Skip to comments.TIMES WATCHDOG: After firing, police officer is reinstated
Posted on 05/25/2006 2:01:02 PM PDT by SmithL
A Concord police officer who was fired a year ago for profiling Latino drivers next to a Mexican market is back on patrol with his old job.
City officials approved Officer Jim Carroll's return last month following a favorable recommendation from an independent mediator.
In 2004, the officer would park next to Mercado del Valle along Monument Boulevard and stop Latino drivers leaving the market for flimsy reasons to see if they had a driver's license, according to an internal police investigation.
If they did not, he would cite them and have their cars towed.
Former Police Chief Ron Ace, who retired last summer after overseeing the investigation, detailed these findings in interviews with the Times last year. Top city officials this week declined to comment on the traffic stops or identify the officer, citing personnel privacy laws.
Carroll's manager, Sgt. Steve Price, was demoted for not properly supervising the officer. Price was bumped up to his previous rank in April.
Phone messages left with Price, his attorney and Concord Police Association -- the officers' politically powerful union -- were not returned.
Carroll, a 19-year veteran, was simply working his Monument Corridor beat and enforcing traffic laws in an area where the majority of residents are Latinos, said his attorney, Kathy Rains.
"Sometimes that proactive law enforcement isn't considered popular among segments of populations down there," she said. "There are a lot of unlicensed drivers down there, and a lot of them happen to be Hispanic. (Carroll) is a great officer with a spotless record."
Latino community leaders are outraged at the officer's return, saying it has hurt relations with Concord police.
For the past few years, the department has worked hard to encourage hesitant immigrants to report crimes without fear of being asked about their residency status.
"It's disappointing -- especially right now because people are really on edge with this immigration debate," said Jerry Okendo, local president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
"To know there is an officer who did something serious enough to be dismissed, and now he's back -- it's just going to add to the fear."
Okendo, however, said he had a positive meeting on the topic with Chief David Livingston on Tuesday. Still, Okendo and other Latino leaders are upset they learned about Carroll's return from a reporter and not the police chief.
"We've worked very hard for a good relationship -- they should have told us he was back," Okendo said. "It's disturbing -- were they trying to cover it up?
Livingston said privacy laws do not allow him to discuss the case or if the officer is again working in the Monument area. But, he said, his department is fair to all residents and has worked on community outreach in the Monument Corridor.
"What I've seen since I've been chief is a vibrant and growing relationship with the Latino community," said Livingston, who was hired in August.
"We offer bilingual victim services and we have a translation service for detectives and the dispatch center. When we noticed an increase in street robberies in the Monument Corridor, we immediately provided crime bulletins in Spanish."
Complaints about Carroll began in May 2004 when a staff member at Mercado del Valle said he was stopping motorists for weak reasons, such as cracked windshields.
The market installed a video surveillance system to capture Carroll's actions along the 1600 block of Monument Boulevard. A nine-month police internal affairs investigation found some of the officer's stops were lawful but others were not.
This led to Carroll's firing and his fight to come back.
The city is not legally required to follow a mediator's decision, but it often does to avoid binding arbitration and lawsuits.
It is unclear if the city awarded back pay to Carroll for his year off or to Price while he was paid a lower salary following his demotion to officer.
The city has decided whether to provide back pay, but City Manager Lydia Du Borg said that potential use of taxpayer money is confidential because it deals with a personnel decision.
"Those are definitely public records," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition. "If you are somebody in that neighborhood, I think you'd be interested that he got his job back and why and how much taxpayer money was involved."
The Times has filed a formal request for that information under the California Public Records Act. Concord police officers' annual salaries range from $55,332 to $67,260. Sergeants earn $70,260 to $85,392.
In a well-publicized case spurred by the Times, the California Supreme Court is scheduled to decide whether the specific salaries of public employees, including police officers, are public records that must be disclosed.
Two lower courts have already ruled in favor of the newspaper.
He got busted for shooting fish in a barrel.
People driving without licenses are also driving without insurance. They SHOULD be taken off the road.
Let one of them hit you and do some serious damage and see how you feel about uninsured motorists.
They fired a cop for doing his job.
It was a nice way to put this as crime had gone through the roof, residents were putting bars on their windows, and girls wouldn't/shouldn't walk unescorted on Monument boulevard as they would/could be mistaken for the "illegal" prostitutes who began working the corners.
Concord is a middle class, down home, family town - a part and connected with Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.
This officer was doing his job.
The nerve. If they don't get a leash on this lunatic, next he'll be trying to bust bank robbers. Anyone that has ever been involved in an accident with an unlicensed, uninsured driver can be disgusted along with me.
Wrong........cops are only suppost to arrest American Citizens...............just ask your congress-critter.
Big brother is riding right there with you strapped around your waist.
It's amazing people would be so upset with him enforcing these traffic laws (especially in an area with suspected higher rates of violation) that he had to be dismissed for a while. The angry race-activists opposing his return acted as if he had been beating up innocent Latinos. Through his vigilance in enforcing the laws, he probably increased awareness of the traffic laws, which is a good thing.
In my state, socialist Maryland, drivers license applications from illegals have doubled since March. Maryland does not require legal residency, a green card or even a social security card to obtain a drivers license. I had to renew my license back in January and the DMV might as well have been in Mexico City.
For the unlawful stops issue a "counseling memo" and schedule a training refresher on stops requiring probable cause. Otherwise people can just STFU!
Yes, let's go back to pretending that illegal is legal and that they all have licenses and insurance and are NOT costing the rest of millions in absorbed higher costs.
We would want them to think we don't appreciate all that hard work they do ripping the rest of us off by not obeying our laws.
Make that ---it should be your choice.