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.