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Posted on Monday, November 01, 2004 at 12:00PM
Posted by Richard L. Pinckard

San Diego Harbor Police Officer Richard Jordan was recently successful in persuading his department to reconsider a proposed pay-step reduction equivalent to a 120-hour suspension. In the end, after a seven-month odyssey that would take him through the criminal and family courts, his final discipline was modified to a note of counseling. Now, before breaking out into applause for the reasonableness and levelheaded judgment of Harbor PD management, it should be noted that, but for one reasonable and levelheaded captain, Jordan would have surely suffered the full extent of the proposed discipline.

This case started out as a domestic disturbance incident between Jordan and his then girlfriend. The girlfriend was clearly the primary aggressor, and in spite of this, the only “injury” she suffered was from the impact of her bottom contacting the floor when Jordan released his infant son rather than engage in a tug-of-war. Apparently the girlfriend wasn’t expecting Jordan to release his hold on the infant, and she lost her balance when her first tug met no resistance. Nonetheless, eight officers from the agency with primary jurisdiction arrived at Jordan’s residence in response to the two 911 calls made by the girlfriend. The first 911 call was made following a discussion between Jordan and the girlfriend over the merits of restructuring their outside childcare. At this point, the two were not even arguing (a fact which was corroborated by the 911 tape). The second 911 call was made by the girlfriend after her unsuccessful attempt to draw Jordan into the infant tug-of-war. In this second call the girlfriend reported that Jordan was in an uncontrolled rage, yelling, screaming and threatening her (allegations which were also refuted by the 911 tape). The eight responding officers were greeted by Jordan, who was reported as calm, polite and professional. Regrettably, based upon the conflicting descriptions of the incident, the officers chose to arrest Jordan rather than run the risk of violating their own department policies, which have been interpreted to default to the presumption that the larger male is always the primary aggressor if so reported by the smaller female. The arresting officers were courteous and polite, allowing Jordan to change from his bathrobe to street clothes prior to transport. While en route to the police station, the officers reassured Jordan that he would be cited and released for misdemeanor violations.

Once at the police station, the arresting officers unhandcuffed Jordan while he awaited a voluntary interview with a Domestic Violence sergeant. After Jordan completed his voluntary statement, the sergeant informed Jordan that he would not be cited and released, but rather booked for felony violations. Confused by the disparity between the promises of the uniformed arresting officers and the new direction from the sergeant, Jordan verbally sought clarification from the sergeant. The sergeant reported that when Jordan stood up, he feared for his safety and believed that he was going to be attacked. Jordan is well over six feet tall and in excess of 270 pounds. All indications from the evidence suggest that Jordan’s physical presence alone was enough to cause trembling fear in the heart of the sergeant. This perceived threat did not result in any additional criminal charges, but Jordan’s prophetic belief was that the sergeant’s goal was to go after his job. In fulfillment of Jordan’s prophecy, the sergeant’s statement of personal fear led to additional administrative charges against Jordan, notwithstanding the statements of the arresting officers who all described Jordan as calm, courteous and compliant.

Jordan’s arrest was submitted first to the San Diego District Attorney for review. The case was rejected and referred to the San Diego City Attorney’s office, and again it was tossed without even issuing a criminal complaint. The resolution of the criminal case was not handled by LDF attorneys because of the non-course and scope nature of the incident. The domestic violence (temporary restraining order) TRO obtained by the girlfriend, based upon a declaration which Jordan later proved to be false, was thrown out by the Family Court judge once Jordan was able to present his evidence. LDF attorneys did not assist Jordan in resolving the Family Court issues.

Notwithstanding the dismissal of the criminal charges and the dismissal of the TRO, the chief still kept Jordan on administrative leave, banned from all police facilities, and deprived of his peace officer powers for over six months. The chief’s decisional paralysis was finally dislodged only after her mismanagement of this case was brought to the attention of her supervisor. Because we had expressed our specific dissatisfaction with the chief and her senior captain, a prudent internal decision was made to assign Skelly responsibilities to a newly appointed captain whose feet had barely hit the ground at the Harbor P.D.

To her credit, the new captain conducted an extremely thorough Skelly conference. She bucked the momentum that the case had previously acquired from above her. She thoughtfully deliberated, and rendered a fair and reasonable decision to reduce the discipline from a 120-hour suspension to a counseling note. Jordan is grateful for the courage and integrity displayed by a very new captain. He is also grateful for his membership in LDF. Without that membership, he would have had to pay for all three of the attorneys whose services were required to successfully resolve this case. Jordan stated that he is extremely appreciative of the work performed by his LDF attorney. Jordan also wanted it known that on his birthday, the captain who presided over his Skelly conference sent him a birthday card thanking him for having faith in her ability to properly resolve his discipline. In a sad closing note, Jordan and several others recently stated that the prevailing belief among the rank and file is that this captain’s courage, integrity and fairness are clearly inconsistent with the current administration and have put her at substantial risk.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.