Judge reinstates Grover Beach officer fired over Taser use

April 11, 2013

taserA San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge has ordered that the Grover Beach Police Department reinstate an officer it fired for using excessive force during a 2010 Taser incident. [Tribune]

Santino Lopez responded to a reported kidnapping of 6-month-old baby at an Arroyo Grande home on February 9, 2010. A distraught mother told Lopez, a 15-year veteran and former police officers’ association president, that an old man kidnapped the baby and was hiding in the garage.

Lopez did not know it at the time, but the mother had been staying at the man’s home. The mother and the man, Peter Hewitt, just had an argument at a Grover Beach supermarket, after which Hewitt drove home with the baby.

When Lopez entered the garage, he saw Hewitt sitting in a van with the child. Lopez pulled the baby away from Hewitt, and two other officers tried to get Hewitt out of the van.

According to Lopez, Hewitt resisted the officers, using a lot of strength. Lopez then dispatched his Taser toward Hewitt’s back, but it malfunctioned and did not shock him.

After an investigation into the incident, the police department concluded that Lopez misrepresented the situation and that there was no need to use the Taser. In November 2010, Police Chief Jim Copsey fired Lopez for dishonest conduct and for firing a Taser at a compliant elderly suspect.

Lopez appealed his termination, but City Manager Bob Perrault upheld the firing, despite a recommendation by former San Luis Obispo Police Chief Jim Gardiner to overturn the ruling.

Lopez then sued the city and Perrault. Last December, Judge Dodie Harman ruled that Grover Beach failed to prove that Lopez used excessive force and ordered the city to reinstate him with a more appropriate punishment.

“While in hindsight, and with a calm viewing of a video tape that does not record at the same rate and perception of a human eye, it may appear that the struggle was not as serious as the officers described,” Harman wrote. “There clearly, based on the testimony, was more happening at the scene than is viewing on the video and the court cannot say that the use of the Taser, in this situation, was unreasonable.”

Grover Beach reinstated Lopez on February 1, and he has since remained on paid administrative leave. Lopez will also receive back pay from from the date of his termination. He makes $69,936 annually, excluding benefits.

 


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11 Comments

  1. Jack L says:

    I have zero issue with LE being paid that amount. That job sucks and I’m glad there are those that will train and help out our cities and county by doing the job few could qualify for or would want to do. Who wants to be called names, disrespected, punched, cut, shot at and then hassled for trying to make a split second decision? Not me. But we need LE and we need qualified personnel to do that job. Of all the money we are taxed for, LE is not one that I have a gripe about.

    (10) 18 Total Votes - 14 up - 4 down
    • mkaney says:

      I’m wondering how you feel about $180k/year, plus benefits, for a law enforcement officer?

      (-6) 12 Total Votes - 3 up - 9 down
      • kayaknut says:

        And don’t forget, when they retire at 50 it is still 180k a year plus benefits for life for them and an additional 180k plus benefits for the officer hired to replace them, and when there is no more money in the fund, just force the taxpayers to kick in more and more

        (0) 14 Total Votes - 7 up - 7 down
        • justbehonest says:

          Not when I am done with Chief Copsey.. He is Corrupt.. Lied to my face. Lied on an incident report.. Lied to Kamala Harris when she said he had to investigate.. He is bad bad.. and I will never let him off the hook.. Never… He retaliated ..over and over again to Protect his friends .. who are in a discrimination housing complaint . Not so smart have a facebook.. and took screen shots of all his buddies who just so happen to by in my mothers housing complaint where they used illness against her..fear of cancer.. Unbelievable how corrupt this county is.. This will blow up in his face.. Same with Grover beach lawyer and manger..They never even replied they are so guilty..Strange as he has a very long history of abuse in Grover beach as I now have someone investigating.

          (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • Jack L says:

        It stated this officer did not make that amount. Chief’s in large cites and sheriffs make the higher salaries. A lot depends on where an officer works.

        I think there is a lot of misdirected anger at officers. And I would bet the ones that make the loudest complaints could not qualify to be a LEO. The job has change dramatically over the years. It’s a lot more complicated and a lot more training needed to keep up with all the criminal activity and domestic issues. I do not mind paying for it.

        If people out there actually think the pay is too much, they need to take that up with the politicians the vote in.

        (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
        • mkaney says:

          I know this officer didn’t make that much. I was just curious how across-the-board your statement was. Many officers in the city of San Luis Obispo make $130k-$180k per year, not including benefits.

          (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
        • The Gimlet Eye says:

          Other people DO mind paying for an increasingly agressive and intimidating police state, even if you don’t.

          (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
      • The Gimlet Eye says:

        It’s not just the money. It’s the tightening grip of the police state which worries me.

        (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
  2. r0y says:

    $70K plus benies? Nice gig. Now, if only he could retire at 50 at full pay for life…

    (-2) 14 Total Votes - 6 up - 8 down
    • Jack L says:

      Not all LEOs can retire at age 50 and they do not get full benefits if they work less than 30 years. I’d bet few retire at age 50. And it is important to remember, after age 50, 55 and certainly 60 the body can’t really deal with the job as a patrol officer. The hearing, eyes, joints, and back just take take the daily grid of what a LEO has to deal with on a daily basis. It’s a young man’s job so is Fire. That’s why when recruiting agencies do not want the older applicants unless it’s for a chief’s or special position. If you keep these guys on the job to age 60, the medical issues would be too costly and their partner could be at risk.

      (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
  3. jarhead says:

    GREAT , and I hope you got all the back pay

    (4) 20 Total Votes - 12 up - 8 down

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