Drunken deputy incidents on the rise, new Sheriff's Department report finds [Updated]
As Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies evacuated residents during last year’s Station fire, a training officer with the department noticed a deputy acting strangely. The deputy was stumbling, then he fell over.
[Corrected at 9 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that the people involved were a trainee with the department and one of her superiors.]
He later admitted he was drinking vodka concealed in a Gatorade bottle during the deadly blaze. That incident and others are detailed in an oversight report released Tuesday that highlights the department's struggles with employees who drink on the job or whose drunkenness results in problems off the job.
Alcohol-related incidents involving department employees have increased this year, according to findings released by the Office of Independent Review. There were 33 incidents from January through May, more than in the same period last year, including several cases in which deputies were found drunk on duty.
[Corrected at 8:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that there were 33 alcohol-related incidents since January, more than all of last year.]
Sheriff Lee Baca acknowledged Tuesday that the report shows the ineffectiveness of recent department efforts to crack down on drinking. In 2008, Baca announced plans to bar deputies from carrying firearms while intoxicated.
But the deputies union is fighting the rule, with critics saying it infringes on their rights. Meanwhile the department has taken a softer approach, mandating all employees involved in alcohol-related incidents to meet personally with the department’s second-in-command.
The number of incidents dropped in 2009, only to pick up again this year. On Tuesday, Baca vowed to come down harder on the issue.
The sheriff said he was preparing provisions that would lead to dismissals for off-duty deputies who shoot their weapons or respond belligerently to law enforcement officers while intoxicated. He called on the deputies union “to do what’s right,” referring to their opposition to his ban on carrying firearms while drinking.
Other incidents mentioned in the report include:
* An off-duty deputy was arrested for drinking and driving with her children in the car, and was arrested again months later for another DUI. She was arrested a third time for negligently shooting her gun while off duty and under the influence of alcohol.
* An on-duty deputy was driving a county vehicle to an assignment while under the influence of alcohol. He ran a red light, hitting another vehicle and injuring two passengers.
* A deputy called in sick, but was later found to be out of state. During the trip, she was kicked out of a casino while intoxicated for engaging in overly vulgar behavior during a “booty shaking contest.” The deputy was arrested for trespassing after resisting her removal from the casino.
* Last month Deputy Randy Barragan, 25, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly fired a handgun in the air on Redondo Beach pier after drinking at nearby restaurants. Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Shawn Freeman said Barragan, an off-duty deputy, fired a revolver May 24 while hanging on the pier railing. Barragan's girlfriend knocked the gun out of his hand and nearby fishermen tackled him, according to the report. They held him until officers responding to the scene took him into custody. Freeman said.
* An off-duty deputy was arrested for driving with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. When officers stopper her, she asked to be let off “since she was one of them."
-- Robert Faturechi and Richard Winton