A Palo Alto police officer faced disciplinary actions from the department earlier this year for texting to another officer a photo of a scantily-clad arrestee who had just been nabbed in a commercial burglary case, according to a new report from the city's independent police auditor.
The case is summarized in a new report from independent police auditors Michael Gennaco and Stephen Connolly, who largely agreed with the police department's response to the officer's action. The report doesn't include the officer's name or specify the disciplinary action taken. It notes, however, that after reviewing the text, the department concluded that the officer's conduct "was unbecoming for an officer and disrespectful to the arrestee and that it reflected unfavorably upon the Department and its members."
"PAPD found that the detective had violated Department policy and held him accountable for the transgression," the audit stated.
According to the report, the detective in question was interviewing the arrestee as part of an investigation into a commercial burglary. The detective was reportedly reviewing her cell phone in hopes of finding her "fence" (a middle-man between burglars and customers who ultimately buy the goods) or other photographic evidence that could assist the investigation.
The report notes that the detective found a photograph of the arrestee in which "she was scantily clad" and sent the photo by text to an acting supervisory detective who was also working on the case. When the woman got her phone back, she discovered that the photo was sent and complained to a different detective who was not involved in the case.
According to the audit, more than two weeks had passed before the supervisory detective shared the incident with a sergeant, who then stressed to the detective the need for a more prompt report and launched an internal investigation.
The audit agreed with the department's action and its finding that the detective who had sent the photo violated department policy. Yet it raises concerns about the delay in reporting the incident to the sergeant, calling the time gap "problematic and worth managerial attention."
The audit also faults the department for ordering that the photo be deleted, reportedly to prevent additional circulation. While Gennaco and Connolly praise the intentions of this action, they note that it would have been preferable to obtain a "screen shot" or some other way to preserve the evidence, in case the texting action would be contested.
The audit also noted that the officers returned the phone to the arrestee and asked her to help them find information about the fence. During this time, the audit states, she could have deleted information from the phone. They showed a "laxity of vigilance by the on-duty detectives," the audit stated.
The auditors discussed this matter with department management, who reportedly agreed that there should have been closer supervision.