In a reversal, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday it will release within 30 days of an incident the names of deputies who shoot a suspect.
In the past, the department concealed deputies’ names sometimes for months while the District Attorney’s office completed its investigation.
“We’re not going to interfere with investigations, but our standard is going to be 30 days and those [names] are going to be posted online,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
Police departments and communities have been debating transparency and accountability in officer-involved shootings after a year of national protests over incidents of police killings of Black Americans.
The new policy comes a day after the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved a motion to draft an ordinance that requires the names of the deputies to be published within two days of a shooting. It also calls on the county’s counsel or inspector general to disclose the names, instead of relying on the sheriff’s department to do so.
Villanueva said there had sometimes been delays due to a lack of resources and decreased staffing at the department, despite state transparency laws that require such disclosures. He also said there have been recent cases where specific shootings involved criminal gang members who they feared could retaliate if deputies’ names were revealed.
“We want to be as transparent as we can, but we can’t jeopardize ongoing investigations and we can’t create a threat to someone,” Villanueva said.
In addition to the stark policy change, 95 previously unreleased names of deputies will be posted online this week after the department conducts threat assessments to ensure it is not putting personnel at risk, Villanueva said.
While the announcement has been met with concern by some sheriff’s department officials, it was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“This vote is a testament to the steadfast organizing by impacted families,” the ACLU of Southern California said in a statement. “The lack of forthcoming information has been especially painful for loved ones of those shot and killed by deputies.”