Like most officers serving the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD), I was conscientious about making sure I knew what was expected of me based on our PCSD Policy Manual.
Following the rules came into play when I worked the day-watch at the front desk as a Court Security Officer in the County-City Building. A woman approached the desk to explain her plight.
Her niece, from Pennsylvania, had her purse stolen while visiting Pierce County. The niece was scheduled to return home in three days, but sadly, her return train ticket was inside her stolen purse.
The railroad was willing to replace her stolen ticket for free if she could provide them with a copy of her police report.
I reviewed the report on my computer and, in doing so, determined the report was not sensitive and was of minor significance. It was a benign report.
The intelligent and decent thing for me to have done would have been to push print and hand the aunt a copy.
Stopping me from being kind and helpful was the fact that our PCSD Policy Manual prohibited me, as a deputy, from distributing report copies.
Policy dictated that I direct the woman across the street to our 911 Records Division where she could request, in writing, a copy of the report. The standard process takes up to ten days before a report would be made available. In this case the normal process was going to take too much time. By the time her report would be available, the victim’s train would be down the track, clickity clack, leaving her stranded in Pierce County.
I could not afford to violate policy and risk receiving a negative performance evaluation, be punished with days off, or do something that would cause me to be fired.
I balanced the unacceptable risks for violating policy with a key public service question, which was, “How can I say yes to this citizen’s request?”
My creative mind came up with the answer. I walked back to the office of our Sheriff’s Legal Adviser.
After explaining the circumstances and describing the report, the Legal Advisor gave me the authority to break policy thereby enabling me to make a copy available instantly.
My policy violation was related only to a stolen purse and train ticket.
While I violated policy, it should be obvious it was the right thing to do. By providing a copy of the report, I did not create a problem for anyone, including the Prosecutor.
The policy manual offers GUIDANCE and is not a mandate. The guidance offered in the policy manual is helpful when an officer is confronted with certain repetitious circumstances and is left wondering how he or she should best handle a particular situation. The policy manual makes room for the possibility that there can be exceptions based on intelligent thinking and for those cases where it is in the best interest of public service. Exceptions are available to be able to do what is right.
Let us shift gears to a more recent allegation of a policy violation. Lieutenant Cyndie Fajardo is accused of violating policy. Did she violate a department policy? That remains to be seen. This matter is dragging on for ever and a final determination has not been reached, which is a political benefit to the opposition in the race for Sheriff.
What is behind the allegation that Cyndie Fajardo violated a PCSD policy and wrote a false report? Aaah that is what we need to know before judging her performance.
I violated policy related to an incident involving a stolen purse and train ticket. Let’s be clear. It has not been determined that Cyndie Fajardo, has violated policy. If it is determined that she violated policy, intelligent observers need to establish the substance of her motivation. When we look closely at the motivation for her actions, the entire event becomes understandable and obviously necessary.
The actions Cyndie Fajardo has been criticized for did not benefit her in any way. She was motivated by a desire to prevent a man from being executed by a Drug Cartel.
While officers must be truthful, there is an exception to truthfulness the public is not familiar with. The highest courts in our land have authorized officers to tell lies and coordinate what is called a RUSE if the deception is for a lawful purpose and the suppression of crime.
Examples of a ruse include an officer acting like a pizza delivery person or a female officer acting like a prostitute. The list for officers using a ruse is only limited by one’s imagination.
In Lieutenant Fajardo’s case, she used a RUSE to prevent a man from being killed. This particular man had become a Cooperating Witness for Lieutenant Fajardo’s Special Investigations Unit. The witness was responsible for assisting the special investigations unit in removing a massive quantity of illegal drugs from our community.
A RUSE was planned where the witness became the target of a drug raid. A report was written indicating there was a raid in which there were no drugs found. No drugs were found. The report did not document any criminal activity because no criminal activity was detected. It was a benign report. There was nothing a prosecutor could do with this “information report” to prosecute anyone.
Had Lieutenant Fajardo not made her “on the firing line” decision to take the actions she was criticized for, the witness would have been killed. The plan was to have the witness show the Mexican Drug Lord that he was the target of a police raid which would indicate the witness could not be cooperating with the police. Most importantly, by documenting that the witness had been the target of a police raid, it would show that he was not responsible for the loss of thousands of dollars worth of drugs belonging to the Cartel.
Included in the ruse project was a written document from Lieutenant Fajardo. When she delegated the delivery of the document to Command Staff, it was delivered a day late. The letter outlined and described the actions her unit took to save the life of the witness. Because the written message was delivered late, it caused Lieutenant Fajardo to be targeted with other petty false accusations.
Policy violations frequently occur with Command Staff’s knowledge. As long as the violations are committed with a lawful purpose, generally, there is no problem. The thing that makes this potential policy violation different is the fact that Lieutenant Fajardo is running for Sheriff.
An insider, unhappy with Lieutenant Fajardo’s plan to save a man’s life, bypassed his entire Pierce County Sheriff’s Department chain of command. The individual filed a complaint directly with the Pierce County Prosecutor.
The Pierce County Prosecutor’s office focused on a narrow inflexible view that a policy violation had occurred and that tied to that a false report was written. Blindly, and apparently with no thought regarding the value of saving an individual from being killed, all they could see is a lack of truthfulness. This makes for great headlines to sell newspapers with inflated drama and burn a candidate out of the race for Sheriff.
Here is how I see it from my years of observing PCSD’s treatment of Lieutenant Fajardo during her 34 years of service:
(1) Certain individuals in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department fit the concept known as the Good Old Boys Network.
(2) Certain individuals in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department are misogynistic. They are prejudiced against having a woman as Sheriff.
(3) Cyndie Fajardo is a strong individual who stands up and speaks up for what is right. Lieutenant Fajardo’s personality is considered to be an asset by anyone who desires that our Sheriff’s department perform at its top level best with public interest being at the forefront of every decision.
Conversely, Lieutenant Fajardo’s personality is a threat to those who want to hide in the ranks as they glide towards retirement. They do not want anyone rocking the boat by making changes, especially a woman.
(4) It has not gone unnoticed that Command Staff moved Lieutenant Fajardo from her post as Commander of the Parkland – Spanaway Sheriff’s Precinct, where she served very successfully, and moved her to a unit that was experiencing difficulties before she was moved into the unit. To me, it looks like a tactical set up in an overall effort to block Lieutenant Fajardo’s path to being elected Sheriff.
(5) The drama’s timing, when brought to light and how it has been dragged out, is a standard dirty politics tactic for blocking Lieutenant Fajardo’s race for Sheriff.
Because Lieutenant Fajardo’s RUSE was disrupted by the action(s) of a specific individual(s), the witness could not defend himself. He did not return to Mexico. In retaliation, the Drug Cartel seized the family farm belonging to the witnesses’ parents.
Cyndie Fajardo is all about doing the right thing, including the use of a RUSE when it is the lawful and proper to do so. The opposition to Fajardo for Sheriff is all about mudslinging and half-truths; anything to fool the voting public. Apparently, the opposition has no concern if a Mexican helping America fight illegal drugs is killed.
Knowing what I know, I am not letting a false report, reporting a false report cause me to not vote for the most qualified candidate for Pierce County Sheriff, Cyndie Fajardo. Your vote for Cyndie Fajardo could save a life.