Campus cops face possible firing for lying on the job
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.