Responding to criticism that he was failing to release public records involving law-enforcement-involved shootings as required by a new state law, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said he would begin Wednesday issuing a slew of documents, one of which showed that a deputy was fired for having sex with a young woman he arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.
Various California news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register, reported that law enforcement authorities were not abiding by Senate Bill 1421, which makes many records involving police-involved shootings available to the public.
In a letter Barnes posted Tuesday on Twitter, he denied he was slow-walking requests for records.
“Some in the media have implied that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is `stalling’ and only pressure from reporters has moved the process along,” Barnes wrote. “This is false. We have continued to work on identifying, reviewing and redacting responsive documents.”
According to Barnes, the “significant change in public records law… failed to provide local entities with resources to comply with the new mandate and was unclear as to whether it applied retroactively.”
Barnes said releasing the records is a laborious process that requires many levels of government inspection beforehand to protect personal information of victims, witnesses, the accused, law enforcement and others.
“Some incidents may have thousands of documents and hours of video,” he wrote. “The due diligence required in this process is why it takes so long to produce records.”
Barnes said the department’s deputies responded to 363,023 calls for service last year, and only 0.1% involved use of force.
Barnes said instead of releasing media-requested records only to the reporters who sought them, he will post them on the sheriff’s website at ocsd.org.
“I encourage you to view these documents absent the lens of sensationalism and innuendo,” Barnes wrote. “I trust that you will view these records judiciously, and see that the vast majority of our deputies do an excellent job, often under difficult circumstances, with professionalism and integrity.”
Most of the documents released on Wednesday indicated investigators found the use of force was appropriate.
In one case, however, former Deputy Nicholas Lee Caropino was fired in August 2015 for engaging in sexual activity with an 18-year-old woman he had arrested on suspicion of DUI in Dana Point in September 2013.
The driver’s attorney accused the deputy of forcing the woman to touch him over his uniform pants, according to the sheriff’s report, which says Caropino also sent text messages to her after the arrest and then had sex with her while on duty.
Caropino called her the next day and said he would leave out the fact she had alcohol in her pickup truck because he “liked” her, according to the report. The deputy called the woman’s father to the traffic stop to provide a ride home for her two passengers.