’s not why we take this job. We used to be able to think for ourselves; and value our lives just as much as those we are sworn to protect… but that is even changing. Every one of those four who died are older pensions; ones that can be replaced with more affordable personnel… I hate to put it that way, but it’s true.

    My partners won’t get the funerals they deserve; because they didn’t die a hero’s death. Every single partner matters; but what are we learning from their death? When Clink was murdered, we learned yet again the District Attorney doesn’t give a damn about us… but what will LASD learn from this tragedy?

    It’s okay not to be okay; as long as you know there is help out there. I too have had those days; and I am incredibly thankful to the partners who stayed up through the dark nights…

    Celeste, this is the best and the worst job in the world…
    and you’ll never be able to understand what that means.

  • I apologize for any spelling/grammatical errors… modern technology has its pros and cons… but I’ll take typing out a report any day over scratching. I’m sure I’ll get heat from the veteranos for that… but I don’t give a damn, haha!

  • Dear Tradition of Service,

    Well written and well said. The level of depression among fellow officers is real and we all see no end to any of what you so intelligently articulate in this post. I’m a spiritual person and all I know to do is to pray for you and all my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. Lastly, yes seek professional counseling because what we are asked to do daily ; is a weight we need help with.

  • @Tradition of Service, I’ll start by addressing the last part of your post.

    Great content. I forgot to look for spelling errors.

    I once had it out with a POS DB Sgt because all he knew was grammar, punctuation and spelling, but wasn’t much of a cop.

    I reviewed a supp report he red-lined for punctuation, and then noticed I had left out a key statement that corroborated the arresting Deps report, that he was aware of, but didn’t notice I accidentally left out.

    I made sure to tell him that the filing DA was more interested in key facts not punctuation.

    Obviously, unless there is connection between our four partners, of which we are not aware, you are spot on regarding the stresses of the job.

    I’m not ashamed to say I sought counseling for 10 years. Initially, because I was told to, because I was angry for being railroaded by the dept. Then it became a form of relief.

    No BS, my Doc released me the month after I became the union president.

    She told me her reasoning was because I would now have an outlet to channel my frustration and anger to try and make sure other deputies didn’t get treated like I did.

    My message to all. Talk to someone. There is always someone to listen and if you can’t find someone, you’re looking in the wrong places.

    Friends mean well, but they tend to tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.

  • The LASD needs to start taking care of employees and making sure Captains are:

    *Supporting their personnel in doing a very tough job
    *Not retaliating against employees
    *being proactive and checking for workplace wellness
    *Stop talking sh%$ about personnel to others (gossiping)

    Just a starting point in becoming a professional organization

    Praying for LASD.

  • @ Ron Hernandez-

    Our department is suffering. Overall interest in the job as a whole has tanked… no one wants the job anymore. You and I both know those who answer the call do not do so for the money. But, when there is no support from our own department regarding the extreme criticism we’re under… when it feels like our own agency is in cahoots with the district attorney to crucify someone for rightfully defending themselves, the quality of service is going to follow suit.

    We’re losing. The public we serve places more value in the skewed stories regarding career criminals; then treat them like martyrs instead of supporting those brazen enough to answer the call for service anymore. Those we serve have made it clear they no longer need us… because they have devalued us by stripping us of the support we once had. As more absurd laws are drafted by clueless politicians, and spoon fed to gullible residents, the call for service grows fainter by the day.

    While we are still doing our best to do what’s right… we’re being forced into being solely reactive. At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if the next move was to put us in all blue uniforms and strip us of our patches… because we’re getting more like them by the day.

  • @Tradition of Service, you appear to be a deep thinker.

    I find your comments to be VERY profound.

    We can NOT let them diminish our value because the silent majority who believe in us are counting on us.

    I’m aware that it is somewhat easier for me to tell you all not to give up, because I no longer have to answer calls for service.

    Rest assured, you are valued and I know we/you are resilient.

    We always figure out how to do the job in a new climate!

    God bless all of the current active law enforcement.

    If any of you ever want to sit down and just talk, I’m easy to find, and always willing to help.

  • @Traditon of Service “we work holidays to babysit habitual offenders who can’t stay out of jail…” does that make you feel better? Policing, Custody has been in practice for how long? Perhaps the burnout is not only issues within the Dept but how some enter into law enforcement. Upholding a constitutional level of care ( the basic) is NOT babysitting and the bullshxt new laws you reference, think about that statement and how those laws came about. The Dept must get its “house in order” with Villaconnueva long going the structural issues exist and blaming politicians etc serves the narrative that outside systemic issues are the culprit for mental health matters. Seek help, reorient, vicarious trauma is real. ER physicians, nurses, clinicians all experience the ills of society. Hold a gun, think you have power and control, burnout happens. No one is forcing anything, professional policing is attainable. Lots of work to do, but blaming does nothing for anyone.

  • @ Celeste Fremon-

    I can tell you the laws put into effect by the public we serve, in conjunction with the growing divide between both the Board Of Supervisors/Department and those of us who actually do the work is beyond troubling. I’ve had my fair share of partners take their own lives already in my short career. The residents of our county have no clue as to the true impact of stripping public servants not only of the right to defend themselves based on their training, experience and ability, but devaluation of their service by reducing benefits and compensation.

