This has been a difficult year for Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and his more than 7,000 deputies. However, in the wake of a new reform agreement between the department and the unions representing its deputies, the outlook for the department has begun to brighten.
The problems afflicting the sheriff's department include a series of incidents in which deputies were found to have used excessive force in the course of arrests. But the most damaging scandal arose from allegations that officers assigned to narcotics units have been skimming money seized from drug dealers. Ten of the deputies involved--seven of them members of a single elite unit--have been named in a 27-count federal indictment. Altogether, the department has suspended 26 deputies assigned to drug units.
All of this has raised serious questions about Block's management of the department and about the Board of Supervisors' ability to exercise appropriate oversight of its activities. The agreement, which ratifies a proposal by Block, is a welcome first step toward resolution of these concerns.
Under the terms of the agreement, which still must be approved by the supervisors, deputies would be limited to five years service in all vice and special investigations units. Members of special weapons teams would serve seven years. At least half the indicted deputies had been in their narcotics unit for more than five years.