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DA forwards sheriff review to state DOJ

The San Benito County District Attorney’s Office has requested
the state to review allegations that a deputy with the county
sheriff’s department falsified a police report.
The San Benito County District Attorney’s Office has requested the state to review allegations that a deputy with the county sheriff’s department falsified a police report.

District Attorney Harry Damkar forwarded a complaint to the state Department of Justice regarding allegations that Sgt. Wes Walker may have lied in a report.

Damkar said he requested the Department of Justice to review the case because he wanted an independent agency to look into the allegations and avoid any question of the inquiry being done fairly.

“I’m sending the letter to the DOJ because I have a conflict of interest,” Damkar said. “If there is anything there, they will let the sheriff know.”

The call for an investigation stemmed from the June 5 arrest of Cynthia Alnas for drug possession and being under the influence of a controlled substance, according to court records.

Walker, who arrested Alnas for being under the influence, allegedly wrote in a police report that he could assess her drug intoxication because he is a certified drug recognition expert, attorney Greg LaForge said.

A drug recognition expert, commonly referred to as a DRE, is a peace officer who has passed 80 hours of specialized training, according to information from the Peace Officers Standards and Training organization.

LaForge said during the course and scope of his office’s investigation, it appeared Walker may have lied to the district attorney’s office about being a DRE.

Damkar said his office would have a conflict of interest in reviewing the allegations because he currently has other cases where the deputy in question is a key witness.

Sheriff Curtis Hill said there was no need for an investigation or for sending the allegations because Walker did not act improperly.

“I have looked into the matter and the bottom line is my staff member has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Hill said. “And I am supporting my staff member 150 percent.”

Hill said the district attorney’s office, under Damkar, has a history of not communicating well with local law enforcement.

“He never contacted me about this and I feel that this is just indicative of his tenure as district attorney,” Hill said. “We (in law enforcement) can’t wait for our new DA to come in.”

Damkar’s 20-year run as district attorney ends the first week in January as he officially retires from the office and recently elected John Sarsfield takes over as district attorney.

Hill said he was not going to get into a public debate with local LaForge, a local defense attorney about the allegations.

“The San Benito County Sheriff’s Office is not going to get involved in a lawn party with a bunch of skunks,” Hill said. “We are going to continue to go out there and serve the public.”

Hill said he would cooperate with the DOJ if its investigators decided to review the case.

“If the Attorney General’s office feels there is a reason to look into this then that’s fine,” Hill said. “But my staff knows that I hold the accountability for their actions.”

LaForge said Hill was missing the point concerning the allegations against Walker.

“Regardless of who the chief law enforcement officer is, the truth is the truth and a lie is a lie,” LaForge said. “This clearly should have been forwarded to an independent third party.”

LaForge said he did not bring the issue forward to embarrass or hurt Hill personally.

“This is no personal attack or affront on the sheriff whatsoever,” LaForge said. “But if he is going to take the position that his officer is a DRE, then there is a problem.”