SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT: Watchdog group demands more documents to evaluate if concerns spurred change.

By Shea Johnson
Staff Writer
Posted Mar. 26, 2015 at 2:50 PM
Updated Mar 26, 2015 at 6:48 PM

SAN BERNARDINO — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department held back requested documents related to its policies and practices on Taser use, impairing the ACLU’s ability to properly evaluate whether the department has taken a 2012 Grand Jury’s concerns seriously.

The 21-page legal brief filed in county Superior Court said that after ACLU SoCal filed public records requests Sept. 26 and Nov. 12, the department erroneously claimed certain records did not exist while failing to conduct adequate searches for other records. ACLU SoCal also said the department’s claims that other non-released records were exempt from the California Public Records Act were “legally and factually baseless.”

According to documents obtained by the Daily Press, the department has said it handed over a total of 714 pages (534 pages for the first request, 180 pages for the second).

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said Thursday afternoon that the department had only just been served with the suit, declining to comment on pending litigation.

ACLU SoCal initiated the records requests to determine whether the department had made efforts to address issues raised by the Grand Jury report, which had urged local authorities to implement enhanced Taser training, called for greater communication among-on scene deputies and appeared to want to eliminate repeated, continuous or prolonged use of the Taser stun gun.

In his response to the report Aug. 1, 2013, Sheriff John McMahon vowed to further emphasize existing training and “assess options to safely and practically incorporate communication among deputies.”

But the department has not enacted any changes to its policies regarding Taser use since 2009, according to an Oct. 16 note from the department’s legal counsel to ACLU SoCal Staff Attorney Adrienna Wong.

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