MARTINEZ – Today, in a letter to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the Prosecutors Alliance of California asked for an audit of the disciplinary practices in Sheriff Livingston’s department and to increase external oversight of departmental misconduct. Recent remarks made by Sheriff David Livingston suggest he believes his deputies are above the law, raising serious concerns over the legitimacy of an Internal Affairs investigation into former Deputy Andrew Hall and how the Sheriff is disciplining officers who abuse their authority.
“Sheriff Livingston’s comments are abhorrent and indicate his belief that deputies who kill are above the law,” said Cristine Soto DeBerry, Founder and Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California. “Police have wide latitude to use force, but when they unnecessarily kill they must be held accountable just like anyone else in our community. When we do not hold police accountable, people do not trust the legal system to protect them. That makes the job of policing more difficult and dangerous, and it makes it far less likely that crimes will be reported. That, in turn, poses a threat to everyone’s safety.
“District Attorney Diana Becton’s willingness to hold law enforcement accountable is the only check on an agency whose leader would otherwise grant his deputies unbridled power to kill with impunity. Sheriff Livingston took an oath to seek equal justice under the law and his remarks are an affront to that sworn commitment. These are not the words of a law enforcement leader, they’re the words of a man that believes accountability does not extend to police.”
Last week, a judge sentenced Deputy Andrew Hall to state prison after a jury convicted him for the 2018 shooting and killing of Laudemer Arboleda, an unarmed man having a mental health episode. This was not Hall’s only killing – he shot and killed Tyrell Wilson in 2021. Contra Costa County has paid $9.4 million to settle claims regarding former Sheriff’s deputy Andrew Hall. The County agreed to a $4.9 million settlement with Arboleda’s family last October in addition to a $4.5 million settlement with Tryell Wilson’s family.
In response to the verdict, Sheriff Livingston sent a department wide letter saying former Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Hall served with “honor and distinction,” that Hall “was forced to use deadly force to protect himself that day,” and noted that an internal affairs investigation had cleared Hall. Livingston called DA Becton’s decision to charge former Deputy Hall “abhorrent,” and told his deputies, “I have your back.”
In an email to the Board of Supervisors today, Cristine DeBerry sounded the alarm, noting that, “the fact that [Internal Affairs] cleared former Deputy Hall is concerning. If Department policy allows Sheriff’s Deputies to use force in contravention of the law, that would set up a situation wherein Deputies are being trained to use force in a manner that conflicts with criminal law. That presents serious issues for law enforcement officers, public safety, and county liability. Alternatively, if the Sheriff is clearing deputies in cases where their use of force was criminal, that too raises serious questions about the Sheriff’s commitment to public safety and accountability.”
The Board of Supervisors can help restore trust by increasing oversight over the Sheriff’s Department, and by auditing the department’s disciplinary policies. These are critical steps to help the public understand the scope of law enforcement misconduct and to develop policies to increase accountability.
“DA Becton courageously charged Officer Hall with the death of Mr. Arboleda, a jury convicted him, and a judge sentenced him to prison,” said Cristine DeBerry. “Sheriff Livingston should accept the jury’s verdict and look at ways to reduce the use of unnecessary force by his deputies rather than question the prosecutor’s decision to bring charges and defiantly proclaim to ‘have the back’ of officers where a jury has determined the force to be criminal.”