Chief asks public’s patience while department investigates allegations
■ The Valley Chronicle Staff
Allegations of racism and misconduct against the Hemet Police Department (HPD) hit the news late last week as the City of Hemet received a complaint from former HPD officer Anthony Kitchen.
After one month on the job, Kitchen left the department and returned to the San Diego Police Department due to, he alleged, the racism and misconduct within the department, according to a complaint filed by Kitchen. Also at issue is a $10,000 signing bonus Kitchen received that the city wants returned since the officer quit after only a month on the force.
Kitchen is claiming that he had to leave due to the corrupt nature of the department and that he shouldn’t have to repay the $10,000 bonus.
Kitchen was sworn in on Sept. 12, 2017 by Chief Dave Brown, who recently retired from HPD to make a run for Riverside County Sheriff. The HPD Facebook post on the swearing in reads, “Officer Anthony Kitchen comes to us as an experienced lateral from San Diego PD.”
The Valley Chronicle contacted Chief Rob Webb and Lt. Glenn Brock for comment and was initially directed to contact City Attorney Eric Vail.
“We are not providing comment on this story at this time,”stated Brock in an email. “We are directing all inquiries to the City Attorney.”
Within seven minutes, Vail responded to the inquiry regarding Kitchen’s allegations.
“As the city’s attorney, I have no comment at this time other than to indicate that the city has only very recently received the claim and is in the process of evaluating the allegations. We would encourage readers to remember that the statements made in the claim are unproven allegations.”
The newspaper submitted a California Public Records Act Request for the complaint but was able to obtain the complaint from Kitchen’s attorney, Dan Gilleon. The newspaper also reached out to former Police Chief Dave Brown for comment but did not hear back by press time.
Webb later put out a statement: “In regards to the claim filed by former officer Anthony Kitchen, the city wants to assure residents that it takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will be fully investigating each allegation. The investigation process requires some time to complete in a thorough and professional manner and we ask for patience while we complete this task. The investigation may include inquiry into confidential personnel matters and the city can make no comment at this time as to Mr. Kitchen’s work history, performance or his own involvement in the conduct he has alleged. While Mr. Kitchen and his attorney have chosen to release unproven allegations to the public, the city is not in a position to release information until we have all the facts related to this matter.”
Webb stated Wednesday morning that the investigation started as soon as Kitchen left the department back in October when he filed his complaint with the department, not when the city received the complaint last week.
“This is an example of cops policing their own even if, as in this case, it’s an officer from another agency (SDPD) taking action against his former employer,” stated Gilleon in the email sent with the complaint. “But the point is that Officer Kitchen’s action, first in resigning in protest, and then filing this public lawsuit, is an example of how good cops out there are no longer blindly and obediently joining a command-orchestrated wagon circle and instead are stepping forward and speaking out against police abuse and corruption. This is a departure from the ‘thin blue line’ policy of silence that has resulted in so many cases of police abuse and cover up.”
The attachment to the tort claim states, “As claimant has already explained to city officials, and as documented in Item 1 (HPD Pers. Complaint), claimant was forced to resign due to illegal activities at Hemet Police Department, including destruction of evidence by police officers, battery of prisoners by police officers, civil rights violations by police officers, and due to a hostile work environment that included discrimination based upon race, sexual orientation, gender, and physical/mental disabilities.
In the complaint filed to the Hemet Police Department by phone on Oct. 10, 2017, Kitchen alleges that during a call for service that his field training officer discarded methamphetamines rather than properly package or charge the suspect with a crime. Also, in the complaint, Kitchen alleges that while searching a prisoner in the booking hallway, the field training officer repeatedly slammed a cooperative prisoner’s head into the wall. Kitchen alleges that when investigating a battery call, his field training officer failed to arrest a subject with a misdemeanor warrant because the suspect knew a department’s sergeant. According to the attachment to Kitchen’s tort claim, the field training officer arrested the victim. Kitchen alleges that during a briefing a corporal made an inappropriate comment regarding homosexuals with a sergeant present. He stated that it was common for employees to make comments about mentally challenged individuals and such comments appeared to be widely accepted as the department’s culture. It is recorded on the complaint that Kitchen is hypersensitive to these comments because his brother is homosexual and his child has special needs. The attachment to the tort claim also states, “The term ‘Canadian’ was used regularly by HPD officers as a derogatory reference to African Americans.”
The attachment states, As a “result, claimant suffered special damages for lost wages and benefit (past and future) and increased mileage, and general damages for emotional distress. Also, by allowing the illegal activities to exist that forced claimant to resign, Hemet breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing as it related to claimant’s employment contract and Item 3, the bonus agreement. In turn, this breach bars any recovery of the bonus discussed in Items 2-4. Similarly, the doctrines of constructive fraud, estoppel and unclean hands bar Hemet’s recovery of the bonus.”
Timeline according to the complaint
Aug. 28, 2017 – Kitchen signs a service agreement for the recruitment bonus.
Sept. 12, 2017 – Kitchen is sworn in as a Hemet police officer.
Sept. 29, 2017 – A check is issued to Kitchen for $10,000, according to the note on the service agreement for the recruitment bonus.
Oct. 10, 2017- Kitchen files a complaint by phone.
Oct. 11, 2017 – Kitchen resigns from the department.
Oct. 18, 2017 – The date the complaint is submitted to Division Captain/Chief of Police.
Nov. 1, 2017 – The city of Hemet sends Kitchen a statement for $9,722.22, the amount Kitchen is to repay for only one month of service per the service agreement for the recruitment bonus.
Dec. 27, 2017 – The city of Hemet sends Kitchen a letter requesting the repayment of the bonus. A statement for $9,722.22, the amount Kitchen is to repay for only one month of service per the service agreement for the recruitment bonus, is also sent to Kitchen.
Jan. 17, 2018 – Kitchen files a claim for damages with the city of Hemet.