October 17, 2009

Let’s cut to the chase: Investigate the police

With the most recent filing of yet another lawsuit against the city and its police department by former officers alleging entrenched patterns of discrimination and retaliation, it has become clear that a close examination of the way the city and the Police Department conducts itself is warranted.

By way of “examination,” I do not mean the traditional method of naming an exploratory group to review the possibility of forming a review committee, which will then take an excessive amount of time to produce a noncommittal report full of obfuscations and over-broad generalizations that will later be either ignored or paraded around as the truth.


What I mean is an investigation. A full-fledged, subpoena-the-witnesses, take-the depositions-under- oath investigation by either a grand jury or the California attorney general.

Among the allegations are rampant racial discrimination, sexual harassment, on-the-job retaliation, improper disclosure of private information, the improper handling of a separate sexual harassment investigation at the police-run animal shelter, a city manager who offered a deal to keep a demotion out of the public eye and the theft of police internal affairs investigation material on one of its own officers from a locked office within the police building itself.

When there are allegations by a former police captain about an internal refusal to allow an outside law enforcement agency to investigate a crime that occurred inside the police headquarters building, you know you have a problem that demands a full and complete independent investigation by a body that has the power to issue and execute search warrants, and obtain sworn testimony under penalty of perjury.

This is not a job for our Police Commission that has been swamped with these legal actions. With respect to these allegations, the Police Commission should have no role except to step aside and let the light of a full independent investigation fall where it may.

The lawsuits that have been filed, and those that may have yet to be filed, will slowly work their way through the civil judicial system to resolution. The problems that they have identified must be addressed quickly and thoroughly and not have an opportunity to become tainted by the involvement of the city or its police department.

The time for that has passed, and the allegations themselves call into question whether it could have even been done at all.

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