A list of thousands of police officers and applicants to law enforcement jobs, who were convicted of crimes, was inadvertently released to reporters earlier this year. A group of reporters across California found that 630 cops were convicted of crimes about 110 remained employed for at least a year after their conviction. I have been investigating the convictions of several cops in Riverside County. Some were fired, some kept their jobs. The team and I found that police departments have been managing these convictions behind closed doors and with little public knowledge. Ask me anything.

That's all the time I have today! For more visit:

Tale of two sergeants: https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/crime_courts/2019/11/11/riverside-city-police-officers-have-criminal-convictions/2147406001/

The collaboration: https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2019/11/10/investigation-finds-630-california-police-officers-convicted-crimes/4167322002/

Proof: https://i.redd.it/0zpis7nbojy31.jpg

Comments: 47 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

jaejmd1224 karma

For those that did get fired, did it seem like they wouldn’t get fired until a reporter started to get a story together for the public? (OP being the reporter obviously)

thedesertsun_28 karma

Hey, I know of at least one case in which an officer cited the lack of public knowledge about his conviction as a reason he should be rehired. The officer is still fighting to get his job back. Not sure how reporting on that case will have impact, but obviously he can no longer argue that the public is unaware. Thanks for reading. https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/crime_courts/2019/11/11/riverside-city-police-officers-have-criminal-convictions/2147406001/

Shmeein13 karma

Have you seen an active impact once this has been released in terms of corrupt cops being shunned or is it business as usual?

thedesertsun_20 karma

Hi! I think the impact that I have seen so far is that officers and their lawyers are pretty surprised when I show up to their court hearings. Unlike people in politics or other public servants, police aren't always used to being reported on -- and sometimes actively antagonistic to it. So someone being present at the court who isn't wearing a badge or a lawyer's suit and briefcase is new to them. I can already tell the conversation is changing in these cases because they are more aware that the community is listening.

thedesertsun_13 karma

You might find today's article interesting, looks like some conversations are starting... https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2019/11/14/california-lawmakers-consider-revoking-badges-problem-police/4187024002/

coryrenton11 karma

Have you seen any interesting data on misbehavior within internal affairs?

thedesertsun_10 karma

Hi, the cases we reported on were crimes. So we were primarily looking in at criminal court filings. The departments for the most part have their internal affairs (IA) records locked up pretty tight. Some new laws, like SB 1421, have changed that somewhat. But their lawyers still find new ways to keep that information sealed. If you're asking about whether IA investigations have resulted in criminal charges, like perjury or false reports. I'm not aware of a case like this. But it doesn't mean it didn't happen in a county or region that I was not directly reporting on. Always looking for leads though, [email protected]

thedesertsun_8 karma

You can also search our database in this article if you're looking for something more specific...

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2019/11/10/investigation-finds-630-california-police-officers-convicted-crimes/4167322002/

awesomesprime8 karma

Did you have any hesitation in writing this article, because of possible retaliation from the police?

thedesertsun_26 karma

Hi there. No hesitation on my part. It's my job. While this series was special, I write stories like this frequently. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote a letter to the lead reporter, Robert Lewis, claiming it was crime that he even had this list and asked him to destroy it. No charges have been filed, no crime has been committed, this is public information that voters, taxpayers and community members would discover eventually. Something about information, it appears to like to be free.

Neit017 karma

With the standards and hiring/firing processes being handled locally are there many cases of law enforcement agents being fired then being hired in a new city or state? Are there any enforceable laws in place to stop an agent with a history of bad behavior (for lack of a better term) from just moving and getting a job as an officer elsewhere? It seems as if POST lost it's teeth in 2003 so I'd be curious if there was a spike in these instances after that.

thedesertsun_7 karma

However, Robert Lewis and Dave DeBolt reported today that the California State Legislature is considering joining the other 45 states that "can revoke the badges of officers who commit crimes and engage in other misconduct." This is similar to how lawyers and doctors have to be in good standing with their certifying agencies to practice in the state. Even a dude like me has to have a valid driver's license to drive a car in our state, the DMV and the police get to have a say on whether they should grant me that right.

