After multiple controversial, high-profile incidents in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department North Patrol Chief Dennis Kneer, who has been in the position since 2018, will be transferred to South Patrol Division effective February 11th according to internal communication received by The Current Report.
In 2013, the Justice Department found Sheriff’s deputies in the Antelope Valley were engaged in “widespread” harassment of the mostly minority residents of low-income housing. The Justice Department concluded that deputies “engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct” that included “the use of unreasonable force” and unconstitutional pedestrian and vehicles stops, some of which “appeared motivated by racial bias.”
Since the DOJ Consent Decree was put in place, the total overhaul of Palmdale and Lancaster stations was attempted multiple times.
On June 2nd, 2023, Bishop V. Jesse Smith, Chairman of the Antelope Valley African American Leadership Council held a press conference. Smith and other activists and community leaders also called for the dissolution of the Community Advisory Committees, demanded that the sheriff’s department comply with a 2015 settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice and called for Lancaster station Capt. John Lecrivain to be removed.
“Today, the AV African American Leadership Council stand(s) in solidarity with various organizations, community leaders, activists and residents you see standing before you today seeking and demanding the transformation (and) reform in the Los Angeles (County) Sheriff’s Department,” Smith said. “This reform cannot just be one to quiet the voices of the discontent or dissent, but which must be radical and revolutionary that will have a real effect and impact on the lives of those who live in the Antelope Valley…Today, we stand in unison with our comrades in the struggle for justice to hold Sheriff Luna accountable for the words he stated.” Smith said and also noted that among the reforms the department has yet to implement are an approved use of force policy and how the stations will record arrests and police stops.
Just three weeks later, the WinCo Use of Force incident made headlines.
According to Sheriff Luna at the WinCo incident press conference, the Palmdale incident was brought to his attention by Chief Kneer a few days before. Kneer was Chief of the division when the Palmdale incident took place under former Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Shorty after the Palmdale Use of Force video hit the news feeds, the former Sheriff defended the deputy’s (and his administration’s) actions involving the internal handling of the July 2022 Palmdale Use of Force on his Twitter account.
As controversy continued to loom over the Lancaster and Palmdale stations, an “Open Letter” written by an unnamed “deputy” at the “Lancaster station” circulated on social media. The letter revealed the struggles of law enforcement in the area.
On September 17th, 2023, deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer was murdered just outside the Palmdale station. This devastating event compounded an already stressful work environment and already tanking morale for the rank and file, not to mention another high-profile incident for the Antelope Valley sister stations cycling in the news feeds.
This event and the department’s handling of it, inspired the second “Just a Deputy” letter which mentions the lack of support from Luna and Chief Kneer and their disregard for due process in the incidents that led to the deputies being relieved of duty.
“Worse still, those vocal few have recently been bolstered, and even encouraged by Sheriff Luna and Chief Kneer when they saw fit to hold press conferences that publicly destroyed the reputations of two AV Deputies this summer just to score political cred with those vocal few. They did so without completing any Department level investigations, let alone any court proceedings to determine guilt or innocence.”
After Clinkunbroomer’s funeral, department members voiced their distaste for department “brass” referring specifically to Kneer on social media.
Deputy Clinkunbroomer’s family filed suit on November 27th, citing the excessive mandatory overtime led to his inability to be cognizant and aware at the time he was murdered.
Just days after that lawsuit was filed, another high-profile incident involving the Palmdale station made headlines.
Deputy Ty Shelton and his trainee responded to a domestic violence incident where a female, Niani Finlayson, reported her ex-boyfriend was allegedly strangling her. She also said the man hurt her 9-year-old daughter. Finlayson opened the door to deputies wielding a large kitchen knife, ignorning orders to drop the weapon.
The incident escalated as the woman continued to stand near the man with the knife near his head and throat and ultimately resulted in the woman being shot by Shelton after her continuing refusal to comply with the deputy’s orders. Finlayson died later at the hospital.
The incident is currently under investigation and Shelton continues his duties at the station.
The continued controversies surrounding the Antelope Valley stations have appeared to have culminated with Kneer’s transfer, which insider’s say was not well-received by Kneer, who has been in the North Patrol Division for a good portion his career.
Prior to the transfer date of February 11th, it has been learned that Kneer is off “Injured on Duty” and is not expected to return to the department.