An Imperial County personnel board has revoked a disciplinary suspension imposed on Deputy Probation Officer Jaime Duron over the shooting of a dog during a multijurisdictional task force operation. The Employment Appeals Board dismissed the 10-day suspension after Duron demonstrated the employer’s case-in-chief was so flawed the discipline could not be sustained.
On May 30, 2010, while serving a restitution notice as part of the “Stonegarden” multijurisdictional task force, Duron and his partner were attacked by a dog. Duron shot the dog to protect himself and other officers. At the time, Duron was not wearing his Department-issued body armor.
An Imperial County Probation Department Shooting Inquiry Board determined the shooting was justified. The Board issued findings Duron did not violate any laws or Departmental policies during the shooting and justified his use of force.
But several minutes after the Shooting Inquiry Board adjourned, Chief Deputy Probation Officer Pete Salgado went back to his office and changed his mind. He provided a dissenting opinion which noted it would have been a “safer shooting” had Duron been wearing his body armor.
Chief Probation Officer Martin Krizay, who later resigned amidst allegations of committing unfair labor practices, concluded Duron should have worn his body armor pursuant to Department policy. Krizay’s conclusion was based on improper findings by Gloria Munoz-Brunswick, the Internal Affairs Investigator who made those findings even though the Department’s own policy did not require the use of body armor during service of a restitution notice.
Chief Krizay imposed a 10-day suspension on Duron for failing to wear his body armor, allegedly in violation of the County’s policy. Krizay was unavailable for the hearing, so Salgado and Munoz-Brunswick testified regarding the investigation and suspension. From the opening statements on, Duron’s defense emphasized the weakness of the County’s case.
The Imperial County Probation Department’s Procedures Manual states, “All officers are mandated to wear protective body armor (vest) and [a] utility belt when doing any type of enforcement activity ([e.g.,] searching residences or making an arrest in the field).”
The service of a civil restitution notice is not a search of a residence or an arrest in the field. Therefore, on its face the policy could not have been violated. Undeterred by the policy and the facts supporting Duron’s exoneration, the Department attempted to support a violation of the policy by arguing a different set of policies applied to the Stonegarden assignment.
The County’s witnesses asserted the Stonegarden assignment required body armor because of an operations plan for the assignment indicating body armor would be required for all probation officers. However, the County failed to recall Duron was the supervisor who authored the operations plan. Duron explained probation officers asked him about the body armor requirement in the operations plan. He explained to the other probation officers this directive was intended to remind the officers of the County’s body armor policy and was not an attempt to create a new policy which would require body armor at all times.
Faced with unfavorable facts, the County abandoned its initial position and argued service of restitution notices is per se an enforcement activity.
Witnesses from the Department’s administration testified that the service of restitution notices are enforcement activities and therefore require body armor. Witnesses for the Department went so far as to attempt to interpret the policy to read, “All officers are mandated to wear protective body armor (vest) and [a] utility belt when in the field.”
By changing “enforcement activity” to “in the field” in her testimony, Administration Representative Gloria Munoz-Brunswick attempted to mislead the Employment Appeals Board to believe the body armor is required any time the probation officers are in the field, not just when engaged in enforcement activities.
This argument backfired on the County when a Department witness testified, on cross-examination, that at the time of the investigation he regularly served restitution notices without body armor. Interestingly, this witness is not a probation officer and was not issued body armor, and his possession of body armor is questionably illegal because he is not a peace officer. Nonetheless, the Department regularly sent him into the field without body armor to serve restitution notices, just as Duron and his partner were serving at the time of the shooting.
One of the pages in the Stonegarden operations plan included a list of 10 objectives. A County witness testified that with the exception of report writing, each of the 10 items described in the plan was enforcement activity, including restitution contacts.
But on cross-examination, the witness was asked about a second list of items on the bottom of the same page. The list at the bottom of the page identifies, from the list of 10, which items are enforcement details. Warrants and Fourth Amendment waiver compliance checks were the only two activities from the list of 10 possible Stonegarden activities identified as enforcement. Confronted with the obvious inconsistency between his own testimony and the evidence provided by the County, the witness was literally speechless.
