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Patrol

Foot Pursuits: A Runaway Policy?

Has the L.A. Sheriff's Department's stance on foot pursuits actually changed, and what might that mean for deputies?

March 18, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

More questions popped up. Was this just another hole in the dike, eroding law enforcement's ability to do its job?

I decided to speak with someone I knew on the department, someone whose assignment put him squarely in a position to speak intelligently on the matter at hand and to my growing concern: Was the department offering up more softsoap?

"It's all smoke and mirrors," he explained. "The policy is no different than what we've had on the books for years, or what we've been teaching. It's just been re-worded so that it's more clearly understood, something to keep our detractors at bay.

Hmmm.

Perhaps it all was just a dog and pony show, something to show the department's overseers, critics, and the Office of Independent Review that it was somehow being proactive in attempting to stem the shooting of citizenry by LASD personnel.

My admittedly jaundiced take on things is colored by a recollection of days when the department was quick to make sacramental offerings in a bid to placate the implacable. But my secret source explained that in recent years the department has not found any use-of-force incident to be out of policy (at least, none so egregious that they were destined for terminations and/or prosecutions). And if that's the case, then great.

Yet...

...this paradigm shift - be it real, or imagined - still raises concerns as to the driving impetus behind the department's announcement (and truth be known, there are many deputies who don't like the foot pursuit policy and haven't for years).

I spoke with an old friend, Sgt. Eric Lindblom, who has worked the department's K9 detail for the last six years. He's a cop's cop, and remains every bit about arresting the bad guy as when he first hit the streets more than 25 years ago. I asked him what he thought of the policy.

He said he is in favor of it.

"If you're chasing a suspect that you know is armed and he runs into a backyard, you don't want to go back there after him. Let us roll out and help you. It just doesn't make sense putting yourself in a position where you're probably going to get shot."

Lindblom has no shortage of anecdotes to support his contention.

Still, I am left to wonder about those other incidents, the ones that probably cover a majority of those circumstances: What if you don't know whether the suspect's armed or not?

Tags: Pursuing Suspects, Use-of-Force Policies, Foot Pursuits, L.A. County Sheriff


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