DOJ: 169 Changes Needed in Police Dept With History of Kidnapping, Beating, Corruption, Poor Leadership, etc.
Justice Department Scorches Calexico Police
CALEXICO, Calif. (CN) — In a long-awaited report, the Department of Justice suggested 169 changes to the Calexico Police Department, which has been accused of corruption, violence, lax supervision and lack of accountability.
The 144-page review, released Wednesday, came five days after former Police Chief Michael Bostic and other officials sued the city in Federal Court, claiming it fired them for cooperating with an FBI investigation of city corruption.
Bostic and former City Manager Richard Warne asked the Department of Justice to investigate the police department in April 2015, after a number of allegations of misconduct.
In October 2014, after a man claimed Calexico police had kidnapped and beaten him, the FBI investigated, and Police Chief Pompeyo Tabarez was fired. Bostic, a former assistant police chief in Los Angeles, was hired as interim chief on Oct. 13, 2014, the day Tabarez was fired.
The FBI raided the police office 17 days later and seized computers and hard drives in a criminal investigation. No charges have resulted, no one has been arrested, but the investigation continues, according to the “Assessment of the Calexico Police Department” report.
When Bostic succeeded Tabarez, he identified a slew of problems in the department, including nearly 40 flawed internal investigations.
The border city of 40,000 in the Mojave Desert is 98 percent Latino. Its median household income of $37,539 in 2013 was 38 percent below the statewide median of $60,190, according to city-data.com.
The Justice Department’s report recommends sweeping reforms, none of which apparently are mandatory, but are up to the city.
The sheer number and severity of the findings show the need for an overhaul, according to Ronald Davis, director of the Policing Services Office in the Department of Justice.
“Successful implementation of the recommendations outlined in this report will require increased leadership and support at all levels of city government. Failure to make the changes in the report constitutes a great disservice to the community and to the men and women who serve the Calexico Police Department,” Davis said.
Among the “Key Observations” in the report are instability in leadership, lack of supervision and accountability, absence of community police practices, poorly functioning Internal Affairs, no early intervention practices, patrol operations lack resources and coordination, and no crime analysis and information internally or externally.
The police department has 30 sworn officers and 19 civilian employees. But the problems go beyond the police department, according to the report and Bostic’s lawsuit.
Five months after City Manager Warne asked for the Justice Department investigation, the City Council put him on administrative leave by 3-2, then fired him.
The council fired Bostic in December last year.
Warne and Bostic served a “crucial role” of strong leadership and advocacy in the department until they were fired, the Justice Department said in the report, which added that the single greatest challenge for the department is its lack of leadership.
The city has had three city managers and three chiefs of police since 2014.
Amidst the turmoil, Calexico lost its insurance coverage and worker’s compensation program when the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority voted 7-2 on Oct. 28 last year to cancel the city’s coverage. As of Jan. 1, the city no longer has liability insurance, worker’s compensation or building insurance.
The police department was suspended from two county boards that fight drug trafficking, which puts Calexico “at a disadvantage in terms of its ability to gain important information that would be useful in its efforts to combat drug crime,” according to the report.
The Justice Department takes the city task repeatedly in the report, finding, for example, that its policy outlines situations in which complaints against police should not be accepted.
This “suggests the complainant bears an unnecessary burden to prove the alleged action was misconduct before a complaint can even be filed,” according to the report.
Police have no policy on investigation that can “ensure a comprehensive, professional criminal investigations process.” Officers have substantial discretion in conducting investigations, though they lack knowledge and training on how to do so, according to the report.
Calexico does not have a public information and the Police Chief did not return a phone request for comment.
Published by Courthouse News Service.