West Hollywood’s City Council Will Be Asked to Look Hard at Sheriff’s Use of Force Policies

The blue columns show total number of uses of force and the orange columns show those that resulted in an injury to the suspect.

Crime and law enforcement in West Hollywood will be one of the major subjects on the City Council’s agenda on Monday, with an update on steps the city has been taking to follow the Obama Foundation’s “Reimagining Policing Pledge” and a report on uses of force by Sheriff’s deputies in WeHo over the last 10 years.

The City Council in June voted to adopt the Reimagining Policing Pledge. The Council also voted to hire an outside consultant to examine law enforcement practices in West Hollywood. The Reimagining Policing Pledge calls on local governments to review local law enforcement agency policies governing the use of force by deputies. It also calls on them to get input from communities about their perspective of and experience with law enforcement. And It says that information should be made public and use of force policies should be reviewed.

An item on Monday’s agenda brought forward by Mayor Lindsey Horvath includes a report of use of force incidents by deputies at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. It shows a tripling over the past 10 years in uses of force by deputies and resultant injuries that must be reported under LASD policy. There were 49 such incidents in 2010, with 16 of them resulting in injuries. There were 153 last year, with 48 of them involving injuries. So far this year there have been only 40 (with seven involving injuries), that low count might be a result of the enormous decline in reports of crimes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sheriff’s Department reports that only four of those 965 incidents where deputies used force (323 of which resulted in injuries to suspects) led to an investigation of a deputy’s action. One of those involved an incident in 2015 in Universal Studios, which the West Hollywood Station also patrols and which may be the location of other reported uses of force.

The report doesn’t offer details about another incident that was investigated, which occurred in 2010. It notes that an incident in 2014 included a deputy-involved shooting was investigated. That is an obvious reference to the shooting by a deputy of 30-year-old John Winkler, who died, and the serious injury to his friend, Liam Mulligan, when they were fleeing an attacker in an apartment building at 939 Palm Ave. There was another incident in West Hollywood, again unidentified, which occurred in 2016. The report doesn’t note the death of 27-year-old Jonathan Pena, who was hit by a patrol car while walking on the sidewalk along Santa Monica Boulevard in October 2015. That incident was referred to the Los Angeles County Highway Patrol for investigation, and no findings have been made public.

The Sheriff’s Department recently said it is investigating another incident that occurred on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood on Sept. 25 that has gotten attention from media across the country and in the U.K. It involved a sheriff’s deputy who was videotaped slamming his riot shield multiple times into the ankles of someone lying on the street. That person apparently had been participating in a demonstration sparked by a Louisville, Ky., grand jury’s decision not to prosecute the police officer who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, in her apartment during a botched drug investigation. WEHOville has been told that that deputy, while he had been working in West Hollywood that night, was not assigned to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. That incident and claims from protestors of improper detainment by Sheriff’s deputies and lack of access of to counsel by those being held by the deputies have also been submitted for review to the L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission and the L.A. County Inspector General.

A clip from a video posted on the Instagram account of cammylala showing a deputy assaulting a man with his riot shield on Sunset Boulevard on Sept. 25.

The report to the City Council notes that 133 claims for damages that apparently involved actions by deputies in West Hollywood have been filed with the Los Angeles County Contract Cities Liability Trust Fund Board and Oversight Commission over the past decade. However not all of those claims involved use of force by deputies. That commission, of which Mayor Horvath is a member, approves the settlement of claims and lawsuits for monetary damages. Those settlements, and payouts to settle lawsuits against the Sheriff’s Department filed by people in the areas of Los Angeles County that the LASD serves, have resulted in an increase in the West Hollywood’s required contribution to the Liability Trust Fund from 4% (550,336) of the cost of the Sheriff’s contract in 2015 to 11% ($1.8 million) this fiscal year. The city pays roughly $19 million a year for services from 64 deputies and other personnel.

While law enforcement agencies are required under state law to disclose reports of discipline of deputies involved in such incidents, Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva has refused to comply with requests for such reports, which has led to the Los Angeles Times and other media organizations suing him. WEHOville in January 2019, filed a request with Villanueva’s office for a report involving possible discipline of the deputies involved in the 939 Palm shooting but still has not received it.

Another report being presented to the City Council includes the L.A. County Inspector General’s analysis of the Sheriff’s Departments use of force policies and how they compare with the recommendations of “8 Can’t Wait,” which is a project of Campaign Zero, a non-profit organization that works to end police violence in the United States. 8 Can’t Wait is a list of eight policies that those working to reduce police violence say should be immediately adopted by law enforcement agencies. It says law enforcement agencies must have policies that:

  • Require inclusion of a duty to intervene
  • Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
  • Require de-escalation
  • Require a use of force continuum
  • Require warning before shooting
  • Ban shooting at moving vehicles
  • Exhaust alternatives before shooting
  • Require comprehensive reporting of use of force incidents
8 Can’t Wait’s eight policy reforms

The Inspector General’s report notes that while the LASD says its policies largely comply with those recommended by 8 Can’t Wait, in many instances they don’t. It notes, for example, that the Sheriff’s Department has said that “LASD personnel are not authorized to use chokeholds, strangleholds, or the carotid restraints (performed with legs, knees, or feet).” But on the other hand, Sheriff Villanueva has said that carotid restraints, which temporarily cut off blood flow to the brain and are meant to render a subject unconscious for a time, can be used in exceptional circumstances.

