L.A. Sheriff’s Lt.: Consider Suspect’s Career Potential In Arrests


A Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant sent a memo to deputies encouraging them to consider an individual’s past and career potential before making a felony arrest, says the Los Angeles Times. Lt. Bill Evans offered the hypothetical example of a student “who seems like a decent kid” from a nearby Christian university caught with an illegal folding pocket knife. “Are you really going to put a felony on this guy,” Evans asked. “Here is a kid that could have been planning on going into the military, being a cop or fireman, and/or just being a guy with a career.”
Merrick Bobb, an attorney who monitors the Sheriff’s Department, said he agreed with the memo’s general message that police do not have to cite every lawbreaker they come across. He described discretion in police work as a “two-edged sword.” “What if the same kid was a black student with long dreadlocks []? What if the same kid was a Latino and undocumented? A single-parent with a young child at home?” Bobb said. “I would hope the same ability to empathize and exercise compassionate discretion would be triggered in those instances also.” Hubert Williams of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation said that when making arrests, police should consider the behavior, not the individual. “The moment you start saying ‘take the individual into account,’ you’ve opened the door to allow bias into the decision-making process,” Williams said.

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