But OIR officials said the reviews are insufficient to allow managers to identify potential system failures, such as improper diagnoses of physical and mental illnesses, inadequate row checks or inattention by jailers. “What we also found is that if you don’t address these problems up front, it will end up causing a problem on the back end,” Gennaco said. “If this review doesn’t occur in a timely and meaningful way, unfortunately, many of these cases will result in lawsuits.” The report notes that deputy-involved shootings numbered 57 in 2004 and dropped to 49 last year, when 28 of those shootings resulted in the death or wounding of a suspect. Incidents in which many shots were fired – such as one in Compton last year when deputies fired 120 rounds into a vehicle – have also reached highs: up from 12 in 2001 to 15 last year. In some instances over the past few years, deputies involved in shootings met as a group at sheriff’s stations with their attorneys before talking to investigators, Gennaco said. “The main problem with the practice is that, in a worst-case scenario, it would facilitate the cover-up of a bad shooting by allowing deputies to `get their stories straight’ prior to making an official statement,” Gennaco wrote. He said the practice raises a “specter of impropriety,” although he didn’t discover any actual attempts by deputies to cover up a wrongful shooting. On Nov. 1, the department instituted a policy that forbids the practice. The Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs is challenging the ban in court. “We felt the department had an obligation to meet and confer on this issue, and they didn’t fulfill that obligation,” association President Steve Remige said. “They just unilaterally implemented the policy.” firstname.lastname@example.org (213) 974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’“Those death reviews were being delayed months and sometimes years. … It was clear to the OIR that any review … that happens 974 days after the death cannot be a meaningful review,” Gennaco said. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department is trying to reduce the backlog and time it takes to investigate. “We have two internal death reviews of the same incident prior to the final death review,” Whitmore said. “They look at it, examine it, and then they have another one to follow up to see if there is anything that needs to be done. And then they have the final one. And it’s the final one that has been taking so long.” State law requires that all inmate deaths be investigated, and sheriff’s Custody Support Services deputies collect and review arrest records, custody history and medical documents. A synopsis of the findings is presented at a meeting of custody managers. Sheriff’s Department reviews of Los Angeles County Jail inmate deaths are averaging longer than a year each and sometimes even take several years, according to a report released Wednesday on the growing backlog of cases. The average time between an inmate’s death and completion of a review rose from 234 days in 2003 to more than 370 days last year, according to the report by the Office of Independent Review. Each year, about 37 inmates die – most of them from natural causes. Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review, said a death review should take about 90 days, but some have taken as long as 600 days – completed so late that a statute of limitations then blocked disciplining any personnel involved.