Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials are revisiting the department’s policy governing when and how deputies can use physical force, in light of a court ruling last year that officers can be held liable even for actions that led up to a shooting.
The daughter of Shane Hayes, a mentally ill man who was shot and killed in his home by San Diego County sheriff’s deputies after brandishing a knife, filed a wrongful death suit against the department. She argued that the deputies provoked the confrontation that led to the shooting.
The California Supreme Court ruled last August that officers’ “tactical conduct and decisions preceding the use of deadly force are relevant considerations” in deciding whether the officers were negligent in a deadly force case.
The Los Angeles Police Commission revised its rules governing use of force cases in February to say that a shooting can be found in violation of the department’s deadly force policy if an officer’s mishandling of the situation led to the shooting. Previously, the commission had generally focused on whether the officer was threatened immediately before he shot his gun.
Richard Drooyan, who was appointed to oversee reforms in the county jails, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that he had proposed similar changes to the county sheriff’s use of force manual.
Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald said the department is working on policy revisions. She said a department committee that reviews use-of-force cases already looks at deputies’ behavior leading up to the physical confrontation.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said she thought county lawyers should also take another look at excessive force cases filed against the county, in light of the court ruling.
“We are now in a whole new era in the use of excessive force,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s probably going to escalate and increase our liability.”