Family of Pierce County (WA) Deputy Sues for Wrongful Death, Blames County for Deliberately Understaffing Department

By Steve Pomper

Cops know there are always unintended negative consequences when politicians, spurred on by community activists, attempt knee-jerk “fixes” for what they erroneously see as law enforcement “problems.” One of these consequences is the increase in violent crime in many places across the U.S., which corresponds to a reduction in the number of officers available for 911 calls.

In a time of a “crisis” around every corner, the dangerous shortage of officers in many major American cities is a bona fide crisis. The bloodletting at police agencies began decades ago but has only gotten much worse. This exsanguination of police personnel hurts not only potential crime victims but also significantly increases officers’ chances of becoming violent crime victims, themselves.

Such an incident occurred in January 2018, before the defund the police cacophony reached its current crescendo. A 34-year-old Pierce County (WA) Sheriff’s Deputy, Daniel McCartney, was shot and killed while responding to a home invasion robbery. His family and estate blame the agency’s shortage of cops for Deputy McCartney’s death. The wife and three little boys he left behind don’t want anyone else to go through what they have.

According to The News Tribune, this three-year-old line of duty death has reemerged because the deputy’s family has recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court.

The lawsuit claims, “Pierce County knowingly put Deputy McCartney in the untenable position of responding without any immediate back-up. But for Pierce County’s failure to properly staff and train its deputies, Daniel McCartney would likely still be alive.” The family is seeking damages but also wants a court ruling that will order the county to adequately staff the agency.

Pierce County Sheriff’s detectives ultimately located and arrested Deputy McCartney’s murderers. As of this month, all have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. KOMO News reported, in August 2018, the primary suspect investigators believe fired the shot that killed Deputy McCartney, entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (if you’re wondering, Washington is a death penalty state. However, in 2014, Governor Jay Inslee saw fit to overrule the people and unilaterally suspend death sentences).

The lawsuit notes, “Pierce County set minimum staffing levels approximately 16 or more years ago without increasing staffing minimums to correspond or keep pace with population growth.” Many agencies across the nation tell similar stories (by the way, my colleague, Chief Joel Shults, has a fascinating new article at NPA, examining the dangers of understaffed law enforcement agencies from another angle).

The family claims a shortage of staffing led directly to Deputy McCartney’s extended duty assignment on the day he was murdered. Due to understaffing, before “the shooting, McCartney worked from 3 p.m. Jan. 6 to 6 a.m. Jan 7.” Later, due to a deputy’s illness, he also “agreed to cover the fellow deputy’s graveyard shift on January 7… to January 8. Unfortunately, Daniel McCartney never made it home from that shift.”

The suit says this shows not having proper staffing forces deputies to “work double shifts with very little sleep.” The agency staffs an area of 1,806 square miles with only 12 deputies and one sergeant—that’s one deputy for every 150 square miles.

There’s also another critical issue. The various kinds of attacks on law enforcement from emboldened anti-police activists that distract from law enforcement’s public safety mission. These attacks are multifaceted and include suing in the courts, filing complaints with police accountability offices, assaulting cops during riots, committing property damage, and engaging in other violence.

recently wrote about BLM and local media accusing the current Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer of, of course, racism. He should be busy working to gain additional deputy positions to avoid future line-of-duty tragedies. Instead, he’s busy defending himself against the vicious nonsense the media and BLM activists are accusing the sheriff of without any evidence.

Why? Because at 2 a.m. the county’s top cop observed a suspicious vehicle driving on his street without headlights and stopping at neighbors’ houses. His Tacoma neighborhood had reportedly been the recent target of property damage and theft incidents. Sheriff Troyer followed the suspicious car and had an encounter with the irate subject who’d apparently been delivering newspapers. Something he reportedly neglected to tell the sheriff.  

As the incident became public, two unfortunate things came to light that were totally out of the Sheriff’s control. He happened to have been born white and the driver was born black. That is all that is necessary these days to attack law enforcement.

Let’s not forget the BLM supporters and media going after Sheriff Troyer are not simply mistaken about what they are accusing him of; they are using those false accusations intentionally to attack him. They have an anti-cop agenda, and this is what it looks like when they carry it out. They do not want the sheriff to have the time to work on fighting the county to properly fund the department. They don’t care if cops have to risk their lives because of the county’s ignorant, negligent, or reckless understaffing decisions.

Remember, what BLM wants? “Dead cops.” And, apparently, “they want them now.” I’m sure the civil rights warriors at BLM will be happy if there are more families, such as Deputy Daniel McCartney’s, suing governments for wrongful deaths of their loved ones. After all, it means there’s another dead cop.       

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