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UPDATED: Two EPD Officers on Leave, Investigation Underway into Report of Offensive Text Exchanges 

Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson placed two officers on administrative leave Wednesday after the Sacramento Bee published an article about obscene, denigrating and sometimes violent texts reportedly exchanged by them and others in their squad over several months in 2020.

In a letter to the community, the chief said he had not been aware of the exchanges until he was contacted by a reporter on Tuesday.

“While the investigation into the veracity of these reports is still underway, and every person is entitled to due process, the accusations are serious enough that this morning my leadership team and I placed two officers who have been reported to have made these statements on administrative leave,” Watson said in a letter to the community. “This leave is effective immediately and any change of status will be evaluated pending deeper review of this critical matter. At my direction, this investigation will be conducted by an independent, outside investigator.”

Two members, Sgt. Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez and officer Mark Meftah, were the only ones named in the story.

The texts reported in the Sac Bee referenced acts of violence and included disparaging comments about a female colleague as well as people of color and members of the homeless community and those with mental illness.

The Eureka Police Officers’ Association also weighed in, calling the statements reported to have been made by the officers “abhorrent” and that the exchanges do not “reflect the seriousness, maturity, or professional attitude this difficult job demands.”

“The POA does not, and will not, condone violent, racist, sexist, or indifferent attitudes towards the community members we are sworn to protect and serve, or each other,” the statement reads.” As police officers, POA members understand that their ability to do their job depends on the support and respect of the community."



“The community deserves only the best law enforcement professionals,” it states.

Eureka Police Officers’ Association Statement on Sacramento Bee Allegations of Misconduct Against a Few Members The...

Posted by Eureka Police Department on Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Watson stated in his letter that the department has prioritized “training on implicit bias, procedural justice, racial and cultural diversity, de-escalation techniques, and crisis intervention team training” over the last four years as well as homeless outreach.

The chief said the transcripts of the texts he saw were not reflections of the EPD’s values or representative of those trainings.

 “While we leave room for the investigation to reveal more information, we also fully denounce the content of the communications that have been reported,” Watson wrote. “And, we respectfully ask you to join us in doing the same. This is, in my opinion, the only right way forward.”

North Coast Assemblymember Jim Wood said he would be watching the course of the EPD investigation "to ensure that this investigation begins immediately and is transparent and appropriate to the serious nature of this behavior."

"Reading the Sacramento Bee article today about texts among officers of the city of Eureka's police force was painful and caused me great sadness, anger and concern to see that some members of the Eureka Police Department have a pattern of behavior and culture extremely disrespectful to women, people of color, people protesting legally, and people, frankly, who are extremely vulnerable and down on their luck," he wrote in a statement released by his office.

Find Watson's letter and Wood's release below:


Release from Wood's office:
SACRAMENTO-Reading the Sacramento Bee article today about texts among officers of the city of Eureka's police force was painful and caused me great sadness, anger and concern to see that some members of the Eureka Police Department have a pattern of behavior and culture extremely disrespectful to women, people of color, people protesting legally, and people, frankly, who are extremely vulnerable and down on their luck. I will follow closely the investigation promised by Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson to ensure that this investigation begins immediately and is transparent and appropriate to the serious nature of this behavior. We put our trust in law enforcement to follow the law and enforce the law in a way that instills trust in our community. We should not have to rely on anonymous sources to reveal unacceptable and egregious behavior. I can only hope that this investigation reveals that this behavior is limited to a few officers and that that actions taken against these officers will result in allowing us to trust the city’s force and its leadership. I sincerely hope this does not reveal much deeper cultural issues within the police department and I am pleased that Chief Watson has taken immediate action this afternoon by opening an independent investigation and placing to the two officers in question on leave.
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About The Author

Kimberly Wear

Bio:
Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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