Police Union Gives 'Officer Of The Year' Award To A Cop Who Spent Last Year Suspended

from the pretty-on-brand-for-a-police-union dept

If you’d like some more anecdotal evidence about the useless and general disconnectedness of police unions, have I got something for you. We all know police unions take the worst aspects of policing and amplify them. We know they fearlessly defend even the worst officers from lawsuits, firings, and public criticism. We know they’re the main barricade to true accountability, having tied up most cities in protracted legal language that allows cops to do all they can to avoid being fired and, in the off-chance they do get canned, get their jobs back via the arbitration process.

Via the Free Thought Project comes this painful howler of a story — one that involves a police union, an officer awaiting discipline, and an annual award for the top cop in the city. Here’s how it went down, as explained by Joe Nelson of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune:

Detective Eric Walterscheid stood at a podium before the El Monte City Council during its last meeting in June, touting the work of Officer Carlos Molina before honoring him as the Police Officers Association’s Officer of the Year for 2020.

Walterscheid (who is also the police union president) spoke at length about Molina’s early days as a promising young investigator. He didn’t have much to say about Detective Molina’s more current work… because there wasn’t much of that to discuss.

But Molina seemed an odd choice for the honor, primarily because he didn’t work a single day in 2020. He spent the entire year on paid administrative leave that ultimately lasted 19 months — from September 2019 to April 2021, according to Tom Madruga, a contract attorney for the city.

Officer of the Year for not working a single day. That’s really something. And, almost unimaginably, the El Monte police department likely got more done with Detective Molina sidelined.

You see, Molina was suspended for spending more than a year working a single child abuse investigation that “yielded little work product.” And he couldn’t even manage to not move this investigation forward during regular work hours. He racked up 42 hours of overtime not getting the job done, adding another $4,400 to the taxpayers’ tab for services un-rendered.

The case was pulled from Molina and handed to another detective, Pedro Yanez. Yanez closed the case in 44 days and the two suspects are now awaiting trial.

The police union has refused to comment on the public embarrassment. City officials have commented, mainly offering up variations on “what even the fuck.”

Some of the rank-and-file, however, have speculated this award was given to a suspended cop as a “message of dissatisfaction” with current police chief David Reynoso. That’s according to Sgt. Jamie Pitts, who included this theory in his email asking the city council to pull the award ceremony from its agenda before it embarrassed everyone involved in it.

If it was a joke or a way to use the disgraced detective to send a message, that seems to have been lost on Detective Molina, who appears to be very appreciative of the award he very definitely didn’t earn.

Despite the sergeant’s pleas to end this embarrassment before it began (and make public the fact that Molina took home not only the Top Cop award, but nearly $205,000 for doing nothing), the show went on. Mayor Jessica Ancona (who, the Tribune notes, is “endorsed by the police union”) refused to pull the agenda item, telling concerned council members they were welcome to try to get it voted down while the council session was underway — something they would have had to do in front of Molina and his friends and family. The farce was allowed to continue. And now an officer who went 0-for-365 last year is officially the police union’s 2020 MVP.

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Comments on “Police Union Gives 'Officer Of The Year' Award To A Cop Who Spent Last Year Suspended”

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37 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

There's hiding corruption poorly and there's not even trying

An officer who wasted an entire year on a single case without anything to show for it and was put on paid leave as a result that also lasted over a year getting named Officer of the Year is just confirming how corrupt the unions and police have become, as it makes clear that that sort of behavior is something desirable, worthy of praise and accolades, or at the very least that the award has nothing to do with actual accomplishments and is merely handed out to whatever they union likes or wants to show support for at the moment.

Yet again a police union is so desperate to protect their own from any sort of accountability or punishments that they instead drag the reputation of the police through the mud and highlight the rot and corruption infesting it.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Officer of the Year for not working a single day.

We essentially do the same thing with CEOs who make decisions to screw over their grassroots-level, blue-collar, expendable workforce to make sure their stakeholders’ collective erections are still rock hard.