This document was never made available to Duron or his attorney prior to the evidentiary hearing. However, Ms. Munoz-Brunswick and then-Chief Krizay’s hubris in the belief they answer to no one and are permitted to fabricate policy, reinterpret the definitions of various provisions in the policy and practices of the Department and run roughshod over Duron proved to be their downfall.
Before Duron had to put one witness on the stand in his case, the Employment Appeals Board agreed it had heard enough inconsistent statements, misapplication of the policies, proffered testimony from the County’s witnesses and lack of any proof Duron violated the alleged policies.
Because of the support provided by the Imperial County Probation and Corrections Peace Officers’ Association and PORAC LDF, the Imperial County Probation Department was unable to succeed in its attempt to impose excessive discipline with impunity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sean D. Howell is an Associate Attorney with Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnsen. He represented Jaime Duron in his administrative appeal before the Imperial County Employment Appeals Board.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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[My Representative] was fantastic, knowledgeable, professional and easy to talk and work with. Even though the allegations lodged have not been resolved, [My Representative] continued to communicate with me, to offer his assistance.
- Christopher Walters Antioch POA
My LDF rep was very attentive, and courteous. She made every effort to keep me informed, and kept my best interests at the front of the process. I was very satisfied with my LDF rep, and the entire process.
- Tyler Robins Pasadena City College POA
At a time when no one cares about you it's nice to have someone on your side who does. (My attorney ) made a stressful six months a lot more tolerable.
- Patricia Goss San Anselmo POA
[My Representative] is fabulous! Thanks for all the exra work she did for me!
- Jason Kearsing Elk Grove POA
Very happy with LDF.
- Dan Lovelace Chandler LEA
Thank you for the funding and support. I would be in jail right now if it were not for LDF. I would not have had the funding to pay for the case. It was a tremendous help having [my representative] and his support team and the many experts supplied by LDF. I speak for myself, my family and other members of my association.
- Rachel Tyner Transit EOA of San Diego
All the LDF representatives were very courteous and attentive with a punctual response to all of my concerns, inquiries and appointment scheduling. My representative was very informative about the legalities and kept in contact with me regularly. He was also very patient and straight forward. I would definitely want to use the LDF again and felt more confident through my proceedings because I had representation!
- Alfredo Hernandez El Centro POA
[My representative] was very attentive, [informative] and knowledgeable. He spoke very clearly and explained things in ways easy to understand. [He] made me feel like he truly cared about what was going on with this case and me. Not to mention [he] was funny and witty, traits which made him trustworthy and someone who would stand by me and other police officers.
- William Jackson Santa Maria POA
Keep up the great work.
- Miguel Suarez Monterey Co DSA
[My representative] was very knowledgeable and courteous. He knew his stuff, and I couldn't have asked for a better guy to be on my side on this matter. Thanks.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- Robert Hartman Contra Costa Co DSA
Quick response, experienced and knowledgeable attorney which assisted in every step. [My representative] kept me apprised through the process. Thank you.
- Kim Prout Upland Firefighters Assoc
It was great comfort to know somebody would be there for me in this matter. I was able to finally sleep @ night & wake up with confidence that I would be ok. Thanks.
- Tai Pena-Hornung Oakland POA
Those who foolishly feel LDF is not a valuable resource, do so only because they have not yet needed legal representation.
- Robert Curato Anderson POA
He did a great job for me!!! He always returned my phone calls within 24-hours. He showed an interest in my case and we were able to get the issue resolved in less than 45 minutes. Thank you for being there when I needed the legal assistance.
- Malcolm Norrington LA School PA
I am very pleased with LDF and would use and recommend them again and again and again.
- Byron Kies Santa Barbara Co DSA
Everything was great!
- Gina Romines San Joaquin Co Corr POA
I couldn't have been more satisfied with the representative!
- Kristen Patterson Contra Costa Co Prob. Assn.
[My representative] was helpful and made me feel supported. I got the results I desired. Very pleased with the process.
- Andrea Salas Sonoma County DSA
[My Representative] was great! Thank you.
- Jay Garacochea Culver City POA
[My representative] not only did he do a great job but he listened to my concerns. He did not force his views or game plan and we worked well w/ each other. We agreed on a goal and achieved it.
