Should San Diego police department be responsible for a bad cop? Not every huge governmental entity is perfect. And what if no one know at SDPD about this guy?
Scrambling is often seen in weekend football games.
Now San Diego officials have to scramble as they maneuver around pointed questions as to whether and when they knew about former San Diego police Officer Anthony Arevalos' No DUI Deals for Sex?
This "No Drunk Driving for Sexual Favors" trial tells us that some within San Diego Police Department may have come across red flags as early as 2009, including an unofficial report made by an alleged victim to a detective, as well as inappropriate photos of women sent to a fellow traffic officer.
Whether the officers had enough information to act on or violated an obligation to report what they knew remains unclear.
San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne declined last week to comment on any aspect of the case until the trial is over. He said he does not want to taint the jury or affect the trial’s outcome.
This No DUI for Sex case “should be a wake up call for any department that this could happen,” said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for an independent review office that monitors the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It can be tough to break the code-of-silence mentality among law enforcement officers.
“Police officers on the same shift have to rely on each other for safety and security. They tend to be cohesive units,” said Gennaco, a former federal prosecutor. “Knowing the potential jeopardy placed on an officer by reporting potential conduct makes it a very hard choice.”
San Diego police officials claim the first indication of any wrongdoing by Arevalos came in February 2010, when they received a complaint from a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by him in the back seat of his police car.
The allegations were investigated and forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review, but no charges were filed.
When asked about the outcome of that investigation, Lansdowne has said: “If I thought that Officer Arevalos had committed a crime I would have fired him.”
During the trial, one woman testified that she was stopped by Arevalos on Sept. 28, 2009.
She said she took a breath test at police headquarters, after which the officer allegedly suggested they “work something out.” Although he never used the word “sex,” the woman testified that she thought he allegedly wanted something sexual (in exchange for no DUI).
Ultimately he let her go without citing her, but he told her he allegedly would return to collect his “favor,” the woman said.
Later, she described the incident to a co-worker at Dick’s Last Resort, a downtown restaurant, who advised her to tell the story to a police detective she knew.
The detective, James Clark, testified that he called the woman, but she did not give him the name of the officer or the date of the incident. Clark said he told the woman to report it to the Police Department’s internal affairs unit.
But the woman testified she didn’t report the incident to police because she didn’t want anything to interfere with her plans to leave the state. She was also concerned, she said, that she could still be charged with DUI.
The results of her breath test showed she had a blood-alcohol content of .16%, twice the California DUI limit of .08% BAC.
The department won’t say at this time what obligation, if any, Clark had to report the woman’s story to a supervisor or internal affairs.
The department’s procedures on taking and investigating citizen complaints only addresses the formal complaint process, which was not used in this instance. In a section updated in May, the procedures state that department members who suspect another employee of a crime must report it to their supervisor, or report it on a new confidential complaint hotline or to the internal affairs lieutenant.
The hotline was one of several steps Lansdowne took this year to try to curb police misconduct. Arevalos’ case was one of at least nine misconduct investigations to make headlines at the department this year.
Another former officer who worked with Arevalos in the traffic division testified that Arevalos sent him photos of scantily clad women, one of whom was topless, in December 2009. They are not pictures of any alleged victims in this case and they were not shown to the jury.
Last week, a traffic officer came forward and told police officials he had witnessed disturbing behavior from Arevalos about six to eight months before his arrest.
The incidents included seeing Arevalos with a pair of panties at the trunk of his patrol car and witnessing him “all over” a woman during a traffic stop, Deputy District Attorney Sherry Thompson told Judge Jeffrey Fraser in talks outside of the jury’s presence.
The officer, Freddie Thornton, also reported that Arevalos told him he had downloaded photos onto his cellphone of up-the-skirt pictures from another officer’s investigative file.
It was unknown why the officer didn’t report the conduct before now. Fraser ruled that Thornton would not be allowed to testify.
In a search warrant affidavit obtained in April, a source told police that Arevalos had a “well-known history of police misconduct” and that he would keep photographs of women he contacted while on-duty. The photos allegedly showed women in various stages of undress while performing sexual acts with Arevalos.