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that cops have long since realized they don’t even need to fucking pretend anymore.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

"Some of the rank-and-file, however, have speculated this award was given to a suspended cop as a "message of dissatisfaction" with current police chief David Reynoso."

So, a fairly typical display of forward planning and care for those they are supposed to serve. In order to voice a very local dispute, they’ve handed everyone in the country hard evidence that "good cops" will just reward "bad cops" for their behaviour instead of punishing them, thus making them all the bad guys in the public’s eyes. It doesn’t matter what the intent was, the optics are that a incompetent cop who did things that would get you sacked in any other profession, was awarded over a year’s free holiday and a cash award worth more than 10x the minimum annual wage.

Whatever the intended message was, it’s not the one they sent.

Anonymous Coward says:

At a certain level society could be a much better place if we paid and rewarded cops for not arresting people. Retain the very small portion of cops who don’t love violence and pay the rest of the steroid abusing cops with anger management, domestic violence, and truthfulness on the stand problems whatever it takes to keep them at home where they can’t ruin lives for sport or quotas.

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Anonymous Coward says:

what cops need

  1. they need to police themselves and eliminate the bad cops from their own ranks
  2. they need to be paid more…they’re only putting their own lives on the line everyday while witnessing the worst of us (motor vehicle accidents, murder scenes, suicides, abused children and women, etc.)
  3. they need to be held EQUALLY accountable when they do wrong. Yes, killing unarmed civilians is wrong!
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: what cops need

they need to police themselves and eliminate the bad cops from their own ranks

Doesn’t seem to have worked out so far, has it?

they need to be paid more…they’re only putting their own lives on the line everyday while witnessing the worst of us (motor vehicle accidents, murder scenes, suicides, abused children and women, etc.)

Since they’re incapable of doing #1, why would we even consider rewarding shitty job performance with more money?

they need to be held EQUALLY accountable when they do wrong. Yes, killing unarmed civilians is wrong!

Until they’re not allowed to do #1, good luck with this.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: what cops need

"Since they’re incapable of doing #1, why would we even consider rewarding shitty job performance with more money? "

Yeah, that has to go hand in hand with a general increase of skill, integrity, and knowledge. No country can afford the lawman being outcompeted in moxie by burger-flipping students and sanitation engineers.

A law enforcer above all needs to be smarter and more knowledgeable in law than the average citizen. Not less. Held to far higher standards and, yes, paid accordingly.
But that won’t happen as long as police unions helmed by white supremacists, sadists and "tough guys" have full control over what the body politic gets to legislate around police.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
TripMN says:

Re: what cops need

1 – They’ve already been given decades and decades of external pressure and time to do this. Yes there is a need, but no one seems to be able to make them, so now what? When a system continuously is degenerate despite public calls decrying its horribleness, it is perhaps time to knock it down and build a new one.

2 – There may be some places where cops aren’t paid enough, but in most parts of the US cops make way more than the median for starting pay and most end up making big bucks after adding in overtime or details. EMTs and Firefighters see people on their worst days too, usually make way less than cops and don’t end up killing anyone. So why again should cops get more? To not harm or abuse the citizens even though they could get away with it?

3 – They need to be held to a HIGHER standard. They are supposedly professionals given the task by the populace to enforce laws and keep the peace. With great power should come great responsibility, but somehow they are held to a lower standard than the average Joe. I understand EQUALLY would be a huge upgrade, but its not where we should be drawing the line of what should be expected.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: what cops need

Wow. People disagree with my SUGGESTIONS, but yet have NO SUGGESTIONS of their own. That never happens on the internet.

