20 California police officers facing possible decertification
OAKLAND, Calif. - Twenty police officers across California face possible decertification unless they are cleared by investigations or win their appeals, according to the latest public list reviewed by KTVU.
If their certification is pulled, the officers in question can no longer work as law enforcement anywhere in the state.
The officers on the most recent Commission of Peace Officer Standards, or POST, decertification list worked for departments in Rohnert Park, Redwood City, Sonoma County, San Francisco, San Diego, Kern, San Bernadino counties and Stockton. Six officers on the list worked in the Bay Area, and are accused of impersonating federal agents, falsifying evidence, and possessing child pornography, among other charges.
"POST has a duty to report these officers and we're upholding the law," POST spokeswoman Meagan Poulos told KTVU on Monday. "This is the start of the process. This is what we were asked to do."
As of Jan. 1, California became the latest state in the country to be able to decertify peace officers.
The law charges POST with decertifying officers for serious misconduct — essentially kicking them out of the profession for things like sexual assault, perjury and wrongfully killing civilians.
A POST advisory board now has the authority to recommend whether to strip an officer of his or her certification — basically a license to work in policing. There are currently seven members on the board.
The board, made up of mostly political appointees from law enforcement, decides whether to revoke or suspend an officer’s certification — a decision that an officer could ultimately appeal in court.
A temporary suspension can last up to three years. Officers convicted of a felony will be barred from working as a peace officer again in California.
"This is the new reality," said Alison Berry Wilkinson, who represents many police officers, although none of her clients are currently on POST's list. "But this does present some challenges. There is the presumption of innocence while they are being investigated whether their certification is suspended."
Stuart Hanlon, who is representing a former Rohnert Park police officer, said he thinks the public list is good, even though he has a client on that list.
"Police hid behind the law that existed," Hanson said. "Now, now the public has a right to see who the cops are who do bad things. The understanding is that most cops do good things, but the bad ones shouldn't be police officers anymore. And we get to see now. So it's a transparency that it's a long time coming."
Poulous didn't have an exact number, but she said the POST commissioners have a stack of cases, many dating back three years, to continue investigating.
The decertification list is updating on a rolling basis.
One of those officers who is not yet on the decertification list is Andrew Hall, who was sentenced to six years in prison after killing Laudemer Arboleda in 2018.
Hall was prosecuted by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, where Arnold Threets is the chief of inspectors. Threets is also tasked with improving the investigative process associated with officer-involved shootings.
Decertifying officers and making their names public are in the "public's interest," Threets said.
"What shot police officers in the foot is secrecy," said Threets, a former Richmond and Vallejo police officer. "The secrecy only helps the person who has done something wrong. The public needs confidence in police."
As for the decertification list, Threets said that it's a bit confusing to decipher. The law does not mandate that the documents related to the case are made public, and the people on the list, at this point, are "low-hanging fruit."
It's easy to put a convicted officer on the list, Threets added, but there is a "whole other category of officers (involved in misconduct) who are harder to ferret out."
The list of officers are:
Joseph Huffaker, Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety, dishonesty. Temporary suspension: Prosecutors say Huffaker and at least one other officer posed as ATF agents during traffic stops where they illegally seized cannabis from drivers on the side of the highway, and later falsified records to cover up the corruption. He also faces charges of extortion. Huffaker has pleaded not guilty. KTVU reached out to his attorney but did not immediately hear back.
Brendon "Jacy" Tatum, Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety, ineligible: He is one of two former Rohnert Park police officers accused in 2021 of ripping off drivers along US Highway 101, sometimes impersonating ATF agents, to seize cash and marijuana. He pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Tatum's attorney, Steve Hanlon, said his client has owned up to his wrongdoing and acknowledged that the "stress of the job really got to him. "
Kevin Lyons, San Francisco PD, egregious or repeated acts that violate the law. Temporary suspension: Lyons was arrested in April 2022 for allegedly destroying evidence after responding to a Marriott hotel, where security found suspected methamphetamine as well as possibly stolen credit cards and IDs. Lyons also flushed the drugs down a toilet instead of booking the items into evidence, according to the District Attorney’s Office. KTVU reached out to the San Francisco Police Officer's Association but did not immediately hear back. Lyons have been reassigned to non-public contact positions within the department pending the outcome of their criminal and administrative investigations.
