City Of Jackson and Sutter Creek Police Departments

Summary

The Grand Jury received several complaints regarding irregularities and problems in the Jackson Police Department. The investigation was expanded to include Sutter Creek Police Department. The Grand Jury held an extensive investigation culminating in a formal hearing conducted by the California Attorney General's Office. The Grand Jury found facts and materials supporting many of the allegations but did not find cause to issue a criminal complaint or to pursue an action of removal from office.

The Grand Jury determined that both departments exhibited lax police procedure, poor policy, and questionable judgement. The Grand Jury also concluded that officers in the Jackson Police Department have low morale.

Findings

Jackson Police Department

  1. On several occasions, a council member contacted Jackson and Sutter Creek Police Departments regarding investigations of crimes where the suspect is related to the council member. On one occasion, the council member suggested a citizen’s complaint should not be taken seriously. The complainant suspected the relative of the council member committed the crime.
  2. A police supervisor signed investigation reports as the reviewing officer when a family member was a suspect in a felony crime.
  3. The Police Chief does not review, approve, and sign all felony investigation reports.
  4. Despite a potential conflict of interest, the Police Department failed to request assistance from another agency in a criminal investigation involving a suspect related to a police supervisor and a city official.
  5. The Amador County Undersheriff received erroneous information from the Police Department. Based on this information, the Amador County Narcotic Enforcement Unit (ACNEU) cancelled a sting operation.
  6. At the time the police sergeant position was announced, no Jackson officer met the minimum requirements. The standards were substantially modified. After the modification, only one officer met the requirements. The officer meeting the new requirements is related to a council member.
  7. A newly appointed Sergeant received one salary merit raise in four months, not four raises as alleged.
  8. Several employees complained that the Chief made inappropriate racial and sexual comments directed at officers and the public.
  9. An African-American job applicant filed a discrimination suit against the city alleging discriminatory hiring practices by the Police Department.

Sutter Creek Police Department

While on vacation, the Chief received information of a possible felony crime. Rather than inform the acting Chief, he called a relative of the suspect.

The Police Department did not collect available physical evidence in the possession of a citizen reporting a felony.

The Police Department failed to forward a crime report to the District Attorney’s Office for further investigation and possible prosecution.

Conclusions

Jackson Police Department

  1. The Department failed to follow standard police procedures and used questionable judgement by not following-up on a possible felony.
  2. The Department failed to follow standard police procedures by not forwarding the report of this crime to the District Attorney’s Office.
  3. ACNEU cancelled a sting operation, exposing citizens to potential crimes by the suspect.
  4. Morale within the department is low because of the perception of nepotism and favoritism within the Department’s promotional process.
  5. The Sergeant’s merit pay raise did not violate the city’s personnel policies.
  6. The Department uses an ineffective method of reviewing felony reports with suspect information.
  7. The Police Chief made inappropriate comments of a racial and sexual nature.
  8. The Grand Jury cannot investigate the claim of discrimination by an African-American job applicant because the matter is in litigation.

Sutter Creek Police Department

  1. The Department failed to follow standard police procedures and used questionable judgement when not following up on a possible felony.
  2. The Department failed to follow standard police procedures by not forwarding the report of this crime to the District Attorney’s Office.
  3. The Department uses an ineffective method of reviewing felony reports with suspect information.

Recommendations

City of Jackson

  1. Appoint an independent review board to meet separately with the officers and with the sergeants to investigate allegations of favoritism and low morale within the Police Department.
  2. Cancel the current Police Chief’s contract.
  3. Contract with the Sheriff’s Department for police protection or pursue a joint agency agreement with other cities for a consolidated police agency.
  4. If the city continues to operate its own Police Department, conduct a search for a replacement chief from outside the Department.
  5. Require that the Police Chief review, approve, and sign all reports of felony crimes.
  6. Establish clear guidelines for dealing with situations where personal relationships with city officials or elected officials create a potential conflict of interest involving police investigations.
  7. When a crime is shown to involve a potential conflict of interest, immediately turn the investigation over to an impartial law enforcement agency.
  8. Implement clearly defined minimum qualifications for all positions within the Police Department.
  9. Implement a standardized examination process for all positions within the police department including specifications and posting requirements. This includes filling the sergeant’s position after the temporary assignment expires.
  10. Establish an ongoing training program regarding racial and sexual discrimination using an outside resource.

