Policing the Police
By Tommy A. Purvis
Cato Institute’s police misconduct project names Rialto and Riverside departments among the top 10 offenders
A first-of-its-kind effort by libertarian think tank Cato Institute to compile reputable media accounts of police misconduct ranked two local law-enforcement agencies in its top 10 roundup.
The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) recently posted by user “rQRo” on the Cop Watch IE website ranks the Rialto Police Department fourth in misconduct in the nation for a force of 100-499 sworn peace officers for the 3rd quarter of 2010, the year with the most recent data. The report found 11 officers out of the 153-person force to be involved in misconduct. The larger Riverside Police Department was ranked seventh in the same category with 33 incidents of misconduct found in media reports.
From January to September 2010, the NPMSRP found 3,814 unique incidents of police misconduct that involved 4,966 peace officers and 5,711 alleged victims. Excessive force was found to account for 25 percent of the misconduct cases with sexual misconduct present in ten percent. Drunk driving and drug cases made up eight percent of the police misconduct. Fraud and theft tied to a false arrest made up seven percent of the cases.
The Professional Standards Division of the Rialto Police Department, its internal administrative investigations unit, was quick to defend the force against the project’s high ranking. During the timeframe in question internal affairs was embroiled in a sensational sexual misconduct case involving strip club Spearmint Rhino that led to the resignation of beat officer James Dobbs and another officer.
In May 2010, Nancy Holtgreve, a waitress at Spearmint Rhino in Rancho Cucamonga, filed a claim against the city seeking $500,000 in damages, and alleging that officers engaged in on- and off-duty sex with strip club employees at a police-union building. Holtgreve accused officer Dobbs of impregnating her and harassing her for seeking child support. According to Holtgreve’s claim, Dobbs (who was engaged to the police chief’s secretary) used his position as a peace officer to physically and verbally intimidate Holtgreve. The officer would call or text Holtgreve stating, “I’m going to make you look like an unfit mother, you ruined my life, don’t f…with me, I’m a cop.” Later, when Dobbs found out that his department’s internal affairs had been contacted by Holtgreve he told her, “How dare you f@cking call my work. You f@cking whore. Watch your back.”
Holtgreve’s attorney claims that a detective from internal affairs—who was present in the courtroom when Dobbs filed a restraining order against his out-of-town client—“high-fived” the accused cop. The attorney also claims that then-Chief Mark Kling apologized to Holtgreve telling her “We’ll protect you, Nancy. Please don’t take this to the press.”
Later there was an attempted burglary at Holtgreve’s Chino resident and she received many hang-up calls, according to the claim.
At the time that Holtgreve filed the claim, then-Rancho Cucamonga City Attorney Jimmy Gutierrez described it as untimely and insufficient, according to a report in The Press-Enterprise. However, two police officers, including Dobbs, resigned and four others were disciplined in the wake of the scandal. At the time, Chief Kling called the case “an embarrassment.”
Lt. Andrew Carol, who handled the internal affairs investigation of the Spearmint Rhino misconduct, told the Weekly that the case was handled in a quick and efficient manner. In fact, he claims that out of the 11 incidents reported in the NPMSRP only four had any merit. He also cites recent innovations within the agency that will help keep officers more accountable and transparent to the community such as Taser cameras, body-worn video recorders and auto vehicle locators for squad cars, so that officers can be tracked at all times.
“The Rialto Police Department investigated the Spearmint Rhino incident thoroughly and swiftly. The officers involved in the incident were held accountable for their actions and misconduct,” Rialto Police Department Captain Randy De Anda told the Weekly. “This incident was not a reflection of the hard-working and dedicated officers and personnel who continue to provide the best services to our community.”
Officials with the Riverside Police Department did not respond to requests for comments for this story.
The Cato Institute’s NPMRP, in its introduction, states, “While the use of news reports to generate statistical data may seem strange, keep in mind that police departments do not normally release any detailed information about disciplinary matters, and sometimes they don’t release any information at all. The use of court records by themselves would only garner information about misconduct cases that were successfully prosecuted and would miss confidential settlements and cases of misconduct that were not prosecuted but did result in internal disciplinary action. Therefore, the use of media reports, while not perfect, represents the most efficient method of data gathering available at this time.”