A recent Los Angeles Times article uncovered a strange kind of contest in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It was not a friendly type of sports contest between police departments or even within the department. Rather it was a competition among deputies – a game – to see who could make the most number of arrests in one day. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times , this internal game show was called “Operation Any Booking.” The goal of this contest was to arrest the most people possible in a specific 24-hour period.
There wasn’t just one contest, but several “themed” games such as how many vehicle impounds deputies could accomplish in a day or how many gang members and other suspected criminals they could stop and question in a 24-hour period. What was the grand prize for this contest? Simply bragging rights according to Lt. James Tatreau, who helped organize these contests in the southeast Los Angeles cities, the Times article said.
Tatreau said these games were organized only as morale-boosting exercises. He told the Times that at no point were officers told to illegally stop anyone or arrest anyone without probable cause. But news of the contest created an uproar among civil libertarians and California criminal defense attorneys all over the Southland – and rightly so.
An arrest is definitely not something to be treated lightly. As California criminal defense attorneys, we see lives being turned upside down as a result of an arrest, however minor the particular crime may be considered. An arrest is an extremely powerful tool in law enforcement. With it, an officer is basically taking away someone’s freedom at that point in time. It’s a tool that must be used with great thought and discretion. It’s not a game show!
The other issue here is it may encourage police departments to make improper arrests just to boost their numbers. Sheriff Lee Baca when questioned by the Times commented that his department focuses on quality, not quantity and assured the newspaper that these games will never happen again in his department.
We hope Sheriff Baca will make sure that these meaningless contests never ever take place at the department again. They are not only dangerous, but will affect the lives of real people in a very negative and real way. Sometimes, all it takes to ruin a life is one arrest.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime, call a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss your case.