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California State Auditor Report Number : 2015-129

King City Police Department
Strengthening Management Practices Would Help Its Efforts to Prevent Officer Misconduct and to Regain the Public’s Trust



The City of King—also known as King City (City)—is located in Monterey County along U.S. Highway 101, roughly 150 miles south of San Francisco, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Map of King City and Monterey County, California

Map of King City and Monterey County, California

Sources: California State Association of Counties and Google Maps.

In 2010, based on the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the City’s population was nearly 13,000, with almost 90 percent identifying as Hispanic or Latino. As in other parts of the Salinas Valley, the City’s dominant industry is agriculture. The City was incorporated in 1911 and is governed by a five-member council that appoints a city manager as its chief advisor and as the professional administrator of the City. The City has multiple departments—such as accounting and payroll, public works, fire, and police—which provide its residents with public services.

King City Police Department

The mission of the King City Police Department (Department) is to work in partnership with the community to protect life and property, solve neighborhood problems, and enhance the quality of life in the City. As shown in Figure 2, the chief of police (chief) oversees 10 officers, one investigator, and five supervising officers, who include one commander and four sergeants. These sworn positions are supported by an administrative assistant, a records supervisor, a police clerk, and a community services and animal control officer. In February 2016, the Department hired an interim captain to help it transition from leadership by an interim chief, who left the Department in April 2016, to leadership by a permanent chief, who began working at the Department in July 2016. The City allocates funding to the Department through its general fund budget, and in fiscal year 2015–16, this fund received more than half of its revenue from taxes. The Department’s allocation for the fiscal year 2015–16 budget was approximately $3 million.

Figure 2
King City Police Department Organizational Chart and Position Descriptions

King City Police Department Organizational Chart and Position Descriptions

Sources: The Department’s organization chart as of February 2016, class specifications, job descriptions, and policy manual.
Note: The Department also has 10 unfilled reserve officer positions.
* The Department created and filled the interim captain position in February 2016 to provide support for the interim chief, who served until April 2016. The interim captain then took over as acting chief until a permanent chief was hired in July 2016, at which time the person in the acting chief position reverted to interim captain to support the new chief.

Recent Events Involving the King City Police Department

In February 2014, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office (District Attorney) announced the arrest of six of the Department’s police officers and one civilian, the owner of a local towing company who was the brother of the then-acting chief. The District Attorney charged one sergeant and the acting chief with accepting a bribe, and it charged the acting chief’s brother with conspiracy to commit a crime and bribing an executive officer. Specifically, the investigation revealed a towing scheme wherein officers impounded the vehicles of economically disadvantaged persons of Hispanic descent. The vehicle owners were unable to pay the related towing and storage fees, and the vehicles were sold or provided for free to some of the officers. The District Attorney charged the remaining four officers with crimes unrelated to the towing scheme: two were charged with embezzlement in connection with the transfer of a police car to an officer, one with possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm, and one with making criminal threats. Between December 2014 and March 2016, all six of the officers and the then-acting chief’s brother pleaded guilty or no contest to various charges. A seventh King City police officer was arrested and tried for brandishing a firearm in October 2014, which occurred during an off-duty domestic dispute, and was convicted of that offense. All seven officers were either fired or resigned from the Department.

King City Police Department’s Recruitment and Hiring Process for Officers

  1. King City Police Department (Department) advertises the open position.
  2. Department receives and screens applications to ensure that candidates have attended and passed the police academy.
  3. Panel, usually made up of three individuals, conducts an interview with each candidate.
  4. Department submits a candidate’s name for a background check, which includes a polygraph examination.
  5. City manager makes a conditional job offer if the chief is satisfied with the results of the background investigation. The conditional job offer allows the Department to send a candidate for medical testing, a physical exam, and a psychological exam.
  6. Chief conducts a final one-on-one interview and makes a job offer to a candidate who passes all of the above.

Sources: The Department’s interim chief of police and its policy manual.

