February 17, 2009

Taser Reunion.

Talk about timing. Well obviously the filing of this Dupree taser lawsuit could not have been a coincidence. On the heels of the February 14, 2009 taser death in Lakewood here comes the Federal lawsuit for last years screw up which paralyzed the victim. Sheriff's Baca's former bodyguard made the call to use the taser. Seriously you could write novels and TV shows using the real life antics of the Sheriff's Department. As long as there is no crime or serious incidents they are fine. But once something happens that requires command decisions or judgement or follow thru, look out. Disaster is just around the corner. But hey no worries. The taxpayers just bail out the Sheriff's and the screw up officers move on to their next screw up. Great system. Cost effective too.

We keep saying it over and over. The screwups have to go. These are the same types of screwups that started this website in March 2006. That was when the Sheriff's could not connect the dots on "fireworks man" Brian Miller who finally blew his house up with illegal fireworks and damaged others. Many people filed complaints for years. Nothing happened. The same incompetence is at work with Dupree. Even if these incidents dont affect you directly they are getting costly for us to pay as this all gets added to Lakewood's "LASD bill" at the end of the year. This and all the screw ups from the rest of the other LASD stations. So what can we do? Nothing I guess as our city council is powerless over them or fearful of them (apparently) and one of their own sits on the city council so its a little hard for the City Council to criticise LASD. Internal investigations are a complete waste of time unless outside investigators are involved. I don't know what it is. I would like to blame management but I don't think that is all of it. I think its just poor training, too large of an agency, poor over sight and management practices due to poor management vision, an aging infrastructure built upon unnecessary secrecy, and people that are just not qualified to do the job, which is sad given that they are some of the highest paid in the country.

The information below is from www.officer.com/online/article.jsp?siteSection=1&id=45457 (a pro police website) LAAG comments are in italics

On Tuesday [2/17/09], sheriff's officials said five deputies, including a lieutenant, were disciplined for their roles in the case. The lieutenant was demoted to the rank of sergeant, officials said. [LAAG: this incident occurred in Feb 2007 and the deputies were just now disciplined TWO years later? Or was that just an announcement date? If the latter when exactly did the internal investigation conclude?]

Michael Gennaco, head of the Office of Independent Review, which monitors the Sheriff's Department, said the top supervisor was demoted for his actions in approving the Taser usage because the decision "fell below the performance expectations for the department."

Gennaco said the department has since enacted a policy for cell extraction in the station jails to prevent such events from occurring again. "When a Taser is used on someone on top of a bunk, it doesn't take much to realize the outcome will be a person falling," he said. [LAAG: so lets get this straight; the incident is in Feb 2007 and LASD still did not have a policy regarding using a taser in custody situations and they are the largest jailer in the USA? Great management and forethought for one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country. Just wing it I guess and rely on "quick thinking" deputies and the taxpayers to "remedy" bad situations]

Man paralyzed in Taser incident sues L.A. County Sheriff's Department
12:36 PM, February 17, 2009

A man left paralyzed below the chest after he fell from the top bunk of a jail bed at the Lakewood sheriff's station when a deputy used a stun gun on him sued the department today for violating his civil rights.

Blake Dupree filed the federal lawsuit for battery, assault and negligence against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, several deputies and two sheriff’s supervisors for the incident, much of which was captured on videotape. The two supervisors are the subject of an internal misconduct investigation for authorizing the use of a stun gun because Dupree refused to come out of his cell and submit to electronic fingerprinting.

According to the lawsuit, Dupree was standing from four to seven feet above the concrete jail floor on a bunk with his hands raised in a defensive posture Feb. 27, 2007, when he was stunned with a Taser gun, which delivers a 50,000-volt shock. The suit alleges Dupree fell and, instead of giving him medical treatment, sheriff’s supervisors ordered him to stand up and deputies carried him to the fingerprint area and dumped him on the floor.

“Defendants’ actions rendered Plaintiff paraplegic. Plaintiff has no use of his mid to lower torso or legs, and limited use of his arms,” wrote Dupree's attorney, Justin Sanders. "Deputies knew Dupree’s muscles would be incapacitated by the electro-muscular disruption of the Taser rendering him unable to break his fall."

Sheriff Lee Baca told The Times last year that "common sense" should have dictated that using the Taser on Dupree was inappropriate while he was on the bunk and likely to fall as a result of being shocked. The suit was filed after settlement negotiations broke down with the 22-year-old Dupree in Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey.

After the incident, the Sheriff’s Department launched an investigation to determine whether use of the Taser violated department policy, Sanders said. Department rules prohibit using the device on "persons in danger of falling or becoming entangled in machinery or heavy equipment which could result in death or serious bodily injury."

Despite the prohibition, the policy allows for supervisors to decide whether use of a Taser is warranted on a case-by-case basis. Lt. James Tatreau Jr., who authorized the use of the device on Dupree, was reassigned to administrative duties along with an unnamed sergeant. Tatreau, a former driver and bodyguard for Baca, had previously organized a game called "Operation Any Booking," in which deputies competed to see how many people they could arrest.

Dupree had been arrested after he allegedly took his mother’s car without her permission. At the jail, he acted erratically and refused to cooperate, deputies said. According to Sheriff’s Department reports obtained by The Times, Dupree was given a verbal warning by Tatreau, who had conferred with the sergeant on the scene, and a deputy was ordered to fire the equivalent of a warning shot by activating the Taser, allowing Dupree to hear its buzz.

After the warnings, Dupree stood on the bunk and began to move toward the edge, in the direction of the deputies, according to sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore. It was then that a deputy shot Dupree with the Taser, causing him to fall to the floor.

-- Richard Winton

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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