California correctional officer accused of soliciting sex from minor can get new job with state

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A former California correctional officer was allowed to resign from his job as he faced criminal charges of soliciting sex with a minor, raising the possibility that he could seek employment with the state in the future.

The state’s Office of Inspect General drew attention to the unnamed former prison sergeant in a special report it published Thursday contending the officer should have been fired with a no-rehire clause that would have blocked him from public sector jobs.

“The OIG believes this sergeant, who was found to have attempted to solicit sex from a 16-year-old, should be prohibited from working not only as a peace officer, but also as a civil servant,” the report says.

It’s the latest in a series of so-called “sentinel case” reports that highlight inconsistent discipline at the at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Previous reports drew attention to an officer who kept his job after an alleged domestic violence incident, and charges that a prison failed to seriously investigate an inmate’s complaint about officers ignoring COVID-19 precautions.

The department disputes the report’s characterization of how it handled the officer accused of soliciting sex with a minor and insists that the sergeant was properly disciplined.

“While this incident was troubling, we followed proper protocols stipulated in the state’s no re-hire procedure with the State Personnel Board, reduced a likely lengthy litigation process, and ensured there was proper communication and resolution. Ultimately, the case resulted in holding the sergeant accountable,” the department said in a written statement.

Beginning in August of 2020, the 39-year-old sergeant — who is not named in the report — began communicating on an adult dating app with an undercover police officer police officer posing as a minor, according to the report.

“The sergeant requested to chat with a user whose profile indicated she was 18 years old. When he began communicating with her through the application, the undercover detective told him she was 16 years old. Nevertheless, the sergeant continued to send messages to the detective and the communications continued for two months,” according to the report.

“During this time, the sergeant sent sexually explicit and lewd messages describing sexual acts he wanted to engage in with a person he believed to be a minor,” the report said.

The report goes on to say that in October of 2020, the sergeant arranged a meeting with the undercover police officer, for the purpose of having sex. He arrived at the agreed-upon location and was arrested by law enforcement, who found a box of condoms in his pocket, according to the report.

“Later, when a detective asked the sergeant if he knew why he was arrested, the sergeant nodded and said, ‘Yeah. A really stupid mistake,’” the report said.

The Sentinel Case makes a note that there was a preponderance of evidence against the sergeant, but that criminal proceedings were still pending at the time of his settlement.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation conducted its own investigation into what happened, and the sergeant said in an interview that he had sent messages to a person who had identified as a minor, according to the report.

“His defense was he believed it was a fake account,” the report said.

The department determined the allegations against the sergeant were sustained, and also that he had lied during an Office of Internal Affairs investigation. The sergeant was dismissed from his position, but he appealed that dismissal to the State Personnel Board.

At a pre-hearing conference, the department entered into a settlement with the sergeant, allowing him to resign rather than be fired.

The department noted that the dismissal case against the sergeant likely would have faced lengthy delays, as the criminal case played out in the courts.

“In light of all of these considerations, CDCR determined it was in its best interest to settle the case. That the OIG would have made a different litigation decision does not equate to poor handling or serious errors by the department,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, the OIG elected not to follow its own policy and established protocols for elevating these concerns to CDCR’s Secretary in a timely manner. This deprived the Department of the opportunity to ‘repair the [alleged] damage,’ which the OIG indicates is a precondition to issuing a Sentinel Report.”

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