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Justice Dept. issues scathing report on police policies of Calif border town plagued by cartel-border tunnels

May 19, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Justice Dept. issues scathing report on police policies of Calif border town plagued by cartel-border tunnels

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By Elliot Spagat
The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) ” The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing review Wednesday of a small town’s police practices in a big drug and immigrant smuggling corridor on California’s border with Mexico, finding a lack of basic controls and oversight of criminal investigations, unstable leadership and other red flags.

The 133-page report was released less than a week after the ousted police chief of Calexico filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit describing missing guns, money, and other evidence, and allegations that city workers engaged in drug trafficking, overtime abuse and theft.

The Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services unit limited its review to broad systemic flaws and steered clear of specific allegations of wrongdoing and misconduct, but its unusually blunt language portrays a police department that is failing on many fronts.

It recommends a sweeping overhaul.

“It shows a pretty significant level of deficiencies in the core operations of a department,” Ronald Davis, director of the unit, said in an interview. “The consequences of not implementing the 169 recommendations would be that you would sustain a dysfunctional department.”

Reggie Gomez, Calexico’s interim police chief, said at a news conference that the city has already taken some measures to rebuild.

“I have faith that the officials elected and appointed by the city of Calexico will do what’s right for the city of Calexico and its citizens,” Gomez said.

Gomez, the interim city manager and mayor didn’t respond to messages seeking additional comment.
Calexico, a city of 40,000 people 120 miles east of San Diego, is a big area of concern for federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs and Border Protection, which routinely seizes heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs at two border crossings in the city.

Easy freeway access to Los Angeles and Phoenix make it part of a coveted smuggling route, controlled by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

The Calexico Police Department has been suspended from two task forces with federal or state officials that are designed to disrupt the flow of drugs ” the Imperial Valley Drug Coalition and the Imperial County Narcotic Task Force.

The Justice Department report says unstable leadership led to the removals.

The FBI raided Calexico police headquarters and seized files in October 2014, less than a month after Michael Bostic, a former top official with the Los Angeles Police Department, was hired as police chief and began cleaning house. The FBI has not reported results of its investigation.

Bostic, who was ousted in November by new city leadership, said in a whistleblower lawsuit filed last week in San Diego that he told the FBI of drug use, drug trafficking, money theft and smuggling by city employees.

The lawsuit says an audit performed by the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office at Bostic’s request revealed significant amounts of missing money, drugs, guns and personal property believed to be stolen by Calexico officers.

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