An El Cajon police officer was arrested by his own department Saturday for allegedly releasing of information from confidential police drug investigations, according to a statement issued by Chief Darwin Sinclair.
Officer Charles Barranco, 29, was taken into custody at about 1:30 p.m. and booked on suspicion of conspiracy and being an accessory to a felony, both felony counts. He was also booked on suspicion of interfering with police officers, a misdemeanor, the statement said.
Barranco was immediately suspended without pay, and his case will be forwarded to the county district attorney's office for review, the statement said.
"This arrest culminated a one-year-long investigation of drug use, association with known drug dealers and release of restricted information on pending investigations being conducted by the narcotics task force and the El Cajon Police Department," Sinclair's statement said.
Barranco, a three-year veteran of the El Cajon force, was booked at County Jail at 4:34 p.m. and released at 8:17 p.m. after posting a $4,500 bail, jail records show.
El Cajon City Manager Bob Acker said he was informed of the arrest by Sinclair at police headquarters after Barranco was taken into custody.
Acker said Saturday's action was the first time any police officer had been arrested during his nearly 19 years as a city employee. He declined to say if he was informed of the investigation into Barranco's activities.
"We certainly don't like those things to occur, but they do happen" Acker said.
"It is an unfortunate situation, but I don't think it reflects on the department or those individuals in the department," he said.
Steve Eckis, deputy city attorney for the eastern San Diego County city, said Sinclair conferred with him earlier Saturday about what to do with Barranco's status as a city employee. "This is the only exposure I've had to the incident. I've not gone over the substance of the investigation," Eckis said.
News of the arrest, announced by police late Saturday, took some city officials by surprise. Councilwoman Harriet Stockwell said she was informed about neither the investigation nor the arrest.
Police declined to issue any additional information than was in the department's release.