BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — You may have seen our story regarding the Bakersfield Police Officer who is currently under investigation after falling asleep inside a movie theater with a firearm last year.
23ABC's Kallyn Hobmann sat down with a retired BPD Sergeant who worked in internal affairs to discuss what that investigation process looks like.
"Investigations involving police officers can be handled in a number of different ways. There can be a criminal investigation, an administrative investigation. There can be both," said retired Bakersfield Police Sergeant Gary Carruesco.
He said when a police officer is accused of misconduct, investigations on the administrative level are handled by sergeants or lieutenants, and detectives in internal affairs. In some cases there are criminal investigations handled by the district attorney.
Carruesco said an investigation can be necessary following something on a smaller level, like a complaint from a citizen.
“It can be something as simple as a gesture that the officer made or something that the officer said," he said.
Or something serious that is criminal in nature. Carruesco said if there is a criminal component, the officer is put on paid leave to protect their privacy during the investigation.
“Police officers in those investigations are afforded certain rights by the Police Officer Bill of Rights. The overnment code section 3303 kind of governs what those rights are," said Carruesco.
During an investigation, witnesses and the officers involved are questioned. Reports are then sent to the Internal Affairs Command Staff and a decision is made. Internal Affairs must complete this process within a year unless they need to wait for legal matters to be handled on a criminal level first.
According to Carruesco, there are four types of outcomes an investigation can lead to.
An investigation can be sustained, meaning the allegation happened.
It can be not sustained, meaning it didn’t happen. It can be unfounded, which means there’s not enough evidence to prove the allegation happened. Or it can be exonerated, meaning the event did occur but it was within policy.
If the case is sustained, Carruesco said, "the officer can face discipline up to, including, termination.”
Or something less severe, like suspension or a written reprimand. No matter the case, Carruesco said all investigations are taken very seriously.
“The department doesn’t want to rush into anything. They want to make sure that they have all parties identified, that they speak to all parties, that the officer is still protected, that their statements are protected, that they get it right, essentially," he said.
Click here to learn more about this ongoing investigation.