Allen Kephart Taser Death Evidence Shuffle


The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles field office of Federal Bureau of Investigation are both said to be conducting investigations into the May death of Lake Arrowhead resident Allen Kephart during or immediately after a multiple-taser engagement by sheriff's deputies. Neither agency will comment on its investigation. Reason is still trying to get more information on Kephart's death, which was detailed in this recent Reason TV video:

To check claims that the community's relationship with local deputies has deteriorated in recent years, we have been trying to get numbers on civilian complaints from the Sheriff's Department. 

Dedicated to your safety, San Bernardino County Sheriff

Statistics provided by SBSD may or may not support the idea that police abuse got worse over the past five or so years– as Lake Arrowhead residents claim – but the SBSD's numbers are vague. Here is the Sheriff's Department's record for complaints about police activity for the area served by the Twin Peaks substation at Lake Arrowhead: 

2006: 1 complaint

2007: 7 complaints

2008: 6 complaints

2009: 9 complaints

2010: 9 complaints

2011: 2 complaints

That's all the SBSD gave us. The Sheriff's Department declined to specify types of complaint, and its annual report [pdf] does not include civilian complaints against police as a category of crime. 

In a two-page letter, County Counsel Jean-Rene Basle and one of Basle's 34 deputies responded to our request for Kephart-related written records and recordings of radio traffic made between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on May 10 by saying that these materials are "exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code Section 6254(f)."

In the same letter, Basle and Deputy County Counsel Phebe W. Chu declined to give any more detail on civilian complaints, citing both Government Code Section 6254 (k) (which exempts from disclosure records that are confidential "pursuant to federal or state law") and Penal Code section 832.7 (which exempts peace officer personnel records). However, subdivision 832.7 (c) contains an exception for the type of records we requested: 

[A] department or agency that employs peace or custodial officers may disseminate data regarding the number, type, or disposition of complaints (sustained, not sustained, exonerated, or unfounded) made against its officers if that information is in a form which does not identify the individuals involved.

Our request for Kephart-related records from California Highway Patrol (the only other police authority on the mountain) has also been fruitless so far, netting us only a fax with a "Cannot be located" box marked with an X.