There are unwritten codes in the San Diego Police Department, a so-called "two-tiered system of justice," where officers become untouchable and above the law. That system has served as an incubator for sexually violent predators to remain on the force, alleges a new lawsuit filed against the city, the San Diego Police Department, and former officer Christopher Hays, who is now awaiting trial for sexually assaulting and harassing several women while in uniform.
The lawsuit, brought by three alleged victims, says the unwritten law dates as far back as 1999, when reports of sexual misconduct by officer Anthony Arevalos began circulating around the department. At the time, claims the lawsuit, Arevalos openly bragged about, and flaunted pictures, of a "mentally deranged young woman" penetrating herself with his department-issued baton. In the following years, Arevalos continued to harass and assault women he stopped for traffic violations going so far as making a photo album with pictures of women giving him oral sex in the back of his police cruiser and of them bending over for him. At least one officer came forward to complain about the behavior. Supervisors swept it under the rug.
"This [San Diego Police Department] ‘unwritten policy’ included not ticketing [police officers] stopped for vehicle code violations, including DUI, and also fixing tickets for officers, as well as other law-enforcement officers and officials. This ‘unwritten policy’ also manifested itself with police officers and supervisory officials discouraging fellow police officers from reporting instances of suspected police officer misconduct to their supervisors."
The secret code went up the chain of command, writes attorney Dan Gilleon in the complaint. Gilleon says any reports were quickly and quietly quashed before making their way to a review board, the mayor's desk, or leaked to the media.
In addition, favoritism and nepotism inside the force allowed for substandard cadets to be allowed on the force. That, says the lawsuit, was the case of officer Christopher Hays, whose father-in-law is now assistant chief Mark Jones.
With his father-in-law vouching for him and officers such as Arevalos paving the way, Christopher Hays was free to behave as he wished.
The complaints against Hays includes an instance of one woman who was sitting in the passenger’s seat of a stalled vehicle after a night of drinking with friends when Officer Hays pulled up behind her. He later gave her a ride home and during that ride threatened her with arrest if she didn't perform oral sex on him. She did. Another claims Hays was one of the officers to come to her home following a domestic disturbance complaint. After the other officers left, Hays cornered the woman and began to masturbate in front of her. She objected. For the following weeks, the woman says she was terrified after seeing a police cruiser circling her home, flashing the spotlight inside.
Hays, through others, has denied any wrongdoing. His wife has given interviews, saying she believes the complaints are tied to the fact that her father is a high-ranking officer. The criminal trial is now under way. The civil trial will follow shortly after.