The officers arrested in 2014 represented more than one-third of the Department’s sworn officers at that time. In July 2014, the city council approved a resolution to contract with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff) for the use of its deputies to offset the shortage of patrol officers. Between February 2014 and April 2016, the chief’s position was staffed by a series of individuals, as shown in Figure 3. To expedite the Department’s recovery from the staffing shortage, its most recent interim chief streamlined the recruitment and hiring process. The interim chief stated that the Department’s regular recruitment process followed the steps outlined in the text box, which are based on requirements in the Department’s policy manual. To streamline the process, he eliminated the panel interview by the three individuals and instead conducted, along with the commander and sometimes the captain, an interview before sending the candidate through the required screenings (background check, medical testing, physical exam, and psychological exam). According to the Department’s commander, as of May 2016, of the five openings that existed when the hiring process was streamlined, only two officer positions remained unfilled. Once the Department is fully staffed, the new permanent chief may choose to return recruiting efforts to the Department’s standard recruitment and hiring process or implement an entirely new process. The city manager, who was appointed in October 2015, announced in June 2016 the appointment of a permanent chief who assumed the position in July 2016.

Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training

The Department is a member of the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which was established by the California State Legislature in 1959 to fulfill various responsibilities, including setting minimum selection and training standards for law enforcement personnel in California, as outlined in Table 1. POST provides and certifies training courses intended to raise the level of competence of local law enforcement officers, and it reimburses member departments for costs associated with their staff’s completing such courses. As a voluntary member, the Department must adhere to POST’s minimum standards for the selection and training of personnel and adhere to all POST regulations. The Department also must submit to compliance reviews, performed by POST, of the Department’s adherence with those standards and regulations. Failure to comply with POST standards and regulations can result in loss of membership and denial of requests for services and benefits.

Figure 3
Recent Turnover of Police Chiefs in King City

Timeline of Recent Police Chiefs in King City

Sources: King City Police Department’s personnel forms and press releases and California State Auditor’s interviews with department staff.

Table 1
Roles and Responsibilites of the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training
• Adopt rules establishing minimum standards for selection and training of peace officers.
• Develop and implement training courses to comply with statutes requiring the provision of specific peace officer trainings.
• Conduct research concerning job-related educational standards and job-related selection standards, including those for vision, hearing, physical ability, and emotional stability.
• Maintain a professional certification program for peace officers.
• Maintain a professional certification program for records supervisors.
• Review and approve trainings for Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification.
• Allocate funds from the Peace Officers’ Training Fund to reimburse member departments for completed POST-certified trainings.
• Conduct audits to ensure that member departments adhere to established training and selection standards.
• Provide counseling services to local jurisdictions to improve administration, management, or operations of a police agency.
• Prepare best practices and guidelines in specific areas that law enforcement agencies may follow.
• Develop regulations and professional standards for the law enforcement accreditation program.

Sources: California Penal Code sections 13500 et seq. and 13510 et seq.; California Code of Regulations title 11, section 1051.

Scope and Methodology

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (Audit Committee) directed the California State Auditor to conduct an audit of the operations and practices of the Department. The audit analysis that the Audit Committee approved contained nine objectives. We list the objectives and the methods we used to address them in Table 2.

