Subscribe

SRJC investigating its police department

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Subscribe

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.

Robert Edmonds, a former student trustee at the college and a current member of the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force created to make recommendations on police oversight, has been following the case since earlier this year when he began receiving emails, apparently sent by a third party on behalf of police employees, raising some of the same issues addressed in the investigations.

Edmonds said he believed the college had handled the matter as well as it could by bringing in an outside investigator. But he questioned how impartial the investigation could really be when the college was the one hiring the investigator.

But, he said, he didn’t know if a more impartial means of investigation existed in the county — yet.

“That’s part of my work with (the task force),” he said. “We need to have some form of truly independent outside investigation of police when there are problems that arise.”

The investigator, Chris Reynolds, is president of the California Association of Licensed Investigators. Since 1984, he said, he has looked into more than 400 harassment and discrimination cases for Northern California school districts, including SRJC.

He also has completed a second investigation into more recent allegations, made to college officials in anonymous emails, that employees falsified their time sheets by not deducting their sick or vacation time when they took time off. The accusations pointed to two sworn officers and one civilian staff member, Silver said. Reynolds’ findings are still being reviewed by college attorneys, Silver said.

An additional investigation regarding the district police is ongoing, Silver said, but she could not provide any information into what that inquiry entailed.

McCaffrey said he and other officials have used the investigations as a way to assess their policies, such as how overtime and evidence are dealt with.

“We should be going into any investigation with an open mind,” he said. “Maybe we didn’t do anything wrong, but the fact we’re even talking about this, we have to look at if we have a problem.”

Staff Writer Jamie Hansen blogs about education at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach her at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jamiehansen.

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism, hate speech or personal attacks on others.
  • No spam or off-topic posts. Keep the conversation to the theme of the article.
  • No disinformation about current events. Make sure facts are from a reliable source.
  • No name calling. "Orange Menace", "Libtards", etc. are not respectful.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine