Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca plans to implement one of the nation’s toughest policies barring deputies from carrying firearms when they are under the influence of alcohol, reports the Los Angeles Times. The deputies’ union adamantly opposes any restrictions on a deputy’s ability to carry a weapon while off-duty. Baca said he’s determined to get his way, noting that there has been a “very disturbing” rise in alcohol-related misconduct among his deputies. This year alone, 61 deputies have been arrested on alcohol-related charges. Of those, 39 were accused of driving under the influence, nearly twice the average of recent years. Many of those arrested were armed.
Since 2004, more than a dozen sheriff’s deputies have been involved in incidents in which they were accused of displaying or shooting a gun while under the influence of alcohol. Merrick Bobb, special counsel to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on the Sheriff’s Department, said Baca’s proposed policy would place the department at the forefront of an issue that has long been recognized as a problem for law enforcement. “It has not received the attention it deserves,” said Bobb, who first raised the issue of off-duty shootings and alcohol in the mid-1990s, when he analyzed 28 shootings and found that six involved deputies who had been drinking. “It is not only alcohol but prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications,” Bobb said. “They can all hurt the ability of an officer to make judgments.”