Cops gone wild
Two Folsom PD officers fired for ‘inappropriate behavior’ with college-aged Chico women
What were two undercover cops from Folsom doing in Chico? More specifically, what were they doing in the way of “inappropriate behavior” with two college-aged Chico women that got them canned from the Folsom Police Department?
Those are the central questions—as yet unanswered publicly—at the heart of a court case now working its way through Sacramento Superior Court.
According to court documents, the matter first came to light on Sept. 9, 2008, when an internal Folsom PD report charged that, during some kind of undercover sting operation in Chico, Folsom Police Officers Carl Siegler and Brian Unden had engaged in inappropriate conduct with college-aged women. Charged with “dishonesty” during their internal-affairs interrogation, the men received notices of intent to terminate on Jan 13, 2009.
Siegler and Unden deny the allegations of misconduct and lying during the interrogation, during which their rights were violated, attorney Sean Howell said.
After engaging in the alleged misconduct “in city-assigned vehicles,” Siegler and Unden released the women without charge or consequence, the original charges allege.
According to court documents, Siegler and Unden believe they were fired because of information Folsom Sgt. Brian Dean reported to Folsom Sgt. Rick Hillman and the investigation that followed. The fired officers are now suing to get their jobs back, asking that some of their testimony be removed from their administrative appeal and claiming their rights under the Government Code and the Police Officers Bill of Rights were violated during the investigation.
Siegler and Unden were members of the Folsom Police Department’s SENET, or Special Enforcement Neighborhood Enhancement Team. As such, they were charged with “the supervision of alcohol-related ‘decoy’ operations, narcotics-related offenses, and tracking criminal gang activity in the city of Folsom,” according to SENET’s goals as listed on the department’s Web site.
Typically, such officers wear plain clothes, drive unmarked cars and focus on crime not always addressed by patrol officers.
During the internal investigation Hillman questioned Siegler, a 10-year-veteran, and Unden, an officer for six years, “as to whether they had been to Chico, whether they had contact with any women from Chico, and whether they had arrested any women from Chico for prostitution,” the lawsuit says. The city of Folsom and the Folsom Police Department “did in fact base [Siegler’s and Unden’s] termination, in part, on their responses during this interrogation.”
Siegler and Unden maintain that they were not afforded notice of the allegations, were unable to obtain a representative or record the interrogation, and were unaware that they were accused of misconduct and under investigation when Hillman initiated his interrogation—violations of the POBR, and thus justification to seek to get their jobs back, as well as full back pay, an undetermined amount of damages and attorney’s fees.
Siegler could not be contacted for comment. When Unden was reached, he abruptly hung up the phone.
Nobody had requested that Siegler and Unden go to Chico. The Folsom PD had not sent them there, both Hillman and department spokesman Jason Browning stated. And the Chico Police Department had not requested their presence, Interim Police Chief Mike Maloney verified.
However, as SENET officers, Siegler and Unden were not required to report their whereabouts and could have justifiably been investigating something in Chico.
Citing the litigation, the Folsom PD would not comment on whether their trip to Chico had been justified. Their attorney, Howell, also refused to say what the men were doing in Chico and whether it was justifiable. He said it would be legal for him to do so but unethical.
If criminal activity had been involved in the allegations, Browning said, the Folsom Police Department would have reported the activity to the appropriate Chico agency, though he declined to say whether such a report had been made. Maloney said the Chico PD had received no such report.
Still, “The allegations against Siegler and Unden were thoroughly investigated and sustained, and the department stands by its investigation and the actions they took during the course of it,” Browning said.
What Siegler and Unden were doing in Chico and just what happened that caused Folsom Police Department to take the highly unusual action of firing two veteran officers remains unknown.
Howell contends members of the Folsom PD are a “gossipy” bunch and that this is merely a case of office politics. In response, the department insists that the allegations of misconduct involving women in Chico occurred and that they justified Siegler’s and Unden’s termination.
The question none of them will answer is: What exactly happened in Siegler and Unden’s vehicle with those two college-aged Chico women?