The chutzpah deputy

THE CIVIL RIGHTS lawsuit filed by Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Tracy Watson assures his nomination for our first annual Award for Outstanding Chutzpah. (It's a Yiddish term for brazen gall, as when someone kills both parents - and seeks mercy with the plea that he's an orphan.)

With another deputy, Watson was videotaped April 1 in the roadside clubbings of an unarmed man and unresisting woman. They were yanked from a truck after a high-speed chase down the Pomona Freeway into Los Angeles County. Nineteen other illegal immigrants from Mexico jumped out and ran.

The lawyer who filed the suit against the sheriff's department said his client's superiors refused to let him consult his attorney or his union representative before writing his official report of the incident. It's potentially self-incriminating, said the lawyer, and the 29-year-old deputy considers himself a victim of

"police brutality."

Respect for civil rights is always welcome, even among the very police officers who often claim to be handcuffed by the Miranda warning, search-and-seizure rulings and the need for a good reason before they can stop someone.

At the same time, we're wondering why the top brass in the Riverside County Sheriff's Department evidently failed to extend to their own deputy the basic rights that are granted to all suspected perpetrators.

There's no better way to wreck a prosecution.<