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Terminated SJPD Officers: Political Sacrificial Lambs or Cover Up Failures?

October 8th, 2009

In March of 2008 District Attorney Investigator/former San Jose Police Officer Sandra Woodall was involved in a traffic collision that resulted in an injury. Highly regarded, and well liked, responding San Jose Police Officers Sergeant Will Manion and Officer Patrick D’Arrigo are reported to have failed to conduct a DUI investigation notwithstanding evidence of possible DUI, and to have filed police reports indicating that there was no evidence of drinking impaired driving involved with the accident.

A responding emergency medical technician latter claimed that Woodall appeared disoriented, smelled of alcohol, and admitted to drinking. The mother of the young woman injured in the accident asked the officers at the hospital to test Woodall for alcohol, and later filed a complaint when tests were not performed. Woodall was ultimately charged with DUI, and pleaded guilty to same.

Sergeant Manion and Officer D’Arrigo were both terminated from the San Jose Police Department by Chief Rob Davis who has recently been through a tumultuous run politically with widespread community discussion about discriminatory arrests, police pension costs, police substation cost overruns, sunshine law issues relating to the public’s access to police records, POA issues, to name but a few.

Was Woodall afforded special treatment because of her connection with Law Enforcement? Were the Sergeant and Officer treated overly harshly, after all a grand jury concluded that the two were not guilty of any criminal conduct? Should emergency medical technicians and citizens be second guessing more qualified police officers when it comes to crime investigation?

The most important issue of all, as far as this writer is concerned, is whether the terminated officers filed false reports with a view toward covering up a possible crime to protect a fellow law enforcement officer. Police reports are relied on by citizens, probation officers, prosecutors, judges, attorneys, insurance companies, and the laundry list goes on and on. Police reports are afforded deference to an extent that there are looked upon in many quarters as the gospel truth. The need for unqualified fidelity and good faith in the preparation of police reports is an unquestioned absolute. Police officer false reporting is a felony offense in the state of California pursuant to California Penal Code section 118.1. However, as above noted, a grand jury exonerated the Officers of any criminal conduct.

While this matter involved city employee personnel issues, the City of San Jose needs to fully address the above issues. Were the Sergeant and Officer made to be political scapegoats to revive a Police Chief’s sagging political reputation, or was there really a double standard, and bad faith exercise of discretion on the Officer’s part, in the investigation and follow up to the March 2008 traffic accident with a view toward covering up a possible crime to protect a fellow law enforcement officer?

If you have questions regarding criminal justice issues contact San Jose Criminal Lawyer Bernard P. Bray.

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