LAPD, sheriff look at off-duty gun policies

first_imgLast year, an off-duty Los Angeles cop was at the Pavilions market in Sherman Oaks when Jonathan F. Reyes walked in and pointed a gun at a clerk. Reyes took cash from one clerk and then moved to another. But that’s when the officer – armed with a concealed gun – shot Reyes. Reyes, 24, of North Hollywood, pleaded no contest last month to two counts of second-degree robbery and was sentenced to 14 years in state prison, District Attorney’s Office spokesman Sandi Gibbons said. The case highlights how off-duty officers carrying weapons can help thwart crimes, but it also is one of a growing number of off-duty shootings involving the Los Angeles Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Since 2000, LAPD officers have been involved in 68 off-duty shootings. Last year, there were 14 off-duty shootings – up from just six the previous year. Nine of the cases involved injuries. In the same period, sheriff’s deputies have been involved in 41 off-duty shootings. Last year, there were seven – up from just four the previous year. Two of the cases involved injuries. The increase comes as law- enforcement officers nationwide have come under increased scrutiny for off-duty shootings and officials try to determine whether it reflects a larger trend. “We’re not sure what the increase is due to,” LAPD Officer April Harding said. “It’s possibly related to the fact there is more violence out there and more robbery incidences. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the number of off-duty shootings has fluctuated in recent years, with the department recording eight in 2001. “Obviously, the Sheriff’s Department takes these cases very seriously, and there is always a shooting review,” Whitmore said. “These shootings are looked at from top to bottom. “But it’s not a spike. And don’t forget that the sheriff’s policy says if you have your badge, you can have your gun.” Most of the recent shootings have been similar to the Pavilions incident, with armed off-duty officers foiling everything from car burglars and bank robbers to drive-by shootings. But in the last decade, several off-duty shootings – including ones involving intoxicated officers – have resulted in discipline and legal payouts. Last year, the city of Los Angeles paid $1.4 million to the son of a Woodland Hills man, Christopher Oliver, who was shot and killed in July 2000 by off-duty LAPD Sgt. Steven Ulrich, according to court records. Oliver had struck several parked vehicles near his home, Woodland Hills attorney Larry Grassini wrote in court records. Ulrich, a neighbor, called 9-1-1 and then ran to the scene, Grassini wrote. According to a 9-1-1 tape, Ulrich shot through the front windshield six times, missing Oliver, Grassini wrote. He then went to the passenger side and fired three more rounds through the window, killing Oliver, Grassini wrote. Before settling the case, the city argued Oliver tried to flee the scene and attempted to evade arrest by putting his vehicle in reverse, Miller wrote. But Grassini said the car was inoperable and that Oliver was trapped inside. Ulrich was not disciplined, Grassini said. Today, Grassini said officers need better training in the use of off-duty weapons. “The policy should be that you don’t take your gun out unless it’s a very, very unusual circumstances and you are actually protecting yourself and others,” Grassini said. LAPD officers and sheriff’s deputies officers are allowed to carry weapons off-duty, but they are required to undergo periodic training courses. Police officers are expected to follow the same policies and procedures off duty as they do while on duty. “A crime can occur anywhere, anytime and any place,” LAPD Lt. Roger Mora said. “And we know that when crimes occur that suspects are often armed with knives and other deadly weapons.” Michael Gennaco, chief attorney of the Office of Independent Review, which oversees internal investigations at the Sheriff’s Department and makes disciplinary recommendations, said a “significant proportion” of officers carry concealed guns at least for some portion of their off-duty hours. Special Counsel Merrick Bobb, who provides semiannual reports to the Board of Supervisors about the Sheriff’s Department, said officers carrying concealed weapons off-duty is fine as long as they are capable of fully performing their duties. “My concerns relate to situations where officers are inebriated and have their guns,” Bobb said. “If they are inebriated, or even had a bit too much to drink, those are the situations where having a gun is dangerous and the risks outweigh the benefits.” In 1996, a federal jury awarded $750,000 to the family of a Rowland Heights man who was killed by an intoxicated, off-duty sheriff’s deputy. In Bobb’s 1997 report, he analyzed 28 off-duty shootings from 1993 to 1996 and found six involved deputies who had been drinking. But Whitmore and Bobb said they are unaware of any similar cases in recent years. The first off-duty sheriff’s case last year involving someone who was shot occurred in October when an intruder broke into the deputy’s home and threatened him. The deputy pulled his gun and shot twice, hitting the suspect once. The suspect fled to a nearby hospital where he was arrested, Whitmore said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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