OK, wait a minute.
The Kern High School District Police Department discovered that administrators — repeat, administrators — apparently illegally accessed information from a law enforcement database to run checks on students and employees and Superintendent Bryon Schaefer — a longtime administrator — thinks it’s a good idea for him to take over the police department?
Even if Schaefer just wants to provide “civilian oversight,” (whatever THAT means) the answer is NO. NO. And NO.
For so many reasons, but let’s start with this one.
The KHSD police investigation found numerous illegal requests to access CLETS going back many years had come from the Human Resources Department, according to Kern County Sheriff’s Office investigative reports.
Schaefer was the assistant superintendent of personnel from 2011 until he became superintendent in 2014.
That meant he was over Human Resources.
Schaefer’s only response should have been to step as far away from this mess as possible when it was first brought to his attention earlier this year and let KHSD police conduct an internal investigation, as was requested.
Instead, the district hemmed, it hawed, it hemmed some more and finally KHSD Police Chief Joe Lopeteguy had to let the Kern County Sheriff’s Office know about the suspected misuse.
That’s because KHSD piggybacks its CLETS (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) use off the Sheriff’s Office’s subscription.
The state Attorney General’s office could have yanked the database from both agencies had misuse gone unreported.
Ultimately, the sheriff’s investigation found enough evidence of administrators seeking CLETS information illegally that it recommended charges against Director of Pupil Personnel Services Otis Jennings and former Police Chief Mike Collier. (The District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute, that that’s another story.)
To recap: The alleged crime here was that administrators were seeking and obtaining CLETS information through the former chief.
There has never been any indication that the KHSD Police Department, as a whole, was improperly using CLETS. And certainly not the current chief, Lopeteguy, who was the guy trying to do the right thing in all this.
In case you forgot, Lopeteguy was the only one to suffer any blowback over this when the administration put him on leave May 13.
He was reinstated in July but, according to his $2.3 million claim against the district, KHSD administrators continued to harass him, even trying to get the Sheriff’s Office to investigate him for a perfectly legitimate CLETS use in 2014.
Wow. Just wow.
Anyhow, as if Schaefer’s vague “civilian oversight” announcement wasn’t strange and disturbing enough, he then picked a line officer over two sergeants and a lieutenant to become interim KHSD police chief after Lopeteguy went out on stress last week.
First, jumping a line officer over existing command staff is unheard of.
Second, it’s my understanding Lopeteguy appointed Lt. Jerald Wyatt interim chief before he went out on leave.
Third, I don’t know that Schaefer has the authority to be messing with the KHSD Police Department at all.
Education Code 38000(b) states that school cops come under the “governing board,” meaning the Board of Trustees, not the superintendent.
Security departments come under the superintendent, according to the code. But police departments, with sworn officers, are different.
KHSD doesn’t see it like that.
“It does not appear that AB 2368 (the law that separated security departments from police departments) was intended to remove supervisory powers of the superintendent over the district’s police department,” was the emailed response I got.
And “Nothing in the applicable Education Code sections indicate that is legally impermissible for school district administrators to supervise the chief of police — similar to a city police chief reporting to a civilian city manager.”
Regardless of the law’s intent, it did detach district police departments from school administrators.
There is no ambiguity in the language.
City managers do not oversee police departments. They have limited hiring and firing power over the chief.
That’s not what has been going on at KHSD.
We learned in a recent civil trial that ended with KHSD paying a $10.5 million settlement that administrators often decide whether KHSD police should conduct investigations and even take witness statements without police knowledge.
And I find it interesting that if something isn’t expressly noted as illegal in the Ed Code, KHSD thinks that makes it OK.
Well, that opens the door to...just about anything.
Actually, that would explain a lot about how this district operates.