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Shootings by L.A. Deputies Decreased 22% in 1992

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block on Wednesday reported a 22% drop in the number of citizens hurt or killed in shootings by his deputies last year.

A total of 49 people were shot by deputies last year; in 1991, 63 were shot. Eighteen of the 1992 shootings were fatal, down from the 23 fatal shootings by deputies the year before.

The Sheriff’s Department last year came under increasing scrutiny after a number of controversial deputy-involved shootings. Those shootings, which occurred in August, 1991, led to changes last year that included more intensive investigations and the firing of at least 11 deputies judged to have engaged in excessive use of force. But Block, at his monthly news conference, said those measures had “absolutely not” affected the number of shootings in 1992.

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The key factor, he said, is that his force has been using new, non-lethal alternatives to firing bullets at threatening suspects, and it is experimenting with others.

Rubber and plastic projectiles are being used in some instances, and deputies in some cases are beginning to use shotguns that fire beanbags at suspects. The department also has been testing the use of pepper spray, an incapacitating chemical akin to mace, he said.

Block also announced that while gang-related homicides in all police jurisdictions throughout the county exceeded 800 for the first time in 1992, such homicides in areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department went down slightly, from 207 in 1991 to 187 in 1992.

In addition, the sheriff revealed that the jail at the downtown Hall of Justice, in operation since 1925, will be closed on Feb. 28, and its inmate population, which ranges between 1,200 and 1,500, will be placed throughout the county’s various jail facilities.

Block is relocating his administrative headquarters, which is on the lower floors of the Hall of Justice, to the Ameron building in Monterey Park. He has explained that the Hall of Justice has grown so dilapidated that it costs millions of dollars a year simply to maintain it.

The approximately 150 deputies who work in the jail on guard duty will be transferred to a number of jail facilities, which have been plagued in recent months by fights between black and Latino inmates, Block said.

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