Journalists Publish List Of Convicted Cops The State's Attorney General Said Was Illegal For Them To Have

from the bluff-called dept

The list of convicted cops the California Attorney General tried to keep secret has just been made searchable by the Sacramento Bee. It contains hundreds of current and former police officers who've been convicted of criminal acts over the last ten years.

This collaboration of multiple newsrooms and journalism advocates began with an unforced error by a state agency. Taking advantage of a new state law allowing the public to access police misconduct records, journalists asked the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training for relevant documents. The agency handed over a list of 12,000 former and current officers -- a list that apparently was never supposed to be made public.

The state's Attorney General claimed the journalists had broken the law simply by possessing a document the Commission never should have given them. This couldn't be further from the truth, but AG Xavier Becerra continued to make this claim, as though it were possible to codify something just by saying it out loud often enough.

I can see why AG Becerra wants this list buried. There's nothing on it that makes cops or their oversight (which includes Becerra) look good. While the 12,000 officers in the database are a small percentage of the total number of California law enforcement officers employed over the past ten years, this small portion includes a number of cops who were never fired from their agencies despite committing criminal acts that would have put regular people out of a job.

Reporters found at least a dozen deputies with prior convictions are still on the roster at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. And the five officers with convictions working for the Riverside police include the acting chief — Larry Gonzalez was a lieutenant in 2013 when he pleaded guilty to DUI after reportedly crashing a city-owned SUV with a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit.

There’s a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy still working despite a conviction for manslaughter after running over two people while recklessly speeding to a call. And a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy is back on the force after dozing off at the wheel and killing a pair of elite cyclists on a training ride.

Sheriff's departments are especially fond of hiring and retaining the worst people. They're the agencies most willing to overlook long histories of misconduct and the most hesitant to hand down significant punishments when laws are broken by law enforcers on their payroll. The L.A. Sheriff's Department is filled with suspicious individuals who hang out in a high crime area every time they show up at the office.

The list has been trimmed considerably since its surprising release to journalists. Due to the lack of cooperation from law enforcement agencies and the general sloppiness of large-scale bureaucracies, the names in the database are only those that have been verified by journalists. The original list had 12,000 names but the database only contains 630 current and former officers.

Even so, there's plenty to be concerned about. Some officers have multiple convictions but were never fired. Officers have driven drunk, left their children in cars with their loaded guns, and engaged in fraud. There's also lots of domestic abuse -- most of which has gone unaddressed by officers' employers.

Richard Sotelo was an Imperial County Sheriff’s Department correctional officer in February 2013 when he was charged with domestic violence for assaulting his estranged wife. He was allowed to keep working despite the pending charges. But months later he was accused of a crime again, this time sexual battery against a male co-worker. He was charged for that as well. Sotelo ultimately took plea deals and was convicted in both cases and left the force.

[...]

In one incident investigated by the Bell Police Department months before his reckless driving, [LAPD Officer David] Guerrero allegedly “threatened, assaulted and battered” a woman who was in a dispute with his girlfriend, according to court records.

“That’s how you do it, LAPD style,” Guerrero allegedly said as he drove away.

The DA’s office didn’t file charges. It also didn’t prosecute Guerrero in 2013 when he allegedly threatened to kill the mother of his child, court records show.

The recycling of California cops isn't going to stop unless the state legislature steps up and makes it possible for officers to lose their certification following a conviction. California is one of only five states with no decertification process, so officers can avoid accountability simply by drifting from agency to agency in the (apparently unlikely) event they've been fired. A few more firings will probably occur as a result of increased access to misconduct records, but that's hardly going to budge the needle when some agencies in the state have shown they don't feel staffing their departments with known criminals is a problem.

Filed Under: california, database, journalism, police, xavier becerra


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2019 @ 12:07pm

    ACAB

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2019 @ 12:32pm

    After the

    Rodney King incident, the LAPD changed their slogan to "We Treat Everyone Like a King".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 15 Nov 2019 @ 12:41pm

    Long ago, far far away...

    there was a land that demanded those responsible, BE RESPONSIBLE.
    yes there are mistakes, and some accidents, and abit of idiocy.. But the requirements for Any job requires certain things.
    How many of us in retail have gone to work Drunk/hungover...and regretted every minute..(but we didnt kill anyone)
    How many of us have worked so hard we end up Driving and sleeping?? and if something bad happens, we end up in jail?? But calling in Sick for a day, the company wont stand for and will fire you.

    Less then 1/2 the states have created LIVING wages, requirements. Not the federal $7.50 per hour. and these guy/gals earn abit more then $10-15 per hour. and someone gets to be HOME(I hope) to help the kids and explain things to them.

    Lord help us from the Pangs of Capitalism, run amok..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2019 @ 2:12pm

      Re: Long ago, far far away...

      So.......

      Capitalism caused police officers to break the law????????????

