Sheriff Pat Hedges responded without anger or defensiveness to the New Times reporter regarding the use of excessive force by county deputies (â€œClearing the air,â€? Jan. 27-Feb. 3). I discovered that there is a reason for that calm demeanor.
The New Times reporter tells of the December 1997 incident when Donal Schneider was â€œpulled over for improper registration tags â€¦ placed under arrest and pepper-sprayed.â€? No other information is given regarding Schneiderâ€™s behavior, which gives the reader the impression that the deputies are arrest-happy storm troopers pulling innocent citizens over for sadistic pleasures.
To put the eight-year history of the three in-custody deaths and the one excessive force settlement into perspective, I checked with a records keeper to see how many arrests were made by SLO County sheriffâ€™s deputies in the last eight years. The number of average arrests was over 3,000 per month times 96 months, which equals 316,800 arrests. The deputies, however, are not â€œarrest-happy.â€? The average â€œCall for serviceâ€? is over 48,000 a month times 96 months, which equals 4,699,584 calls. Obviously the three deaths were atypical and involved unusual circumstances.
Sheriff Hedges knows his officers are doing a superb job, and that given the number of calls each month they show remarkable restraint and good judgment.