Commentary: If Sheriff Has Nothing To Hide, Then Show Us Your Report

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Let me be honest here and say that I am frustrated with the way our county’s law enforcement operates.  We have had an official investigation by the District Attorney’s Office in the case of the shooting Luis Gutierrez.  They report to us that they found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.  However, the report that they released was a very obvious summary of facts rather than a complete report.  So we are left to either take their findings on faith or to doubt their findings because there are huge unexplained factors.

Requests for a disclosure of the full investigation have resulted in both claims of privilege and claims that it is an ongoing investigation.  When the DA wants to release information from ongoing investigations they do so.  They released a statement of probable cause and the coroner’s report within a week of the shooting.  Why?  Because they believe it showed justification from the shooting.

Now they are claiming the FBI is investigating the shooting, but not one witness has spoken to the FBI according to Cruz Reynoso last week, so what is the FBI doing at this point?  If your report is correct, there will be no harm in releasing the documents to let the public have a look.  To expect a skeptical public to take your word on faith is beyond naive, frankly it’s insulting.

That gets me to the subject of today’s missive, on Wednesday the  Yolo County Sheriff’s Department announced that they had concluded their investigation into an incident where a family claims that Sheriff’s Deputies put a gun to a nine-year-old girl’s head.

Reading the Sacramento Bee’s story on this subject, we find some curious quotes and statements.

First, Sheriff Ed Prieto said, “There was absolutely no evidence, not the slightest bit of evidence, that this took place.”

Then in a written statement Captain Rich Williams said, “The investigation proved that the alleged act or acts did not occur. The employees were exonerated of any misconduct.”  He said he could not discuss details of the investigation because it involved confidential personnel matters.

First of all, there is a big difference between Ed Prieto’s statement and Rich Williams’ statement.  I can believe that they found no evidence that this took place.  Actually what I can believe is that it was the word of the Sheriff’s Deputies against the family, and they had no way to corroborate the family’s story independently.  That is a far cry from saying the investigation PROVED that the alleged act or acts did not occur.

But let’s say their investigation did prove that they did not occur.  Maybe they had a videotape or an audio tape of the search warrant search.  Why not release it to the public?  If this were a crime against a police officer and they had proof it occurred they sure as heck would release it to the public.  They can show evidence of citizen crimes but not of police wrongdoing apparently.

The fact of the matter is that if they had proof this incident did not occur, I have to believe that they would have presented it to the public.

The other part of the issue here is Captain Williams contention that this investigation involves confidential personnel matters and therefore they cannot say anything other than it did not happen.  Those type of claims are usually one-directional and often get waived when information comes forth to exonerate the officers.  In other words, confidential personnel matters tend to be used as a shield to protect wrongdoers and prevent the public from learning the truth.

We should all be asking ourselves how the question of whether an officer pointed a gun at the head of a nine-year-old girl became a “private” and “confidential” personnel matter.  Because to me this is a matter of public policy.  Now what happens to the officer as the result of his public actions, I agree is private and confidential, but the act itself is not.  There are good reasons for not allowing employees personnel files to be open to the public, but the law enforcement officers get far more protection than typical employees despite the fact that they have generally far greater responsibility.

There are really two explanations as to why police have so much protection and they both come from the same basic source, the powerful lobby of the peace officers in California who have undermined and thwarted public sunshine laws in an effort to keep such matters as quiet as possible and out of the public light.

The worst of these was the Copley Press v. Superior Court decision handed down on August 29, 2006.  Prior to that decision, Penal Code 832.7 had prevented the public’s access to citizen complaints held by the agency.  According to the ACLU’s explanation, “This meant that internal affairs records were confidential, while records of administrative appeals to outside bodies such as a civil service commission were open to the public. Also, in some jurisdictions independent civilian review boards functioned in public, hearing complaints separately from the police department.”

What the Copley Press decision did was rule “that San Diego Civil Service Commission records on administrative appeals by police officers were confidential because the Civil Service Commission performed a function similar to the police department in the disciplinary process and thereby functioned as the employing agency.”

In essence, this ruling shut off any ability for the public to learn about misconduct involving individual police officers.  When the legislature in 2007 tried to restore the ability for review commissions to function, I remember attending the hearings and seeing several hundred uniformed police officers show up to thwart legislative efforts.

Let us get back to this case, because it illustrates the problem.  Do you believe that the Sheriff’s Department can conduct a fair investigation into the actions of its own officer?

When Sheriff Ed Prieto responded to allegations on February 22, 2010, he immediately said that he had a hard time believing that these allegations are true.  He called them shocking but almost impossible to believe.

When the boss, Sheriff Prieto makes a public statement before the investigation has even begun that he doesn’t believe it happened, what do you expect that his subordinates and other law enforcement officers are going to conclude in a report?

It was obvious from the start that the Sheriff was already inclined toward a given finding.  His own words betrayed him.

The Sheriff wants us to accept his word on some sort of faith that a fair and impartial investigation occurred?  I say this, if the officers involved did not do what was accused on them, then they have nothing to hide.  They can waive their confidentiality clause tomorrow and let us see what “proof” the Sheriff has that this did not occur.

Because frankly that is the only way this thing is going away.  I have met and spoken to that little girl, and I do not believe for a second that she is lying.  I want to hear an explanation of why she was sick and vomiting if this was simply a non-incident.  I want to understand what evidence they have other than the word of other deputies, that “proves” this did not occur.

Otherwise the family has only one avenue of recourse and that is to pursue their lawsuit.  They have already filed a government tort claim.  Once that is turned down, they can file a lawsuit.

In my opinion, the state law is wrong.  The public deserves to know what the law enforcement officers do under the color of law.  They have a huge amount of responsibility.  They have the legal right to the use of force.  They have a legal right to take people into custody.  With great power, should come great responsibility and therefore great scrutiny.  When law enforcement hides behind confidentiality codes, the public trust gets undermined.

The Sheriff can restore the trust in his department by ordering the release of all evidence in this matter and then we can finally put this matter to rest.

As for the state law, I would like to see our legislature work to change it.  The public deserves full transparency of all government actions.  It is time for law enforcement to quit hiding behind clauses and legal loopholes.  If one acts appropriately, the public will support you.  But if one breaches the public trust, the public deserves to know.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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5 thoughts on “Commentary: If Sheriff Has Nothing To Hide, Then Show Us Your Report”

  1. jake wallace

    The sheriff’s investigation at its best would have been inconclusive.

    Recently, we filed a GC 27641, accusation against county council, Robyn Truitt, former council now judge, Steve Basha, and later for subversion of the GC 27641, accusation, against David Cedarborg.

    That Yolo county hired now Sac prob. chief, Don L. Meyer, out from under a fabricated feliny foster abuse & hate crimes allegations investigation, in Calaveras County. That Yolo council, supervisor’s, probation, juvenile justice commission & the state court, were notified prior, by a state licensed agency that Chief Meyer had intentionally mishandled an investigation on Chief Meyer that had Meyer going to two county’s and back to have a subordinate fabricated.

    Supervisor McGowan & council/CAO, Robyn Truitt, magically flipped the accusation into a claim against the county with no public record of the accusation being submitted and with no public hearing.

    Yolo county, in 2005, subverted the same GC 27641, accusation by the board & Robyn Truitt, who held a private meeting with Judge Steve Basha, and found no wrong doing. Presiding judge, Donna M. Petre, who knowingly appointed Chief Meyer, wrote that the grand jury won’t investigate because the accusations occurred prior to the chief arriving in Yolo.

    We spoke with an FBI intelligence analyst yesterday with the fraud & public corruption bureau. This past weekend the Calaveras DA Jeff Tuttle, died, Tuttle had concealed the allegations since 2005. The DA now stated they will investigate.

    DA Jeff Reisig, since 2006, has been in possession of direct admissible evidence that outlined the obstruction & fraud by Yolo & Calaveras County, on behalf of a Calif law enforcement officer & court appointee.

  2. jake wallace

    Yolo County Board of Supervisors
    625 Court Street
    Woodland, California 95695

    October 13, 2009

    Jacob Tyler Wallace
    1210 N. XXXXXX Avenue Apt. XXX
    Hollywood, California 90038
    323-309-3115

    Re: Government Code 27641: Accusation Against California attorney acting as Assistant County Council, Daniel Carl Cederborg State Bar # 124260 for the subversion of GC 27641 filed against Cederborg’s superior county council and acting CAO, Robyn Truitt Drivon & Judge Steve Basha; Drivon’s former boss. Brown Act violation; violated Article 1; Rules Governing Meetings; Sec.2-1.101; Sec 2-1.113; Sec 2-1.208.

    Allegations:

    1)ACC Cederborg advised the supervisor’s to meet and address GC 27861 filed September 11, 2009, which was an undisclosed meeting held by local elected officials to avoid public scrutiny by holding secret “workshops” and “study sessions.” That resulted in the county council flipping the GC 27641 into a ‘claim’ against the county now being handled by Yolo Human Resources.
    2)ACC Cederborg told Wallace by phone on October 12, 2009 (530-666-8277) that Yolo had already investigated now Sacramento Probation Chief, Don Meyer, for the subversion, concealment and the production of a falsified law enforcement investigation by a subordinate Teri Hall, days before Yolo county appointed CPO Don Meyer. The facts refute that.
    3)ACC Cederborg told Wallace that Yolo had no liability as Yolo did not know of CPO Don Meyer’ alleged criminal acts before the appointment and that the acts took place in another county anyway. The facts refute that.
    4)ACC Cederborg told Wallace that the allegations against CPO Don Meyer had been lawfully investigated outside of Yolo. The facts refute that.
    5)ACC Cederborg told Wallace that the Yolo board chair, McGowan and CAO, Robyn Truitt Drivon can privately decide on what matters appear on the BOS agenda as received correspondence. The complaint was filed against Robyn Truitt Drivon and the GC 27641 never appeared as official received correspondence as of Oct 13, 2009. The facts refute that. But the GC 27641 was in fact acted upon anyway.
    6)ACC Cederborg told Wallace the GC 27641 included several supervisor’s and was fatal as the board had no quorum to act but ACC Cederborg then stated the GC 27641 had been acted upon. How would the ACC know that before a public hearing? Cited supervisor’s never had the chance to publicly oppose that allegation or disqualify themselves. ACC Cederborg’s acts continue to conceal the allegations against Truitt and Judge Steve Basha.

