Internal competition aimed at boosting sales, morale and productivity is a healthy aspect of the business world. Law enforcement is a different matter. Trying to boost sheriff’s deputies’ job performance with contests, which the sheriff’s station in Lakewood experimented with over the summer, goes too far. The division of the county Sheriff’s Department came under fire last week over station-sponsored contests to see which deputies could make the most arrests, impound the most vehicles and question the most gang members, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. An Aug. 15 e-mail detailed “Operation Any Booking,” which was designed to encourage arrests over a 24-hour period. Though arrests in areas patrolled by the station did not increase above the monthly average that day, the technique employed by station management is something that could lead to illegitimate arrests. In fairness, the station lieutenant who wrote the e-mail said it was intended to be motivational and the only prize was “bragging rights.” He also told the newspaper that no deputies falsified a report. Meanwhile, “Operation Vehicle Impound” aimed at seizing as many cars as possible, and another competition asked deputies to question as many suspects and gang members as possible. Those activities netted increases above the averages in those categories. Police watchdog groups said the contests make a game out of the trauma of being arrested or the frustration of having a car impounded. We agree. Police work should be handled with care and caution. It should not be treated as a game. Sheriff Lee Baca said the competitions were well-intentioned but poorly executed. His assessment appears correct. There is no suggestion that deputies bent the rules of the law to win the contests. But the only incentives deputies truly need to fight crime are their paychecks and a commitment to public service. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!