Lewis and DeBolt report that the vice chair of the state senate's public safety committee, a Republican from Orange County, has even claimed that providing the state with the power to decertify cops isn't a partisan issue. Rather, State Sen. John Moorlach said: "It's about quality control."

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2019/11/14/california-lawmakers-consider-revoking-badges-problem-police/4187024002/

thedesertsun_7 karma

Great question. Yes, there's a surprising number of these cases. Some reporters in the collaboration did a shocking story on a second-chance department in Kern County. McFarland PD has been staffed by a group of officers convicted of crimes while working for other PDs. It's well worth a read: https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2019/11/11/mcfarland-california-hired-police-troubled-records-duis-fraud-banning/4169426002/

thedesertsun_5 karma

And yes, POST did, in a sense, "lose it's teeth" as an agency that could decertify based on a criminal conviction. I know that many law enforcement leaders have expressed a preference for hiring and firing to be managed locally. They claim that they already have policies in place establishing that officers will be terminated if they commit felonies. Before this series of stories there was really no transparency into that process. A criminal conviction for an officer is regularly managed like an employment dispute. A great example is the story I wrote about the local Riverside PD. Two sergeants, two convictions, one was fired ther other wasn't. To the public, this appears to be an inconsistent application of the rules. https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/crime_courts/2019/11/11/riverside-city-police-officers-have-criminal-convictions/2147406001/

Neit014 karma

This stood out to me in the article " In trying to get his job back in an arbitration hearing, Cash actually cited the lack of publicity surrounding his conviction as a reason he should be rehired." It feels like Cash is essentially saying that he should be rehired because he didn't embarrass the department too badly.

If that is really the case does that mean how faux pas the grievance looks to the outside public plays a large role in dictating the departments decision on the officer's employment? I guess the real question is did you notice anything of the sort?

Apologies if one of the articles goes into this, I swear I read them all and tried to remember as much as possible before asking.

thedesertsun_5 karma

That quote struck me when I read it in the court filing too. Your guess is as good as mine as to the rest. The fact that Cash attempted to make that case to the arbitrator and that she found it notable to report publicly is interesting. It might be a common strategy that officers and their lawyers use. But those conversations happen behind closed doors. I can't think of another example quite like Cash's. It's unique.

Something that did happen repeatedly is when reporters questioned officers about their convictions the officers would provide examples of other officers that had similar convictions and argued it's not a big deal. Unfortunately, that permissive culture can be contagious and lower standards.

There is definitely a pattern of officers taking plea deals to prevent the exposure that would come from a public jury trial. Without the list, we wouldn't even know to look for these pleas and convictions unless someone in the department or the court brough them to our attention. Until now... j/k thanks for reading.

HercBRX6 karma

You gotten any death threats? Heard a lot of people do when they prosecute police officers

thedesertsun_8 karma

No, I haven't received any threats. That would be a crime that would land them on a list like the one we reported on. Public information is not usually information that people attempt to protect with threats of violence. It's public information, so any Average Joe like me can go to a courthouse and find it. Thanks for reading.

Hurricanes20013 karma

This cracked me up. Imagining one of them threatening you and then you just adding it in your article 😂

thedesertsun_2 karma

lol

ksgif25 karma

Have you been getting lots of traffic tickets since you started reporting on this?

thedesertsun_5 karma

Lol, no.

thedesertsun_3 karma

Thanks for checking though...

Yuppersbutters4 karma

So how do you keep yourself impartial with a subject like this? How do you clear your mind and keep thoughts of oh that guy yeah fuck that guy out of your head?

thedesertsun_10 karma

It's a good question. The story, ultimately, isn't about me. It's about crimes or allegations of crimes committed (or not) by other people. It's about victims who have had to suffer through it all. In many cases there are strong records of these incidents compiled by reliable sources.

I just remind myself that these are public records written by police officers who are trying to do a good job when their colleagues have committed crimes. In many of these cases, the officers were arrested by their own departments. Can you imagine what that drive to jail must have been like?

