Inspector general frustrated by sheriff’s lack of compliance

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station
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Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman expressed concerns Wednesday over the Sheriff’s Department conducting its own policy review and investigation into the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station incident last week, as Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed one of the responding local deputies has been removed from the field. 

On Tuesday, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger requested that Huntsman review the sheriff’s investigation and “asked that he share his independent review of the results of the investigation with my office, city leaders and the community.”

The inspector general said in a phone interview Wednesday that he has not yet responded to her request but he expects that the Sheriff’s Department will refuse to cooperate in providing the county with information for a thorough independent investigation. 

“It is our mandate to inquire information into the sheriff’s particular conduct but they have refused to provide information,” said Huntsman. “We are requesting information, and I expect that they will refuse to do so as they have refused in current controversial cases.” 

In a video statement Tuesday, Dennis Kneer, North Patrol Division chief of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, said the SCV Sheriff’s Station incident in Canyon Country has prompted the department to conduct “a thorough review of our policy as it pertains to the deployment of the AR-15 rifle, as seen in the video. We will thoroughly review our actions related to this incident and take appropriate action as necessary.” 

Huntsman said that while he has yet to see the video, statements are not the same as actions. 

“The fact that they say they’re reviewing (the policy) is irrelevant until something is actually done,” he said. 

Deputy removed 

Villanueva said during an interview broadcast Wednesday that one of the deputies who responded to the incident Aug. 7, when three teenagers were detained at gunpoint, has been removed from the field. Those deputies included one who held an AR-15 pointed toward the teens during the incident.

“I have concerns about the tactics, I have concerns about the deployment of the AR-15 rifles so right now, we’re doing two things: We’re doing an investigation on the incident itself, the person has been removed from the field, pending the outcome of the investigation, and that is standard practice, and we’re also reviewing the policy on the deployment of the AR-15 to make sure it’s  realistic and something that is supported by, you know, the actions on the ground that justify using that type of weapon.”

Two calls received

On Aug. 7, deputies detained three teenagers at gunpoint in Canyon Country after receiving an initial report of an alleged assault on a man, according to law enforcement officials at the time.  

Villanueva said Wednesday two calls came in “almost at the same time: one that described the kids as the aggressors. The other one described the homeless person as the aggressor. So, we had competing calls and that obviously there was some confusion involved in that and we’re trying to sort that out. So, the investigation that we’re doing right now administratively will sort it out and we’ll identify all the parties.” 

Attorney Robert Stanford Brown said the teenagers, two Black 16-year-old boys and a white 18-year-old, were actually victims of an assault by a man, possibly homeless, and used skateboards to protect themselves from the individual who had a knife. Brown is representing all three of the teenagers.

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