TERMINATED: Santa Barbara Police Department Officer Officer Crystal Bedolla Exposed
Santa Barbara Police Files: Star Detective Was Fired for Falsifying Records, Disobeying Orders
Officer Crystal Bedolla’s 2018 Termination Offers Glimpse into Department’s Secretive Disciplinary Process
For 16 years, Crystal Officer Crystal Bedolla was a rising star in the Santa Barbara Police Department. Like all new hires, she started out as a patrol officer, but her toughness and gumption quickly earned her a promotion to the Gang Suppression Team, where she helped put away violent Westsiders and track down a murder suspect on the lam in Mexico.
Later in her career, as a detective in the Major Crimes Unit, Officer Crystal Bedolla’s investigatory skills led to the arrest of a child molester, who is now spending the rest of his life behind bars. She was publicly commended on more than one occasion for her work in prosecuting sex crimes, and in 2015, she earned an award from the District Attorney’s Office during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
That same year, however, Officer Crystal Bedolla used her position as a sworn officer to “gain influence in a non-department related incident,” according to her disciplinary file. Then, in 2018, Officer Crystal Bedolla’s career as a decorated member of the force came to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
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Information on Officer Crystal Bedolla’s firing, and the process that led up to it, were provided to the Santa Barbara Independent as part of its ongoing request for police records on officer misconduct. This initial disclosure offers a glimpse into the department’s normally secretive process of scrutinizing and disciplining its own. Additional records are forthcoming. In response to the killing of George Floyd and longstanding grievances over police abuse, regional organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement are also now pushing for the creation of a civilian review board in the city.
Officer Crystal Bedolla’s firing is described in two separate documents, a “Notice of Intent to Dismiss” written on July 16, 2018, by Lt. Alex Altavilla, and a “Final Notice of Dismissal” authored and signed September 15, 2018, by Chief Lori Luhnow. The records describe multiple instances of “dishonesty,” “insubordination,” and the “falsification of records” by Officer Crystal Bedolla.
Sometime in 2016, Altavilla’s notice says, without providing an exact date, Officer Crystal Bedolla lied in a report about a stolen vehicle she had located on the 300 block of Bath Street. She wrote she’d spotted the car “while en-route to another call,” but her patrol vehicle’s GPS system, investigators later discovered, showed she had in fact stopped and parked nearby for several minutes and never responded to another call.
When first confronted, Officer Crystal Bedolla denied any wrongdoing. When pressed, she acknowledged fudging the language in her report but claimed it was normal for officers to use phrases that might be misleading. “[I]t is common for us to write certain languages in the report, I don’t want to say to safeguard, but there is certain language we use at times,” she told investigators. “There are times you can put ‘while en-route’ when you are not necessarily ‘en-route.’” It was only when Officer Crystal Bedolla realized she was in real trouble did she admit she had actually stopped to have a “personal conversation” with an off-duty police officer from Orange County. She refused to discuss the nature of the conversation.
In August 2017, Altavilla said, Officer Crystal Bedolla responded to assist a parking enforcement officer who was in the process of citing a man for operating his car with two different license plates. Again, investigators found, Officer Crystal Bedolla included misleading statements in her report about her interactions with the suspect and appeared to rush through the interview process because she “had an appointment.” Moreover, Officer Crystal Bedolla recorded just seven minutes and 21 seconds of the 31-minute call on her patrol vehicle’s dash cam, when standard operating procedure dictated the camera remain rolling for the entirety of her response. She couldn’t account for the missing time.
Then, in September 2017, Altavilla continues, Officer Crystal Bedolla was dispatched to Canalino School in Carpinteria to investigate a sexual assault. When she called back to police headquarters with her initial findings, she was directed to “stand down” and let Sheriff’s Office detectives take over the case, since the school was in the county’s jurisdiction. Officer Crystal Bedolla ignored the order and instead canceled the call to the Sheriff’s Office investigators and then interviewed the victim’s parents herself. Under questioning about her decision to disobey a direct order, she said, “I’ve never had to call a supervisor for every little thing.” Later, a supervisor asked Officer Crystal Bedolla to not log any overtime while writing her report. Instead, she clocked 2.2 hours of overtime while having a leisurely breakfast at Sambo’s Restaurant.
