Calif. sheriff toughens DUI penalties for deputies after rash of incidents
By Christina Jewett
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Four Sacramento County sheriff's deputies have been charged with drunken driving the past four months, nudging Sheriff John McGinness to boost penalties for the offense to a baseline of 20 days off work with no pay.
None of the officials who were arrested were on duty at the time. Two of the drivers were involved in collisions just before their arrests, and one lieutenant is accused of having a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit.
McGinness sent out a memo to deputies in mid-December, urging them to think about drunken driving incidents that have killed one local officer and sent another to state prison.
"Do not allow yourself to engage in conduct which has the potential to result in either of these outcomes," the sheriff's memo says.
One of the four deputies was arrested after the memo came out.
Sheriff's union vice president Brannon Polete said the department has punished drunken drivers with two or three days off without pay - far fewer than the 20 days off without pay that McGinness instituted.
"I think it needs to be taken seriously," Polete said. "There is a higher standard for law enforcement, but there is the human factor. We make mistakes."
Polete said he's talked to two of the offending officers, who are "punishing themselves" more than the department could penalize them.
The first drunken driver incident was highly publicized. On Oct. 4, Sgt. Chris Guerrero, 41, was pulled over by a Roseville Police officer on Douglas Boulevard near Harding Boulevard at about 12:45 a.m.
Two passengers - a sheriff's sergeant and deputy - exited Guerrero's car and began yelling at the Roseville officer not to arrest the 41-year-old, implying that he would start a "war."
The Roseville Police officer allowed a bystander to drive Guerrero home. That Roseville Police officer is facing an Internal Affairs probe by Roseville Police. Sheriff's Internal Affairs are also probing Guerrero and the sergeant and deputy's roles in the incident.
Guerrero was charged with drunken driving in November and court records say his blood-alcohol level was .16, twice the legal limit of .08.
Guerrero's attorney, Joseph Hougnon, said the arrest and sobriety test were conducted improperly and he plans to fight the charges.
The next DUI arrest came less than a week later. Deputy Carlos Cabrera, 28, was arrested by a California Highway Patrol officer on Highway 50 west of Scott Road. The arrest citation says Cabrera was in a collision and had been driving with a blood alcohol level of .16, also twice the legal limit.
Cabrera pled no contest in December to one count of drunken driving and was sentenced to 60 hours of community service and informal probation.
Lt. Jill Joanne Taylor also crashed before she was arrested for drunken driving. On Dec. 6, she veered her Toyota Sequoia SUV off of South River Road in Yolo County and hit a tree that was 12 feet from the road, said CHP officer Phil Gruidl.
Gruidl said paramedics came to the scene and transported Taylor to UC Davis Medical Center.
Documents filed in court say Taylor's blood alcohol level was .28 - nearly quadruple the legal limit. Taylor was charged with DUI and an enhancement for having a blood-alcohol level above .15.
Taylor resigned weeks after the incident, sources say. Reached by phone, Taylor declined to comment.
Several weeks after McGinness fired off his Dec. 15 missive, 22-year-old deputy Daniel Rouse was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving Jan. 12 after a CHP officer saw him driving erratically on the ramp on to eastbound Highway 50 from southbound Capital City Freeway.
Rouse was booked and released from jail and has since been charged with driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level above .08.
McGinness said that all of the suspected drunken drivers - except the lieutenant who resigned - are subject to pending Internal Affairs investigations.
Copyright 2008 The Sacramento Bee