I guess your suggestion, TripMN, is to ‘knock it down and build a new one’. If you’re referring to some type of professional term limits for cops before they burn out and go crazy, then I’m down. Otherwise, all I’m hearing is a bunch of ‘no no no, that won’t work’. Where are your ideas of improvement or replacement?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: what cops need

YOu suggestions are the same suggestions offered 50 years ago, to no effect. Most people won’t explain the solutions when you offer suggestions like that because you don’t know enough about the history to know that your suggestsions have been the failed alternatives to solutions that have been proposed for 50 years. Seriously, government investigations and civil rights groups have made the same suggestions for the last 50 years after every big anti-police brutality protest. They have been ignored. Someone with a genuine interest in reform of the police will know the solutions.

But just for you, Actual suggestions? Move away from the military model, and toward community-based policing.

Strip qualified immunity, replace it with indemnification, and all use of force needs to investigated by a civilian body outside normal or retired law enforcement

Police rarely get notice of violence in progress, and even more rarely can intercede while it is ongoing, and even more rarely is a gun the only option. Stop giving patrol officers guns. Period.

End drug busts. They are dangerous. They are inefficient. They cause more collateral damage then they solve.

Notably, most of these require rebuilding the charters of some departments, and removing most of the senior workforce and the existing union to achieve, as they have been the barriers to these solutions in the past.

These reforms, and others, can be implemented. Camden, New Jersey did it. Disbanded its police (knocked it down) and built a new one. It reduced crime. All it took was getting rid of the existing police force and implementing community based policing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 what cops need

If anyone offers a "solution", and their response to feedback on their "solution" is to scream at someone for their "lack of solutions", you can assume that they’re unlikely to be operating in good faith. They’re not looking for collaboration; they’re looking for some sucker to do the implementation while they take the credit for coming up with the idea.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: what cops need

"Where are your ideas of improvement or replacement?"

Honestly, the reason no one has any decent suggestions is because there are few possible ones. To get rid of the toxic police "culture" enshrining "code blue" and similar insanity and to be rid of all the white supremacists and extremists who have joined the force you’d more or less have to fire every existing police officer and re-hire with new and far more stringent vetting standards. Every level of the current system is compromised.

You’d have to impose decent standards – similar to what major corporations use – in the codes of conduct police officers sign to on employment and enforce them.

You’d have to bypass police unions and the 25-30% of the citizenry still inclined to believe if a cop dropkicks a child to the curb and empties their clip in them the kid somehow had it coming. Which also means bypassing the parts of the body politic whose campaign promises center all around being "tough on crime".

US law enforcement is, bluntly put, deck chairs on the titanic. Albeit ones which kill people. As horrifying as the current situation is change won’t be an option until you first manage to change the whole US until the nation can actually support and sustain a civilized option.

Here’s the option which fixes a lot, including horrifyingly rotten cops; Teach the next generation of children to become decent and well-educated beings disinclined to believe facts are optional. Wait for that generation to grow up. In the meantime just lean hard on cops and police unions to mitigate the persistent damage they cause.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: what cops need

they need to police themselves and eliminate the bad cops from their own ranks

While I agree, that’s basically what they were supposed to have been doing this whole time, so that’s clearly insufficient. I’d say we should also have independent oversight committees handle it as well.

they need to be paid more…they’re only putting their own lives on the line everyday while witnessing the worst of us (motor vehicle accidents, murder scenes, suicides, abused children and women, etc.)

Setting aside the fact that most cops get paid fine (above the median income for their area), this cop clearly got paid too much. He wasn’t putting his life on the line for the past 2+ years, in fact he was barely doing anything, and nothing at all for the past year or so!

they need to be held EQUALLY accountable when they do wrong. Yes, killing unarmed civilians is wrong!

No arguments here! I mean, I think that they should be held to a higher standard, but holding them to an equal standard would be better than what we do right now!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: what cops need

"they’re only putting their own lives on the line everyday"

…in a profession that doesn’t even crack the top 10 of riskiest jobs, and half of that risk they place themselves in by reacting like roided up bullies, rather than de-escalating things like cops in countries where they don’t have such a high murder rate do.

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