Synopsis: At about 5:00 a.m., City of San Francisco police received a 911 call from a young woman requesting help. Her boyfriend had just left their hotel room and she believed he was headed to the hotel roof and might be planning to commit suicide.
Officers arrived and contacted the woman who told them her boyfriend was an off-duty Palo Alto Police Officer who was extremely intoxicated and emotionally down on himself.
His gun had been left in the hotel safe. She showed them a note on hotel stationary that appeared to be a makeshift will written by the off-duty officer. The female friend reached the off-duty officer by cell phone but he would not tell her his location.
He also refused to provide his location to an SFPD sergeant who got on the phone. SFPD officers searched throughout the area and quickly located the off-duty officer walking on a nearby sidewalk.
The off-duty officer said that he had no intention of committing suicide; the SFPD officers nevertheless decided to detain the off-duty officer for a psychiatric evaluation and took him to a hospital.
Hospital personnel examined the offduty officer and, after a few hours, released him to Palo Alto PD supervisors, who had been notified in the meantime. They took him back to the Palo Alto Police station, placed him on administrative leave, retained his firearm and opened an Internal Affairs investigation of the incident.
The original 911 caller, the officer’s female friend, did not cooperate with any of the investigator’s several follow up attempts to contact and interview her. Ultimately, the investigation concluded that the officer did violate the Department’s policy against “conduct on or off duty unbecoming of a member of the Department…and which tends to reflect unfavorably on the Department or its members.”
The Chief of Police imposed discipline upon the officer in the form of a written reprimand. The officer was also required to write a letter of apology to the San Francisco Police Department. The officer has also been referred to the Employee Assistance Program, an evaluation and counseling service that provides services and referrals for employees who voluntarily seek assistance with substance abuse or psychological issues.
Recommendation: The IPA reviewed the police reports. The IPA agrees that the Department’s sustained finding of a violation of its “conduct unbecoming” policy was an appropriate finding.
The officer’s conduct unnecessarily consumed the resources of another police agency and he was less than cooperative with them. Our main concern, however, is whether the Department has made the appropriate decisions regarding the future status of the officer within the PAPD. The Department is to be commended for performing an exhaustive investigation of this incident to determine as much relevant information as possible.