    Look at our staffing levels. Look at our recruitment. The numbers aren’t there. Even if by a miracle, the BOS recognizes their mistake in addressing staffing and increases the wage/benefits to where they should be, it doesn’t address the fact we (those that are still doing the job for the right reasons) are chastised and/or worse for being proactive.

    For the last 12+ years, the influence of the BOS and inexperienced, gullible voters have taken all rights away from those brazen enough to still do this job. We used to have the support of a sheriff who once filled our shoes. I signed onto LASD due to its rich tradition, and history. I read stories of incredible deputies who paid the ultimate price trying to protect all of us.

    I know some positive change came out of some of the investigations that have gone on regarding our department. I agree that gangs/cliques/clubs or whatever anyone wants to call them are not right; but I know they’re not nearly as prolific as what the media claims that they are. After all, stories sell, right? Who gives a crap who gets hurt, we want ratings.

    Like I said, the investigations did SOME good, but they did way more harm. We can no longer due our jobs the way the public deserves. Instead, we’re forced to fill out bull$hįt logs focusing on “perceived” biases that are in line with demographics. We’re getting inundated with policies that strip us of our ability to effectively do our jobs. Policies are devaluing the services we are able to provide.

    Decisions made by those who have never done our job, and criticisms from those not willing to do our job are taking their toll. People aren’t applying. Deputies are retiring and transferring out in droves. For what? Enough lives have been lost.

    While I’m not saying the BOS and LASD are solely responsible; they’re far more culpable than they believe. Condolences and resources only go so far.

  • @ Tradition Of Service,
    Agreed, concerning the probable variable causes which push many to go over the edge. Alarming not, how we (specifically LASD) look upon and treat each other within the ranks.

    More self serving than stellar, from Custody Division through Headquarters. Not necessarily always the case but compounded with personal issues, it can never be ruled out. Something to think about.

  • @John Kingsley-

    I don’t know you from Adam; just like you have no knowledge of my experiences thus far. Policing and custody for our department has been around for 173 years and counting. However, there are dynamic changes going on both at the surface (within public view), and within the inner workings of our department. It’s not as simple as saying “custody and policing has been around how long?”

    Regarding your comment about burnout; the profession as a whole struggles to satisfy the public’s desire in what type of policing to provide. By recruiting too young of officer, they lack experience… too old of officer brings potential biases and prejudices. The burnout comes with the hours we work; the clientele we deal with (and leniency they habitually receive nowadays), and the overall outlook towards the profession as a whole nowadays.

    While I too was not a total fanboy of AV, he at least backed deputies. I’m not talking about the select few deps that haven’t learned from 14+ years of investigation and oversight. I’m referencing the extreme vast majority of us who follow policies to the best of our abilities while trying to stay safe and get home to our families at night.

    Though countless LASD members have taken their lives, what will they do to look into the matter? If they asked for honest, anonymous feedback; and that raw data was delivered to the BOS, I bet they’d be floored.

    The trauma we witness is not one that can be compared to those who work in a medical setting. You reference “professional policing”… that comes at a price. You cannot devalue the knowledge, training and experience of those serving, and strip them of their right to defend themselves accordingly and expect them not to suffer emotionally and/or psychologically.

    It’s easy for you to say blaming does nothing, when you’re not doing the job.

  • @ Ron Hernandez

    I have to be mindful about what I discuss, as I am still in the midst of all this nonsense. Instead of chasing high dollar dreams of past execs (ie Big Red and her love for PREA), why don’t we (the county) dive deep into what’s causing this divide?

    There is still the rift that existed when you wrote tan and green. Where that be between patrol regions or even those now choosing to stay in the jails, the divide is toxic. The investigations that went on in 2009-2011 should’ve been enough to rattle the cages of anyone who was planning on riding this out.

    Yet, we still know nepotism and favorites exist. We look out for radio car partners… or buddies we shared war stories with in the locker room; instead of embracing institutional knowledge we’re fortunate enough to have. Those who hold their stars so tight are clinging to the hope they don’t get called to answer; a Russian roulette of sorts, executive survival edition.

    While some look at assignments as stepping stones, there are those that give that stone footing, and sustain its existence. This divide is disgusting; and it still exists, despite how many times we’ve been fanged. Our Achilles heel is not being able to accept responsibility/accountability… instead, we (LASD) bury our heads in the sand and hope we get tapped to come up for air when LACERA comes calling.

    That games gotten old, fast.

  • For the life of me, I cannot see what, if anything, the new sheriff has done to correct the multiple issues facing the department. Forced, pre-scheduled overtime, back-to-back doubles, drafting after shifts, CARPing to the point that detectives can’t handle their caseloads in a timely manner, units being down hundreds of spots. Add to all of this the current anti-police sentiments in today’s society, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    Personnel are at the point where they are sleep deprived, unable to be with their families, too tired to even make the drive home. And what pearls of wisdom come from the sheriff? His pledge to “hold deputies accountable,” his failure to stand up for his personnel, his failure to stand up to our jerk of a DA.

