D.A., city failed in naked cop case

Newspaper RacksBy now you know the story about the naked Menlo Park police detective who was arrested in Sunnyvale motel room with a prostitute wearing a catsuit.

When I heard about it, I had a good laugh like everybody else. But upon reflection, this story is deeply troubling because two parties — Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and the Menlo Park city Council — didn’t do their jobs, and as a result, this detective is back on the job.

First, the D.A.’s office should have prosecuted this Detective, Jeff Vazquez. The excuse offered by District Attorney Rob Baker, who supervised the prosecution, was that on the day of the trial one of the arresting officers from Sunnyvale couldn’t testify because he had to attend to his ailing wife.

Case Closed

Baker could have refiled the charges and scheduled trial on a day when the officer could have testified. Or he could have tried the case with the testimony of other officers who were involved in the arrest.

But he said a misdemeanor case isn’t worth the effort. If the naked cop had been convicted of a misdemeanor his career would have ended right then.

D.A. Rosen was elected two years on the promise that he would end the corruption of his predecessor, Dolores Carr. Rosen didn’t live up to that promise in this case. It looks too much like a case of professional courtesy, when fellow cops find a way to help a colleague who gets into trouble.

But I am also concerned that Menlo Park, after firing Vasquez, had to allow him to return to work because the city uses binding arbitration to settle disputes.

The problem with binding arbitration is that the arbiters, while supposedly neutral, usually side with the unions, even in the most egregious of cases. And the naked cop case is evidence of that.

Abandoned Arbitration

Most cities in California that had binding arbitration have abandoned it. One of the last was Palo Alto, where 63% of voters agreed to repeal binding arbitration in 2011.

Menlo Park City Council should have ended binding arbitration years ago when other cities were dropping. I suspect that didn’t happen because most Menlo Park council member over the years have been union supporters.

The other problem with binding arbitration is that it takes important budget decisions out of the hands of city council members. If the unions disagree with the city manager over how much workers are paid, the final decision goes to the arbiter. And such decisions force cities to spend more money, which raises taxes.

That was one of the main arguments Palo Alto leaders gave in their successful campaign to convince voters to end binding arbitration.

But even with the arbiter’s ruling in favor of the naked cop, the city should have rejected the decision and taken its chances in court.

The union would argue breach of contract but, what jury would think it’s a good idea to have a naked cop return to the police force?

Rehiring the naked cop has sent a terrible message to other Menlo Park officers that anything goes– that they can break the law and not worry about the consequences.

It makes the police department look like a joke. And that isn’t fair to the majority of officers who to take their jobs seriously and obey the law.

And what is Vasquez going to do? He was assigned to investigate sexual assaults before his arrest. What rape victim would want to be interviewed by him? Why would a victim of human trafficking confide in him or any Menlo Park police officer?

If Vasquez arrests anybody, and is called to testify against them, jurors wouldn’t see him as a credible witness. So he’s useless as a cop. And he makes $160,000 a year including benefits. What now?

Council should come clean and explain how the naked cop got his job back. Council should institute a policy of informing the public anytime of police officer is arrested, no matter whether the arrest occurs in Menlo Park or another city. And council should defy the union bosses and repeal binding arbitration like so many of the cities have.

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One Reply to “D.A., city failed in naked cop case”

  1. I think the DA was reluctant to prosecute because the officer’s undercover status need to be protected from being publicly blown.

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