A landmark reform started 16 years ago by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to weed out problem deputies has been remarkably successful in identifying officers who have the potential for misconduct and excessive force, says a study reported by the Los Angeles Times. It concluded that there is a strong link between the number of complaints filed against a deputy — proved or not — and the possibility that the deputy will eventually get into serious trouble and become a liability for the department.
The monitoring system, which tracks complaints, conduct, and use of force, was established in 1993 after a scathing report by a special commission found a “disturbing” pattern of excessive force and mistreatment of minorities in the Sheriff’s Department. The early-warning system was the first of its kind in the nation, according to Merrick Bobb, special counsel for the county Board of Supervisors. Known as the Personnel Performance Index, the system has succeeded in identifying deputies with a likelihood of getting into trouble and has allowed the department to mentor the officers and monitor their behavior, Bobb said. The study examined the records of 561 deputies and found that officers who had been named in use-of-force complaints, even if the accusations were unproved, were more likely to be involved in shootings and successful lawsuits against the department.