It’s hard to know what’s more disheartening: That two more local law enforcement officers abused the trust of this community to commit crimes and enrich themselves; or the downright obsequious manner in which the “authorities” have dealt with all these dirty cops.
They are dirty cops.
We should consider them the lowest of the low.
They endangered the safety of fellow officers and smeared their departments’ reputations because their $80k-plus pay and gold-plated pensions just weren’t enough.
And yet, the U.S. Department of “Justice” gives these guys sweetheart plea deals that have ended in candy-coated low term sentences, with apologies from judges and handshakes from prosecutors.
And now, the DOJ thinks so little of the public it didn’t even bother to notify us about the latest set of plea deals for two Kern County sheriff’s deputies.
But oooohhhhhh, boy, a Mexican national grows pot in the forest and the DOJ whips out press releases like Pez candies.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office is mum on the entire thing, refusing even to say whether it has conducted an overview of how evidence is handled so this doesn’t happen again.
But Sheriff Donny Youngblood makes sure every camera is rolling while he spits fury over an incorrect report that he doesn’t play well with ICE and takes up everyone’s time and energy trying to get Kern declared a law and order, “non-sanctuary” county.
There is something seriously wrong with this picture.
And, frankly, it’s difficult to know where we go from here.
The California Attorney General’s office is already investigating both the Bakersfield Police Department and Sheriff’s Office for allegations of civil rights abuses in several high-profile officer-involved deaths in the community.
Do we really have to add “law enforcement drug cartels” to the list?
Because it’s pretty obvious now that former BPD Chief Greg Williamson and U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert were — well, let’s be generous and say they were “wrong” — when they both assured the public that the corruption ended with former BPD Officers Damacio Diaz and Patrick Mara.
And no, I don’t buy the nuance that they were just talking about BPD.
Especially when Diaz was telling anyone who’d listen that this was widespread.
So wide, apparently, that it included sheriff’s deputies Logan August and Derrick Penney, who named Mara and “others” as co-conspirators in their plea deals.
If you go back to Diaz’s 68-page statement in September 2016, he specifically mentions the three-county High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area anti-drug task force as essentially unsupervised and wide open for possible corruption, in which he fully engaged.
That was clearly an uncontained situation.
Mara, you may recall, backed Williamson’s claims and denied allegations that other officers were involved after his sentencing.
Yeah, there’s a guy with sterling credibility.
Speaking of credibility, I’m hoping someone in the Sheriff’s Office, BPD, DOJ and federal court system thinks that’s important to regain.
If so, I have a couple of new vocabulary words for them — transparency and fairness.
To date, neither the DOJ nor BPD has released any information on the investigation of five other BPD officers, one of whom resigned mid-stream, as part of the Mara/Diaz debacle.
That probably runs afoul of the Police Officer Bill of Rights. Something I continue to advocate must be reformed so the public can get a reasonable amount of information on how officers are performing one of the most critical jobs in society.
But without any information, not to mention Chief Williamson’s surprise early retirement, the public is left to wonder whether other problem officers were simply swept under the rug to avoid an all-out department meltdown.
And how about releasing the full extent of charges initially leveled against August and Penney?
The DOJ says it can’t do that as part of the plea agreements.
That does nothing but fuel speculation of widespread corruption in the Sheriff’s Office.
Speaking of which, that department could do itself a lot of good by opening up at least on whether procedures — or at least the locks — were changed for evidence lockers.
And finally, in the interest of giving fairness a try, it would be refreshing if the federal courts took off the kid gloves and treated these dirty cops even close to the average drug trafficker.
We’ll see if things have changed when Penney and August go to court May 15.
The maximum sentence would be five years for each, plus a $250,000 fine.
But, per the plea agreements, federal prosecutors will recommend a less stringent punishment.
Prosecutors had recommended double-digit sentences for Mara and Diaz but the judge in that case opted for five years.
At the very least, this time around, perhaps the judge could refrain from publicly lamenting that he can’t pay for the education of one of the dirty cop’s kids — as he did in the Diaz case.
And people wonder why some in the community don’t trust the “justice system.”