October 8, 2007

Another Sheriff debacle in taxpayers laps

The Lakewood Sheriff's must have known this contest was going to get exposed/leaked at some point and given the general mistrust of law enforcement in general (post OJ) did they not think that the people arrested would try to use any angle to get out of the arrests? I guess now the the sheriffs will be busy once again re opening all these cases and responding to subpoenas from defense attorneys. May even get some taxpayer paid overtime out of it. Brilliant foresight on the part of Sheriff leadership. "The sheriff has never been shy about having anybody review anything," Steve Whitmore said. "These are good, solid arrests." Uh not the point Mr. Whitmore. The point is that they all now have to be opened up and re-investigated as people have lost faith in law enforcements objectivity (no help from Atty Gen. Alberto Gonzales either). This is why law enforcement's good works is constantly challenged. This is why the ACLU gets lots of donations. Thats the point. These guys dont get it. Screw up after screw up and this is just the stuff the media CATCHES! Imagine what we dont see? This is why the inability to terminate government employees is a very bad thing. At the end of the day they just shrug their shoulders and say "hey not our problem".

From the Los Angeles Times
Sheriff's Department's arrest contests to be investigated
Public defender's office plans challenges to cases stemming from a contest Aug. 15 at the Lakewood station geared to boost deputies' productivity.

By Matt Lait and Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

October 5, 2007

The Los Angeles County public defender's office on Thursday launched an investigation into arrests made two months ago by sheriff's deputies participating in a five-city competition to book as many suspects as possible during a 24-hour period.

Public Defender Michael P. Judge said his office would review all the arrests made Aug. 15 -- the day of one of the competitions -- and challenge the merits of the cases in court.

"Our contention is that the activities of the deputies may not have been prompted by what they saw but rather by the pressure of producing greater arrest numbers for the competition," Judge said.

The competition in question was dubbed "Operation Any Booking" and was initiated by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department lieutenant who said he wanted to increase the productivity and boost the morale of some deputies in the Lakewood station, which serves the southeast Los Angeles County cities of Lakewood, Bellflower, Paramount, Artesia and Hawaiian Gardens.

The deputies making the most arrests in those cities won "bragging rights," Lt. James Tatreau told The Times earlier this week.

Tatreau said he helped organize that and other monthly competitions, including a contest to see how many vehicles deputies could impound in a single night, as well as how many "field interviews" of gang members and other suspected criminals deputies could conduct during a 24-hour period.

Sheriff Lee Baca called for an end to the competitions after learning about them from Times reporters Wednesday. A spokesman for Baca said Thursday that the sheriff was not concerned about the public defender's inquiry.

"The sheriff has never been shy about having anybody review anything," Steve Whitmore said. "These are good, solid arrests."

According to statistics produced by the Sheriff's Department as part of a public records request, there were 28 arrests on the night of Operation Any Booking. That figure matched the average number of arrests made throughout the month.

However, department officials acknowledged that the other contests regarding vehicle impounds and field interviews resulted in dramatic increases in those activities. For example, the five cities in which deputies ordered vehicles impounded had 37 vehicles towed during the day of the competition, compared to an average daily total of 4.7 vehicles.

Judge said that even though the statistics did not show an increase in the arrest numbers during the competition, that did not necessarily mean the figures weren't inflated.

"It could have been a really slow night," Judge said.

Judge said he did not know how many of the cases from Aug. 15 were still pending or how many involved clients of the public defender's office.

"That's what we're trying to ascertain," he said. If there still are active cases, Judge said he believed the revelations of the contest would be "ripe material for cross-examination" of the arresting deputies.

Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson said she was not surprised Judge had launched an investigation.

"The sheriff basically handed him this opportunity," she said.

But Levenson said she thought the public defender would be fighting an uphill battle to have any cases overturned absent solid evidence that the deputies had done something wrong.

"Officers can have all the wrong motives, but they're still legal stops as long as there were objective facts to support reasonable suspicion or probable cause," said Levenson, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.

She said Judge and his colleagues could also try to argue that they would have been better able to defend their clients had they known about the contests and used them to challenge officers' credibility in court.

Getting information out of the Sheriff's Department absent a court order may also be a problem, Levenson predicted.

"It's not easy to get somebody to go back and reopen an investigation," she said.

The story about the contest, published Wednesday and also posted on www.latimes.com generated more than 200 e-mails from around Southern California and across the country. Many people condemned the contests and the Sheriff's Department. But many others supported the competitions and praised Tatreau by name, some saying that he should be promoted for his innovative approach to policing.


Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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