The National Police Association (NPA) has filed a friend of the court brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the family of Deputy Daniel McCartney, who was fatally shot while responding to a call. Deputy McCartney, 34, was shot in the line of duty on January 7, 2018, while responding to a home invasion robbery. He is survived by his wife and three young sons.
According to the lawsuit, Pierce County failed to adjust funding for staffing for the Sheriff’s Office for 16 years, even though population has grown every year, and further failed to adequately fund staffing for even the 16-year-old outdated staffing criteria. Those failures resulted in Deputy McCartney only being allowed six hours sleep in between back-to-back shifts and being assigned to a 700 square mile patrol district with only one other deputy.
After he arrived at the scene of the reported home invasion, McCartney chased two men who ran, radioed that shots had been fired and then was silent. When back-up arrived, they found McCartney with a gunshot wound to his neck. He later died at a local hospital.
“On the night Deputy McCartney died, it is believed there were 12 deputies on duty, plus one sergeant, to cover the entire 1,806 square miles in Pierce County Sheriff’s coverage area – or one deputy for every 150 square miles – or the equivalent of one deputy to cover the entire city of Seattle – alone,” the lawsuit said. “Pierce County’s Council should have left staffing priorities to the elected Sheriff and Pierce County’s Council should have appropriated monies to bring staffing to sufficiently safe levels,” the lawsuit said.
The NPA’s brief provides analysis of Pierce County’s legal duties to at least minimize risks through adequate staffing and training, and rebuts the County’s defenses explaining how existing law allows the family’s lawsuit to move forward.
The NPA’s brief is supported by the Declaration of Dr. Joel Shults, who distinguishes between the operational risks inherent in law enforcement, and the “organizational risks” created through understaffing. “Danger and uncertainty are part of the law enforcement officer’s daily chores, but the work should be done within the safest, most predictable environment reasonably possible. A danger created by poor staffing, inadequate training, and failure to establish policy regarding predictable types of encounters, is not something the individual officers can address in the heat of one of those encounters.” Dr. Shults said.
The National Police Association is represented by James L. Buchal of Murphy & Buchal LLP. The matter is Case No. 21-2-04582-2 The Estate of Daniel Alexander McCartney; et al. v. Pierce County; et al. in Pierce County Superior Court.
The NPA’s amicus brief and Declaration of Dr. Shults can be viewed here https://nationalpolice.org/dev/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Amicus-Brief-and-Declaration-in-Support-of-McCartney-Family-v-Pierce-County.pdf
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