Monday, October 23, 2017
An Open Letter to Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca
By Leon Jenkins (President, Los Angeles NAACP)
Published August 6, 2009

Four civilian shootings by Los Angeles Sheriff Department Deputies in three days from July 10 – July 13, 2009, in which one was fatal, and the July 5, 2009 shooting death of another person ranks the Los Angeles Sheriff Department officer involved shootings and killings as one of the highest in the nation, and for the week of July 5, to July 10, 2009, one of the leading causes of death for African-American males.

By no means does the Los Angeles NAACP condone criminal acts or actions of those who choose to engage in criminal activities, and are the victim of an officer involved shooting that is lawful and justified, which is the point of contention for the NAACP and the communities patrolled by the Los Angeles Sheriff Department. For example, in the aforementioned officer involved shootings, the sheriff deputies states the familiar of an oft-repeated axiom, “I felt my life, or the life of others was threatened. Therefore I responded with deadly force.” However, in the five shootings that occurred between July 5, 2009, and July 12, 2009, guns/weapons were not found on the persons of some of the individuals who were shot.

The Los Angeles NAACP and our community cannot just close our eyes to the evidence, reasonable inferences and historical practices and patterns in these matters by the Los Angeles Sheriff Department. Every person shot by sheriff deputies cannot be simply explained away and accepted as lawful, because the officer reasonably believed his life or the life of others was threatened when he or they open fire on an unarmed suspect. If nothing else the odds are not in the Los Angeles Sheriff Department favor that after so many unarmed shootings and killing, just maybe one, at least one, was outside of policy, and an unlawful taking of life.

The Los NAACP and the community recognize that we need the Los Angeles Sheriff Department to protect us from those in our community who place so little value on human life and the property of others. We regret the loss of any life, but understand that sometimes it is a necessary part of policing and protecting our community. However, it is disingenuous for the Los Angeles Sheriff Department to expect us to accept as fact every officer involved shooting death as within policy or lawful when the victims are unarmed.

The Los Angeles NAACP strongly believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and this is why we will wait until you complete your internal investigation and public announcement of your finding before we consider asking for a Department of Justice investigation in these and other officer involved shooting by the Los Angeles Sheriff Department.

If it is necessary for the Los Angeles NAACP to further engage the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, it is in the search for the truth and justice for our neighborhood, which we both serve, and the creation of trust and the frank opening of dialogue and discussion of issues that divide us in hopes of uniting us.


Leon Jenkins

President, Los Angeles NAACP

Categories: Local

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