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
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