Inside a Secret 2014 List of Hundreds of L.A. Deputies With Histories of Misconduct

It was a critical piece of evidence: an inmate’s shirt, bloodied from a jailhouse brawl.

When it went missing, Deputy Jose Ovalle had an idea.

He picked out a similar shirt, doused it with taco sauce and snapped a photograph, which was booked into evidence with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, law enforcement records show.

When confronted later, the deputy admitted to faking the blood.

Ovalle kept his job, but his name was placed on a secret Sheriff’s Department list that now includes about 300 deputies with histories of dishonesty and similar misconduct, a Los Angeles Times investigation has found. The list is so tightly controlled that it can be seen by only a handful of high-ranking sheriff’s officials. Not even prosecutors can access it.

Amid growing public scrutiny over police misconduct, Sheriff Jim McDonnell wants to give the names on the list to prosecutors, who are required by law to tell criminal defendants about evidence that would damage the credibility of an officer called as a witness. But McDonnell’s efforts have ignited a fierce legal battle with the union that represents rank-and-file deputies.

The dispute, which the California Supreme Court is expected to decide next year, is playing out in a state with some of the nation’s strictest secrecy laws on police misconduct. California is among 22 states that keep officer discipline from the public, but it is the only one that blocks prosecutors from seeing entire police personnel files.

The Sheriff’s Department’s roster of deputies, known as a “Brady list,” was compiled in 2014 under McDonnell’s predecessor, interim Sheriff John Scott, to keep track of officers with histories of misconduct that might affect their credibility in court. The list has evolved over time, and last fall the department notified several hundred deputies that their names were on the list and offered them the chance to object if they believed there had been a mistake.

Times reporters reviewed a version of the roster, dated 2014, and scoured court and law enforcement records for details of how deputies landed on it.

The documents reviewed by The Times offer the first public glimpse of officers whose misconduct the Sheriff’s Department has decided should be reported to the courts.

The deputies have been identified as potential witnesses in more than 62,000 felony cases since 2000, according to a Times analysis of district attorney records. In many of those cases, the deputies’ misconduct would probably have been relevant in assessing their credibility.

Law enforcement and court records show:

One deputy on the list endangered the lives of fellow officers and an undercover informant when he warned a suspected drug dealer’s girlfriend that the dealer was being watched by police.

Another pepper-sprayed an elderly man in the face and then wrote a false report to justify arresting him.

A third pulled over a stranger and received oral sex from her in his patrol car.

The list also includes several deputies still with the department who were convicted of crimes — one for filing a false arrest report and another who was charged with domestic battery but pleaded no contest to a lesser offense. In other cases, prosecutors sharply criticized the deputies’ actions but declined to pursue criminal charges against them.

The legal dispute over the list underscores a larger nationwide clash over police accountability. Authorities are facing growing pressure from the public to reveal more about police misconduct and the way officers do their jobs. But law enforcement unions in California have used their political power to push back against efforts to increase disclosure.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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