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 15 Nov 2019 @ 10:50pm

        Re: Re: Long ago, far far away...

        In a very basic way.
        Are you willing to pay more for SMART people to do this job??
        Is the dept, willing to deal with People that KNOW the laws, rather then JUST JAIL PEOPLE??
        HOw about other ways to Help/fix/incarcerate...
        Esp when there are contracts to keep Jails/prisons 90% Plus filled...Or the state has to pay more..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          OldMugwump (profile), 16 Nov 2019 @ 10:06am

          Re: Re: Re: Long ago, far far away...

          I don't see what that has to do with capitalism.

          In any economic system, there are limited resources. If you give more to some, you have less to give to others. That's not capitalism - that's just reality.

          I agree police officers need to be paid more, much more - in order to attract better people. They also need to be held to far higher standards.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            ECA (profile), 16 Nov 2019 @ 11:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Long ago, far far away...

            but the state hasnt raised wages for cops to compensate...
            Or created a location to Train them properly..
            Why not.
            well, those Corp run jails need to be filled. We dont need cops that know the law, they just need to Do what we need them to do.

            so we pay and pay and pay, and end up with low paid Wage slaves, Scared to do things properly.. Whose not paying??
            State paying private agencies, Good amoutns of money to do WHAT?>?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2019 @ 1:34pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Long ago, far far away...

              I get what you're saying:

              Big government is inefficient and incompetent.
              Creeping Socialism is what caused this problem.
              Pure Capitalism would fix this.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2019 @ 6:35am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Long ago, far far away...

                psssst ... say, would you be interested in the purchase of a bridge?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 19 Nov 2019 @ 5:40am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Long ago, far far away...

                Big government is inefficient and incompetent.
                Creeping Socialism is what caused this problem.
                Pure Capitalism would fix this.

                Big Capitalism is inefficient and incompetent, as working for large companies has taught me.

                If "Creeping socialism" means hiring decent workers and paying them a decent wage is implemented, it will solve the problem. It's the belief that government, in and of itself, is inefficient and incompetent while doing nothing but cutting budgets to resolve it, that caused the problem. Law enforcement is a function of government, not a voluntary, capitalist thing.

                Pure capitalism declares that altruism, that is, self-sacrifice, is immoral. We're already seeing the problems caused by the introduction of a profit motive into essential services. Do I need to list them/ Start with for-profit prisons and end with private arbitration. Bad, bad, bad idea.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 6:10am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Long ago, far far away...

                  "It's the belief that government, in and of itself, is inefficient and incompetent while doing nothing but cutting budgets to resolve it, that caused the problem."

                  Well, to be fair...government IS inefficient and often incompetent at most things. Most of that can be blamed on the fact that a government job is usually notoriously hard to get fired from.

                  That has less to do with capitalism vs socialism and more to do with the fact that we, the citizenry, NEVER hold our elected representatives to any form of account whatsoever. As above, so below, hence why satirical sitcoms like "Yes Prime Minister" are still as relevant today as they were thirty years ago. Bureaucracy has no need to improve, only a need to expand.

                  "Pure capitalism declares that altruism, that is, self-sacrifice, is immoral."

                  Only when Ayn Rand does the interpretation.
                  "Pure" capitalism would be Adam Smith whose theory incorporates the moral dimension as part and parcel of the consumer's choice. What you are referring to is libertarianism, where it is assumed that a society based entirely on self-interest will become utopia rather than a battleground of warlords and tinpot dictators.

                  And pure capitalist theory doesn't try to abolish the government's role as a regulatory body tasked to arbitrate the level playing field. Libertarianism does.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Nov 2019 @ 4:53pm

    'Hey, no telling people how corrupt we are!'

    Can't imagine why they objected so strongly to the release of the documentation, even to the point of making bogus claims about illegality, I mean it's not like it shows that police and sheriff departments are either so corrupt, and/or have standards so low that threatening to kill someone or even actually killing someone isn't considered grounds for being fired from a job where a gun is standard equipment, self-control is a must and good decision making skills can literally be the difference between life and death for those around them...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2019 @ 9:59am

      Re: 'Hey, no telling people how corrupt we are!'

      Does State's attorney mud slinging change fact people have a right to know who is enforcing laws?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Nov 2019 @ 5:37pm

    Shame on the strength of the lobbies

    If the law enforcement lobby wasn't able to exert as much force as it does on the California legislature, then this would likely no be a big issue. They would not feel pressure to enact laws that would automatically de-certify any law enforcement officer convicted of any crime. They would also not be able to strong arm elected prosecutors into not prosecuting officers accused of crimes. That extends to preventing the disclosure of officers who have been found to cheat and lie on the witness stand and become Brady disclose able, which they should and therefore be prevented from testifying. In the end, it should be the case that if an officer becomes Brady disclose able, they should lose their certification to be law enforcement officers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2019 @ 10:09pm

    Let's hear it for cancel culture, eh?