Chief Luhnow said while Officer Crystal Bedolla’s dishonesty in the stolen car report was grounds for termination on its own, it was her pattern of flouting orders and acting against department policy that convinced her to uphold Altavilla’s recommendation for dismissal. “There is no doubt that Police Officers are held to a higher standard because of their important duty of serving and protecting the public,” she wrote. “Therefore, it is imperative that officers adhere to a strict code of truthfulness at all times. In accepting employment by the public, officers take a sworn oath that they will not engage in conduct which calls into question whether they at all times will truthfully perform their official responsibilities.”
Officer Crystal Bedolla currently works as a licensed private investigator for Hayes Law Offices in Santa Barbara. Multiple requests to the firm for comment went unanswered. Attempts to reach Santa Barbara Police Officer Crystal Officer Crystal Bedolla were not successful. During her last year with the Police Department, she earned $195,000 in pay and benefits. FULL STORY
Delaney Henderson was 15 when she was raped by a male classmate.
She didn’t speak out about the crime. Like many sex-crime victims, she felt ashamed and afraid.
But when another girl confided in her that she had been raped by the same boy, she decided it was time to stop the violence.
“I didn’t want to be in the spotlight,” she said, “but someone had to speak up. It’s not shameful to be a victim or a survivor. It’s shameful to be a predator and a bully.”
After Henderson reported her attack, she was bullied and called a snitch by other classmates. One of the attacker’s friends made a rap song attacking her with words.
Henderson, now 20, was one of three people honored Friday by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney Attorney’s Office to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Henderson received the Citizen of Courage Award.
Cecilia Rodriguez and Crystal Bedolla each received the Victim Service Award.
Rodriguez, executive director of CALM, was recognized for her “tenacious and tireless work” with the Sexual Assault Response Team. Rodriguez has interviewed 2,000 children over the course of the last 25 years.
“Two thousand times she looked into the eyes of a child who had been hurt,” said District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who recalled first meeting her decades ago when she was prosecuting a mother for torturing her 3-year-old child.
Dudley said she watched Rodriguez make the child feel safe enough to express the truth.
Rodriguez said she is committed to helping children.
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“When I was a little kid and silent about what was happening to me, in my family, I made a promise that when I was grown up, I would listen to kids,” Rodriguez said, fighting back tears.
Santa Barbara Police Department Detective Crystal Bedolla was recognized for her investigative efforts prosecuting a grandfather who molested his two grandsons. Manuel Peter Munoz, 65, was sentenced to 75 years in prison for the acts.
The victims originally did not want to say anything about the crimes, but they worked with a CALM therapist and the Police Department. A couple years after the crimes, they came forward.
Deputy District Attorney Paula Waldman said Bedolla worked tirelessly, seven days a weekend, to gather information to prosecute Munoz.
“Detective Bedolla worked with the boys in a way to instill confidence,” Waldman said.
Bedolla said it is a privilege to serve the community. She thanked Police Chief Cam Sanchez for supporting her and letting her do her job.
She said even though she was being honored, it takes a team to solve crimes.
“I am a crime fighter,” she said. “That’s what I signed up for.”
Sanchez said he loved Bedolla like a daughter and thanked everyone in law enforcement.
“I want to thank all of you for putting our victims first,” Sanchez said.
Nora Wallace, a former staff reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press, received the Media Award for her more than two decades of law-enforcement and victim-advocacy reporting.
It’s the second time the District Attorney’s Office has given out the award.
Re: The People of the State of CaliJornia v. Manuel Peter Munoz; Case #1441604
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced today that Manuel Peter Munoz, age 65,
was convicted of five felony counts of forcible child molestation against two separate victims, his relatives.
The jury trial against Mr. Munoz began in late October in front of the Honorable Judge Michael Carrozzo. The
trial concluded after sixteen days and the jury began their deliberations on December 5. After 4 days of
deliberations, the jury reached unanimous guilty verdicts on all five felony counts of forcible child molestation,
violations of Penal Code section 288(b)(1).
