April 17, 2014
City News Service
An attorney responsible for monitoring reforms of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said this week that revisions to the definition of unreasonable force in the department’s policy manual and the procedures for investigating use-of-force incidents are in the works. Reporting to the Board of Supervisors, Richard Drooyan said the changes are required as a result of an August 2013 ruling, in which the California Supreme Court concluded that a police officer’s tactical decisions before a shooting “are relevant considerations” when determining if the officer was negligent. The court’s ruling in Hayes v. County of San Diego “does represent a significant change and broadens liability under California law so that an officer can be found liable for negligent tactics leading up to the force incident,” he said.
Prior to the Hayes ruling, courts generally focused on the narrow question of whether an officer faced a threat of serious bodily injury or death at the moment he or she used force. Drooyan said he expects the sheriff’s department to provide him with the revised policy within the next couple of days. The sheriff’s response to the Hayes decision mirrors a similar effort in the city of Los Angeles, where the Police Commission in February approved expanding reviews of police shootings to consider whether an officer’s actions fueled the use of deadly force.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said she was concerned about the potential for increasing the county’s liability in litigation over use-of-force incidents.
“We are now in a whole new era in the use of excessive force,” she said. “It’s so dramatic. It’s like an about-face in the way this county has been doing it.”
Molina said she would like to know how quickly the new policy would be incorporated into deputies’ training and “what that training will be.”
She also suggested that the County Counsel conduct a review of excessive force complaints that have been brought since the Hayes decision.
“We’re on track to go one way, and now there’s a whole new standard that is being applied,” she said. Changes to the use-of-force policy were included in the recommendations for reforming the department that were made in 2012 by the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence.