At least nine Inland law-enforcement officers were arrested in 2008 on charges including making inappropriate advances on a woman and attempted murder, according to court records.
Prosecutors say they believe some officers committed crimes while on duty.
Agencies rigorously test officers before and after they join the force to weed out problem people, but officials say these tests can't identify everyone who will ever be accused of a crime.
"I would love to have a target of zero arrests," said Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff. "But we are hiring human beings."
The majority of the officers arrested in Riverside and San Bernardino counties were charged with behaving inappropriately with women, including their wives and women suspected of a crime.
Arnulfo Moreno, who was hired as a nonsworn Riverside County sheriff's correctional deputy less than two years before his arrest, pleaded not guilty to trying to kill his wife on Nov. 13, according to court documents. Attempts to reach his attorney were unsuccessful.
Robert Forman, who was hired by the Riverside Police Department as an officer in 1996, pleaded not guilty to coercing several women to give him sexual favors in exchange for looking the other way on crimes they committed from February to April, according to court records.
Two officers were charged with inappropriately touching women while on duty, and one officer was charged with trying to extort $80,000 and a truck from a man. An off-duty officer was charged with grinding a gun into the ear of a tow truck driver.
UC Irvine associate professor Paul Jesilow, who studies police misconduct, said that in his studies, he noticed that it is much more common for an officer to be accused of a crime that took place on duty than outside his job. Most difficulties arise when the officers are making judgment calls, Jesilow said.
National and state policing agencies don't track officer arrests. The exact number of officers arrested in the Inland area in 2008 could not be determined because no agency keeps those statistics. San Bernardino County sheriff's Sgt. Dave Phelps said four deputies were arrested in 2008. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which has about 2,200 sworn deputies, does not keep those statistics, said Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.
Screening weeds out many people, but leaders of policing agencies want more tests.
Prospective officers' criminal, civil and credit histories are checked. They face physical, medical and mental exams. Their friends, neighbors and siblings are interviewed.
No felony convictions are allowed, said Bob Stresak, spokesman for the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. The commission sets minimum standards for screening and training.
Sniff wants the commission to add an integrity test.
"There is a lot of trust we put in these folks to do the right thing even when nobody is watching," Sniff said.
Riverside police Capt. Michael Blakely, who oversees training, police personnel and internal affairs, said troubled histories help identify most problem applicants.
"What they have done in the past is the best indicator of what they will do in the future," Blakely said.
Sniff said people fresh out of college or high school sometimes slip through because they have not had enough life experience to reveal their true character. That is why he would like the state to implement an integrity test that would probe the candidate's ethics.
About 10 percent of candidates make it to the academy, where they receive at least 664 hours of training, Stresak said.
Capt. Greg Bottrell, the head of training for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, estimated at least 40 hours are dedicated to training that orders officers to report any criminal activity or serious break in policy by colleagues.
"That is their first lesson," Bottrell said.
He added that most problems stem from alcohol and drugs, women and money.
Sniff speaks to each of his recruits about the importance of following the rules.
"I underscore that eyeball to eyeball with each of the employees," Sniff said.
Officials said they must maintain the public's confidence even when a small number of officers falter.
Phelps, the San Bernardino County sheriff's sergeant, said he does not consider four officers arrested out of 1,775 sworn deputies to be an "exorbitant" number.
One Riverside Police Department officer among the approximately 400 budgeted was arrested in 2008, said Riverside Sgt. Jaybee Brennan.
Sniff said he must preserve public confidence when a deputy has broken it.
"We do find people after a number of years who do something stupid or criminal, and the best way our agency can reassure the public, because it does reflect poorly on us, is to deal with it quite harshly."
Staff writer Sonja Bjelland contributed to this report.
Reach Jessica Logan at 951-368-9466 or jlogan@PE.com
|Inland law-enforcement officers arrested in 2008. RSO — Riverside County Sheriff. SBSO — San Bernardino County Sheriff. RPD — Riverside Police Department.|
|John Thomas Laurent||Attempted extortion||SBSO||Pending||Accused of seeking $80,000, pickup from tribal member|
|John Frank Schafers||Sexual battery on duty||RSO||Plea, 3 years probation||Attorney says case is a misunderstanding|
|Raymond Cesar Vidales||Sexual battery||RSO||In previous corporal injury to spouse case, convicted of disturbing the peace|
|Ernest Estrada||Sexual battery on duty||RSO||Pending||Attorney says accuser is lying|
|Arnulfo Moreno||Attempted murder, sexual assault||RSO||Pending|
|Ronald Eugene Griffith||Assault, domestic violence threats, battery by police officer||RSO||Pending|
|Robert A. Forman||Sexual battery on duty||RPD||Pending||Former Officer of the Year|
|Eric Lance Hamilton||Stalking||RSO||Plea, 3 years probation||Battery case settled civilly|
|Sources: News reports, law-enforcement agencies|