Sheriff to ban deputies from mixing drinking, guns

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The sheriff of Los Angeles County plans to prohibit his off-duty deputies from carrying their guns while drinking because several have been accused in recent years of firing weapons while intoxicated.

Sheriff Lee Baca says there has been a disturbing rise in alcohol-fueled misbehavior among his deputies in the nation's largest sheriff's department.

Since 2004, more than a dozen deputies have been accused of brandishing or shooting a gun while under the influence of alcohol. At least 61 have been arrested this year on alcohol-related charges, 39 of them for driving under the influence, and most of them were armed at the time.

In April 2006, a rookie deputy who had at least 11 drinks while celebrating his return from Marine duty in Iraq shot and killed a friend.

It was unclear what caused the increase in incidents, but sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore noted Tuesday that the number of sworn deputies in the department has increased to more than 10,000. It also may be that other police agencies are making more arrests of intoxicated deputies instead of covering for them as they might have in the past.

"Thirty, 40 years ago, perhaps they would drive (deputies) home," Whitmore said.

He said the policy could be in place as early as January.

The deputies' union opposes the restriction. Union leader Steve Remige says it would let criminals know that deputies who had put them away would at times be unarmed.

Information from: Los Angeles Times,

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