Morning Report: Calexico Officer Was Named 'Officer of the Year' ... While on Probation - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: Calexico Officer Was Named 'Officer of the Year' ... While on Probation

Calexico Police Department / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Five years ago, as federal investigators bore down on the Calexico Police Department, a Calexico police officer pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor DUI and kept his job.

Two years later, the department’s former interim police chief recommended that Brian Porras – who was still on probation – be named the city’s “Officer of the Year,” an honor he ultimately received for a local Elks Lodge.

The following year, VOSD contributor Lyle Moran reports that multiple high-ranking law enforcement officials helped make the case to an Imperial County Superior Court judge to dismiss Porras’ conviction and end his probation ahead of schedule.

Current Calexico Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo, who has rallied behind Porras, defended his support of an officer he said was deserving of a second chance while others questioned whether average citizens would have received the same treatment that Porras did.

Porras was one of 630 California police officers convicted of a crime in the last decade who showed up on a statewide list of current and former law enforcement officials with criminal histories, inspiring newsrooms across the state to scrutinize their criminal cases.

DUI and other serious driving offenses were the most common criminal charges filed against those officers.

In the wake of a series of stories from VOSD and news outlets statewide, the Investigative Reporting Project at UC Berkeley and the San Jose Mercury News report that state lawmakers are urging a look at whether the state should be able to bar officers who have committed crimes and police misconduct from again wearing a badge.

California is one of only five states in the nation without a process to revoke officers’ certifications to serve in law enforcement, leaving it to police agencies across the state to decide whether to hire or fire problem officers.

DA Announces Steps to Address Abuse in Schools

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan on Thursday announced the creation of an online tool where people can report harassment of abuse in schools independent of a school or district. She also announced a task force that will review and respond to the complaints.

The move addresses some of the shortcomings Voice of San Diego has revealed as part of its two-year investigation into abuse in local public schools.

Many cases we’ve reported on, for example, have involved school employees who brushed off or ignored complaints of inappropriate conduct. In other cases, school employees did not report suspected child abuse to police or child welfare authorities despite a state law requiring them to do so. Stephan also said in her Thursday announcement that she plans to more aggressively pursue mandated reporters who don’t report abuse. She told us earlier this year that in the last decade, she’s never pursued a single case for failing to report abuse.

State to Expand Last-Resort Fire Insurance Plan

The state is preparing to expand a program meant to provide insurance for homeowners in fire-prone areas following a wave of canceled policies and increasing rates.

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced Thursday that the so-called California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan will begin covering a higher amount of fire losses and damages next spring and by June, will also cover water damage and personal liability, the Bay Area News Group reports.

Ry Rivard revealed this summer that nearly 5,000 San Diego homeowners had been forced to turn to the FAIR plan in 2017, which for now covers about 130,000 of the state’s 8 million insured homes.

Rivard also found that insurance companies canceled 14,225 homeowners’ policies in the San Diego region last year.

City Attorney and IBA Pump the Brakes on SDSU Land Sale

From Andy Keatts: A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted that it didn’t look like there was much suspense left to the city selling SDSU the land under SDCCU Stadium. After the university’s first proposal, city leaders raised a series of concerns, and the university pretty quickly agreed to those terms in its next offer. It seemed there wasn’t much in the way of a deal.

That was a dumb thing to say, and I should have known better.

Reports released Thursday from the city attorney and the independent budget analyst’s office identified a number of problems they still see with the university’s offer, ahead of a Monday City Council hearing on the potential sale.

For instance, the city attorney said the deal could qualify as an illegal gift of public funds by not adjusting the price to its present value, relying instead on a 2017 appraisal date, as the Union-Tribune reported.

Both reports also suggested that the university’s desire to close the deal by the end of March was unrealistic, and that the current terms of the deal expose the city to ongoing risk from potential litigation.

In Other News

  • The court-appointed receiver in a federal fraud case against longtime San Diego real estate investor and restaurateur Gina Champion-Cain wants to sell her vacation homes, commercial properties and restaurants in a bid to recoup millions of dollars. (Union-Tribune)
  • The White House has made it official: Prominent San Diego hotelier Doug Manchester is no longer in the running to become the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas. (City News Service)
  • Opposition to a 585-home development in northeast Oceanside is continuing to ratchet up after an initial City Council vote to approve the project. (Union-Tribune)
  • The city’s fourth bridge shelter opened on Thursday in East Village. (10 News)
  • Contractors hired by the city initially left a Jeep-sized section of roadway unpaved after a July project in Bankers Hill. (inewsource)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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