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San Francisco Police Commission
gives mixed ruling in officer misconduct case

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

October 12, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A San Francisco police lieutenant accused of several charges from intimidating officers to masking the license plate of his Cadillac Escalade
had his case closed tonight with a mixed ruling.

In a police commission meeting packed with family members and friends supporting Lt. Jerry Lankford, both his lawyer and representatives of the department gave their final arguments in a case that has gone on since 2003.

The San Francisco Police Commission voted to sustain charges of hiding his license plate but most other charges were dropped.

Lankford, who joined the force in 1980, was reassigned to an administrative position a little more than two weeks after a July 1 incident in which Christina Gomez claimed Lankford dragged her into his black Escalade and solicited her for sex.

Several other officers were also reassigned for allegedly mishandling the case, and Gomez filed a civil suit against the city but it was eventually dismissed.

Misconduct charges have yet to be decided on, and tonight both sides gave closing arguments.

Lankford's attorney, Eileen Burke, argued he has been "pursued and prosecuted as a matter of payback" and the allegations against him were full of holes.

Commission President Louise Renne abruptly closed the hearing at that point to speak privately with Burke, and the specific nature of the "payback" was not revealed.

As the hearing continued, open to the public at the request of Lankford, both sides gave differing accounts of occasions in which he was pulled over while off duty because a towel was covering his back license plate.

Department lawyer Robert Tronnes argued Lankford had committed or was about to commit a crime when officers pulled him over once at Mission and 24th streets and once at Haight and Pierce streets.

"The act of covering the plate is in and of itself evidence of officer misconduct," Tronnes said.

Burke said it was only a towel from his golf bag that had accidentally been closed in the back hatch, and she reminded the commission that he never received a ticket.

Another attorney representing the department, Jennifer Wang, argued that Gomez was a reliable victim and the department handled the case correctly.

Lankford's family, friends and professional colleagues also spoke on his behalf. His daughter Melissa said he was a stern man but always fair and a protective father.

"For anyone to say he's the type of person he's protecting me from is ridiculous," she said.

The police commission will discuss disciplinary actions in an Oct. 18 meeting. All seven commissioners were present at tonight's meeting.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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