The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has been the subject of intense scrutiny recently for a rash of disturbing misconduct by officers. The allegations have ranged from physical abuse and inappropriately shared sexual photos to child pornography. For the most part, it has been the local police departments that have come under fire for misconduct, but recently, CHP officers and higher ups have allegedly broken the law themselves with their extensive corruption and bad behavior being exposed and made public.
Most recently, several CHP officers stand to be reprimanded due to the actions of one Sean Harrington of Martinez CA. Formerly of Altadena CA., Harrington has been accused of stealing risque photos from a female DUI suspect’s phone, sending them to his own phone and then forwarding them to fellow officers. When Harrington was questioned by investigators on these allegations, he claimed that it was a game that Los Angeles area CHP officers played and that it had been going on for a very long time.
Officer Harrington has since been placed on administrative leave while the investigation moves forward and criminal charges are being considered. When questioned, the CHP had no comment to share and directed any inquiries to their Northern California offices. They have since released a statement declaring that the allegations against these CHP officers do not reflect the whole of the department.
A few months ago in Southern California, CHP officer Daniel Andrew was caught on a cellphone camera viciously beating 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock along the side of a busy highway. Officer Andrew beat the woman MMA style with numerous facial punches as he straddled her and held her down. An off duty officer joined in the assault by holding the elderly victim down as she struggled to free herself.
Ms. Pinnock who suffers from mild schizophrenia was held in isolation for two weeks after the beating, unable to see or communicate with her family. The family felt that the CHP was attempting to hide the full extent of her injuries in an attempt to avoid a bigger lawsuit. Officer Andrew has since resigned and a 1.5 million settlement has been reached in favor of the victim.
In an even more disturbing case, a long time CHP patrol sergeant was recently busted for allegedly downloading child pornography. A department detective was tracking an unknown individual who was responsible for the downloads and surprise, surprise, the trail led straight to Sergeant Eric Lund, 49, of Chico California. Officer Lund was arrested at the Fairfield CHP office where he was working. A search of his personal vehicle turned up over two dozen videos of child pornography. Officer Lund who had been contemplating retirement has been put on administrative leave as well and stripped of his official privileges.
As the veil is pulled back on the alleged illegal offenses of law enforcement officials, the public outcry has increased with calls for justice falling on mostly deaf ears. The CHP has repeatedly dodged internal scrutiny and have settled out of court a lot more often than is widely known. With the current tension between civilians and law enforcement, these new allegations are merely another reason for more transparency and major overhauls to occur across the board. Hopefully, if more cases are publicly prosecuted and officers are held accountable for their devious actions, the trust can at least be somewhat restored. Now that the CHP’s alleged extensive corruption and wrongdoing has been exposed, it is imperative that they take full responsibility for it and make the needed adjustments, sooner as opposed to later.
Opinion By Mai Nowlin
Photo by Todd Lappin-Flickr License