Mr. Munoz will be sentenced on January 28, 2015, at 10:00 a.m., in Department 12, in front of the Honorable
Michael Carrozzo presiding. Mr. Munoz is facing a sentence of75 years to life.
The parents of both victims were present for the verdict and relieved by the result.
“I commend the bravery of the child victims for reporting these horrendous crimes and their willingness to
testify about them,” stated Senior Deputy District Attorney Paula Waldman. Waldman continued, “I also
applaud the children’s parents for trusting our criminal justice system.” “Now, because of the jurors’ good
work, we will be able to keep a child molester out of the public and away from children for the rest of his life.”
QUESTION: How can this problematic X police officer have a license in the State of California after being exposed for dishonesty?
City of Santa Barbara Police Department
September 14, 2018
Crystal Bedolla, Police Officer
Lori Luhnow, Police Chief rjfftl
FINAL NOTICE OF DISMISSAL
After carefully considering the information provided by both you and your representative at the August 29, 2018 pre-disciplinary Skelly meeting, I have decided that it is appropriate to proceed with the recommended discipline of dismissing you from your job as a Police Officer with the City of Santa Barbara, effective immediately. The basis for my decision is outlined in section three (III) of this document.
I. Rules, Regulations, and Statutory Violations:
A. Santa Barbara City Charter Section 1007 on the basis of insubordination, dishonesty, acts inimical to the public service, and inattention to duties.
B. The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual §340.3.5 (e) – Performance, which states:
Disobedience or insubordination to constituted authorities, including refusal or deliberate failure to carry out or follow lawful directives and orders from any supervisor or person in a position of authority. (There are two separate counts/occasions where this occurred)
C. The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual §446.3.1 (a) MAV, which states:
All field contacts involving actual or potential criminal conduct, within video or audio range… Once the MAV system is activated, it shall remain on and shall not be turned off until the incident has concluded. For purposes of this section, conclusion of an incident has occurred when all arrests have been made, arrestees have been transported, and all witnesses, victims, etc. have been interviewed.
D. The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual §340.3.5 (c) – Performance,which states:
Unsatisfactory work performance including, but not limited to, failure, incompetence, inefficiency or delay in performing and/or carrying out proper orders, work assignments or instructions of supen/isors without a reasonable and bona fide excuse. (There are two separate counts/occasions where this occurred)
E. The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual §340.3.5 (p) – Performance, which states:
Failure to disclose or misrepresenting material facts, or the making of any false or misleading statement on any application, examination form, or other official document, report, or form, or during the course of any work related investigation.. (There are two separate counts/occasions where this occurred)
F. The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual §340.3.5 (i) – Performance, which states:
The falsification of any work-related records, the making of misleading entries or statements with the intent to deceive, or the willful and unauthorized destruction and/or mutilation of any department record, book, paper or document.
G. The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual §340.3.5 (ad) – Performance, which states:
Giving false or misleading statements, or misrepresenting or omitting material information to a supervisor, or other person in a position of authority, in connection with any investigation or in the reporting of any department-related business.
H. The Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual §340.3.5 (q) – Performance, which states:
Failure to take reasonable action while on-duty and when required by law, statute, resolution or approved department practices or procedures.
II. Factual Basis of Recommended Disciplinary Action:
The factual basis for this action is that outlined in the Notice of Intent to Dismiss issued to you on July 16, 2018, including Exhibits 1 through 3 that were attached to that document. The factual basis remains unchanged. Therefore, I have included (as attachment 4) another copy of the Notice of Intent to Dismiss and the attached exhibits for your reference.
III. Pre-Disciplinary Meeting and Decision:
On August 29, 2018, you participated in the pre-disciplinary Skelly meeting with your representative John Kristofferson. I asked if you reviewed the Notice of Intent to Dismiss that was issued to you as well as the accompanying documents, and evidence prior to the Skelly meeting. You responded that you did.