Table 2
Audit Objectives and the Methods Used to Address Them
Audit Objective Method
1 Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit objectives. Reviewed the applicable laws and regulations significant to the audit objectives.
2 Describe the King City Police Department’s (Department) current organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities, and determine whether this structure appears to be effective and efficient.
  • Reviewed the Department’s organizational structure, and the roles and responsibilities of its positions for efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Interviewed staff at the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to identify best practices for police department organizational structures, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Reviewed the Department’s historical organizational structure and described how it has changed.
  • Compared the Department’s ratio of sergeants and officers to residents to that of a nearby city (Greenfield) and found the ratios nearly identical, but significantly higher than that of another city (Hollister) we identified from the area.
  • Assessed the current organizational structure and positions and determined that they seem appropriate, effective, and efficient.
3 Review the Department’s budgeted and actual revenue and expenditures (referred to as expenses throughout this report) for the past five years, and determine the reasons for any significant variances in program and staff allocations. Further, review a sample of expenses to determine whether they were allowable and reasonable.
  • Reviewed the budgeted and actual expense reports of King City (City) for the Department for fiscal years 2010–11 through 2014–15. Consolidated expense line items from those reports into 10 expense categories—such as personnel, recruitment and training, general law enforcement, radios and communications, and office supplies—and confirmed our categorization with the Department’s interim chief of police and the City’s finance director.
  • Analyzed expenses by calculating the dollar and percentage variance for each year within each line item and for the expense category as a whole. Also calculated the standard deviation of the distribution of expenses across our period of review. Identified any significant variances of $25,000 or more that also had a percentage change from the prior year of at least 20 percent, as well as variances for which the ratio of the standard deviation to the average for the five-year period was greater than 40 percent.
  • Interviewed staff at the City and the Department to obtain the reasons for any variances we identified.
  • Compared the City’s initial and final budgeted expense amounts for the Department for fiscal years 2010–11 through 2014–15 to determine the extent the City appropriately budgeted for planned expenses or subsequently amended its budget to align with actual expenses.
  • Interviewed staff at the City to understand its informal process for developing and amending the Department’s budget and approving expenses. Also interviewed staff at the City to develop an understanding of recently approved policies and procedures for budget development and expense approvals.
  • Judgmentally selected eight of the Department’s expense transactions from each of the five fiscal years—40 total transactions—and determined whether they were allowable and reasonable by reviewing the invoices or receipts used to support the expenses, and whether the expenses were approved and were related to the Department’s mission. As we discuss in the section on inappropriate reimbursements, we identified some reimbursements that were not allowable or reasonable, and this finding prompted us to select eight additional reimbursements for review. We also identified an issue with the City’s allowing a designee of the city manager to approve payments, which resulted in our review of two additional transactions that a designee approved.
4 Assess whether the Department has appropriate policies and processes and whether it exercises oversight for various aspects of its operations, including the following:
a. Determine whether the Department has a written disciplinary process and whether it has been properly and consistently followed.
  • Reviewed its policy related to personnel complaints to understand the process for members of the public to file a complaint about an officer.
  • Reviewed the bargaining unit agreements for police officers and sergeants at the Department to determine whether additional protections exist beyond those included in state law.
  • Interviewed management at the Department to confirm our understanding of the personnel complaint process and how that process may lead to the investigation, and in some cases the discipline, of an officer or sergeant at the Department.
  • Obtained a listing maintained by the Department of all formal investigations initiated from January 2013 through December 2015 and reviewed all investigations that the Department had completed as of February 2016. Determined if those investigations adhered to relevant laws and the Department’s policies.
  • Judgmentally selected five employees and reviewed their personnel files for evidence of any informal complaints.
b. Determine whether the Department has appropriate measures in place to identify and prevent conflicts of interest.
  • Reviewed the City’s conflict-of-interest policy. Reviewed the Department’s policies for outside employment and vehicle towing and release.
  • Interviewed management at the Department regarding conflicts of interest, what it does to alleviate them, and whether management conducts any monitoring activities to ensure that officers are performing their duties appropriately.
  • Identified trainings developed by POST that are associated with conflict-of-interest policies.
  • Reviewed best practices on conflicts of interest as explained in the book by Cindy Davids, Conflict of Interest in Policing: Problems, Practices, and Principles, Institute of Criminology Press, Sydney, 2008.
  • Assessed the Department’s policies in relation to best practices we identified.
  • Reviewed the background file for one newly hired officer and one veteran officer and identified any historical conflicts of interest or instances of inappropriate actions or activities.
c. Review the Department’s policies and procedures for record and evidence retention for reasonableness, and, to the extent possible, determine whether they have been properly and consistently followed.
  • Reviewed POST’s requirements related to record and evidence handling.
  • Reviewed the Department’s evidence policy and determined that the policy met POST requirements.
  • Obtained a listing of all evidence and records the Department processed from January 2013 through December 2015 and selected 12 items in evidence, including the two large amounts of cash that were on hand. Reviewed items of evidence or records and determined that staff processed the items appropriately, followed policies consistently, and disposed of or released items in a timely manner, if applicable.
  • Reviewed the Department’s evidence oversight policies and compliance with those policies.
5 Review the Department’s current recruitment and hiring practices, and determine whether it has plans for attracting and retaining quality personnel.
  • Reviewed POST’s best practices for officer recruitment.
  • Interviewed department staff and reviewed its hiring policies related to attracting and recruiting quality personnel and compared those policies to the best practices that we identified from POST. We found that the Department has processes for attracting and retaining quality personnel.
  • Judgmentally selected and reviewed the background files of five officers and found the Department followed its policies, as well as POST’s requirements and best practices when hiring the officers.
6 Determine whether the Department provided adequate and appropriate training to its sworn officers and nonsworn personnel over the past year.
  • Researched and documented the trainings POST requires for sworn officers.
  • Selected four sworn officers to determine whether they completed all required continuing professional training in the most recent training cycle, calendar years 2013 and 2014. For those staff who did not meet their requirements, evaluated the actions, if any, the Department took to ensure compliance.
  • Selected two nonsworn staff and determined that they completed all training required by POST as well as additional training related to their positions.
  • Reviewed tort claims made against the Department in the last three years and found that none were related to an officer not receiving the appropriate training.
7 Identify the number and type of traffic citations and penalties issued since February 2014 and identify any anomalies or spikes and determine the cause.
  • Because data were incomplete, we were unable to comprehensively review changes in the number and type of traffic citations the Department issued. Instead, we counted all citations to understand how the volume changed each month and identified a random sample of citations from February 2014 through January 2016 to determine the distribution of penalties and types of citations.
  • Categorized and analyzed citation data.
  • Followed up with department management to understand potential reasons for any patterns we identified in citation data.
8 Describe the Department’s plans for improving community relations, including relations with Spanish-speaking and immigrant residents, and assess the reasonableness of this plan. Specifically, determine whether the plan has specific actions and measurable goals.
  • Identified best practices for community engagement, including addressing diverse populations.
  • Determined, through interviews, that the department does not have a community engagement plan. Therefore, we reviewed and assessed activities for increasing community engagement by interviewing management and staff associated with those programs and reviewing related documentation.
  • Reviewed 10 community outreach events to determine if officers attended, if there was a Spanish language component, and if the event would lead to greater community engagement.
9 Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.
  • Interviewed representatives of two police departments in similar-sized cities (Hollister and Greenfield) and one police department in a larger city (Stockton) regarding aspects of their complaint processes and their tracking of gasoline usage.
  • Reviewed the investigation the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office (District Attorney) performed to understand the nature of the towing scheme and inquired about the Department’s oversight of towing before and during the period of these events.
  • Identified and reviewed department policies and practices to determine whether it addressed the new towing policies passed by the city council.
  • Interviewed staff and obtained documentation to demonstrate how management within the Department creates the monthly tow reports it provides to the city council.
  • Obtained each tow report since the Department began reporting to the City. Categorized number of tows by reason for tow and determined whether the reasons stated were allowable based on legal citations.
  • Reviewed patterns, such as changes in the number of towed vehicles by month, with department management.
  • Based on information from the District Attorney’s investigation and reviews of specific towing incidents, determined whether the Department should make revisions to its towing reports.

Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee audit request number 2015-129, and information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method.

Assessment of Data Reliability

In performing this audit, we relied upon electronic data files extracted from various information systems. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of computer-processed information that we use to support our findings, conclusions, or recommendations. We obtained citation data from the Department’s CrimeStar system for the purpose of determining the number and type of traffic citations the Department issued from February 2014 through December 2015. We performed a test of completeness to gain assurance that the data included all citations issued during the period of review, but found that 211 citations, or 20 percent, were missing, as described here. Consequently, we concluded that the CrimeStar data was not sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our audit. As a result, we performed alternative procedures that did not rely on the CrimeStar data to address the audit objective.

We also obtained the Department’s expense data from the City’s accounting system—also known as FundBalance—for the period from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2015, to identify any significant variances in expenses during that time and to identify a selection of transactions to determine their allowability and reasonableness. We verified the completeness of the data by comparing total expenses to the City’s audited financial statements for fiscal years 2010–11 through 2014–15. To gain some assurance of the accuracy of the expense data, we verified the data pertaining to each of the 40 transactions we judgmentally selected for expense testing with supporting documentation and assessed whether the transaction was assigned to an appropriate expense category. However, we did not perform accuracy testing on a random selection of transactions, which would have allowed us to project the results of this testing. Thus, we assessed the Department’s expense data from the City’s accounting system to be of undetermined reliability for the purposes of our audit. Although this determination may affect the precision of the numbers we present, we found sufficient evidence in total to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Finally, we obtained training data from the POST Electronic Data Interchange system to determine whether selected officers at the Department had attended required trainings. However, we did not perform accuracy and completeness testing on these data because the training data comes from a paperless system, and thus, hard-copy source documentation was not available for review. Alternatively, following GAO guidelines, we could have reviewed the adequacy of selected system controls that include general and application controls. We did not conduct these reviews because this audit is a one-time review of the adequacy and appropriateness of the training the Department provided, and we determined that it did not warrant the same level of resource investment as an audit of a state agency whose system produces data that may be used during numerous future audit engagements. However, to gain some assurance that the four officers we selected had attended the required trainings, we reviewed supporting documentation from the Department to the extent that it happened to maintain evidence that the officer had attended the training. As a result, we concluded that the training data was of undetermined reliability for the purposes of our audit. Although this determination may affect the precision of the number of trainings that officers attended, we found sufficient evidence in total to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

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