Blue ran in the veins of Deputy Ryan Clinkunboomer. The 30-year-old deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was a fourth-generation law enforcement officer (LEO). Deputy Clinkunboomer left the Palmdale station on a typical sunny California day on Saturday September 16. At about 6 pm, he was northbound on Sierra Highway when he approached a red light at Avenue Q. He stopped his marked patrol vehicle in the outside lane to wait for the light to cycle. A dark four-door sedan, also northbound on Sierra Highway, approached from the rear. Using the inside lane, the sedan pulled alongside the patrol unit’s driver’s side. An occupant of the car shot the deputy with a .22 caliber gun. The sedan sped off and continued northbound.
Moments later, a passerby noticed something was not right. The Good Samaritan stopped and found the ambushed deputy slouched over and unconscious. EMS and deputies responded, but it was too late. Deputy Clinkunboomer died from his wounds. The evidence quickly led detectives to issue an arrest warrant for 29-year-old Kevin Cataneo. The next day, Cataneo was arrested at his home and booked for murder. The deputy is survived by his fiancée, parents, and grandparents. Pray for the family and department.
Like most agencies across America, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is short staffed and had a mandatory overtime policy in place that demanded deputies work a minimum of 100 hours of overtime each month—that equates to an extra two and a half work weeks every month. That means fatigued officers. Fatigued officers mean officers that are not as alert. Vigilance is an often overlooked, but critical aspect of policing. LEOs must remain vigilant—especially in today’s environment.
On November 28th, the family of the fallen deputy filed a 20-million-dollar lawsuit against LA County, the Sheriff’s Department, and the city of Palmdale. The suit alleges that the mandatory overtime policy created an unsafe work environment that contributed to Deputy Clinkunboomer’s death. That might sound like a frivolous lawsuit, but the family might have a very good case. A 2000 study, entitled “Tired Cops: The prevalence and potential consequences of police fatigue,” found that four out of eight officers who were involved in an on-the-job accident were impaired because of fatigue. A 2009 study by the Nation Institute of Justice (NIJ) said,
With ever-changing schedules, overtime, and overnight shifts, it is not surprising that some police officers suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep disorders, which are typically associated with poor health, performance and safety outcomes, are twice as prevalent among police officers compared to the general public – and a new study suggests that they remain largely undiagnosed and untreated.
The NIJ study further showed that 40% of officers suffer from sleep disorders and 46% report falling asleep on the job. What does this mean? It means that not only are officers at risk, so too is the public.
Beyond mandatory overtime, with the crazy inflation, it’s understandable why officers are tempted to work as much overtime as they can to pay bills. Sometimes unexpected expenses hit us. But the longer we live the more we realize there will always be unexpected expenses, therefore it’s imperative to have a budget and an emergency fund and to live within our means. I recommend Ramsey Solutions to help get on and stay on track financially.
It has yet to be determined if fatigue played a factor in the murder of Deputy Clinkunboomer. But please, get the rest your body needs and remain vigilant. Although mandatory overtime may be beyond your control, do what you can to get 7-8 hours each sleep cycle.
Chaplain Jim Bontrager is a friend and the president of the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Jim called last month and during our conversation, he mentioned that he was invited to speak to several Chicago officers who had been involved in shootings. I asked him if he had any copies of Winning a Gunfight left over from the last batch I sent him. He did not and I sent him 25 copies to be used in his ministry. Pray that these books will help these officers in the aftermath of their gunfights.
SBL On the Road
The week before Christmas, Sherry and I slipped down to Arkansas to begin support raising for the Strong Blue Line Foundation. As mentioned previously, we have been recognized by Idaho as a nonprofit and have applied with the IRS for 501(c)3, nonprofit status.
The New Year promises to be one of travel. So far, we have various events in Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, Idaho, and Iowa.
Pray for your police.
 Vila, B.J. (2000). Tired Cops: The Importance of Managing Police Fatigue. Washington DC: Police Executive Research Forum.