July 15, 2024

(EDITOR’S NOTE: What you are about to read is a letter with the personal opinions and feelings of an active Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff whose name is being withheld due to fear of retaliation. After we published an article detailing the suicides of four department members and the attempted suicide of another, RedState obtained this open letter to the residents of Los Angeles County and two more letters that will be published, along with personal accounts from several sworn staff of the department that detail an extremely toxic and desperate work environment that will be detailed in this follow-on series. The letters speak for themselves and will be published in their entirety, with the original spelling and grammar.)

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Hello,

Recent events have compelled me to write this letter. I am a Deputy who works at Lancaster Sheriff’s Station. I want you to know a little bit about us, and the work we do every day. First, a few facts about the communities we proudly serve:

  • The Deputies of Lancaster Station not only patrol the city of Lancaster, but also serve the communities of Lake Los Angeles, Hi Vista, Roosevelt, Quartz Hill, Antelope Acres, and Fairmont as well. 
  • The city of Lancaster has a population of approximately 172,000, the surrounding towns and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County in our patrol area are home to almost 28,000 more residents, totaling nearly 200,000 people that we serve. 
  • The city of Lancaster compromises almost 95 square miles itself, but the entire patrol area we are responsible for is over 600 square miles. To put this in perspective, Lancaster Station patrols an area that is one-half the size of the entire State of Rhode Island.

With those facts and perspectives about the vast population and territory we serve, I will tell you how many Deputies are currently staffed at Lancaster Station to accomplish this: 157. That number includes 25 Detectives, 15 School Resource Deputies, 8 special assignment Deputies (LAN-CAP), and 10 Deputies assigned to other day-to-day desk assignments at the station. This just leaves 99 Deputies whose primary function is to patrol the entirety of our patrol area, split between 3 shifts, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Additionally, we find ourselves further short-staffed due to injuries, illness, and other types of leave.

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Every day we handle 300-500 calls for service on average, ranging from thefts, domestic violence, assaults, robberies, and murderers. Every day, each of our three shifts runs with a shortage of 10-15 Deputies, on average, to our daily patrol rosters. The shortages are filled with overtime, or they are just not filled at all. Deputies are routinely ordered to work mandatory overtime, either in the form of double shifts or made to come in on their days off to fill the vacancies. Some shifts are almost entirely comprised of people working overtime. Deputies at our station work to exhaustion, and still can’t keep up with the volume of calls. We constantly struggle to balance the added workload, the compulsory time away from family, and the desire to not leave our partners without backup.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is short-staffed as a whole, and few Deputies want to transfer to Lancaster. The large population and patrol area have made Lancaster Station THE busiest Sheriff’s Station in Los Angeles County. This makes the Station less desirable to work at, as Deputies can work at other stations, with less stress and less workload, but for the same pay. The Deputies that work at Lancaster Station are proud of the work we do. A great many of us live and/or grew up in the Antelope Valley. 

This isn’t just a place where we go to work; this is our home. Home, and all that goes with it, has made us willing to endure the long hours. It gives us the courage to face violent criminals without enough backup. And there are a lot of violent criminals in our community now; just look at the crime statistics for Lancaster Station in 2022:

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13 murders, 83 rapes, 335 robberies, 2,550 assaults, 756 burglaries, 1,322 thefts, and 1,064 vehicle thefts.

And 2023 is on track to outpace last year’s statistics. As of the first week of July 2023 we have had: 18 murders, 30 rapes, 210 robberies, 1,393 assaults, 411 burglaries, 591 thefts, and 716 vehicle thefts.

The reality is law enforcement as a profession across the nation has seen a sharp decline, but I will address the specific causes to Los Angeles County, and Lancaster in particular:

  • The media has sensationalized a small number of negative and violent encounters in recent years, with suggested racial overtones in their headlines.
  • Politicians in Sacramento, far removed from the concerns of their constituents, have all but decriminalized drug possession and property crimes by reducing charge levels and sentencing guidelines.
  • LA County District Attorney George Gascon shows no regard for crime victims and routinely gives minimum sentences to even violent criminals that appear in court.
  • In May 2023, Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff issued an injunction, instituting a zero-bail policy for non-violent misdemeanor and felony crimes within LA county. This injunction, favoring criminals, was obviously not challenged by Gascon. But shockingly the ruling was not challenged by Sheriff Luna, nor by LAPD Chief Moore, even though the injunction has created a revolving door for all but the most violent criminals in Los Angeles County.

