El Cajon Police Officer Is Reinstated

Posted on Friday, June 01, 2001 at 12:00PM

After a long struggle involving multiple legal defense cases, police officer Jeffrey Stine is extremely pleased that he was reinstated to the El Cajon Police Department.

Stine’s saga began last year when a call for service was broadcast while he was meeting with fellow officers in the field. The call for service was not directed at any particular officer and neither Stine nor the other officers heard the initial broadcast. Stine was then directly dispatched to the call for service where he provided routine backup for another officer.

Following the incident, Stine was questioned by his department as to whether he heard the initial call for service, even though the other officers didn’t hear the broadcast. Stine asserted that he was not aware of the initial call for service and that his attention was drawn to the request only after the dispatcher called his unit number and he was specifically directed to respond. The department believed that Stine was not only negligent in his duties, but was lying about the incident as well and recommended his termination.

After a Skelly hearing with the chief of police, the chief was not convinced that Stine was lying about the incident. Instead, the chief upheld the remaining charge and reduced the termination to a 40-hour suspension. The city manager upheld the modified discipline.

In Stine’s appeal to the personnel appeals commission, he presented evidence demonstrating that he and his fellow officers never heard the initial call for service. In addition, several of Stine’s peers presented a letter of support at the commission hearing. The commission not only upheld the 40-hour suspension, but stated that they believed Stine’s testimony was untruthful and that they would have sustained the termination had it been brought before them. In El Cajon, the commission acts in an advisory position to the city council. After a further appeal to the city council, the 40-hour suspension was upheld.

Stine’s problems began on his first day back from over two months of administrative leave. At that time, a sergeant alleged that Stine returned a report, that was previously returned to him for corrections, to the sergeant’s “in box”. However, the sergeant alleged that he told Stine to put the report directly into the sergeant’s hand and not into the “in box”. As an aside, the sergeant admitted that Stine properly made the corrections requested of him.

Stine was then charged with insubordination for not following the direction allegedly given to him by the sergeant. After Stine denied any recollection of the specific direction to return the report directly to the sergeant, the sergeant said that he could not believe that Stine did not remember the direction allegedly given to him. No other witnesses corroborated the department’s position that Stine was not telling the truth. Instead, the department relied completely on the statement of the sergeant and on the sergeant’s belief that Stine could not have forgotten the direction he had no proof he gave to Stine.

Charged again with untruthfulness, the termination was upheld after appeals to the chief of police and the city manager before making its way to the personnel appeals commission.

Because the commission had previously commented on Stine’s voracity at his first commission appeal, Bradley Fields, of the law offices of Everett Bobbitt, made a motion to recuse those commission members. As untruthfulness was alleged and that Stine’s credibility was at issue, it would have been most inappropriate for commission members who heard Stine’s first appeal to make a determination at the second appeal hearing. Despite the motion, only one member of the commission recused himself. Not surprisingly, the commission upheld Stine’s termination.

The most interesting aspect of this story is what happened after the commission’s findings were forwarded to the city council for review. At the city council’s deliberation of his fate, Stine was given the opportunity to present witnesses, including his pastor and his former academy instructor. In a move that has been considered unprecedented in El Cajon’s history, the city council reversed the termination.

When a city council or civil service commission reviews the recommendations of a hearing body, they have the autonomy to disagree and overturn unjustified disciplinary action. When these decisions are made at the city council level, witnesses can and should be called because they can have a profound effect on the outcome of the hearing. In Stine’s case, there is little doubt that the testimony of his pastor, a prominent figure in the community, was instrumental to the city council’s decision.

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