Deputies Involved In 62,000 Criminal Cases Shown To Be Liars, Frauds, Domestic Abusers, And Sexual Predators
from the all-hail-the-Good-Guys dept
If you had evidence an opposing witness in a criminal trial was untrustworthy, you’d want to use it, right? Too bad says the local law enforcement union. And too bad says a California court. The issue at hand is the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s “Brady” list. “Brady” is shorthand for exculpatory evidence and untrustworthy law enforcement officers called to provide testimony certainly falls under that heading.
After Sheriff Lee Baca resigned in disgrace following his department’s implication in widespread jailhouse corruption and its tendency to hire some of the worst people possible to staff its jail, new sheriff Jim McDonnell wanted to make this list of questionable officers public. He wanted to hand it to prosecutors so they’d know which deputies to avoid if they wanted honest, untainted testimony. He didn’t go so far as to offer the same list to defense attorneys, but it was one step further than any sheriff before him had taken.
The sheriff’s union sued, claiming handing the Brady list to prosecutors violated state confidentiality laws. In July, the LA County Appeals Court agreed with the union. The case has been taken up by the California Supreme Court, but it won’t be discussed or decided until next year. Meanwhile, the ~300 deputies whose names are on the Brady list may have been witnesses in a combined 62,000 cases since 2000. And still, nobody is allowed to access their disciplinary files.
The Los Angeles Times has obtained copies of the 2014 version of the list. (It does not say how it obtained these, so its presumably a leak.) In it are details of hundreds of acts of misconduct, all relating to “moral” issues which could conceivably be used to cast doubt on these deputies’ credibility. The documents contain many more details, but this quick rundown by the Times scratches the surface of the secret Brady list. [h/t CJ Ciaramella]
One deputy on the list endangered the lives of fellow officers and an undercover informant when he warned a suspected drug dealer’s girlfriend that the dealer was being watched by police.
Another pepper-sprayed an elderly man in the face and then wrote a false report to justify arresting him.
A third pulled over a stranger and received oral sex from her in his patrol car.
The list also includes several deputies still with the department who were convicted of crimes — one for filing a false arrest report and another who was charged with domestic battery but pleaded no contest to a lesser offense. In other cases, prosecutors sharply criticized the deputies’ actions but declined to pursue criminal charges against them.
Accusations of dishonesty lead the way, composing 69% of all misconduct allegations. Dishonesty is exactly what you don’t want from your prosecution witnesses, and a track record of dishonest behavior should be enough to make any testimony given suspect. Unfortunately, the documents are still officially secret, shielded from public access by California law and an appeals court decision.
But the misdeeds detailed in the document make you wonder why the LASD hasn’t kicked many of these deputies to the curb. It’s not just a problem for testimony in criminal cases. It’s also a terrible business practice when you’re in the business of serving the public. When your job is literally law enforcement, the lax internal enforcement of actual laws encourages further misconduct and abuse, and destroys your relationship with the communities you serve.