SCV incident prompts review of rifle-deployment policy

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's station is implementing new measures to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic. March 17, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will review its policy and training for the use of assault rifles, following the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station response to an assault report and felony stop Friday in Canyon Country, where three teenagers were detained at gunpoint, law enforcement officials said Tuesday. 

The move followed L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s request Tuesday that the county’s inspector general review the sheriff’s investigation into Friday’s response to the report. 

In a video statement, LASD North Patrol Division Chief Dennis Kneer said Sheriff Alex Villanueva has asked for an in-depth review of the department’s patrol rifle-deployment policy and training. 

“I would like to update you on an incident that occurred last week on Aug. 7,” he said, referring to the Canyon Country occurrence. “As a result of that interaction, Sheriff Villanueva has directed 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.” 

Barger, whose 5th District includes the SCV, said in a statement that she has asked L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman to share “his independent review of the results of the investigation with my office, city leaders and the community.” 

Officials with the Office of the Inspector General were not immediately available for comment Tuesday upon requests. 

“This interaction between sheriff’s deputies and the community is extremely troubling and disheartening — especially knowing that altercations such as this diminish trust and respect rather than reinforce it among those we are entrusted to serve,” said Barger’s statement. 

The Association of L.A. Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), the union representing county law enforcement personnel, supports a thorough investigation, according to President Ron Hernandez in a statement to The Signal. 

“ALADS always encourages a thorough investigation prior to jumping to any conclusions and we know the community we serve agrees,” he said. “While the deputies may not have much time to make their decisions, we certainly do in reviewing this incident — let’s be patient and thoughtful in looking for solutions.”

Hernandez was also critical of the county supervisors and sheriff’s department’s leadership, citing quick judgement of deputies’ actions. 

“In this case, deputies were responding to a report of an in-progress assault with a deadly weapon and we have elected officials trying to ‘one-up’ each other or settle some other score,” he said. “Law enforcement is not glamorous and sometimes imperfect. That’s especially true when viewed with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.”

Barger’s statement also encouraged Villanueva “to support transparency and accountability” with a thorough investigation. On Monday, the sheriff issued a statement sharing the same concerns regarding the tactics employed and said that “the matter is currently being investigated.” 

Barger’s statement also comes a day after Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth announced the city pushed for an expedited investigation and called for one of the deputies who responded to Friday’s incident to be “removed from the field pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Aug. 7 incident 

On Aug. 7, deputies detained three teenagers at gunpoint, including one deputy who used an AR-15, after receiving an initial report of an alleged assault on Whites and Soledad canyon roads. They were later released after law enforcement officials said no victim was found and no crime was committed. 

The teenagers were actually victims of an assault by a man and used skateboards to protect themselves from the individual, who had a knife, according to their attorney Robert Stanford Brown.

He said Tuesday he is representing the three individuals: two Black 16-year-old boys and a white 18-year-old.   

“They are still a little shaken up but they are pulling together,” he said Tuesday. 

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