The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has seen a drop in the percentage of arrests involving use of force by deputies, but more than half of such incidents now involve “significant force,” says the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper quotes a report saying that the trend “may have costly consequences” if left unchecked. The report also describes Sheriff Lee Baca as being trapped between federal court orders to ease overcrowding and improve safety in the 18,000-bed jail system, the nation’s largest, as the department faces criticism for releasing county inmates after they serve fractions of their sentences – a policy intended to ease such overcrowding.
The report found that as arrests have climbed in recent years – from 97,503 in 2000 to 107,579 last year – the percentage of time deputies used force fell. The overall number of incidents involving a deputy’s use of force climbed from 2,233 in 2000 to 2,772 last year. When force was used, it was more likely to result in “visible and verifiable injuries” – 52% of such arrests last year, up from 47% six years ago – a trend the report said was also reflected in data available so far this year. Monitor Merrick Bobb said monitoring deputies’ use of force is key for officials to understand what is going on in the field. “Why are they causing more verifiable and visible injuries and what does that mean? Are there reasonable explanations or is it the start of a worrisome trend?” he asked. “Risk of liability of the department because of use of force is a concern and it also very much affects community relations – the perception of police and the degree to which a community will cooperate or fail to cooperate with the police.”