This article was originally published on Newsmakers with Jerry Roberts.
In the wake of the George Floyd killing, investigative reporter Tyler Hayden undertook a methodical and meticulous examination of cases involving the deadly use of force by law enforcement officers in Santa Barbara County.
Over the past year, he has churned out a series of stories in the Santa Barbara Independent revealing, among other things, that the county quietly has paid out $9 million to settle five cases alleging misconduct by Sheriff’s deputies over the past decade – while several other similar lawsuits are still pending.
In a conversation with Newsmakers, Hayden goes behind-the-scenes on his reporting, discussing the difficulties and complexities of prying loose from law enforcement previously unreported information using California’s Public Record Act.
Among his findings: although one deputy has been involved in four deadly force cases, there has been a total lack of transparency about any accountability or discipline in the incidents — despite the costly settlements arising from his conduct.
It is notable that, while political pressure from Black Lives Matter organizers and others have led the city of Santa Barbara to agree to establish a citizen review process to help shed light on the actions of police officers, there has been no comparable response from the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Bill Brown or District Attorney Joyce Dudley, so that internal investigations about use of force and misconduct allegations remain cloaked in secrecy.
Watch our conversation with Tyler Hayden, including how he got the amazing story of the biggest drug bust in county history, his reflections on the bittersweet process of profiling community members who died of Covid and some tales from the Critter Beat, via YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here.