Sheriff's office may be fined over slain deputy's holster (WA state)


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Oatka
December 29, 2002, 12:03 PM
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/101902_herzog28.shtml

By HECTOR CASTRO
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

State officials have cited the King County Sheriff's Office for allowing slain Deputy Rich Herzog to use a holster not intended for the type of gun he carried, but Sheriff Dave Reichert said he plans to appeal the fine.

The state Department of Labor and Industries has proposed fining the sheriff's office $3,000 for what is labeled a "serious" violation, one that could result in injury or death.

But in a statement released yesterday, Reichert said Herzog was killed "by the criminal act of another" and was not the victim of some industrial accident.

"I take the safety of my employees seriously, and I will contest the citation through the appeal process," he said.

The citation says Herzog was "exposed to the hazard of having his handgun accidentally or intentionally removed from his holster during a suspect altercation, which potentially could result in serious permanent disabilities or death."

That is allegedly what happened June 22 when Herzog responded to reports of a naked man running through traffic in Newcastle. After a brief struggle, the man allegedly took Herzog's handgun and shot him to death.

Ronald Keith Matthews, 44, was charged with first-degree murder and awaits trial.

Sheriff's officials have said it isn't clear whether Herzog's .40-caliber Glock 22 fell from his holster or was removed by Herzog.

The state's citation does not address what happened during the shooting, instead focusing on the fact that the use of the holster was itself a danger.

Although the sheriff's office has policies regarding the use of non-department-issued equipment, Labor and Industries officials said they were not followed in this case.

"They, in essence, could not show us that they had followed their own policies and procedures," department spokesman Steve Pierce said.

The sheriff's office said yesterday that the investigation was flawed and the conclusion drawn by state investigators is not supported by the evidence.

Herzog was using an Uncle Mikes brand holster that the state said was intended for a 9 mm Beretta.

But Deputy Steve Eggert, president of the King County Police Officers Guild, said the holster was approved for use and is virtually indistinguishable from the holster meant for the Glock.

"This wasn't an accident," Eggert said. "This was a homicide."

Rather than fine the department, Eggert said, he would rather the state had issued a new standard requiring all officers to use the more secure holsters, level-three holsters.

"If L&I wanted to make a statement, it seems to me they could have mandated the carrying of level-three holsters," he said.

The type of holster Herzog used has a level-two security rating, Eggert said, and is not as secure as the level-three holsters used by about half the 630 county deputies. The more secure holster has two straps to hold the pistol, which must be removed at a specific angle.

They're trickier to get used to, Eggert said, but the gun is far more secure in one.

"We've had instances where officers have been picked up off their feet by people trying to pull their gun out of the holster but the gun wouldn't come out," he said.

Although Labor and Industries frequently investigates state agencies and issues citations to them, such action in the death of a law enforcement officer is rare. The Ocean Shores Police Department was issued a citation after an officer on the department's dive team drowned while on a rescue in 1998.

"This is not a common kind of citation," Pierce said.

The state also cited the sheriff's office for a "general" violation because the department was not requiring annual training on the dangers of blood-borne pathogens.

Eggert said there were initially four citations against the department, but two were dropped after further state investigation.

The sheriff's office has 15 days to appeal the citation, Pierce said.

That will prompt a meeting between sheriff's officials and Labor and Industries as a first step, although appeals can be heard all the way to the Superior Court level, he said.

P-I reporter Hector Castro can be reached at 206-448-8126 or hectorcastro@seattlepi.com

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HABU
December 29, 2002, 08:58 PM
This is a bunch of crap. L&I is looking to justify their existance.

The BG was high on crack and told Officer Herzog he was going to take his gun and kill him with it. The BG did manage to get it away from Herzog and shoot him in the hip as he was running away. Once down, he was finished off.

I believe that in lots of other places the BG would have had holes in him. Unfortunately, at the time of this incident, The local cops were under increased scrutiny because of a couple incidents where black males were shot by white cops. All hell was breaking loose in the black community and the cops were feeling the pressure.

If Officer Herzog would have shot the POS dead, he would be alive today, and the Black community would have more ammo. Personally, I say shoot the POS and let the brass take the heat. (No pun intended.):D

Fed168
December 29, 2002, 11:27 PM
We are not hearing the whole situation as it played out. I do not like the result of the fight. Most LEOs that are KIA have done something contributory to the outcome. I am not placing blame on the officer alone, nor monday morning QBing the story, but blaming the holster is not a valid reasoning for a citiation.
With that said: USE A HOLSTER DESIGNED FOR YOUR SIDEARM.

