How Often Do Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Deputies Use Force?

New Data Reveals How Many Suspects Have Been Physically Subdued and Injured

Credit: Adam Fagen

Out of 6,465 arrests made in 2021, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies used physical force to subdue suspects 45 times, or in 0.70 percent of the incidents, data released this week by the department shows. In 2020, force was used 87 times out of 6,294 arrests (1.38 percent); in 2019, it was 71 out of 7,222 (0.98 percent); 2018 was 78 out of 7,508 (1.04 percent); and in 2017, it was 87 instances out of 7,912 arrests (1.10 percent).

“Force” includes the use of canines, pepper spray, Tasers, firearms, less-lethal impact rounds, and hands-on restraints or takedowns. Suspects sustained 245 minor and six major injuries between 2017 and 2021, the data shows, and deputies received 99 injuries. Within the County Jail, custody deputies used force 279 times in the same five years, resulting in 113 minor injuries to inmates and 38 injuries to deputies.

Overall, on the streets and in the jail between 2017 and 2021, deputies used force against 39 Black suspects, 309 Hispanic suspects, and 263 White suspects. Hands-on tactics were the most common, followed by pepper spray and Tasers.

In 2021, the only year for which the information was immediately available, 44 civilian complaints were filed against Santa Barbara Sheriff’s deputies. One was sustained, one was investigated after which the deputy in question was exonerated, 26 were determined to be unfounded, and 16 remain pending. Seven of the complaints involved accusations of racial profiling; four were unfounded, and three are pending.

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