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Sheriff To Order Deputies To Back Off Combative Suspects Until Back-Up Arrives

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Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 12:21 PM
click to enlarge Sheriff Lee Baca.
  • Sheriff Lee Baca.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on Wednesday was expected to initiate a new policy that will have deputies stand off against combative suspects and "contain" them while backup arrives instead of going "hands on," using Tasers or shooting them.

The new directive comes as the department has seen a steep rise in the number deputy involved shootings: 16 in 2009 versus nine in 2009. It's not clear why there's been an increase.

Often, however, deputies are not paired up with others in patrol cars and have to take calls solo, creating scary situations when suspects are not cooperative. (Los Angeles police patrol officers travel in pairs).

The sheriff's department, the nation's largest, covers a vast swath of geography -- 3,171 square miles -- that's larger than many states. It can sometimes take backup units several minutes to arrive as they traverse miles of distance.

What's more, a U.S. district court recently ruled that officers cannot use Tasers to subdue suspects unless the law enforcers are under physical attack. In the past, officers and deputies often used their Tasers to get unruly, drunk and drugged up suspects to comply with orders. Without the ability to use a Taser, a potentially combative suspect could face an officer's gun.

The new policy is designed to reduce the number of deputy involved shootings.

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