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Dept. Firearm Change Turns LA County Deputies Into Keystone Cops

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Accidental gunshots by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have more than doubled from 12 in 2012, to 30 last year.

la gun dischargesOfficials say the increase occurred because deputies are adjusting to a switch in the departments standard issue firearm from the Beretta 92F to the Smith & Wesson M&P9.

In one December, 2014 incident, a sheriff’s deputy in Compton approached a car he thought might have been stolen. The occupants had already ran off. As he walked up with his M&P drawn to make sure there was no one else inside, he accidentally pulled the trigger.

The bullet hit the driver’s side door. There were bystanders nearby, but no one was injured.

In a Walnut-area house in January 2014, a deputy accidentally fired a round into the ceiling when a golf bag fell on his hand. Another deputy was in the room at the time.

In October 2014, a deputy tripped over a stroller and fired a round through a wall in a Huntington Park house full of other officers and civilians.

So far this year, the department has recorded seven accidental discharges.

In one, a deputy shot himself in the leg while pulling out his gun on a suspect. In another, a deputy accidentally fired a bullet in a restroom stall.

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers attributes the increase in discharges to deputies still adjusting to the lack of a safety on the new gun.

“The vast majority were people trained on the Beretta,” Rogers said. “There is a correlation, no doubt about it.”

Critics say the semiautomatic is too easy to misfire. The increase in accidental shootings has prompted an investigation by the Sheriff’s Department’s new inspector general.

To combat the rise in accidental discharges, deputies are now required to pass a marksmanship test four times a year instead of three and to take a course designed to break old Beretta habits.

Those who have accidentally discharged their weapons are typically required to repeat the training.

“We call them training scars,” Rogers said. “It’s muscle memory. And especially in stressful situations, people revert to their training.”

The firearm switch came in the wake of numerous discrimination lawsuit threats by women who had preformed poorly with the Beretta and failed the Sheriff’s Academy.

Since the change, the percentage of female recruits who failed the firearms test has plunged from 6.4 to less than 1 percent.