We’re not against the police. We’re not against the police department, but we are against police who commit misconduct (and those who help to cover it up).
A Los Angeles World Airports police (LAWA) sergeant has filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against City of Los Angeles and LAWA.
According to the suit filed in Superior Court on August 6 (BC553519), Sergeant Jeff Shelton alleges that he witnessed his immediate supervisor Lieutenant Robert Rios using military leave on days when he did not have any military duties. That my friends is called theft of City Funds. It is also the type of crime that the district attorney’s office might and should want to look into. But I digressed.
So here are the details, as I know them to be.
On December 4, 2012, Sgt. Shelton complained about Lt. Rios’ theft of City Funds via military leave to Captain Greg Staar in the presence of Lt. Karen Schulz. Rios’ action quite possibly violated the California False Claims Act , which allows for civil law enforcement action to recover increased damages and civil penalties against any person who knowingly makes or uses a false statement or document to either obtain money or property from the State. It is also an offense that can (and should) get officers fired if found guilty and maybe even jail time if prosecuted. As for us civilians, theft is a crime that is regularly prosecuted by the city and district attorney’s offices and if you don’t believe me just take a trip down to CCB one day and ask around.
The Los Angeles Airport Police is the fourth largest department in Los Angeles County. It’s its own agency separate from LAPD. Besides LAX, they also patrol the L.A./Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport. L.A. Airport police officers are city employees but are by paid out of the landing fees paid to the City of Los Angeles by the airport. The City of Los Angeles then turns around and pays the officers.
According to reports, Rios began his career with Los Angeles Airport Police in 1987. After one year of service with Los Angeles Airport Police, he transferred to the Los Angeles Port Police Department, where he remained for 13 years. In 1999, he returned to Los Angeles Airport Police as a sergeant assigned to Patrol Services.
From 2000 through 2005, he was the sergeant overseeing the Mobile Field Force Operations/ Emergency Services Unit.
In 2006, Rios was reassigned to Patrol Services, where he worked until he was promoted to lieutenant in 2007.
Several of Lt. Rios’ colleagues have told me that he has never served in the military.
According to the lawsuit, in August 2013, Lt. Rios placed a negative comment sheet in Sgt. Shelton’s personnel file. Shelton claims this was in retaliation for complaining to his supervisors.
Sgt. Shelton notified the Lt. (now Assistant Chief) Ethel McGuire, Cpt. Greg Staar, Cpt. Latasha Wells Amerson, and other supervisors about the negative comment card placed in his file.
Sure enough, Sgt. Shelton was transferred out of his Emergency Services Unit supervisory position and into a patrol position.
Currently, Lt. Rios is assigned to training and recruitment, which to me is like putting the LAPD’s Detective Frank Lyga in charge of training. It’s those type of leadership decisions precisely that ensure the tradition of misconduct, madness, and cray cray is passed down to younger generations of law enforcement.
And last but not least all of this happened under the watchful eye and leadership of 34-year LAPD veteran turned Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety/Chief of LA Airport Police Patrick Gannon.
The rest of the details are all spelled out in the lawsuit, which you can find a copy of here.
There’s precedence for this type of crime as well. Back in October 2013, according to an ABC7 report, Roxana Sanchez, a civilian employee with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and an aspiring model, pleaded not guilty to felony charges of forgery and grand theft.
Sanchez worked as a civilian employee at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood otherwise known as the women’s jail. Sanchez was also a reservist with the U.S. Marines.
Prosecutors say she lied about being called up for active duty. They alleged that Sanchez forged signatures on documents showing that she would be deployed from March through May. But it wasn’t long before the sheriff’s department discovered some discrepancies. The county kept paying Sanchez’s salary, as they do with all reservists who go into active duty. Prosecutors say she was paid $1,036 before the fraud was detected.
My favorite quote in the story comes from our friend Steve Whitmore who at the time was the spokesperson for the sheriff’s department.
“We were just doing our due diligence, checking up. ‘How’re you doing? Where are you?’ The military told us, ‘We don’t know what you’re talking about,'” said Whitmore in reference to the department finding out that Sanchez was not on active duty.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s these types of shenanigans that help to maintain and grow the distrust of the public as it relates to law enforcement.
This story was updated to include the ABC7 report on Roxana Sanchez of the sheriff’s department.