Grand jury cites concerns over police department, chief |

Grand jury cites concerns over police department, chief

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department is “a department in crisis,” led by a chief who “displayed conduct unbecoming a police officer” during a verbal altercation with a South Lake Tahoe resident at a restaurant in September 2006, according to an El Dorado County grand jury report released Tuesday.

The report suggests management training for police department leadership, as well as closer oversight of the department by the City Council.

Police Chief Terry Daniels was not available for comment on the grand jury’s findings Tuesday, but City Manager David Jinkens said he has questions regarding the factual basis for the grand jury’s conclusions.

The report released Tuesday states in part: “The grand jury interviewed several citizens of South Lake Tahoe who reported an altercation that occurred in September 2006. While having breakfast in a South Lake Tahoe restaurant, one citizen stated that he was approached by the chief of police who began to verbally accost and loudly berate him in front of two acquaintances. The citizen did not know what provoked the verbal tirade and felt the chief of police must have confused him with someone else.”

Witness statements obtained by the Tribune indicate the incident occurred the morning of Sept. 15, 2006, at Ernie’s Coffee Shop. That was just two months after Daniels became police chief in July 2006.

“The chief of police, by losing his temper in public and verbally berating a citizen of South Lake Tahoe in a public restaurant, acted in an inappropriate manner and displayed conduct unbecoming a police officer,” the report stated. “All citizens of South Lake Tahoe should have an expectation of being treated fairly in a professional and dignified manner by all members of the (department).”

This grand jury report also indicates a concern with a climate survey summary of South Lake Tahoe Police Department staff, dated Oct. 8, 2007. The survey was part of efforts last fall to rebuild the department’s Participative Management Team and some of its findings were highly critical of police leadership.

“The evidence received by the grand jury paints a picture of a department in crisis,” the grand jury report says. “Many of the statements made by members of the (department) and information gathered through documents can only be classified as troubling.”

The Participative Management Team is an organizational structure allowing employee input into decision-making at the police department. Among its recommendations, the grand jury suggests the Participative Management Team be revitalized.

Daniels previously has stated that the future of the team will not be decided until the fall, after the department’s busy summer season.

City Councilwoman Kathay Lovell has doubts about the validity of the grand jury’s findings and said such a confrontation described in the grand jury report “is not in (Daniels’) character.”

Lovell “absolutely” supports Daniels’ leadership of the police department.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in this particular grand jury’s findings,” Lovell said.

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