Kevin Sien, San Francisco PD, egregious or repeated acts that violate the law. Temporary suspension: Sien was arrested in April 2022 for allegedly destroying evidence after responding to a Marriott hotel, where security found suspected methamphetamine as well as possibly stolen credit cards and IDs. KTVU reached out to his criminal lawyer but did not immediately hear back. Sien was reassigned to non-public contact positions within the department pending the outcome of their criminal and administrative investigations.
Shawn Patrick Nimau, Redwood City PD, ineligible: Nimau was arrested in 2020 on federal charges of possessing child porn. He pleaded guilty in 2022 and was sentenced to two years in prison. His criminal attorney, Paul DeMeester, told KTVU on Monday that Nimau's decertification resulted solely from his client's conviction, but otherwise he was a "great cop." Nimau was victimized himself as a child, DeMeester said, which led him to child pornography on his personal time.
"He was honest and hardworking and even saved some lives," DeMeester said. DeMeester said he understands the point of decertifying officers, but in this case, he thinks the process is unfair specifically for Nimau as he was a good employee who was battling his own personal struggles.
Adam Marlowe, Sonoma County Sheriff, egregious or repeated acts that violate the law. Temporary suspension: The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said they just launched their investigation into Marlowe and reported what they needed to by law to POST. At this point, there is nothing to disclose and Marlowe is still employed with te office. A federal case against Marlowe alleging excessive force was dismissed, but it is unlikely that is the reason Marlowe was placed on the decertification list. His civil attorney did not know why.
Brandon Michael Lawrence, Kern County Sheriff, ineligible: Lawrence was sentenced in December 2021 to six months in jail after having sex with inmates.
Sonny Aguilera, San Bernardino PD, dishonesty. Temporary suspension: No information immediately available.
Christopher Awad, Fort Bragg PD, voluntary surrender: In April 2020, the District Attorney found that he purposely withheld evidence from a prosecutor about his inappropriate relationship with a DUI suspect in a Bay Area hotel.
Nicholas Bloed Stockton PD, sexual assault. Temporary suspension: Bloed was arrested in November 2022 of dozens of sexual assault charges. He was charged with assault, sodomy and oral copulation by use of force.
Harjinder Singh Heer, Livingston PD, ineligible: Heer was arrested in 2021 for making false arrests regarding an illegal fireworks detail.
David Wesley Hubbard, Kern County DA, abuse of power. Temporary suspension: No information immediately available. Hubbard used to work for the Kern County Sheriff's Office.
David Morris, Sierra County Sheriff, dishonesty. Temporary suspension: No further information was immediately available.
Claudiu Murzea, Cathedtral City PD, egregious or repeated acts that violate the law. Temporary suspension: No further information was immediately available.
Fidel Ocampo Rodarte, San Bernardino PD, abuse of power. Temporary suspension: Rodarte was arrested in November 2022 on suspicion of firing off his service weapon after drinking at a tavern with his friends.
Jonathan Sanchez, Kings County Sheriff, egregious or repeated acts that violate the law. Temporary suspension: More information was not immediately available.
Nicholas Stewart, Oakdale PD, egregious or repeated acts that violate the law. Temporary suspension: Stewart was arrested in January on suspicion of domestic violence.
J. Deshawn Torrence, Sanger PD, sexual assault. Temporary suspension: Torrence was arrested in January on domestic violence allegations.
Allen Wereski, San Diego County Sheriff, egregious or repeated acts that violate the law. Temporary suspension: Wereski was charged with felony possession of drugs on jail grounds. He e has pleaded not guilty.
Jassiem Wills, Madera County Sheriff, dishonesty. Temporary suspension: No information was immediately available.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at email@example.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez