Cam­pus cops face pos­si­ble fir­ing for ly­ing on the job

The Mercury News Weekend - - OBITUARIES & IN MEMORIAMS - By Thomas Peele and David DeBolt Staff writ­ers Con­tact Thomas Peele at 510-208- 6458 and David DeBolt at 510-208- 6453.

BERKE­LEY » For­get the donut shop. Six UC Berke­ley police of­fi­cers are fac­ing ter­mi­na­tion for reg­u­larly hang­ing out in­side a closed cam­pus li­brary at night af­ter re­port­ing that they were pa­trolling else­where on cam­pus.

The of­fi­cers, who have been on paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave since Oct. 31, fi­nally had an ap­peal hear­ing last month and are await­ing a de­ci­sion whether they’ll fired or come back to work. The of­fi­cers have not been pub­licly iden­ti­fied.

UC Berke­ley Police Chief Margo Ben­nett did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Thurs­day. A cam­pus spokesper­son, Janet Gil­more, wrote in an email that she could not dis­cuss any specifics be­cause of laws that keep police per­sonal matters pri­vate. But, speak­ing gen­er­ally, she added, “We ex­pect all our of­fi­cers to be out work­ing, as as­signed, pro­tect­ing our cam­pus com­mu­nity.”

A lawyer at the firm rep­re­sent­ing the of­fi­cers de­clined com­ment.

A sev­enth of­fi­cer re­signed be­fore de­part­men­tal charges of wrong­do­ing were filed last year. That of­fi­cer, for­mer Oak­land police Lt. Lawrence Green, claimed that Ben­nett be­gan the in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter he filed a com­plaint against her with the cam­pus chan­cel­lor al­leg­ing sex­ism in hir­ing and pro­mo­tional de­ci­sions In his com­plaint, Green ac­cused Ben­nett of pun­ish­ing offi- cers with ar­bi­trary de­ci­sions in as­sign­ments and said she was an “ab­sen­tee chief” who of­ten worked from home.

G r e en also emailed the cam­pus chan­cel­lor last year af­ter the li­brary in­ves­ti­ga­tion started. “This is a clear case of re­tal­i­a­tion again­stme formy Whistle­blower com­plaint against Chief Ben­nett,” he wrote.

Green’s ini­tial com­plaint was re­jected. “No find­ings of pol­icy vi­o­la­tion or im­proper gov­ern­men­tal ac­tiv­ity were made,” a cam­pus in­ves­ti­ga­tor wrote to Green last year.

Gil­more said the univer­sity “takes re­tal­i­a­tion al­le­ga­tions very se­ri­ously and pro­hibits tak­ing ac­tion be­cause em­ploy­ees com­plain of mis­con­duct.”

The of­fi­cers reg­u­larly gathered at a first- f loor math li­brary in Evans Hall, a high-rise build­ing near the cen­ter of cam­pus, af­ter re­port­ing that they were check­ing other build­ings. They were ad­min­is­tra­tively charged with un­truth­ful­ness for falsely re­port­ing their lo­ca­tions.

A law enforcement source fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed the of­fi­cers were not do­ing the checks.

Green, the of­fi­cer who re­signed, said it was part of the depart­ment’s cul­ture. “Sergeants were OK with hang­ing out,” he said, but “en­cour­aged” of­fi­cers to re­port that they were at nearby lo­ca­tions, not Evans Hall.

Green said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volved hid­den cam- eras and record­ing de­vices and that a na­tional law firm based in Con­necti­cut was hired to over­see it. The UC Irvine police chief over­saw the probe.

The math­e­mat­ics li­brary is full of neat stacks, and in­cludes two black leather chairs and a couch, with a less vis­i­ble mez­za­nine level above. A sign out­side warns “This area is sub­ject to video record­ing.” A se­cu­rity cam­era is fixed above the door­way, cap­tur­ing peo­ple walk­ing in and out. One li­brar­ian said the cam­eras were in­stalled due to pre­vi­ous break-ins.

Ex­perts in police mis­con­duct were split on whether the pro­posed pun­ish­ment is overblown.

“The pun­ish­ment here is ex­ces­sive and com­pletely out of pro­por­tion to the of­fense, which is a rel­a­tively mi­nor dis­ci­plinary in­frac­tion,” Tom Nolan, a crim­i­nol­o­gist and re­tired Bos­ton police lieu­tenant. “These of­fi­cers are not likely to ‘stay’ fired and this seems to be a clear ex­am­ple of man­age­ment over­reach.”

But Sam Walker, a Univer­sity of Ne­braska ex­pert on police dis­ci­pline, said the of­fi­cers com­mit­ted “dere­lic­tion of duty” by “ly­ing about what they were do­ing.” They cre­ated a “risk to the com­mu­nity they serve” that was “ag­gra­vated by the num­ber of of­fi­cers in­volved,” and they de­serve ter­mi­na­tion, he said.

Ben­nett

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