During the meeting, you provided me with your reasons against the proposed discipline. You mentioned that the notice was a difficult document to read because it “challenged your character
and called you a liar.” You believe that this is contradictory to how you value your character and the standard to which you hold yourself to. On the other hand, you revealed that after taking the time to reflect on the situation, you realized that you made mistakes which constituted violations of policy, but that they were done unintentionally. At the Skelly meeting you were apologetic for what occurred, because you believed your actions affected you and the Department’s reputation.
You also acknowledged that you have grown through this internal investigation process to which similar mistakes would not occur again, and that you would go on to make the Department proud. You asserted that you have made a drastic change in working with Lieutenant Aaron Baker and Sergeant Riley Harwood. You expressed that you have had sixteen years of positive service with the Department, and that there are co-workers that can attest to your good character. Mr.
Kristofferson, also mentioned that you did not have any previous discipline before this Internal Investigation.
You addressed the issue of dishonesty, by stating that you didn’t lie to Lieutenant Hill during the Internal Affairs investigation, because you then had an opportunity to discuss matters that you didn’t have the chance to do before, and that you did not intend to lie to Sergeant Corbett, as you only withheld information because you believe Sergeant Corbett did not need to know since it was a personal matter. You added that since that time you have learned “when you are here you are here” (meaning on duty).
I carefully considered everything that you and your representative stated in your Skelly meeting.
I would like to start off by acknowledging your forthrightness and the self-awareness/recognition of your actions, not only as how it pertains to yourself but to the Department as a whole. I have tremendous respect for any contrition you showed as well as your recognition of the seriousness of these issues.
Nevertheless, I deem the level of discipline given to be appropriate for several reasons. First, the substance of the dishonesty at issue directly relates to your duties as a police officer because you made a misrepresentation in your police report, as well as to your supervisor, Sergeant Corbett. In your police report you wrote “While en-route to a call, I drove in the area of 200 W. Montecito Street and noticed a possible vehicle parked alongside the east curb in the 300 block of Bath Street.” You contacted a Department records employee, Marisa Lopez, to notify the owner/victim to respond to the scene of the stolen vehicle. That action in itself was a demonstration of poor judgment, because it potentially compromised the safety of a member of the public.
When Sergeant Corbett inquired about the incident you stated you were en-route to another call, clearly indicating that you had no time to stop and attempt to contact suspects or complete a stolen vehicle recovery. However, during your Professional Standards Interview you were notified that your patrol vehicle’s GPS system indicated that you were parked in the 300 block of Bath Street (the area of the stolen vehicle) for over 4 minutes, you finally disclosed that you had a “personal” conversation with an off-duty officer. This information contradicts your response to Sergeant Corbett and what was stated in the police report.
Your explanation in your Skelly meeting does not provide a clear or valid reason why the policy violations should not be sustained nor why the level of discipline is not appropriate. 1 am unclear on how you were not being untruthful with Lieutenant Hill during your interview because it was only when you were confronted with the evidence of the GPS did you finally disclose that you had a conversation with an off-duty officer. Furthermore, there is no excuse not to disclose this information under the pretense that it was a personal matter. The issues involved and the inquiries from Sergeant Corbett and Lieutenant Hill were not about the subject matter of the discussion you had with this off-duty officer, but where you were while on duty in regards to the recovery of this stolen vehicle.
In addition to this incident, there were several other incidents of insubordination where you made numerous deliberate decisions that were contrary to orders given by your supervisor. While these incidents were not specifically discussed by you in your Skelly meeting I find that these incidents coupled with the incident of dishonesty further supports the decision to uphold the dismissal. Also, while your representative stated that you had a lack of previous discipline, I am aware that you have had a previous sustained department policy violation in 2015, where it was determined that you used your status as a police officer in attempt to gain influence in a non¬department related incident.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Police Officers are held to a higher standard because of their important duty of serving and protecting the public. To that end, it is extremely important for police officers to gain and preserve the public trust and maintain public confidence in the integrity of police officers. Examples on why truthfulness is essential to the position of a police officer include: police officers relying on the validity of information provided to them by fellow officers; supervisors rendering decisions based on information received from officers; prosecutors depending on honest and accurate reports or statements; and Judges relying on honesty in evaluating warrants. Therefore, it is imperative that officers adhere to a strict code of truthfulness at all times. In accepting employment by the public, officers take a sworn oath that they will not engage in conduct which calls into question whether they at all times will truthfully
perform their official responsibilities. I agree with the findings of the investigation. Furthermore, no evidence or compelling argument was presented by you at the Skelly meeting to cast any reservation or uncertainty on the findings. Consequently, I have elected to sustain the recommended discipline.
