Cops drinking on the job. Paying informants “under the table” with department money. Conducting narcotics seizures without the knowledge of supervisors. Allowing informants, against BPD policy, to continue selling drugs while working with police. Patrol officers “compensated” for assisting with seizures of drugs later sold for profit by cops.
These and other unsubstantiated allegations made by disgraced former Bakersfield Police Department Detective Damacio Diaz are included in a “white paper” Diaz sent to his former employer in August. That letter and dozens of pages of other pre-sentencing documents were filed Thursday as part of Diaz’s criminal case in U.S. District Court.
A BPD spokesman said this week that the department is reviewing the ex-detective’s claims, but noted that the FBI has already investigated all of the criminal allegations but one, and except for Diaz’s former partner, one-time Detective Patrick Mara, no other officer from the department has faced criminal indictment as a result.
However, five officers earlier this year were placed on paid leave, to allow the department to look into possible policy violations, but some of them have returned to duty. More will be revealed about the status of the five at a press conference tentatively set for later in October, after both Diaz and Mara have been sentenced, said Sgt. Gary Carreusco.
In the meantime, Diaz is scheduled for sentencing Monday in Fresno. He faces between 17 and 22 years in prison if Judge Lawrence O’ Neill follows the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. But the judge has discretion, and has the option of choosing a shorter sentence — or even sending Diaz home with time served.
Diaz’s attorney, David Torres, told The Californian he would like to see O’Neill sentence his client to five years or fewer, preferably much fewer.
In a plea agreement made public in May, Diaz admitted to a litany of crimes while he was working as a cop, including taking bribes, large-scale distribution of methamphetamine, working in partnership with a known drug dealer, stealing evidence and providing police intelligence to criminal partners. He later pleaded guilty to three felonies in a plea deal.
In his letter to BPD Assistant Chief Lyle Martin, Diaz said he wanted to prevent other officers “who might find themselves in similar circumstances as I did, from giving into the peer pressure, the temptation, or thinking they can get away with bending or breaking policy.”
It’s important to note there is no independent corroboration of Diaz’s claims, which are summarized as follows:
It is the policy of the BPD to never meet with informants alone.
“I understand this policy. However, I often met with informants alone,” Diaz wrote. In fact, it was “common practice,” he said.
Always have two detectives present when paying an informant.
“This also was rarely practiced,” Diaz said in his letter. “I personally paid informants alone many times. I would simply have another detective sign the witness form at a later time.”
Diaz said he also signed other detectives’ witness forms “many times when in fact I was not present during said transaction.
“Because we were all friends and worked together, we often backed each other up and signed each other’s forms after the fact” — often days or weeks after the actual transaction.
Requesting funds from the unit sergeant to purchase drug samples (control buys) was oftentimes inflated. Because the BPD narcotics unit pays informants so poorly, it was sometimes necessary to inflate the cost of the sample buy to have extra money to pay the informant.
“From the very beginning,” Diaz recalled, “I learned informants who were treated right and properly paid were much easier to handle than those who were disgruntled and mistrusted the detective. It was common practice within the narcotics unit to request an additional amount from the unit sergeant to cover the payment to the informant.”
Because “control buys” were never prosecuted, and the sample never tested, no one would ever know whether the actual sample was booked into the property room or if the item booked was something other than narcotics.
“There were times when the sample booked into the property room was not narcotics,” Diaz said. Or the sample was not booked in its entirety. “Sometimes the detective would allow the informant to keep part of the control buy as a form of payment…”
In an effort to catch bigger targets and seize larger quantities of narcotics, it was normal practice to allow certain informants to continue trafficking narcotics while working as police informants.
Detectives would provide the informant with information or even protection to help him or her remain involved in the “drug game” so they could provide information on other targets, Diaz said. “Oftentimes, their competition was targeted to give the informant more freedom to operate and obtain valuable information.”
Sometimes informants were not registered as informants to avoid establishing a “paper trail.”
“Tips” from unregistered informants were documented as having come from a registered informant, Diaz said in his letter to the BPD.
“No one ever questioned or confirmed exactly where the information came from,” he said. “Compensation to the unregistered informant was done in the form of favors from the detective, protection from other officers or agencies, or monetary payments off the books.”
Using patrol officers to conduct traffic stops on suspected drug dealers who the detective confirmed were transporting narcotics was sometimes done without the involvement of the entire narcotics unit and without the knowledge of the unit sergeant.
Sometimes the patrol officer making the traffic stop was fully aware of what was transpiring and sometimes he was provided only partial information, Diaz said. “The patrol officer would arrest the driver for minor violations and the detectives would seize the narcotics.
“The patrol officer would complete a report… but would make no mention of any narcotics or the involvement of narcotics detectives.”
“All patrol officers involved, who were in on what was taking place, were later compensated,” Diaz said.
During a “reverse operation,” a quantity of narcotics is checked out of the property room to show and lure in a potential buyer.
After the operation, the narcotics are returned to the property room, Diaz said, but not in all cases.
The original narcotics package may be switched with a counterfeit substance packaged in a similar fashion.
“The original narcotics were kept by the detective,” he said.
Drinking on duty.
“It is not uncommon for narcotics detectives to meet at predesignated locations, be it someone’s house, local bars or restaurants to consume alcoholic beverages while on duty,” he said. “I was not much of a drinker prior to transferring to the narcotics unit, but after gaining the trust of some of the more senior detectives in the unit, I was invited and regularly met with several other detectives to drink alcohol during work hours. These drinking sessions became a regular occurrence.
“Sometimes we were accompanied by the narcotics sergeant, although it was usually just a select group of detectives.
“Drinking alcoholic beverages during surveillances was also a common occurrence,” he said.
It also happened during joint ops with other agencies, he said.
“Every time detectives were involved in assisting the sheriff’s department with marijuana cultivation operations, we would load up an ice chest full of alcoholic beverages and consume during the operation.”