    Once the cat was out of the bag regarding the sheriffs adoration of Gascón, everything began to make perfect sense. His adoration of his beloved mentor of 20-plus years tells us exactly what kind of sheriff he is, and will continue to be. He will not stand up for his personnel. He will not stand up to the BOS. He will not stand up to the DA. What he WILL do is to drag the LASD further down into the abyss until the voters jettison him out of office.

    I pray for those working in this system each and every day. God bless our peacekeepers.

  • @Tradition of Service, vicarious trauma is an occupational challenge that crosses professions. One can go back to 92 Kolts, to understand the issues with the LASD have been around. So yes you do not know me from Adam nor do I know you, but your belief that BOS and a gullible public is not realistic. We can thank AV’s ego for getting the public’s ire over his incompetence. He did not change much since his chirping days at ELA.

  • @ John K-

    These problems within started long before AV was at the helm. The biggest question is; what is going to change? I can tell you it’s not worth it to be a hard charger anymore. They are grooming us to be solely reactive.

  • @ John K-

    So you’re admitting there is trauma, and that it’s been around for quite some time. I don’t see nurses and doctors taking their lives at a rate anywhere near that of law enforcement or military service men/women.

    The public took the bait, and the county is culpable. This problem existed long before AV was at the helm. While I have already expressed my dissatisfaction of his ability to effectively run our department, it’s highly unlikely his inabilities is a driving force behind these four recent untimely deaths.

  • My child who is a LASD sworn employee is going through some serious issues but the department is not helpful. Supervisors are ass holes. Captain is trying to help but blocked by Commander, Chief sitting on their ass. Assistant Sheriff is supportive but seems powerless.
    I was in the private sector. I was the General Counsel. I told the CEO what I as going to do. He had my back. So go ahead. There were no issues and the problem was solved.

  • @Interesting-

    Sadly the divide is nearly as great as the tradition. We (LASD) hold on to delusions of grandeur of an age gone by. That day is done. Our recidivist administration continues to force us down the path of reaction rather than being proactive. Society continues to value irresponsibility over common sense… driving viable applicants away. This agency is a ship without a sail, and those that are willing to help steer are chastised.

    @Father-

    I know how you feel. Trust me. Our executives are no longer able to assimilate, because the job has changed so much. I have gone through my fair share of battles with mid/upper level executives… and they are filled with uncertainty. When you hit them with common sense and logic, they turn a blind eye and hope for a promotion, transfer or retirement before they have to make a command decision. Just like in the Tanaka era, AV was surrounded by a sea of “Yes men (women)”… Honesty and ethics have taken a back seat to cowering to the public’s demands… or the misguided opinions of the brass.

    I don’t know where your son is at…. or how long he has to serve. But, I bet you he’s surrounded by partners who are scared, or worn out, or transferring out. As for me, I’d tell my kids to look out of state if they ever had the need to serve…. Sad but true. Hang in there, sir. It’s a hell of a bumpy ride.

  • @Father If the AS is supportive but seems powerless, it’s likely a stand down order directly from Luna. If an AS knows about an issue, Luna has been briefed. Luna has always been a spineless, self serving coward. Luna would happily throw his own family under the bus to save himself. Lunas allegiance to Gascon is telling. Luna couldn’t foster a relationship with anyone at LBPD as a patrol officer so Gascon at LAPD was his mentor? It’s because other patrol officers knew Luna wasn’t a “cops cop” and wasn’t going to have their back in crucial situations, so they alienated him. So his friends came from other agencies that couldn’t see he wasn’t to be trusted.

    If your sons career is intact, Lateral. LASD is a sinking ship and can not be saved.

  • Luna was handpicked by the anti police organizations before he launched his campaign. It was crystal clear when I was attending fundraisers for another candidate at the time. Sad but true! And now the men and woman on this department are paying for it. The sooner he leaves the better and just maybe the department can get back to some normalization. But we also as county residents need to throw out the corruption which is now the Board of supervisors. Vote them out!

  • @Finally Retired
    I agree with all of what you typed 1000%. We work for an extremely unhealthy department and when we question the characters holding the power, we are labeled “trouble makers” This goes beyond sworn. Civilian employees are suffering as well. Why would we expect the public to care when our own superiors couldn’t care less?

  • LASD moves to fire…

    “ A trainee at the time, Robles-Placencia went on to become part of former Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s inner circle and was later relieved of duty amid a gun permitting scandal that the FBI began investigating earlier this year.

    Vincent Moran, the training officer supervising Robles-Placencia from the passenger seat was a deputy at the time of the crash, though payroll records show that he was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2022, after the county already paid out several million in legal settlements in connection with the deadly incident.”

    To all the AV cheerleaders .. all these legal settlements from Villa/BiBi Sheriff… its all the BoS’ and Gascon’s fault, right?

  • @ Rak,
    It will take the Department years to overcome the damage that the VILLAN and his sweet pea have done. This is the affect of incompetent people at the helm and, yes the ring kissers. The self obsessed “I am the smartest man in the room” clown still has his weekly rants about him being the victim.

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