All of these things have emboldened repeat offenders, as they no longer face serious consequences for their actions.

Those facts alone are not the only factors creating the losses of those once willing to protect and serve. Deputies have become increasingly hesitant to perform their sworn duty because our own department has become openly hostile toward those willing to do proactive police work. It is a reality that actively looking for, and confronting, criminals is liable to result in violence, and fighting just doesn’t look pretty on camera. Rapidly evolving, tense situations, and legal standing to defend ourselves against aggressive and violent suspects, have taken a backseat to swift and severe discipline whenever a vocal few complain in front of a camera, about a Deputy using force to overcome the violent actions of a suspect who fights to avoid being handcuffed and arrested.

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To this point, I’m addressing the arrest of two robbery suspects on June 24th at Winco in Lancaster. Two Deputies responded to what was dispatched as an emergency call of store employees being assaulted by robbery suspects. All other units were tied up on other emergency situations and were unable to provide any assistance to them. One suspect in particular refused to comply with orders given by the Deputies, and force was used prior to her being handcuffed. Handcuffs are the preferred, and most frequently used items on a Deputy’s belt. All the other items on the belt are tools to overcome the violent actions of a suspect. Violence is always the choice of the suspect; of those who decide to fight rather than deal with the legal consequences of criminal actions.

The two Deputies in this case will no longer be patrolling the streets of Lancaster, or the surrounding communities for the foreseeable future—two fewer Deputies, when the station was already short-staffed. Keep in mind the Deputies are equipped with body cameras that capture the entire incident. Our supervisors reviewed their body camera footage, as well as store security footage, and their actions were found to be objectively reasonable within the scope of their duties to make the arrests. But now they are being disciplined, all because a 3rd party recorded a small portion of the whole encounter, which went viral, and department supervisors, sitting in Los Angeles, reacted badly, rather than let the facts of the case shape their knee-jerk reactions—a recording which is able to be edited by media outlets for maximum ratings.

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One of those Deputies has 6 years in the department. He has written 2,155 reports and made 601 arrests in his time at Lancaster station, including 111 felony arrests, 82 for violent crimes, and 133 DUI arrests, likely preventing more deaths in a city plagued with fatal traffic collisions. The other Deputy has three years in the department and has been at Lancaster Station for just over a year. In that time, he has written 683 reports and made 163 arrests, including 71 felony arrests, and 54 violent crimes.

Deputies see the removal of hardworking personnel as nothing less than a lack of faith in our ability to perform our duty, and a betrayal from the Sheriff, and his command staff, overseeing the Antelope Valley. Deputies are no longer actively looking for criminal activity and are hesitant to respond to emergency calls without several units’ backup to accompany them. Emergency calls are seeing a longer response time now. When our own department supports a vocal few touting a viral video, rather than support the people it has trained to handle criminal suspects in exactly this manner. When the department itself poses the greatest risk for our means to provide for our families, or worse, treating us like the very criminals we try to apprehend, that is more disheartening than the thought of dying in the line of duty.

The purpose of this letter is not to fill our community with the notion that its sworn defenders have abandoned it. It is just that vocal few who have gotten our department to take a more aggressive stance toward its own Deputies. Deputies willing to serve in an ever-increasingly hostile environment. If our department is willing to sacrifice us to appease a few, I hope they will listen more if the usually quiet majority, who support and appreciate the work we do, raise their voices in support more. We Deputies see you.

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Everyone who waves to us.

Everyone who thanks us for our service.

Everyone who we have had the ability to help.

Everyone who sends us cards.

Everyone who prays for us when one of us gets hurt or killed.

We need you now more than ever. Please show us that support again. Let us know if we are still appreciated. Let our department know. Please go online, call Lancaster Station (661-948-8466, ask for the Watch Commander, Captain, or Region Chief Dennis Kneer), email (Sheriff Robert Luna at [email protected], or Chief Dennis Kneer at [email protected]), call Sheriff’s Information Bureau (213-229-1700) or go on social media (#lancasterstation) and post your support for the Deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and Lancaster Station in particular. Please make your voices heard. Your strength and your faith can help us regain ours. We need each other, now more than ever. We still believe in you, otherwise, we’d never risk our lives for this job. We so dearly hope….that you still believe in us too. We’ll fight for our community all the more if you believe in us.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and God bless,

Just a Deputy

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