Last week, San Diego police responded to another request for information about former officer Anthony Arevalos with a similar answer: You can’t have that.

Arevalos faces 21 felony charges related to accusations that he sexually assaulted or solicited sexual bribes from seven women in the last three years. Each incident occurred during a downtown traffic stop while Arevalos was on duty, prosecutors say.

His case is one of several involving accusations of criminal conduct by San Diego police officers this year, but it’s gained far more attention because of its severity and scope. How could Arevalos behave as prosecutors say without attracting suspicion from his roughly 1,900 colleagues?

To probe that question, we requested to inspect all of Arevalos’ emails from the last year. We wanted to assess how Arevalos interacted with other officers and his supervisors before the allegations came to public light in March. We don’t know if the emails provide much information, but we wanted to check any documents that may help understand the case and how police responded to the allegations.

We’ve already examined how police responded to one woman’s complaint. In February last year, the woman told police that Arevalos had sexually assaulted her. Police recommended criminal charges to prosecutors but they dismissed the case. Police then put Arevalos back to work. Police and prosecutors have refused to address numerous questions about how they handled the complaint.


We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?

So far, there have been conflicting reports about what else police knew about Arevalos. A search warrant in the case says Arevalos had a well-known history of misconduct. But Police Chief Bill Lansdowne has said there was no indication of wrongdoing until more women came forward this year.

On July 12, police denied our request to view Arevalos’ emails. Police Department lawyers said the emails were potentially part of the criminal investigation and were therefore no longer available for public inspection.

Emails sent or received by government employees are normally public records, but California law contains an exemption for records broadly considered “investigatory files.” In 1993, the state Supreme Court said the exemption may apply to records that become relevant to a criminal investigation. And the court said those records may be withheld indefinitely from the public.

The court cited a couple examples to illustrate its argument. It said a business card — normally a public record — may contain contact information that endangers the safety of an informant. Releasing that business card now or after the investigation’s conclusion, the court said, would pose the same risk.

But there’s one catch. Like other exemptions outlined in state laws, police still have discretion to release the emails. The court’s ruling allows the Police Department to withhold Arevalos’ emails for investigatory purposes, but it doesn’t have to. It can choose to release them.

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Given the public value of exploring the question above, which goes to the heart of public confidence in police to investigate officer misconduct, we asked the department to reconsider releasing Arevalos’ emails.

But police denied our request again. Paul Cooper, Lansdowne’s legal and policy adviser, said prosecutors have requested all information relevant to the Arevalos case be withheld from the public. After the case is resolved, Cooper said the Police Department’s decision may change completely.

Arevalos’ trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 17 and prosecutors estimate it could take several weeks.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

 

    This article relates to: Anthony Arevalos, Government, News, Police Misconduct, Public Safety

    Written by Keegan Kyle

    11 comments
    Danielle Jones
    Danielle Jones subscriber

    I would rather have the legal machinery take over this case and in favor of the public getting the emails or any discovery.

    danielle
    danielle

    I would rather have the legal machinery take over this case and in favor of the public getting the emails or any discovery.

    Patricia Donalds
    Patricia Donalds subscriber

    Corruption on any and every level is no longer an option we can ignore. It has become a national and world security issue. Along with civil and human rights abuses.

    Donalds
    Donalds

    Corruption on any and every level is no longer an option we can ignore. It has become a national and world security issue. Along with civil and human rights abuses.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    Years ago I worked putting cameras into police cars for a municipality other than SD, they took them out a year later because they worked against the cops side of the story too often. Cops are at best a necessary evil, but we should make sure they stay within their bounds for the protection of our citizens.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    Years ago I worked putting cameras into police cars for a municipality other than SD, they took them out a year later because they worked against the cops side of the story too often. Cops are at best a necessary evil, but we should make sure they stay within their bounds for the protection of our citizens.

    rob dekoven
    rob dekoven subscriber

    This entire matter should be turned over to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney because it involves the violation of civil rights of the women involved. They were obviously picked out for abusive treatment by an officer and notice was given to his supervisors. Whether political motives played into the reason not to prosecute is a question only an independent review can answer. The investigation, hopefully, will reveal no wrongdoing. But it may recommend measures the city can undertake to ensure that women are not subject to sexual abuse. Certainly one measure would be require video recording of all male-on-female encounters, if not all police-supect encounters. It's 2011 and the technology is cheap and easy. Such records will protect the cops (and taxpayers) from frivilous suits, and the records would certainly deter police misconduct.

    HonestServices
    HonestServices

    This entire matter should be turned over to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney because it involves the violation of civil rights of the women involved. They were obviously picked out for abusive treatment by an officer and notice was given to his supervisors. Whether political motives played into the reason not to prosecute is a question only an independent review can answer. The investigation, hopefully, will reveal no wrongdoing. But it may recommend measures the city can undertake to ensure that women are not subject to sexual abuse. Certainly one measure would be require video recording of all male-on-female encounters, if not all police-supect encounters. It's 2011 and the technology is cheap and easy. Such records will protect the cops (and taxpayers) from frivilous suits, and the records would certainly deter police misconduct.

    Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
    Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

    Chief of Police William Lansdowne, with the approval of Mayor Jerry Sanders, has offered a ludicrous seven-point improvement program to rein in a dozen (?) offending rogue officers in the ranks of SDPD. What Lansdowne should be doing is turning over the Arevalos emails to this reporter and then turning in his badge so someone else can do the job of "protect and serve."

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    Of course SDPD are going to hide their own accessory status to this scumbag cops actions over the years. Even good cops will protect bad ones because they have an US vs Them mentality.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    Of course SDPD are going to hide their own accessory status to this scumbag cops actions over the years. Even good cops will protect bad ones because they have an US vs Them mentality.