Record numbers may force DA Jan Scully to resume investigation of officer-caused shootings and deaths

L.A. County law enforcement serves roughly 10 million residents. Sacramento County law enforcement serves roughly 600 thousand. Adjusting for size, if L.A. County officers shot and killed its residents at the Sacramento County rate, they would kill 200 people a year rather than 30….

Reporter Kim Minugh and a second Sacramento Bee editorial in the last few days examine the astonishing rate at which law enforcement is shooting and killing Sacramento County residents, and also examine District Attorney Jan Scully’s refusal to investigate.

According the the Bee editorial, “shootings by sheriff’s deputies have jumped to historic levels in Sacramento County.”[1] As Minugh reports, the first five months of 2012 alone there have been 10 shootings, involving 18 officers, with the result of six dead Sac County residents and three injured.[2]

Even County law enforcement, much to their credit, wants independent reviews of shootings. Although “in-house investigations and a review by the Sheriff’s Department’s appointed inspector general concluded all of the shootings appear to be justified,” notes the Bee, “to protect their own credibility, Sheriff Scott Jones, his inspector general and even the sheriff’s deputies union leader have all said they want independent reviews.”[3]

In its strongest statement to date, the Bee declares

    District Attorney Jan Scully needs to reconsider her decision to stop investigating police shootings. Officers who shoot people in the line of duty need to know their actions will be scrutinized, and so does the public.[4]

If nothing else, Sheriff Jones, like any other good egg in law enforcement, realizes that the rotten ones in his department will make everyone else seem to stink. Residents of Sacramento County, like most people, have at least an inkling of how difficult, stressful, and life-threatening are the jobs of law enforcement. Most people understand that if a cop feels that its his or her life, or the life of a partner, versus the life of a suspect… well, that’s no choice at all. Most people also understand that every job has a few employees who should not be there. And when that job involves carrying a gun, then it’s absolutely crucial that rotten eggs are sorted. Residents of Sacramento County need to know that they cannot be gunned down by incompetent, rogue, or rotten cops with the blessing of the District Attorney.

7X MORE DEADLY THAN L.A. COUNTY: STAGGERING NUMBERS IN CONTEXT

Minugh’s excellent 1300-word article, “Surge seen in shootings by Sacramento County deputies” (June 8, 2012) provides some numbers on Sac County shootings by officers. “Less than six months into 2012,” writes Minugh, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies are “already surpassing their 10-year record for the number of officer-involved shootings in a year.” Writes Minugh:

    It’s a sharp uptick when compared to years past. The Sheriff’s Department, which serves 627,000 people in unincorporated Sacramento County and Rancho Cordova, has averaged about six shootings a year in the last decade, with a record nine in 2006. In 2011, there were five, three of them fatal.[5]

According to the Associated Press article published two days after Minugh’s article and the Sac Bee editorial, Los Angeles County has also seen a drastic increase not only in shootings by officers, but deaths of alleged suspects.

    The number of “suspects” killed by police in Los Angeles County has risen nearly 70 percent in 2011 over the previous year. The Los Angeles Times reports Sunday that 54 people were killed by law enforcement in 2011 countywide.[6] [NB: 22% of those killed were unarmed.–CP]

While 70% is indeed a drastic increase, it seems negligible next to Sacramento County’s numbers.

Let us break it down:

L.A. County law enforcement serves roughly 10 million residents. Sacramento County law enforcement serves roughly 600 thousand.

If LA County’s 54 dead represent a 70% increase, then the prior year’s rate (we’ll pretend it’s the “normal” rate) is roughly 30 residents killed by police per year. Thus the “normal” L.A. rate is 30 dead out of 10 million, per year.

The current figure for Sacramento County law enforcement is 6 dead out of 600 thousand, in six months. If this rate continues, then, there will be 12 dead out of 600 thousand for the year.

