By: Christina Sosa, 6/30/2006
The Kern County sheriff’s deputies’ union says two deputies were transferred because they blew the whistle on misconduct within a joint sheriff’s and Bakersfield Police Department vice unit.
Sheriff Mack Wimbish said his deputies’ complaint will not be investigated.
Senior Deputy Kavin Brewer and Deputy Paul Lopez, who were assigned to the joint vice unit, accused BPD officers of misconduct earlier this month, according to Kern Law Enforcement Association President Bob Gaines.
A supervisor asked the deputies to write a memo outlining the alleged misconduct, Gaines said. Gaines declined to discuss the exact nature of the misconduct, and both Lopez and Brewer, through Gaines, declined to comment.
However, a letter sent by KLEA attorney Ken Yuwiler to Wimbish and obtained by The Californian stated the misconduct concerned a compromised sting operation.
“The memo was openly submitted to sheriff’s supervisors on June 14. Ironically, they were both transferred out that same day,” Gaines said. “The KLEA and their legal representation believe this transfer was disciplinary, punitive and retaliatory.”
Lopez was transferred to the gang unit and Brewer was transferred to a nighttime patrol shift, Gaines said. Wimbish would not confirm where the deputies were transferred, saying their work history is private, but did confirm transfers occurred.
June 14 was also the day the BPD began an internal investigation of two detectives and one sergeant in the vice unit, Assistant Chief Brian Lynn said. Lynn said he could not reveal the names of the officers under investigation or say if it is a result of Lopez and Brewer’s complaint, only that it was initiated by a high-ranking BPD officer.
But the Sheriff’s Department will not conduct a similar investigation because the deputies should have filed a grievance with the department and they haven’t, Wimbish said. Wimbish said he had received the letter from Yuwiler, but would not comment on it and has not replied to it.
“I look forward to them going through the proper steps,” Wimbish said. “I’m sure everything will come out.”
Gaines also said Lopez and Brewer haven’t filed anything with the county Civil Service Commission, which would usually review personnel matters.
They didn’t go to the Civil Service Commission on the advice of their lawyer, but a copy of the letter has been submitted to county counsel, Gaines said. And the grievance procedure wouldn’t have been appropriate in this case, Gaines said.
“A grievance is not filed when there is a potential violation of law or California Government Code,” Gaines said.
If a supervisor transferred or threatened to transfer Lopez and Brewer as punishment for reporting alleged misconduct, it’s a violation of the police officer’s bill of rights outlined in the state’s code, Gaines said. Gaines said the union is hoping to determine who is directly responsible for the transfer, but Yuwiler’s letter lays much of the blame on Sgt. Chevy Garza.
“Sgt. Chevy Garza apparently improperly sought to run interference regarding this matter and to intimidate the deputies,” the letter reads.
Garza did not return messages left on his office, cell and home numbers Thursday evening. Wimbish declined to comment on who ordered the transfer.
Lopez and Brewer are asking that they be reassigned to their original positions, and the BPD and Sheriff’s Department vice units be split, KLEA General Manager Alex Bernard said. The joint vice unit continues to operate with sheriff’s deputies and BPD officers.
Wimbish said he did not know when he will reply to the union’s letter, but Lynn said the BPD’s internal investigation will be complete within 30 days of its start.