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New manual aims to reduce deputy shootings

February 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A series of deputy involved shootings has led to a policy change for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.The goal is to lower the risk of violence, by changing the way deputies immediately deal with suspects.

The change came as community activists demanded that the Sheriff's Department review when not to and when to chase armed suspects and also when to fire on suspects. But L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca went one step further and changed the policy.

With a row of deputies behind him Baca handed down the new policy aimed at reducing shootings by deputies.

Last year a rash of deputy involved shootings ended in the deaths of several suspects. One of the most controversial of the shootings occurred nearly five months ago when a deputy shot and killed 36-year-old Darrick Collins during a chase in Athens, near downtown L.A. The deputy thought Collins had a gun, but the object turned out to be a cell phone.

Baca introduced a new training manual titled "Split Second Decision." The book instructs deputies to avoid chasing armed suspects and instead encouraging them to contain an armed bandit and then call for backup.

"This is a training document that every deputy will be exposed to," said Baca. "There are scenarios in the book that will establish in the reader's mind that the options to take when a person is armed or believed to be armed are many."

The office of independent review and the Sheriff's Department worked together to complete the training manual.

"When dealing with a perceived armed suspect, sworn members shall be cautiously persistent in performing their duties. Consistent with this philosophy while every situation is not absolute, in many cases, it may be sager to chase to contain rather than chase to apprehend. This policy will be considered when assessing the tactical performance of deputies involved in deadly force situations," a paragraph in the book reads.

Baca said the new policies will help better protect deputies as well as show the public that the department isn't afraid to make changes when necessary.

"What they really want is for the deputies to not carelessly shoot their guns. That is the thing that the public wants," said Baca. "Don't carelessly shoot your gun. Have a sense of precision in your decision making."

Sheriff officials say the new policy is the first of its kind in the country.