By Henry K. Lee 2/17/15
Kensington officials dismissed the community’s police chief in the wake of revelations that he waited eight months before removing from duty a sergeant whose gun was allegedly stolen by a prostitute in a Reno hotel room.
The Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District voted at a closed-door meeting Monday night not to renew Chief Greg Harman’s contract and to make May 31 his final day. In a statement Tuesday, officials said Harman had been actually working without a new contract since his last deal expired June 30.
“The board chose the May date to ensure full coverage of the district and supervision of its personnel, as well as a smooth transition to the district’s next chief,” said the statement, which thanked Harman for his eight years of work.
His departure is the latest twist in a case that has captivated the wealthy enclave of 5,000 people, where violence is rare.
Harman acknowledged that he allowed Sgt. Keith Barrow, who is head of the Kensington police union, to work for eight months after his gun was taken last May because Barrow “posed no risk,” district officials said in a statement last week.
Barrow, who remained on active duty during the investigation into the Reno incident, was punished with a suspension Jan. 12. His attorney, Justin Buffington, said his client got four weeks of unpaid leave, spaced out so as not to disrupt department operations.
“The circumstances and allegations involving district police personnel are disappointing to all of us,” the district statement said. “Mistakes in judgment were made that reflect poorly on all involved. While some of us may disagree on any ultimate discipline issued, the process required by the collective bargaining agreement and by law has been followed.”
Garen Corbett was among several Kensington residents who addressed the board Monday, urging directors to remove Harman. Corbett said Harman’s dual role as police chief and the district’s general manager had long posed a conflict of interest.
The Reno incident “seems to have been the final straw for residents and gave a number of reform-minded residents the opportunity to engage the community,” Corbett wrote in an e-mail. He said Harman’s departure “is an important step for Kensington, for better local government, for accountability.”
Harman became police chief and general manager in 2007 after serving 23 years with the Daly City Police Department.
The probe into Barrow, 47, began May 23, 2014. The off-duty sergeant, while apparently asleep in a room at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, had his badge, handcuffs, .40-caliber service pistol and two magazines of ammunition stolen by a prostitute who had been paid $70 for sex, said Officer Tim Broadway, a spokesman for the Reno Police Department.
Prostitution is illegal in Washoe County, where Reno is located, but Barrow, who told officers he had been drinking, wasn’t cited because there were conflicting accounts about what had happened, police said.
Barrow’s gun ended up in the hands of the prostitute’s pimp, a drug user who accidentally shot himself in the leg with the weapon during an argument the next morning at a local pawnshop, Broadway said.
Buffington, said the woman “drugged Sgt. Barrow’s drink in order to take advantage of and victimize him.” He said his client “categorically denies” engaging in sexual acts with the prostitute and noted that other Kensington officers had been on the trip to Reno with their wives.
Also Monday night, the Kensington board privately discussed a federal lawsuit that accuses Barrow, as a member of the West Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, as well as Marin County law-enforcement agencies, of wrongdoing during a 2011 drug raid at a Mill Valley novelty and porn shop called the Pleasure Principle.