    Page 2 GC 27641 Filed Against Assistant County Council, Daniel Carl Cederborg
    October 13, 2009

    7)Wallace received a phone call from Yolo Risk Assessment Manager, Hugo Martinez, on Friday, October 2, 2009 (530-666-8425). Mr. Martinez stated that he had no authority to make the call nor the authority to address the GC complaint and was doing so due to the mistake of another county employee. Mr. Martinez participated in an in depth conversation and stated the county had 90-days to respond. Mr. Martinez was a tool used by ACC Cederborg to subvert the public disclosure and public handling of the GC 27641 complaint; where ever that may have led.
    8)Daniel Carl Cederborg, Yolo County Council subordinate addressed allegations against the county council. Cederborg should have recused himself for a conflict of interest and should have allowed the accusations to be cited as official board correspondence, publicly discussed and acted upon per Yolo county’s Article 1; Rules Governing Meetings and the Brown Act. No written response has been received to date though ACC Cederborg stated Human Resources had responded in writing.
    9)ACC Cederborg’s attempt to have the GC 27641 flipped into a claim against the county; counters a civil & penal code false claims act suit(s) CV06-581 filed in the Yolo superior court in 2006, where Yolo and Calaveras official’s (CV 32550) jointly hired the law firm of Angelo, Kilday & Kilduff with public funds to dismantle the suit(s) after the grand jury and an earlier GC 27641 complaint was subverted.

    Jake Wallace

    Benjamin Wagner
    United States Attorney
    501 I Street, Suite 10-100
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    Mr. Joseph P. Russoniello
    United States Attorney
    450 Golden Gate Avenue
    Box 36055
    San Francisco, CA 94102

    Sacramento Regional FBI Office
    4500 Orange Grove
    Sacramento, CA 95841

  3. E Roberts Musser

    DMG: “The Sheriff wants us to accept his word on some sort of faith that a fair and impartial investigation occurred? I say this, if the officers involved did not do what was accused on them, then they have nothing to hide. They can waive their confidentiality clause tomorrow and let us see what “proof” the Sheriff has that this did not occur.
    Because frankly that is the only way this thing is going away. I have met and spoken to that little girl, and I do not believe for a second that she is lying. I want to hear an explanation of why she was sick and vomiting if this was simply a non-incident. I want to understand what evidence they have other than the word of other deputies, that “proves” this did not occur.”

    Yet you expect us to accept your word this girl is telling the truth, even though her testimony was not given under oath, was not subject to cross examination, and her parents are now getting ready to file a civil lawsuit, which if successful, may net them a great deal of money. You seem to refuse to even entertain the possibility this girl was coached by her parents – which, by the way, happens all the time. There is a famous child abuse case against a day care center in CA where this happened (coaching of child witnesses) – the children were deemed to have been coached and all the evidence completely fabricated. All the accused were exonerated.

    I understand your concern that the Sheriff’s investigation may not have been objective, but the child’s testimony may not have been objective either. Eyewitness testimony is highly unreliable…

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “Yet you expect us to accept your word this girl is telling the truth, even though her testimony was not given under oath, was not subject to cross examination, and her parents are now getting ready to file a civil lawsuit, which if successful, may net them a great deal of money. You seem to refuse to even entertain the possibility this girl was coached by her parents – which, by the way, happens all the time. “

    I don’t think that’s what I’m saying at all. I don’t expect anyone to accept my word or anyone else’s that the girl is telling truth. I want to see an impartial investigation. I agree with your point below about eyewitness testimony being highly unreliable, I want to know: (1) what is the “proof” their word that this did not happen and (2) if they don’t have proof, I’d like to see an independent investigation. Unfortunately, I suspect this will get litigated and we won’t find out what happened for four years or more. And by that point, no one will care.

  5. roger bockrath

    CONGRATULATIONS DAVID on a well thought out piece. Your point, that Ed Prieto prejudiced any self imposed “investigation” by all but stating that his guys would never do what they were accused of,and then refusing to make public any information that demonstrates the “proof” that his guys did nothing wrong, leads me to smell a cover up.

    When Mr. Guiterez was killed buy two of the same officers, Prieto also stated that his guys would be proved innocent of any wrong doing long before any internal investigation ever commenced. Then we are told that we are not entitled to any information because the FBI has an open investigation in progress. But they have failed to interview any witnesses. Maybe I am just cynical, but it sure seems like local law enforcement is just stretching this whole matter out as long as they can and hoping we all have very short memories.

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