City of Sutter Creek

  1. Contract with the Sheriff’s Department for police protection or pursue a joint agency agreement with other cities for a consolidated police agency.
  2. If the city continues to operate its own Police Department, conduct a search for a replacement chief from outside the department.
  3. Require that the Police Chief review, approve, and sign all reports of felony crimes.
  4. Establish clear guidelines for dealing with situations where personal relationships with city officials or elected officials create a potential conflict of interest involving police investigations.
  5. When a crime involves a potential conflict of interest, turn the investigation over to an impartial law enforcement agency.

Comment Requirements

The Chiefs of Police of Sutter Creek and Jackson must respond within 60 days. In addition, the Mayors of Sutter Creek and Jackson must respond within 90 days from the official filing date of this report as required by Penal Code 933(c).

Authority to Investigate

Penal Code Section 925(a) provides that the Grand Jury may look into the misconduct of public officers and examine the books and records of any city. Because of its deliberations and a vote of at least twelve members as required by Penal Code Section 916 to conduct this investigation, the Grand Jury determined the complaints warranted investigation. The investigation focused on the activities of Sutter Creek Police Department and Jackson Police Department.

Method of Review

The Grand Jury interviewed the following people:

The Grand Jury held a formal hearing. Attorneys from the California Attorney General’s Office assisted the Grand Jury.

Background

The Grand Jury investigated the activities of Jackson and Sutter Creek Police Departments relating to their investigation of crimes allegedly committed by the same suspect in both jurisdictions. The suspect also allegedly committed similar crimes in the county’s jurisdiction.

During its investigation, the Grand Jury determined that each department made procedural errors or exercised questionable judgement that exposed additional citizens to the suspect’s alleged criminal activities.

The Sutter Creek Police Department received information of possible felony crimes within the city. The suspect was the same person identified in the Jackson investigation. Rather than conducting an investigation and forwarding the report to the District Attorney for prosecution, police personnel held the report at the Department.

Jackson Police Department

Early in the summer of 1997, the Jackson Police Department investigated several incidents involving the theft of prescription drugs. The investigations pointed to the same suspect. As additional victims came forward, officers forwarded the information to the District Attorney for possible prosecution.

In August 1997, ACNEU conducted an independent sting operation involving the same suspect. The first attempt failed. ACNEU planned a second operation. This operation never occurred because the Jackson Police erroneously informed the Undersheriff the suspect had confessed.

In November of 1997, District Attorney investigators arrested the suspect and charged him with burglary.

Jackson Police Morale Issues

During its initial investigation, the Grand Jury determined that many Jackson officers suffered low morale. The Police Department promoted an officer to sergeant who is related to a council member. Jackson officers also complained that the chief modified the sergeant’s examination process allowing the officer to qualify for the position. Officers also thought the Sergeant received four merit raises within four months of his appointment.

The Grand Jury learned that the Chief changed the qualifications for sergeant using a standard from another city. No Jackson officer was qualified under the new standard. The standard was further modified eliminating the requirement for an intermediate POST certificate. Only one Jackson officer qualified under the newly modified standard. The qualifying officer is related to a council member.

City officials confirmed that the city does not have formal written minimum qualifications for the sergeant and other positions. The city recognized this shortcoming. According to city officials, they were attempting to create formal standards when they announced the sergeant’s exam. The Grand Jury found no facts supporting any attempt by city officials to involve the Police Department rank and file in this process

The city failed to post the announcement for the sergeant position in the Police Department as required by the police memorandum of understanding. Although the city delayed the application process until the announcement was properly posted, the perception that the new standards were tailored to one individual persisted.

This appointment to sergeant was a temporary special assignment for one year, not a permanent appointment. This fact appears not to have been widely known by police rank and file. The city is in the process of developing new specifications for all police positions.

Contrary to rumors in the Department, the Sergeant received only one raise since his appointment.

The Grand Jury learned of allegations that the Department’s top management engaged in inappropriate racial and sexual remarks.

The Grand Jury discovered that the city is being sued for discrimination. The suit claims an African American was denied employment based on race.

Supplementary Information

Criminal investigation reports

Personnel records from the City of Jackson

Sergeant specifications for the City of Jackson