The San Jose Police Department willÂ face another investigation after it was reported thatÂ Chief Larry Esquivel accepted free tickets from the San Francisco 49ers in violation of city rules.
Esquivel,Â Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia and Deputy Chief Jeff Marozick all receivedÂ tickets to a preseason football game in August last yearÂ as part ofÂ "Law Enforcement Appreciation Day." Garcia and Marozick's attendance atÂ the game, whichÂ violated city policy regardingÂ police accepting gifts, had already been reported. NBC Bay Area broke the story that Esquivel also violated city rules.
It appears none of the three officersÂ reimbursed the cost of the tickets untilÂ after Garcia andÂ Marozick'sÂ attendance was reported.
San Jose policy prohibits city officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 and specifically bans tickets to sport events.Â SJPD policyÂ bans itÂ as well, noting thatÂ officers shouldn't be allowed to receiveÂ gifts not offered to the general public. PoliceÂ spokesman Sgt. Albert Morales downplayed the violationÂ when speaking to NBC.
"The duty manual says that in our official capacity, our position, we will not 'seek' tickets," Morales told the news station. "Now, again, this law enforcement appreciation was an invitation by the 49ers."
Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell disagrees, insisting that the duty manual is pretty straightforwardÂ on that point. She also says the fact the indiscretion was committed by San Jose's top cop could complicate an investigation of the matter.
Normally, Cordell forwards citizen complaints to SJPD's Internal AffairsÂ unit, as she did when someone called about Esquivel accepting free tickets. The police then conduct an internal review and Cordell audits thatÂ work. In this case, however, that's not happening, because it would requireÂ officers to investigate their boss, Esquivel. So,Â the city manager's officeÂ has taken over.
What that means is the reviewÂ won't get audited by Cordell, who only works with cases coming out of Internal Affairs.
"Does this pull it out from civilian oversight?" asked Cordell. "TheseÂ are unchartered waters, as far as I can tell."
CordellÂ worries that exempting SJPD's top brass from her oversight could hurt public trust in the department, which has already been shaken by reports of cozy relationships between officers and secondary employers, such as the 49ers.
"We are set up to build trust inÂ the process," CordellÂ said. "What message does this send to the rank and file?"
City spokesman Dave Vossbrink said the city manager dealt with the issue, so it's case closed.
"It was never an IA investigation," he said. "The facts were simple, and as the [city manager's] memo explains, the city will review policies and make any changes that will help prevent future mistakes. Iâm not aware of any IPA role in this matter."
In a memo sent out Thursday evening, City Manager Ed Shikada said he would update the language of the gift ordinance to make it "clear, unambiguousÂ and practical, and to confirm and clarify the prohibition of acceptance of tickets toÂ professional sporting events."
Although,Â existing language seems to state that pretty clearly.
In her year-end reports, Cordell has often recommended that the city come up with a procedure to handle reviews ofÂ of high-ranking officers. Otherwise, police have to investigate their superiors, creating an inherent conflict.
"There's an issue building here that needs to be addressed," Cordell said. "If I'm told to butt out, then I'm not going to be quiet about this. I think it's wrong."
Police were already conducting an internal investigation intoÂ theÂ relationship between officers and the 49ersÂ after concerns were raised about conflicts of interest from allowing officers to moonlight security details for the club.
ComplicatingÂ that probe is the fact that one of the officers in charge of the Internal AffairsÂ unit allegedlyÂ falsified evidence that led to a man's arrest. On Tuesday, the City CouncilÂ will consider shelling out $190,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by 22-year-old Ammir Umar, who claims that Sgt. Craig Storlie made false statements that landed him behind bars.
In a motion rejecting Storlie's callÂ for summary judgment, U.S. Northern District Judge Howard R.Â Lloyd slammed the officerÂ for lying under oath, calling statements he madeÂ incriminating UmarÂ "patently incorrect"Â and "materially misleading."
Also, Storlie is reportedly overseeing the investigation of officer Geoffrey Graves, who was accused of raping a woman while on duty.