The Making of a Police Scandal 

In a case tinged with race and sex, confidential investigative reports reveal that a small cadre of San Leandro cops ginned up explosive charges against one of their own.

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On one specific occasion in May 2008, according to Stancill, Pickard, upon learning she was scheduled to work under Stancill that weekend, notified Sobek earlier that week that she would be sick. Sobek noted it as a sick call, but failed to provide a replacement officer later in the week, Stancill said. "When you're short on the street, it's a danger to me and to the other officers and the citizens," he said.

There's a code in law enforcement that basically says, "Where there is one cop, there will eventually be many." The code once gave Stancill a measure of solace on the streets. But without confidence in his fellow officers to faithfully back him up, he said he was forced to make mental adjustments that could have been disastrous, if not deadly. "My thought process, as sad as it was, [was], 'If I get into something out here, I'm probably going to have to shoot a lot quicker than I normally would if I was part of the team,'" he said.

Stancill created a work-around. To lessen his exposure to potentially dangerous situations, he tried to restrict his schedule to certain days and certain areas of the city. But he could only take so much until he started to voice concerns over his treatment to supervisors and the human resources department. "'Get these people off my back,'" Stancill recalled telling the human resources manager. "But they wouldn't do it," he said.

Stancill said he notified Captain Ian Willis of his concerns, but Willis, Stancill said, used the chain of command to block him from talking to the chief. "Can someone please help me?" Stancill recalled thinking. "I'm being discriminated against and Willis said, 'I'm not going to allow you to talk to the chief.'"

Stancill believes Dale Attarian, the chief at the time, was deliberately kept in the dark by his commanders. Allegations made by the six female officers in their federal court lawsuit against the city and Attarian describe the former chief as supportive of Stancill and his abilities. "'What am I supposed to do?'" Stancill said he asked Willis. According to Stancill, Willis suggested he hire an outside attorney.

To Stancill, Willis' comment proved how powerful Sobek was in San Leandro. Police officers pay a portion of their paychecks toward a legal defense fund; Sobek, as part of the union leadership, had a hand in controlling connections with legal representation at the department. The exchange with Willis confirmed for Stancill that he stood squarely outside the department's circle of trust.

In January 2009, a few months after Stancill formally complained to human resources about continued harassment that he believed was due to the color of his skin, he was placed on paid administrative leave. The leave stemmed from an unrelated incident following a shooting at a Pep Boys on East 14th Street. The department questioned whether Stancill had put other officers in danger after allowing the father of one of the suspects, who was shot by police, to visit the hospital. Despite actions by Stancill to gain the surrender of two other suspects in the shooting in exchange for the father's visits, he came under fire by higher-ups who claimed the criminal case was ruined by his actions. Still seething from his treatment in the department, Stancill declined to testify in the subsequent investigation. Sobek's earlier statement to him that no matter what he said, he would not win had convinced Stancill that testifying would get him nowhere. He was later terminated.

There is little doubt that while Stancill was viewed institutionally as a good cop, "it was also apparent that a lot women in the department seem to have problems with Sgt. Stancill," one of the investigations concluded. The complaints against him ranged from inappropriate comments to allegedly asking a fellow female officer for sex. Stancill also exhibited a propensity for giving colleagues nicknames like "baby." (He pronounced it "beh-beh.") Stancill told the investigator: "That's just my language. What's up, homeboy?" "What's up, homegirl?" "What's up, baby?"

The internal investigation into the six sexual harassment complaints, though, found they lacked substance, according to the investigator hired by the city. "Many of the allegations are stale, occurring well over one year ago," the report said. In addition, it found the complaints were quickly addressed and corrected by Stancill upon notice. Three of the woman also failed to cooperate with the investigation, it said, including the woman who Stancill allegedly asked for sex. (Stancill says he and the female officer engaged in sexual banter.)

The federal lawsuit filed against the city also detailed a police department rife with testosterone-fueled antics more befitting a college fraternity than a department of public safety. In her complaint, Pickard said the phrase "women don't belong in police work" was the prevailing belief among her male counterparts. The sentiment was uttered more than fifty times, Pickard said. She also described numerous instances of pornographic materials lying around the station and in squad cars, along with lewd emails distributed systemwide on city servers.

Nonetheless, earlier this summer, Stancill did not just settle with the City of San Leandro over his termination — he was exonerated. The issuance of an exoneration letter in addition to a settlement is virtually unheard of in this sort of legal dispute, according to a source that represents police officers. Stancill received $314,000 in damages and legal fees and retired honorably from the police department at age 39, along with full medical benefits and a pension.

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