Farewell to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Part I

I recently served my last day with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

I leave with mixed feelings. I learned a lot about a noble profession. I learned a lot about how to deal with people. However, it just wasn’t right for me anymore.

I spent 6 ½ years with the world's largest Sheriff's Department. I was a security assistant – not a deputy. All I had was a radio, pepper spray, and some handcuffs. I was a glorified scout. If there was trouble, I used my radio to call for deputies and supervisors.

I spent my first two years in an administrative position, doing clerical work such as entering traffic collision reports and assisting with discovery searches for audio and video recordings of interrogations. I learned that the Sheriff’s Department gets sued all the time. Some claims and lawsuits have merit; most don’t. The Sheriff’s Department’s policy, most of the time, is to settle claims and lawsuits without fighting. This teaches people that they can easily get money from the Sheriff’s Department by filing a claim or a lawsuit. Call it litigation lottery.

I then transferred to Court Services Division to get some more field experience to decide whether I wanted to be a deputy. I quickly discovered that I should not be a deputy. Being a deputy or other sworn officer means being three things: an armed lawyer, an armed psychologist, and an armed social worker. Sometimes, it’s armed EMT as well. I would be a good armed lawyer; the others, not so much. Law enforcement personnel spend their days, nights, weekends, and holidays dealing with people who are angry, rude, irrational, crazy, lying, violent – or all of the above. It shouldn’t be a surprise that law enforcement personnel have to use force to enforce the law. I suggest that critics and haters of law enforcement try a ride-along sometime (in a rough area, not Beverly Hills or Brentwood), or stand a watch at a court checkpoint like I did. They’ll quickly find out that persuasion and kindness and restraint don’t always work. This is law enforcement, ladies and gentlemen – the key term here is force. We’re not talking about teatime at the faculty lounge.

On a typical day at the weapons screening checkpoints, the lines were usually long. Many people came in with bad attitudes and prohibited items. What’s prohibited? Here’s a hint: if something is prohibited at an airport, it’s probably prohibited at a courthouse too. Message to the public: Leave the weapons, the booze, the drugs, the tools, and anything sharp at home. Try leaving the attitude behind as well. I promise that law enforcement personnel really don’t give a damn about your race, or your biological gender or chosen gender, or your religion, or anything else. Just go along with the program. Obey the law. One more thing: Security personnel didn’t compel you to come to the court. Nor can security personnel fix your ticket or provide legal advice. So don’t get mad at them for not doing so. For more on reducing interactions between law enforcement officers and civilians, see Part II.

It wasn’t all bad. I will miss the camaraderie of working with my brothers and sisters in arms. I will miss the shared experience of butting heads with checkpoint clowns and then guffawing about it with my partners at the checkpoint. I will miss the salty locker room jokes and banter – yes, the same kind that landed President Trump in trouble during his campaign. (Oh no – men using salty language! Women never, ever use salty language, right?) I have some fun LASD memories. For example:

  • The day we had to evacuate the court because of a mechanical problem. First, we herded out the public, many of whom were reluctant to lose their places in line or to have their hearings interrupted. Next, we herded out the civilian employees, most of whom wanted to remain at their desks and get some free time because they knew that the court was unlikely to burn down. Finally, the inmates were brought out of the court lockup, with leg chains and handcuffs, and guarded by deputies armed with rifles and shotguns. The inmates’ friends and families started cheering for their homies, and the deputies were yelling at them to shut up. Finally the problem was resolved and we all went back in. A fun circus, but I’m glad that only happened once.

  • A customer reported a used syringe in the planter by the main entrance. The senior deputy detailed yours truly to put on some gloves to fish out the used syringe and drop it in the sharps container. Please, people, shoot up at home, not in public.

  • Locking my keys in my car while trying to get in the court’s back garage gate, thus blocking the exit of the inmate bus. The senior deputy was not pleased.

  • Serving during Valentine’s Day at a court which has an office of the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Lots of couples came to get married that day. I can testify that many of the brides were dressed in such a way as to make it abundantly clear that they were not concealing any weapons.

It was a good learning experience, but it’s time for me to move on. I will be working with computers, not the public. That’s much easier for me.

And whenever I see LASD or other law enforcement personnel on duty, I’ll say to myself, “Thanks for making it possible for the rest of us to live our lives in peace. Thanks for doing a job that I couldn’t do. Do whatever you need to do to come home alive and uninjured.”

People who want to get rid of law enforcement should be careful what they wish for.

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