The Sheriff’s Deputies Are Using More Force Than the Law Allows

The Sheriff's Deputies Are Using More Force Than the Law Allows

Editorial: You owe another $5 for excessive force by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. Pay up.

How could a public official use more than the 10-hour limit imposed by a state law and engage in a “whip-cracking game of chicken”? That is at the heart of the complaint against Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and 16 of his deputies filed in federal court last week.

It’s a complaint that’s hard to take seriously, because it ignores the facts. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that the L.A. County sheriff’s deputies did not intentionally use force more than permitted by the law. Instead, the deputies acted in an arbitrary and excessive manner as it’s well understood in law enforcement and the military: They could not predict what they would encounter in the field and didn’t have a plan in place for dealing with it.

As to the allegation that Baca ordered deputies to use more force than the law allows, the deputies were told to use what they needed for the situation at hand. Deputy David Sommers was in a helicopter at the time and thought he saw a man with a gun after dark. He thought he saw a gun in the hand of the suspect, who turned out to be a man sitting in a van and carrying a backpack, rather than a gun. It was dark, and he never had a chance to point the gun. But the whole incident had the feel of a military training in which “you have a plan for anything.”

Sommers, who later testified that he had no idea that he would be fired, wrote in an e-mail that he was in “a very stressful situation.” Yet at the time he fired, according to his own testimony, Sommers had just spent two hours chasing after an armed suspect who had tried to stop at a convenience store where he had two cans of beer.

The complaint also contains a claim that Baca’s deputies “disparaged

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