SAN LEANDRO'S BADGE OF DISHONOR--PART 3
Nov. 4, 2011 | In 2007, a group of, at least, 10 San Leandro police officers, led by a cop currently in the crime prevention unit, broached a highly problematic and unethical idea of gaming the city’s ticket-writing procedures and arrest criteria to protest the promotion of former officer, Dewayne Stancill.
The scheme called for officers to flood the system with frivolous ticket infractions one month while neglecting to write any the next. By doing so, they hoped to attract the attention of police brass by causing the system to crash. The scheme is laid out in a confidential investigation paid for by the city in November 2008.
Institutional angst was high towards Dale Attarian, the police department’s former chief. The better-than-expected third-place finish by Stancill in the sergeant’s test earlier in the year was just the final straw among some officers who told investigators the morale of the police force was dangerously low.
Earlier, Attarian had ruffled feathers by enacting a new policy for promotion. Attarian wanted to raise the level of education at the department. To reach that goal, he made it clear that those with additional schooling would be looked at favorably for future promotion. This didn’t sit well with many in the force, who possessed little more than a high school diploma and some college credits.
Tim DeGrano was an officer who took exception to this new edict. He has been a police officer in San Leandro for over two decades. The mustachioed, DeGrano is well-liked and often jettisoned by the department for outreach to community groups. Like other disgruntled cops at the department, DeGrano lacked the level of education Attarian was looking for. Instead, DeGrano thought promotion should be based upon seniority, according to the report.
DeGrano may have also been upset over what may have been. In 2006, he placed high on the sergeant’s test and was on the verge of promotion until a former sergeant decided to delay his retirement. When the position was finally open, unfortunately for DeGrano, the prior list had expired. According to the report, DeGrano told others he would not participate in the 2007 testing, but changed his mind at the last minute. He would finish a dismal eighth out of twelve. Stancill said he believed DeGrano didn't bother studying for the test, according to the report. In an interview with this reporter, Stancill mocked DeGrano for coming down with "mysterious illnesses" on the day of testing on four separate occasions.
References to a flawed system for promotion is constant in the city's investigation into Stancill's claim of racial discrimination. Several current officers told Stancill their complaint was not over his surprise promotion to sergeant, but, instead, attributed to the "process." “We’re not upset about you,” another officer assured Stancill. “We’re upset at the administration.” Sandra Spagnoli, San Leandro's current chief of police, said the city now uses an outside consultant to conduct testing. In the past, a three-person panel would interview and compile scoring for each candidate. Officers felt the process was too arbitrary and tended to favor certain candidates. In response, they vowed to mount a protest.
One weekend in the summer of 2007, the entire patrol division of the San Leandro Police Department was invited to a barbecue at DeGrano's home. The reason for the occasion was anything but hospitable. Instead of grilled meats and summer sides, the main dish would feature a laundry list of gripes directed at the administration and, specifically, Stancill, according to the report.
Annie O’Callaghan was there. She was one of the officers found later to have conspired with five other female cops along with her husband, another San Leandro cop, to lodge frivolous sexual harassment claims against Stancill. What occurred at DeGrano's home was one big bitchfest featuring numerous officers commenting “to the effect Mr. Stancill is a dumb, stupid idiot and could not have possibly been ranked as high as he ranked on the promotional list,” the report said.
DeGrano’s testimony to the investigator was inconsistent. In the report, DeGrano said he did not know the reason for the department’s low morale and merely organized the barbecue to root out its causes. DeGrano said two young officers, current still on the force, called for the meeting. One of the officers he mentions denied asking for the gathering. Instead, he recalls asking DeGrano about the subject of the meeting, the report said, and not the other way around.
The plan was to prepare a list of issues and concerns for presentation to the chief, but before their grievances were aired, one officer proposed a unique act of workplace disobedience. “According to O’Callaghan, during the meeting, because some police officers were so disgruntled, someone proposed a work action wherein one month they would flood the system with citations and arrests and the next month would hold back on those actions,” said the report.
A current sergeant told the investigator, the person who initially suggested the work action was DeGrano. "Write every possible citation and make every possible arrest they can to gum up and overwhelm the system," the sergeant said of DeGrano's plan. "The next month, they would do the opposite and decline to write citations or make arrests unless absolutely necessary.”
That same officer, who is black, told investigators he sent an email to the other black officer in the department urging them to stand up for Stancill against the allegations lodged against him and to openly discuss similar acts of perceived racism perpetrated against the group. The officer told investigators he was not aware the purpose of the barbecue was to discuss work-related business or complaints over Stancill's promotion.
In an interview last month, Stancill described DeGrano's suggestion to manipulate the trust of San Leandrans in the police force to exact revenge on him as “conduct unbecoming of an officer.”
In the end, DeGrano’s plan to flood the system with tickets and arrests was quickly shot down by others in the group, the report said, but whether the proposed work action ever occurred before or after in San Leandro might never be known for certain.
Oct. 31, 2011 - Prologue: Amid Budget Cuts, San Leandro Official Spent Money On Other Things
Wed. - Part 1: Former San Leandro Police Officer Went From Shining Star To Pariah
Thurs. - Part 2: How the City Attorney Bungled the Settlement, Allowed Story To Become Public
TODAY - Part 3: Jealousy Pushed One Officer To Abuse The Public Trust To Protest Promotion
Nov. 8 - Part 4: If Police Officer Can't Write Reports, How Can Alleged Crimes Be Prosecuted?
Nov. 9 - Part 5: Now What?