OC's Sheriff is Lagging in His Release of Deputy Misconduct Records. Here’s Why.
A Voice of OC report says the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is dragging its feet in providing police misconduct records after failing to convince the courts to prevent their release.
The OCSD lost the case in February. But since then, not one police misconduct record has been released under the terms of SB 1421. The reason: an inadequate number of staff to field the large volume of requests.
That shortage runs contrary to county attorneys’ assurances in court that a robust effort was in place to achieve timely gathering of the records.
“Turns out, that robust County of Orange effort is essentially one staffer, the Public Records Unit Manager at the Sheriff’s Department and one County Counsel,” writes Voice of OC founding publisher Norberto Santana Jr.
It could be years before OCSD fulfills the requests, he added. When the records are released, hasty work and a shortage of personnel make mistakes like improper redactions more likely.
Santana says he reached out to Sheriff Don Barnes but got no response. In an email, Barnes’ office said it is working on the legally required redactions and will release the records as soon as possible.
A skeptical Santana believes the sooner, the better. Use of force incidents involving OCSD have cost taxpayers more than $48 million since 2000 and $92 million since 1990.
“Considering the costs for taxpayers and residents, the implications of this kind of laziness is staggering and scary. Given those implications and the lack of political courage to question law enforcement in Orange County by politicians and taxpayer-funded institutions like the County Office of Independent Review, Voice of OC will continue to stand up and look into these cases, applying the new state law, SB 1421, to better understand what kind of abuses of authority or mistakes have occurred in the past, what the impact has been on residents and taxpayers and what reforms have occurred as a result of investigations.”