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Board requests Sheriff’s Dept. revise policy on alcohol use


Prohibit deputies carrying weapons while drinking

Following a report that cited eight recent incidents involving sheriff’s deputies handling firearms while consuming alcohol, the Board of Supervisors this week requested that the agency revise its policies to include a strict prohibition on deputies carrying weapons while drinking.

The motion also asked that the policy authorize commanders to order alcohol testing of department members suspected of alcohol use, and to take disciplinary actions against any members who refuse to be tested.

The motion requested that sheriff’s officials report back to the board in 90 days to discuss the issue and discuss whether it has agreed to implement the recommended policy changes.

Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, who co-authored the motion with Supervisor Hilda Solis, said she has already discussed the issue with Sheriff Robert Luna, and he is “going to engage in the appropriate processes to evaluate the impacts of this direction.”

“But I believe this is a step in the right direction,” Horvath said.

Solis said she believes that motion has two impacts–to protect department staff and the public from “any potential mishaps ... because of the mixing of firearms and alcohol,” while also identifying department members who may need assistance to deal with dependency issues.

“This topic is a very serious one, no doubt, and it needs to be addressed head-on,” Solis said.

The issue arose from a November report by the county’s Office of Inspector General that identified eight incidents involving deputies and alcohol while in possession of a firearm.

“And even more recently, news reports highlighted an incident involving alleged members of a deputy gang which involved a deputy who had been drinking flashing a handgun when in a dispute with teenagers outside of a bowling alley,” the motion states.

“Many of the incidents referenced in these reports were very dangerous in nature including: firing their weapon negligently, firing ‘warning shots’ at youth, displaying the firearm to threaten others, physical fights while possessing a firearm, driving on the wrong side of the road, losing their firearms, possessing their firearm off-duty without having qualified to do so, and other deeply concerning behavior.”

According to the motion, the current department policy governing off-duty deputies allows a blood-alcohol concentration of up to 0.08–a limit the motion deems to be “too high.” The motion requests that the sheriff revise department policy “to include a strict prohibition against carrying firearms while consuming alcohol, on or off duty.”

The board also requested that the department policy be revised to mandate alcohol testing in all instances of off-duty accidental weapon discharges.

“This is a common-sense policy,” Supervisor Holly Mitchell said. “We should, as a civilized society, have a heightened level of expectation of those who are licensed to carry a firearm. And so I think it’s very reasonable. It was shocking to read about the number of incidents in the OIG report. It’s not just one. there were a series of incidents and it clearly shows a pattern.”

The board approved the motion on a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Janice Hahn abstaining. Hahn said she has “made a real commitment to support the sheriff in how he runs the department,” and she trusted that Luna recognizes the problem cited in the OIG report and would take the appropriate action.