The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reversed its stance Thursday on requiring reserve deputies (other than those with full-time peace officer status) to obtain a concealed weapon permit in order to defend themselves. In deciding to finally honor the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act of 2004 (known as “LEOSA”), LASD has determined that reserve deputies–who complete the same training and wear the same uniform as any full time deputy–no longer need to obtain a concealed weapons permit.
Though the timing of this move just two months before an election in which Sheriff McDonnell needs the financial and political support of wealthy and connected LASD reserves is suspicious, this is nonetheless welcome news to many.
The new reading of a law in effect since 2004 dramatically simplifies what has long been a CCW issuance process rife with differing standards, confusion and politically/financially-motivated abuse. In fact, at many stations reserves were not issued CCWs until they were off patrol training (which could take years) resulting in an unwritten and unsaid understanding that reserves working or traveling through high-crime areas (such as Los Angeles County) may just need to feloniously carry illegally until they were blessed with a CCW. Indeed, over the past year LASD.News understands many reserves have had their CCW applications returned to them for additional justification of their need to defend themselves; some have been denied outright. Also, as we previously reported, a number of retired deputies stated their CCWs had been revoked due to arm/hand injuries or because they retired due to stress-related reasons (presumably from engaging in just the kind of policework that would result in needing a CCW).
Federal and state laws on the issue of CCWs and who can carry what where differ so much that sometimes the safest solution is the most liberal. After all, a strict CCW policy then begs all kinds of questions over who is getting CCWs and who isn’t and why and why not, and what liability exists for who when someone gets into something. And that seems to be at play here, where, according to a letter from Sheriff McDonnell to reserves, LASD is both extending LEOSA coverage to reserves and encouraging them nonetheless to apply for a CCW anyway. No specific reason is given, so the lawyers were clearly at play here.
Why the change (however welcome it is)? We’re not sure. And a letter issued by Sheriff McDonnell on Thursday doesn’t say. Here are some possibilities:
The change was probably pushed for by the Reserve Leadership Team (led by big-time McDonnell donor/backer) Alan Skobin …who may or may not have been the only reserve to be issued a county car. (We don’t know for certain because the department has still not responded to public record requests on this from multiple requestors three months later…)
It never made a lot of sense for reserves to need a CCW when they were covered by LEOSA since 2004 (though there are certain instances where a CCW may still be helpful, such as when an off-duty reserve carries a gun onto school grounds).
Whatever the Reserve Leadership Team’s role was, LASD.News suspects a bigger reason is the onslaught of public record requests the Department has received in recent months over which LASD reserves and members of the public (mainly judges and prosectors) have active CCWs in 2018. Here is a list of CCWs LASD approved in the first five months of this year.
Perhaps this site’s prior reporting on the decline of the reserve program under Sheriff McDonnell has had something to do with efforts to improve it, as well as to recruit reserves, that have been announced in the past few months.
It is also likely that legal action apparently threatened against the Department by media organizations and the California Reserve Peace Officers Association (which all LASD reserves should join) forced McDonnell to take a step he could have taken any time in the last four years.
Which brings us to the timing of this decision. Coming two months before a close election, and as LASD.News receives unconfirmed reports of Sheriff McDonnell soliciting reserve deputies for campaign contributions in a dramatic break from his practice four years ago of not accepting money from deputies, the timing of throwing reserves a bone is certainly suspicious.
It will be important to keep an eye on McDonnell’s campaign contributions. Though of course we may not see all the campaign finance reporting until after the election…
If you are an LASD employee and have been hit up by Sheriff McDonnell or his team for a donation or to throw a fundraiser, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article will be updated as we learn more.