Shawn Dodson
December 30, 2002, 01:22 AM
Labor violation citations are increasing against law enforcement agencies, and that's a good thing for both officer safety and public safety in my opinion. The oversight compels administrators to get with it and provide adequate training, equipment and supervision.

Herzog should not have been carrying his Glock in a Beretta holster, regardless of the adminstration's claim that "they're the same." The fact remains Herzog was improperly equipped, which increased the risk to himself, his fellow officers and public safety.

pax
December 30, 2002, 01:42 AM
Herzog chose his equipment himself. He chose to carry the holster he wore.

He died for it, too.

WTH is the labor board doing, getting all over the PD that let an officer make an equipment choice on his own? If the PD had mandated the officer carry something not up to snuff, that's one thing -- but the officer made a free choice, and paid for his choice. Why punish the PD for it?

What happened to individual responsibility? It should be up to the employee to make his own safety choices and to live ... or die ... by the choices he makes.

pax

One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty in finding someone to blame your troubles on. And when you do find someone, it's remarkable how often their picture turns up on your driver's license. -- P. J. O'Rourke

tomkatz
December 30, 2002, 02:08 AM
Some very good points made all around, that being said there had been a feeling for awhile that something like this was going to happen where an officer hesitated to use his firearm because of all the accusations being made about use of force by white officers on black suspects.
The best retention holster made for the specific weapon should be mandatory for all LEOs IMO....tom

Redlg155
December 30, 2002, 02:29 AM
If the Department allows its Officers to use personal weapons and holsters then it is the fault of the Officer for using a holster not designed for the specific weapon.

If the Department had a no personal weapons/holster policy and issued the Officer incorrect equipment then the Dept should be at fault.

At the same time there should be some policy implemented so that Officers use a minimum retention level holster, whether personal or department issued.

So, should the Department be at fault? I think "No". I'm not even sure the problem would have been caught during a uniform/equipment inspection by the shift commander.

Good Shooting
Red

Blueduck
December 30, 2002, 03:26 AM
The best retention holster made for the specific weapon should be mandatory for all LEOs IMO....tom

Couple of years ago I recall an officer sueing his department because he was knocked down in on the floor in a bathroom and took a serious beating because he could not draw from his level 3 holster due to his odd body position.

Damned if you do, damned if don't, lawyers walk off smiling with 33% of the money either way you go:rolleyes:

Pointman
December 31, 2002, 02:27 AM
It is a sad day when LEO's are more afraid of the backlash of shooting a perp than the perp. But that seems to be what it's come to.

4v50 Gary
December 31, 2002, 02:37 AM
The officer is partially to blame for using the wrong holster for his sidearm.

The department must also share blame if it knowingly allowed the officer to do so. Where was the rangemaster who was suppose to qualify the officers and inspect their equipment?

Bahadur
December 31, 2002, 02:40 AM
Damned if you do, damned if don't, lawyers walk off smiling with 33% of the money either way you goMore like 40% plus cost.

VaughnT
December 31, 2002, 11:54 AM
Where did it say that the weapon fell out and wasn't pulled out by the officer? The statement below only indicates what's on the citation, not what happened in the encounter.

"The citation says Herzog was "exposed to the hazard of having his handgun accidentally or intentionally removed from his holster during a suspect altercation, which potentially could result in serious permanent disabilities or death."

Even the sheriff admits ignorance of the facts that resulted in the death of an officer.

Sheriff's officials have said it isn't clear whether Herzog's .40-caliber Glock 22 fell from his holster or was removed by Herzog.

What I particularly like is that the keep trying to blame the equipment, but don't follow through.

1) The Office in question allowed officers to carry firearms that were devoid of an manual safety devices, exposing them to the hazard of having his handgun used against them, accidentally or intentionally, which could result in permanent disabilities or death.

2) The Office in question failed to provide their officers with reserve firearms, of a smaller size, so that said officers might return fire if their primary weapon was lost or seized by a member of the criminal underworld.

3) The Office in question failed to conduct a microcellular analysis of all holsters worn by those under their command. Said failure resulted in a "less-than-perfect" holster being used by an officer. Microcellular, gas chromotographical analysis should have been Standard Operating Procedure.

Where do you stop laying blame? When do you just throw up your hands, shake your head, and say, "life's just not fair!"

Bad things happen to good people.

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