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Sheriff orders crackdown after alcohol report

June 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sheriff Lee Baca ordered a crackdown after a new report showed drinking is a growing problem among L.A. County deputies. The report, released Wednesday, showed more alcohol-related problems this year already than in all of 2009.In just the first five months of 2010, 33 incidents were reported in which deputies were caught drinking, according to a county report the Office of Independent Review.

"If you're going to have a gun, and you're going to be a deputy sheriff, you have to represent the Sheriff's Department in a way that is reflective of obedience of the law," Baca said.

Baca's intolerance for drinking on the job led to the discharge of one deputy who admitted to putting vodka in his Gatorade when he was supposed to be evacuating residents during the massive Station Fire.

It's an extreme case from a report that primarily cites off-duty deputies drinking, which then escalated into unruly and dangerous behavior.

Baca said he's looking at each case individually, and penalties will range from alcohol counseling to suspension and discharge.

Deputies told ABC7 off-camera on Wednesday that there has been a problem with alcohol in recent years, but said they did not feel it was exclusive to their department. The difference, they say, is the transparency.

Officials said the full disclosure will help curb the alcohol issue.

"The transparency that the Sheriff has allowed the Office of Independent Review to provide, by providing access to the information, allows us to tell the story, and to provide the accountability to the public about one, the issue, and two, how hard the department is working to address the issue," said Mike Genacco of the Office of Independent Review.

Baca has plans to move ahead on tougher policies that would make it easier to discharge a deputy if that person was found to be legally intoxicated while carrying a firearm.


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