The U-T San Diego picked up the story yesterday, with a report by Jeff McDonald and Greg Moran, on how the case of former officer Anthony Arevalos – who is currently in prison for 8 years – has produced over a dozen law suits against the city for his conduct. Eleven of the 14 suits have been settled – to the tune of $1.55 million – and 3 are pending.
The U-T article described the culture of favoritism:
Two of the remaining cases portray a department that fails to discipline wayward officers, with a command staff that provides special protections to certain employees and their families and to other law enforcement professionals. The allegations are contained in testimony from officers drummed out amid corruption allegations themselves.
The article goes on to state, that during a deposition taken last July of former officer Arthur Perea for one of those cases, Perea testified that based on his 18 years with the SDPD, “police officials routinely hide officer misdeeds from the public”, and that “commanders favor officers who are ‘in the club’ over others who are not.”
Perea had quit the force 2 years ago amidst complaints about his own sexual misconduct, none of which resulted in him being charged. He stated:
“A lot of things that happened on the San Diego Police Department don’t ever hit the media. A lot of misconduct.”
Perea was asked to be more specific, during the deposition. He answered:
“Officers getting arrested for DUI off duty. DUI crashes. Beating up prostitutes. Pursuits involving other law enforcement agencies while off duty. Sex on duty. And those — and the code of silence is that the department keeps it quiet and does not release it to the media or outside of the department.”
The U-T article also lists another former police officer, 27-year veteran Kevin Friedman, who lost his career with the force after admitting that he torn up a traffic citation for a city prosecutor. The former sergeant also testified in the case that during his training at the police academy, recruits were taught not to ticket other cops or prosecutors. Friedman admitted that he trashed over a dozen citations for friends during his time with the department, as – he said under oath – did many other officers.
Children of cops were also allowed to escape charges, the U-T article continued, when involved in illegal incidents. Friedman said this was standard operating procedure in the department.
The woman plaintiff in another suit against the SDPD claims that that Police Chief Lansdowne created “a virtual green light (for officers) to commit misconduct without the possibility of sanctions.” She claimed that after she reported being sexually attacked by Arevalos, his supervisor refused to look into it or call in Internal Affairs.
The complaint charges that Lansdowne disbanded the anti-corruption unit shortly after taking the helm, changing the manner in which complaints against officers were reported, in order to keep control of any review. The suit states:
“Lansdowne did this to try to keep complaints in house at each station house where the supervisor of the officer complained of would handle it. In most cases, the supervisors took no action …”
In another case discussed in the article, a detective with the gang unit drove his patrol car into a utility box, and there were allegations that he had been drinking. Instead of calling the crash in and triggering an investigation into whether Det. Jeffrey Blackford was a DUI, the investigation was delayed for hours, and in the meantime Blackford was allowed to call his department friends to the crash site.
Officer Henry Castro was called to testify for a deposition, and he stated that a security video of the crash showed that police officers were attempting to cover up the DUI, by “feeding him, to bring down blood alcohol levels,” and by having Blackford “run wind sprints to lower blood alcohol levels.”
The U-T reported:
The detective eventually pleaded guilty to alcohol-related charges. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith forwarded information about the conduct of Blackford’s friends on the force to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who found no charges were warranted.
There is some level of civilian review of the police in San Diego, as the U-T article explained:
The city has empaneled a volunteer group called the Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices. The appointees do not conduct independent investigations. They rely on the department’s Internal Affairs division for the information they use to determine whether complaints are valid.
According to three recent quarterly reports, the board exonerated or ruled unfounded 147 of 172 complaints, or 85 percent. Thirteen complaints were sustained, about 1 in every 13.
Another clear instance of department favoritism did make it into the press, and was also reported by the U-T. Back in 2012, a son of a San Diego police captain “was accused of groping two women, hitting another in the face and smashing a car window during an alcohol-fueled disturbance in Pacific Beach” and he was not taken to jail.
Alex Guaderrama, son of Capt. Manny Guaderrama, was treated for cuts, put in the front seat of a police cruiser unhandcuffed and driven to a parking lot where his mother picked him up. Later, San Diego police officials defended the decision to permit the sexual battery and vandalism suspect to go free.
After the report hit the press, there had to be a regrouping of sorts. Eventually, over 6 months after the incident, Guaderrama pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges, received three years summary probation, $850 fine, and ordered to perform 50 days of public work service.
As the issue of department favoritism under Lansdowne simmers, there could be morale problems as there is a reported “brain drain” from the top echelons of the force. A Voice of San Diego article recently counted three high-profile officers leaving San Diego, and included this quote from Jeff Jordon, vice president of the San Diego Police Officers Association:
“There’s going to be massive turnover in the department soon.”
The City’s ability to retain police officers will probably be an issue in the upcoming mayoral campaign, no doubt.