System Reduces Deputy Misconduct
By Elizabeth Marcellino
City News Service
CNS–A system developed to identify problem deputies in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department works and, with targeted intervention, has reduced misconduct, according to a report released today.
The study conducted by the Police Assessment Resource Center is a semiannual review of a database, the Personnel Performance Index, designed to find patterns of bad behavior by law enforcement officers.
The database was developed in response to a 1992 report by Judge James Kolts. Kolts reviewed the department in the wake of a series of deputy-involved shootings and payouts of more than $32 million over four years in excessive- force lawsuits.
Kolts’ 359-page report was an indictment of the department, then led by the late Sheriff Sherman Block. It included shocking reports — including of a deputy smashing a suspect’s skull after shooting him to death and an innocent, terminally ill, 73-year-old woman who was injured by deputies — according to a 1992 Los Angeles Times report.
The center, led by Special Counsel Merrick Bobb and advised by Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian and retired Baltimore Police Chief Thomas Frazier, offered its 27th semiannual review in today’s report.
“The report says what the Sheriff’s Department is doing is working,” sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore said, calling the study’s conclusions “very positive.”
Several behaviors were found to be predictive of misconduct, including:
– complaints from the public of unreasonable force, regardless of whether they were held to be valid;
– derogatory language;
– absences; and
The team stated the database could be improved with recommendations they had asked the department to implement in 2003 and said will now call on the Board of Supervisors to force these changes.
“Sheriff (Lee) Baca is always looking for ways to make the department better,” said Whitmore, who could not say specifically why the changes had not been incorporated.
The changes include adding new information to the analysis, including:
– detention and arrest-related data;
– criminal investigations;
– inmate complaints; and
– data on warrantless stops and seizures.
The center also asked that the database be revamped so that data on one deputy could be compared with other deputies in similar roles.
The report includes an assessment of an intervention program, Performance Mentoring, developed to allow supervisors to intervene in an officer’s career. This type of intervention is meant to prevent a serious event, like an unjustified shooting, from occurring.
“We commend the department for its performance in this area,” the report read, stating that it has “led to significant reductions in risk- related activity for participants.”
The 94-page report did not appear to address whether officer-involved shootings or the use of excessive force by deputies was increasing or declining in aggregate, instead focusing on whether the database could weed out or rehabilitate bad officers in the system.