39 California Sheriff’s Departments Score an F on Violence Alternatives, Accountability, and Approaching Policing

By Danielle Silva

Out of 58 counties, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department placed 40th overall. This county scored 57% on Police Violence, 48% on Police Accountability, and 28% on Approach to Policing.

Thirty-nine California Sheriff’s Departments scored an 60% or less overall on the California Police Scorecard, an interactive data map that uses information from databases like the California Department of Justice to compare agencies across the state in terms of police violence, police accountability and their approach to policing.

The California Police Scorecard is run by Campaign Zero, a police reform campaign started by Black Lives Matter associated activists that focus on reducing police violence. The site is the first statewide Police Scorecard in the United States and uses reports of police deadly force, civilian complaints and arrests from official databases such as California Department of Justice’s OpenJustice database, UCR and the California Monthly Arrests and Citation Register.

Campaign Zero created the Scorecard with the intent “to help communities, researchers, police leaders and policy-makers take informed action to reduce police use of force and improve accountability and public safety in their jurisdictions.”

Each police department or county sheriff’s department is “scored” in the areas of Police Violence, Police Accountability and their Approach to Policing relative to other agencies and then given an overall score for the agency.

The Police Violence score considers the likelihood of an officer to use a higher level of force against people.

The Police Accountability score analyzes civilian complaints that are sustained and the severity of the misconduct allegations that were sustained against officers.

The Approach to Policing score sees if officers focus on arrests for low-level crimes and the solving of serious crimes.

The site includes data on several California city police departments and, since 2019, has a score for all 58 California Sheriff’s Departments.

The Sheriff’s Department scores included the agency’s duty of operating county jails. The Scorecard currently utilizes California Department of Justice information regarding the 2016 to 2018 percentile of jail incarceration rates per 1,000 residents, the 2016 to 2018 percentile of jail deaths per 1,000 average daily jail population for their Approach to Policing score. California DOJ information regarding the percent of civilian complaints in detention sustained from 2016 to 2018 was applied to the Police Accountability score.

For each County Sheriff Department, the Scorecard also notes the agency’s current policies that limit the use of force and make it harder to hold police officers accountable, such as requiring de-escalation or erasing misconduct record.

Of those 58, 39 Sheriff’s Departments received an overall score of 60% or below. The highest score for the state was 82% for Alpine County. However, the Scorecard notes that Alpine County has an arrest rate for misdemeanors at 27.4 per resident, higher than 86% of police and sheriff’s departments.

Campaign Zero noted in their key findings that, “Based on this comprehensive evaluation, we found that Los Angeles County Sheriff and San Diego County Sheriff – the state’s largest Sheriff’s Departments – had among the worst scores of the 58 CA Sheriff’s Departments.”

The LA County Sheriff’s Department had an overall score of 25% with 142 reported deadly force incidents, 319 homicides unsolved from 2013-2018, and ruled in favor of 1% civilians out of 2,713 complaints.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s in-custody death rate was noted. The county jail had 44 in-custody reported deaths outside of use of force incidents from 2016 – 2018, including 10 deaths reported to be suicide, 2 deaths reported to be homicide by another person in-custody, 4 due to “accidental” causes, 15 attributed to natural causes, and 13 under investigation during the time of the report.

The Scorecard’s official San Diego report states, “After accounting for the adult jail population in each county, San Diego Sheriff’s Department had a rate of 8.1 jail deaths per 1,000 jail population. As such, people were more likely to die in jail in San Diego County than 18 of the 25 largest counties in California.”

The Scorecard continues to be updated over time and also provides additional columns of data for future research.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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