SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – Four Orange County Sheriff’s deputies have been fired over not following protocol for evidence booking, the department announced Monday, part of an overall systematic problem within the agency.
The four deputies were fired following an extensive audit which examined more than 27,000 evidence bookings and 98,000 cases dating from February of 2016 to February of 2018. The audit determined that about 30 percent of evidence was booked late, according to the O.C. Register.
Along with the four fired deputies, another seven were disciplined and four internal affairs investigations were ongoing. No criminal charges have been filed.
The problem of improperly booked evidence first came to light in January 2018, the sheriff’s department said, prompting the audit.
“The audits determined there were systemic problems with evidence being booked outside policy,” the department said in a news release. “The majority of the evidence that was not booked properly was digital evidence, consisting of items such as photographs, surveillance video, and/or audio recordings.”
The sheriff’s audit showed nearly 85 percent of evidence was booked within five days, just more than 7 percent was booked in six to 10 days, 4.6 percent was booked in 11-20 days, 2 percent booked within 21-30 days, and 1.4 percent booked more than a month later. The average time it took to book evidence was 3.4 days.
“Once this issue came to light we initiated an audit to determine the extent of violations, identified areas for improvement and held accountable those employees who were acting out of the scope of policy,” said O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes in a statement Monday. “The audit achieved its intended goal and has made our agency better. I am confident the public will recognize that we took immediate measures to address the issue, implemented safeguards to ensure this does not recur, and have no patience for substandard performance or criminal behavior.”
Back in 2017, Orange County Sheriff’s Department faced a scandal over its misuse of jailhouse informants, which led to sentence reductions or dismissals for many convicted prisoners.
Among those prisoners was convicted serial killer Scott Dekraai. In August of 2017, an O.C. judge removed the death penalty as a sentencing option for Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing eight people in a 2011 shooting rampage at a Seal Beach salon, over the sheriff’s department’s use of jailhouse informants in the case.
Dekraai’s attorney Public Defender Scott Sanders unearthed a trove of cases involving jailhouse informants who were being used in ways that violated the constitutional rights of many inmates.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)