Joseph Lopeteguy, the Kern High School District Police Department chief who blew the whistle on alleged administrative misuse of a law enforcement database, took a personal leave of absence late last week, Superintendent Bryon Schaefer said Monday.
Dave Edmiston, a longtime KHSD police officer, took over as acting chief late last week, while Schaefer is providing “civilian oversight,” Schaefer said. It’s unclear how long Lopeteguy will be on leave.
“Basically, our hope is that I will work with the police chief doing whatever needs to be done to help our police department move forward,” Schaefer said.
Edmiston moved up the ranks, serving most recently as the on-campus officer at Shafter High School, Schaefer said.
The district has been weathering criticism for about two weeks after a Kern County Sheriff’s Office investigative report revealed that Lopeteguy had accused high-ranking KHSD administrators and other employees of misusing the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System to run background checks on students.
California law limits the use of that database for law enforcement purposes.
Schaefer made it clear that he is providing “civilian oversight” to the department, and not administrative oversight, a role that requires a Peace Officer Standards and Training certificate.
The district is taking a “three-pronged approach” to the allegations of CLETS misuse, Schaefer said. First, it is continuing to work with law enforcement agencies investigating the matter; second, it has retained an independent investigator to look into the matter internally; and third, has retained a police services consultant to analyze the department.
The district retained Chicago-based Hillard Heintze July 20, and placed a request for bid proposals about a month before that, well into the course of the sheriff’s investigation. Still, Schaefer said the district’s contract with Hillard Heintze has nothing to do with the sheriff’s report.
“I just want them to analyze all of the relationships within the KHSD Police Department,” Schaefer said.
That group was scheduled to begin work Monday, bidding documents show.