- Keith Stiver Hayward POA
[My representative] brings a superlative reputation, a comforting and confidence building demeanor and a clear expertise to the table. In particular I appreciate her philosophy that she gives her total undivided attention to her clients during their appointments.
- Wendy Morrow Chico Public Safety Association
I had never been through an I.A. in my 21 years. I was scared and ashamed and humiliated. ( My attorney ) was excellent. He helped me through one of the worst times of my life. Had great outcome and I am grateful.
- Juan Espinoza Fresno DSA
[My representative] did a great job. He is both thorough and well educated. I would use him again.
- Martha Tschetter Carson City Sheriffs PA
The LDF process was painless and I was able to get immediate representation in an urgent time of need. Thank you LDF
- Alvaro Ancheta Glendora POA
I felt I was represented in a thorough and professional manner.
- Brad Young Oakland POA
[My representative] is an excellent attorney and I am very happy he picks up the phone and answers my questions whenever possible.
- William DeWitt CPPA
Everything was awesome...could not be happier!
- Micheal Chad Heiser Santa Rosa POA
LDF is a valuable resource that no law enforcement officer should be without.
- Matthew Gardner Colorado PPA
I would not want to be an officer without this coverage. It was great to have it and kept my mind at ease.
- Aaron Delgado Monterey POA
My representative called me back promptly and kept me informed. I had the impression she cared and was there to help.
- Allison Clark Twin Cities POA
[My representative] is the best attorney LDF has. Her attention to details, professionalism, and intelligence were off the charts. If I did not have her as a rep I would probably be out of a job. She is fair and she was honestly concerned about me, my family and my case.
- John Tinder Chino POA
Having an LDF attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable and professional is an outstanding quality. [My representative ]exhibit all of these qualities and more. They are outstanding and I would not entrust my career to anyone else!
- Korey Lankow Assn Highway Patrol of Arizona
Outstanding service from bottom-to-top.
- James Walker Yakima Police Patrolsman Assn
This attorney and her legal team were one of the best I’ve seen and interacted with. I was always in the loop and constantly updated on the case status. I would use (my attorney) again if the need came and recommend her to anyone.
- Rich Stepper Montana PPA
[ My representative ] was very knowledgeable regarding dept & legal rules regarding officer involved shooting. Provided good legal advice & was very supportive.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Excellent service everytime.
- Christopher Wells Hollister POA
My rep was great.
- Nick Bannister Phoenix LEA
I was extremely grateful for professional representation provided by ( my attorney ) during this extremely stressful situation
- Russell Wise Alameda POA
- Michael Shephard Suisun City POA
LDF is a very valuable resource. I would not do this job without it.
- Steven Curtiss Shasta Co DSA
This was my first need for LDF support and I was very happy with the level of service. Thank you.
- Michelle Foerder Pinole PEA
I thank God for the support of LDF and my attorney. I had a letter of intent to be fired and he helped me turn it all around. I still have my job and I'm so grateful.
- Roman Fernandez Inglewood POA
My representatives were always well-prepared and organized for hearings and meetings. Their efforts, hard work and full support is truly appreciated.
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- Scott King Ripon POA
[My representative] is the best LDF rep I have ever had. If I were to need an LDF rep again I would want it to be [my representative].
- Emery Eccle Culver City POA
LDF is THE most important asset / resource that police officers have. "Thank you" to all involved and keep up the good work!
- Gregory Carbett Ontario POA
The attorney assigned to my case was GREAT! It's sad, but it's impossible to be an officer in today's world without a defense fund like PORAC LDF. I am now retired and signed up for the retired officers CCW LDF. Thanks!
- Alex Camarillo LASchool P A
[My Representative] did an excellent job with my case. He was very professional and kept me well informed throughout this case. Thank you for an awesome job.
- David Heller Yolo County DSA
The charges against me, if sustained, would have likely ended my LE career. I was rightfully exonerated on all charges. I was well represented by [My Representative] and thank him for a job well done!!
- Robert Muelberg Denver PPA
I could not have had a better attorney. [My representative ] went way above and beyond his duties. I would not have had a better experience with my representative. I believe that the LDF is the single most important benefit a police officer could have!
- Carl Miller Clearlake POA
- Noe Cordero San Diego POA
Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.