SRJC investigating its police department
Santa Rosa Junior College has hired an investigator to look into three complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation filed by campus Police Department employees, as well as anonymous accusations that some employees were falsifying their time sheets.
“The district took these complaints seriously,” SRJC spokeswoman Ellen Maremont Silver said in a written statement.
She said the college’s legal counsel suggested hiring the private investigator to look into the matter because of the complexity and the number of people involved.
The first investigation, into complaints about exposure to child pornography submitted by three Police Department employees to SRJC’s human resources department in May, recently concluded that the charges were “not sustained by credible evidence,” Silver said. The complaints were filed by unsworn members of the department, meaning they are civilians who work in support roles; they are not authorized to carry a weapon or make arrests.
One of the three employees who filed complaints about child pornography later said they faced retaliation for the claim.
The investigation into the complaints took less than 90 days, said Chris Reynolds, the Santa Rosa-based investigator hired by the college.
The complaints stem from the employees’ exposure on April 26 to images that were on a thumb drive one of the employees found in the Police Department’s evidence room, Silver said. The employee, a civilian, found the drive in the evidence room, took it to the dispatch center and discovered the images. Two other civilian employees in the area saw the images, too.
The investigation found that the offensive pictures were evidence in a criminal case and that they were on the thumb drive because a sworn officer was trying to transfer them to a CD to provide to the court.
“It was determined there was no intentional wrongdoing on the behalf of any employee,” Silver said.
However, the investigation found that the department should change its procedures in dealing with evidence to avoid such an incident’s happening again, she added.
“It was, frankly, an evidence- handling issue,” SRJC Police Chief Matt McCaffrey said. “We’re working to fix that, and from that standpoint, (the investigation) was a good thing.”
The college sent its findings to each complainant on Friday, Silver said. Per school policy, the employees have 15 days to file an appeal with the Board of Trustees.
Regional representatives for the Service Employees International Union, which represents the department’s dispatchers and other support staff, declined to comment on the matter.
One complainant has been placed on paid administrative leave per their request. Another is on sick leave, Silver said. None of the police employees accused of wrongdoing in the complaints was placed on administrative leave.
McCaffrey said the small department of 13 sworn officers, six police dispatchers, six unsworn community services officers and two support staff members has felt the effects of having two fewer people on the staff. However, he said they hired a part-time employee to fill in some gaps and other employees have stepped in where needed so that the police presence on campus wasn’t affected.
“Everyone else has kind of banded together; we’ve been able to cover pretty much without any problems or lapses,” McCaffrey said.