    I'm seeing problems on both sides here.

    On the part of the police:
    Failing to provide consequences for bad behavior. Failure to prosecute a viable case against an officer. Failure to punish (in any meaningful way) misbehavior investigated internally. Failure to be transparent in investigations. Failure to communicate (or retain!) misbehavior records when the miscreant seeks a new law enforcement position.

    On the part of the article, and by extension our blog, and ourselves: "Off with their heads!"

    Some of what the article calls out as misdeeds are tragedies, but not recognizably "officer" misdeeds rather than "people" misdeeds.

    "People" shouldn't drive drunk, or tired. Results can be tragic. But do they reflect upon the perpetrator as an officer? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Does the article say? Nope. But hey, let's get outraged anyway. After all, there won't be any blowback to us, right? (Wait, does that sound familiar?)

    "Officers" shouldn't commit fraud, intimidation, theft, perjury. You can't trust them as officers after that. The distinction is vital.


    • Perhaps the internal affairs board and the prosecutor ignored evidence, looked the other way because of his record.

    • Perhaps the crime he was accused of was unfounded, and all those people - the IA board, the prosecutor, the mayor - had all the evidence, knew he was innocent, and withheld the details because "throwing gas on a media fire".

    If you don't have enough information to be damned sure which of the above a case falls under, it should give you pause. Are you going to ruin an innocent man's life because you Heard It On TV? If the officer is a scum bag, and you do get him off the street, are you just going to see him replaced with the scum bag let go by the district three states over?

    Conserve your outrage. Demand information and make informed judgements. Use your outrage where it will do the most good. Demand justice, not vengeance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2019 @ 11:01am

      Re: Let's hear it for cancel culture, eh?

      bahahahahaha
      the whole point is to not trust the fucking police and here you are saying 'the police have the exonerating evidence, trust them!'

      no

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2019 @ 6:36am

      Re: Let's hear it for cancel culture, eh?

      "I'm seeing problems on both sides here."

      More both sides bullshit

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 19 Nov 2019 @ 5:42am

      Re: Let's hear it for cancel culture, eh?

      We don't want officers who hurt, defraud, abuse, or kill people to have badges and authority. Why is this bad?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Nov 2019 @ 6:24am

      Re: Let's hear it for cancel culture, eh?

      "On the part of the article, and by extension our blog, and ourselves: "Off with their heads!""

      And very appropriately so.

      If among a corporation with 120000 employees roughly 12000 has a record of gross malfeasance and those employees were retained without severe administrative penalties then any audit would fail the corporation as a whole.

      If a military brigade had whole percentages of their staff turning into criminals then that brigade would be dissolved, carefully vetted, and every last weak link rejected before reorganization.

      Here we have Law Enforcement - holding the violence monopoly. trusted to bear and use arms against the citizenry in their duty of upholding the law...where dereliction of duty, outright criminal behavior, and disastrously bad judgment is so rife the list is 12000 names long. I should note that the number of law enforcement officers serving today in California are around 120k. The number of rotten apples over the last ten years thus amounts to 10 whopping percent of the current total.

      And the District Attorney whose core job is to pursue criminal behavior, rather than investigate the departments who allow this sort of crap to continue, tries to pretend it's a crime for journalists to receive and publish public information.

      So yes. Off with their heads. There is no "two sides" to this unilateral embarrassment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 16 Nov 2019 @ 8:13am

    Again...

    Never trust a cop. Ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2019 @ 8:48am

    A fun response to this would be if the police unions published a list of the criminal records of everyone that works at the Sacramento Bee. It would be wrong, but escalation seems to be their go-to reaction anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 19 Nov 2019 @ 5:34am

    HUNDREDS??!

    It contains hundreds of current and former police officers who've been convicted of criminal acts over the last ten years.

    Hundreds? Over ten years? For the love of God, sort this mess out now! None of those men have any business wearing a badge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      R/O/G/S, 19 Nov 2019 @ 10:29pm

      Re: HUNDREDS??!

      ...men?

      Female cops suck too. Maybe the problem is “police/western culture,” not merely gender constructs.

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/195324/gender-distribution-of-full-time-law-enforcem ent-employees-in-the-us/

      The distribution of women who choose the worlds most dangerous professions could also be to blame-women categorically opt for gender-protected jobs.

      We just dont see women screaming to be garbage collectors, shit-plunging plumbers, lumberjacks, or deep sea fishers, instead, choosing safe, clean, gender-protected jobs.

      Not that policing is dangerous-its not even in the top ten most dangerous professions, but still...

      Where I live, far away from the US, I see women doing ALL of these dangerous, difficult, filthy jobs, daily, and frequently in high heels.

      Whats wrong with western women/womyn/wimmins and der kinder, perpetuating this cycle?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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