Calling the allegations "frivolous," Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller declined Wednesday to investigate charges that Coronado Police Chief Jerry Boyd used excessive force and improperly used police video equipment.
"There is nothing in this entire well-publicized episode which even begins to merit investigation," Miller wrote in a letter to Coronado City Manager Ray Silver. "It is unfortunate that so much time and so much public attention has been devoted to so insubstantial a series of allegations, which have been advanced on the basis of some private agenda."
In a letter to Silver on Feb. 2, the Coronado Police Officers Assn. called for an independent investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department or the California attorney general into allegations that Boyd used excessive force and profanity in April during the arrest of a robbery suspect and last month improperly used police video equipment. Instead, Silver turned the matter over to the district attorney.
The allegations, Miller suggested, stemmed from "either a labor dispute or a profound personality conflict" among various Coronado officers.
Boyd said in an interview Wednesday that he was not surprised by Miller's decision.
"I think it's important to understand that I asked for the investigation even though I felt it was almost ridiculous," Boyd said. "I am of the belief that this whole thing unfortunately is based upon the attitudes of just a couple of people. In the long run, it's hurting an awful lot of people, specifically the members of this department."
Miller noted that his office had previously investigated the excessive force allegation and concluded there was no basis for a criminal investigation. He said police reports showed that "a combative, wildly kicking, armed robbery suspect with a long history of violence was subdued" while he was being photographed at the police station.
"Nothing in our criminal file indicated in any fashion that this individual was the subject of excessive force," Miller wrote.
Boyd, 41, an ethics instructor at the San Diego County Sheriff's Academy, said he punched the suspect, Adam Zimmerman, once in the stomach as the man was about to kick an officer.
Coronado POA President Jim Coates, who declined comment until he could read Miller's letter, wrote in his Feb. 2 memo that the district attorney had failed to contact important witnesses who saw Boyd punch Zimmerman.
"The allegation included the information that the chief used unnecessary profanity and brutality which, of course, is beyond all accepted standards for not only police officers but any chief administrator of a police department," Coates wrote.
A television videotape of Zimmerman's arrest showed Boyd holding a revolver and twice shouting, "Shut your . . . mouth," at the man while he was being held by officers.
POA attorney Everett Bobbitt said he was disturbed by Boyd's use of obscenities since other officers in San Diego County had been disciplined for using less offensive language.
"Mr. Bobbitt's professed shock at the saltiness of Chief Boyd's language . . . is a matter of profound disinterest to me," Miller wrote. "Profanity is not a violation of the criminal law and it is a matter with which this office cannot be concerned. It is difficult for me to believe that experienced police officers can profess shock and dismay at mild profanity and do so with a straight face."
Bobbitt responded: "First of all, nobody including me ever asked Ed Miller to investigate the use of profanity. It is shocking that Ed Miller would consider (the obscenity) mild. I certainly make no apology for being shocked that a chief of police in Coronado would say that and the city manager wouldn't be concerned about it.
"The sad thing is that Ed Miller has never talked to the POA or me or asked what our concerns are. To this point, he doesn't even know."
Boyd said his use of obscenities was necessary to get Zimmerman's attention.
"Sometimes you have to tailor your language to what your clientele understands," he said.
Miller also refused to investigate an allegation that Boyd improperly took a police videocassette recorder to his residence and replaced it with his personal VCR. Boyd was using the equipment to work on a video hookup between a county disaster control center and potential disaster sites.
"In order for my office to begin a criminal investigation, there must be some rational basis for belief that Chief Boyd may have taken the city property for an illegal purpose. . . . I see no evidence of that," Miller concluded.
Boyd said he was "disappointed and hurt" that there would be "such a presumption of guilt" among his top two commanders, Bob Hutton and Bob Paseman, who went directly to the city manager when they learned that Boyd had replaced the police VCR with his personal machine.
"The allegations were never put in writing," Boyd said. "Frankly, nobody had the guts to do that."