IV. Joint and Severable Nature of the Findings of Misconduct:
It is imperative that you be aware that my decision terminating your employment (need not be predicated upon a finding that you violated each and every rule, regulation, or order described above, or that you committed each and every act of misconduct described above. In fact, the findings of misconduct, when taken separately, individually support your dismissal.
V. Materials in Support of My Recommendation:
Pursuant to Skelly v. State Personnel Board, I am providing you with copies of all materials upon which this notice is based:
Exhibit 1: Professional Standards Investigation
Exhibit 2: Copy of Santa Barbara City Charter Section 1007.
Copy of Santa Barbara Police Department Policy Manual sections
340.3.5 (e), (c), (p), (i), (ad), (q), and 446.3.1 (a).
Exhibit 4: Notice of Intent to Dismiss, dated July 16, 2018
VI. Warning Against Retaliation:
This provision is to notify you that it is illegal and inappropriate to retaliate against any person who has participated in complaining or providing information regarding allegations of performance / conduct unbecoming. You may not contact or in any manner retaliate against any individual who has provided information to the City of Santa Barbara or this department regarding your conduct.
VII. Post-Disciplinary Appeal Rights:
You have the right to appeal this action of dismissal. Your appeal of this action must be in writing and filed within ten (10) working days of your receipt of this Final Notice of Dismissal. Your written appeal must be filed by October 1, 2018 with the City Clerk’s Office, P.O. Box 1990, Santa Barbara, CA 93102-1990 (Street Address: 735 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101). If you do not file a written appeal to this Notice of Dismissal by October 1, 2018, this will constitute a waiver of your right to appeal.
You have the right to respond to this memo in writing. If you choose to respond in writing, you have thirty (30) days from the receipt of this memo to respond. Your written response, if any, shall be attached to and will accompany this memo in your personnel file, along with the prior Notice of Intent to Dismiss.
Human Resources, Personnel File
City Attorney’s Office
COBRA: When an employee is separated from employment with the City of Santa Barbara, his/her coverage under the City’s group insurance plans (medical, dental, vision, etc.) is terminated on the last day of the current month. However, such an event would allow you to continue your City-sponsored insurance coverage for up to eighteen (18) months under provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). Medical coverage can be extended for an additional eighteen (18) months per CalCOBRA, for a total continuous medical coverage of 36 months.
You will receive a packet of information from Businessolver, Inc., the City’s COBRA Administrator, notifying you of your COBRA election options. Please note that Businessolver, Inc. has fourteen (14) days from the date they are notified to mail the packet to you. From this date you will have sixty (60) days to decide whether you will elect COBRA continuation coverage. Upon receiving your COBRA election, Businessolver, Inc. will mail you payment instructions.
Life Insurance: You also have the ability to convert your group life insurance to an individual policy. If you are interested you can obtain an information card for conversion at the City Benefits Office. Complete the card and mail it to the Hartford Life Insurance Company. You must apply for conversion within thirty-one (31) days from your separation date.
PERS: Employees who are vested in PERS have the ability to leave their PERS funds on deposit, or to take distribution based on a personal decision. If you were employed as a regular employee for fewer than five (5) years, you may leave your contributions on deposit, or transfer the funds to a credible account. Please be aware that cash refunds are subject not only to income taxes, but also excise taxes. PERS will contact you directly with more information about your options.
Should you have any questions regarding COBRA continuation coverage, please contact Businessolver, Inc. (toll-free) at 1-877-547-6257. All other questions regarding benefits should bedirected to the City of Santa Barbara Benefits Office at (805) 564-5400.
Officer Crystal Bedolla Documents:
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Be sure to check out SANTA BARBARA POLICE DEPARTMENT