Also the Sheriff’s Department says deputies should not shoot at a car or other vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is threatening the deputy with a weapon other than the car itself. “The LASD policy while discouraging shooting at a moving vehicle does not ban the practice,” says the Inspector General’s report. This policy is a good example of having a policy that is not adhered to and deputies who shoot at vehicles are not generally found to be in violation of it or held accountable.”

The report presented to the City Council asks that it consider the following questions:

  • What is the current formal written LASD use of force policy? Does the policy exist in some alternative format, for example, on Twitter? Is the policy readily accessible to the public? Does it conform to the practices of the LASD Deputies? Is the LASD use of force policy in compliance with recent changes in state laws regarding law enforcement use of force policies?
  • Does the LASD have formal written policies that reflect the minimal best practices outlined in the “8 Can’t Wait” recommendations, and are those best practices enough to address use of force issues within the Department?
  • Should the city advocate for changes to the LASD use of force policies? If yes, what are those changes?
  • Should the city consider amending its contract with the LASD to include requirements for compliance with the policy recommendations regarding use of force by law enforcement as part of our commitment to the Obama Foundation’s Reimagining Policing Pledge?
  • What is the record of the LASD in holding Sheriff’s deputies responsible for compliance with the use of force policies? What is the record of the LASD with respect to the outcomes of investigated incidents? When a deputy is found to have been out of compliance with the LASD policy, how is the deputy held accountable?
  • How does the LASD data regarding the prevalence of use of force incidents and the investigations of use of force incidents in West Hollywood compare with data for similar jurisdictions whether under the patrol of the LASD or another law enforcement agency?
  • How and where is the LASD data regarding use of force incidents and investigations stored? Is this un-redacted data available to the cities that contract with LASD? What level of access does the City Council have to this data in order to make informed policy decisions for West Hollywood public safety measures?
  • What is the process for a member of the public to file a complaint regarding a use of force incident? How are such complaints evaluated and adjudicated? For these complaints from the public, are the individual case results or the aggregate results released to the complainant or to the public?
  • What is the administrative review process for use of force cases? What kinds of information prompt an administrative investigation into a use of force? Would it be desirable for the city to urge the LASD to make available publicly the transparent practices for use of force reporting at our local station? How does the LASD guarantee accountability in the administrative investigation process?
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Steve Martin
Steve Martin
26 days ago

Other than an interaction I had prior to West Hollywood becoming a City my interactions with the Sheriff have all been positive. But I know that is not true for everyone in the City, including those two young men living on Palm Avenue who were shot be Sheriff’s deputies during a “hostage” situation. The County paid out millions and the incident reflected gross incompetence on the part of the Department. But what saddened me most the was complete silence on the part of the City Council to this tragedy. We are quick to be critical of police misconduct else where… Read more »

Jay
Jay
24 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Well stated Steve!

JF1
JF1
27 days ago

The vast majority of interaction with the sheriffs department with the public is uneventful. Small percentage that has issue is the same percentage of people that resist arrest and commit crimes. How about reforming those people. Sick and tired of the press sympathies laying with the people that commit crimes. How about more positive reporting on all the good sheriffs department does in keeping everyone safe. And to our elected officials who are pandering to this small but very vocal group of people- stop it. Start supporting and siding on the side of the law.

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
27 days ago
Reply to  JF1

It’s not profiling, ….. it’s probability!

Erik Jon Schmidt
Erik Jon Schmidt
27 days ago

The body cams should help. But, let’s not kid ourselves, the cams can be shut off at any time and they can be edited. They should not be able to shut them off and they should be turned over to a civilian review board at the end of every shift, even before the Captain sees them. If the Deputies did noting wrong, they should be more than willing to turn them over to a civilian review board at the end of their shift.

WeholdTheseTruths
WeholdTheseTruths
27 days ago

The anti-police bias on this site is disgusting.

Earl Eason
Earl Eason
27 days ago

How is reporting facts provided by the Sheriff’s Department evidence that Wehoville is biased against the police?

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
27 days ago
Reply to  Earl Eason

because it’s a false narrative…..leaving out the 99% of positive police actions.

Earl Eason
Earl Eason
27 days ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

I don’t think the Sheriff’s Department was asked to provide a list of all positive actions by its deputies over the past 10 year. I am guessing that is because people are more concerned by violent actions rather than positive actions.

The police themselves are more concerned about non-positive actions. I don’t think they arrest people for smiling and being polite, do they/. But I think they do arrest people for assaulting others.

JF1
JF1
27 days ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

Yup.

Art
Art
27 days ago
Reply to  Earl Eason

Exactly!

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
27 days ago

My man you’re getting mad about the facts, not the reporting

Jay
Jay
27 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Poster

Touché!

WeholdTheseTruths
WeholdTheseTruths
27 days ago

Everyone make sure to blame Wehoville when criminals are looting their businesses and there is no one to help.

Last edited 27 days ago by WeholdTheseTruths
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