Thus, if we compare L.A. County’s “normal” rate” with Sac County’s current rate, we find

  •     If LA officers killed residents at the Sac rate, they would kill 200 people a year rather than 30.
  •     If LA was experiencing the Sac County rate, the headline would not have said “LA Co. fatal police shootings rise by 70 percent” but would have said “LA Co. fatal police shootings rise by 566 percent.”
  •     If we adjust for jurisdiction sizes, then Sac County officers shoot and between 6 and 7 persons for every one person shot and killed by LA County officers.

Go figure.

JANUS-FACED SCULLY’S PRIORITY PROBLEMS

Regardless of the death toll in Sacramento County—or the fact that families of victims such as Lamont Harmon and Jonathan Rose, et al, are twice victimized by the County, left to scrape funds together by themselves to try to investigate the deaths of these unarmed men—District Attorney Jan Scully “has no intention of reversing her decision,” we learn, in Minugh’s recent article.

“I don’t want anybody to have the impression that I don’t think officer-involved reviews are important,” Scully tells Minugh, as if such an “impression” might be based on a misunderstanding of the DA’s intentions, rather than the fact that she refuses to help the families of the victims.

“I want to be able to meet that need,” Scully says, before adding the “but….”

Only, Scully’s “but” makes no sense at all.

“But I have to first of all meet my mandated responsibility to this community, and that’s to prosecute crimes and hold people accountable.”[7]

“To prosecute crimes and hold people accountable” is, of course, precisely what she is being asked to do—rather than drawing the line at potential crimes committed by law enforcement officers themselves. In any other circumstance, an unarmed person gunned down in the street (or in their own home) would be investigated by LE and her office.

Moreover, and perhaps most insulting to the families of the victims, Scully made clear just a few days ago that she is still very much interested in investigating wrongdoing by officers—provided, it would appear, the alleged crime is workers’ compensation fraud rather than shooting unarmed black men, or the mentally ill.

As noted here, a few days ago, Scully kicked off June 2012—exactly a year after she announced she’d no longer investigate shooting deaths—by announcing that she had filed felony charges against a now-retired officer in the California Highway Patrol. The officer’s alleged crime? Collecting checks for a back injury that DA Scully says isn’t injured enough.

The officer was “captured on surveillance video-tape lifting 30-pound objects and moving furniture,” announced the press release from Scully’s office.

Although DA Scully appears resolutely unmoved even when officers gun down the unarmed and the mentally ill, Scully announced on June 8 that “felony workers’ compensation insurance fraud” and “attempted perjury” had moved her to file felony charges against a retired officer for the CHP.

According to Scully’s press release, the charges followed an investigation, complete with videotaped surveillance, of the officer with the maybe-not-so-bad back, courtesy of CHP’s hitherto-obscure “Office of Internal Affairs Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Investigation Unit.”[8]

Scully did not disclose how much this thorough “bad back investigation” had cost the County already, prior to trial, but Sac County residents can only assume it costs less than what it costs to investigate the staggering number of officer-involved maimings and killings of legally innocent and often unarmed citizens of Sacramento County.

___________________________________________

[1] “Editorial: Shooting spike is a worrisome trend that goes beyond deputies.” The Sacramento Bee. Jun. 10, 2012 http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/10/4549087/shooting-spike-is-a-worrisome.html
[2] Minugh, Kim. “Surge seen in shootings by Sacramento County deputies.” The Sacramento Bee. Jun. 8, 2012. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/08/4547178/surge-seen-in-shootings-by-sacramento.html
[3] “Editorial…”
[4] “Editorial…”
[5] Minugh.
[6] “LA Co. fatal police shootings rise by 70 percent.” The Associated Press. Jun. 10, 2012. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/10/4551841/la-co-fatal-police-shootings-rise.html
[7] Minugh.
[8] Lindelof, Bill. “Former CHP officer faces fraud charges in Sacramento.” The Sacramento Bee. June 8, 2012. http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archives/2012/06/former-chp-officer-faces-fraud-charges-in-sacramento.html

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