In short, I'm just here to find and report the facts of the case as they are presented by police reports, court records, witnesses, and the police departments that employ these guys. It's them speaking, not me...

FUWS3 karma

What are your thoughts about the police unions? I happen to think they should go away.

By the way, thank you for doing what you do.

thedesertsun_11 karma

Hi, I happen to come from a family that has union labor to thank, in part, for our ability to build our lives in California -- several generations deep now. Put short, unions play an important role in our state and our economy, no question.

I think what you're getting at with this question though is the substantial power the police unions have in our state -- there's no questioning that either. In some cases, they secure needed benefits and protections for the officers they represent.

In other cases, they argue against the transparency and public accountability that any ordinary civilian is subject to. And they don't all agree. Some local unions oppose the measures that the state unions are in support of. That's why state lawmakers are currently considering legislation to begin decertifying cops if they are convicted, the unions could contribute to that effort or not. It's up to them and their lobbyists. The rest of us speak with our votes...

FUWS6 karma

Thank you for this and 45 states already have this in place? I want to say the cop who shot that Tamir Rice kid got rehired in Ohio and he probably had help from the union. I don’t have problems with unions but police union is a different story for allowing troubled officers to be snuck into another dept.

thedesertsun_4 karma

That's right, 45 other states already do this. I don't know the specifics of the employment history of the officer you're referring to, so I can't comment on that. But I will say that as California becomes more transparent about these things and as more reporting like this occurs, we'll be learning more and more about the employment strategies of these officers and the unions that represent them...

xJustxJordanx3 karma

How difficult was this list to obtain? Would it be possible to obtain such a list of officers in my jurisdiction? For a reporter or layman or otherwise?

thedesertsun_2 karma

I had to speak with Robert Lewis about this because he's the one who got the list. He said it was actually quite easy, as far as public records requests go. He submitted a California Public Records Act request to the State of California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. They had a brief back and forth about what he was asking for. Then they sent him the list. If your jurisdiction is in California you can learn more about laws that provide the public with transparency rights at an organization like the First Amendment Coalition, here's an example of a letter you could use as a template:

https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/sample-cpra-request-letter/

Best of luck getting the information you are looking for.

BrokTG2 karma

Has pursuing this gotten you any heat or in any unkindly situations? And thank you for making these things more accessible and open to the public. Please keep up this great work and may you find happiness in your ventures.

thedesertsun_3 karma

Hi, no threats or anything like that. I always attempt to contact the officers that I write about. I have to let them know I'm writing about their case and hope they'll tell me their side of the story. One-sided stories are bad stories. I don't write them. Unfortunately, the officers rarely respond, not quite sure why. Usually, I get a call or an email from a department administrator. Then I ask them as many questions as I can before they start throwing lawyer jargon and we hit a wall. There are safety measures that I am sure to take for the sake of everyone involved.

As state laws continue to shift toward being more transparent, I wonder if officers will be more open to telling their side of the story. But for now, the department administration typically provides some sort of narrative instead. I always weigh this with court documents and witness accounts.

Thanks for your support!

Robotchan662 karma

Why journalism?

thedesertsun_2 karma

Hi. I'm an investigative reporter for a local newspaper. I write stories about crime, criminal justice and police departments in the desert areas of Southern California. I have a long family history in this region that provides me with some motivation. Also, this is an area that is largely unreported on. I report because I know these communities need more information on the cost, health and effectiveness of the agencies they fund with their tax dollars. Plus, I've always enjoyed telling stories. Thanks for asking.

MAXIMILIANO_THE_DOG2 karma

Aren't you scared of what some of them might do to you?

thedesertsun_2 karma

No. All of the reporting that I did for this collaboration was based on information that is openly available to the public. All of the evidence was in the public record, nothing to be afraid of there. The only thing that was kept "secret" was the list of convicted officers -- until Robert Lewis asked for it. These stories aren't news to the officers who have been convicted or their departments who arrested them, suspended them, terminated them or decided to keep them employed. California has laws in place to make this information public, there's no reason to allow fear to prevent us from exercising those rights.