Public Defender Calls for Case Review After Revelation of Walnut Creek Officer's Dishonesty

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A photograph from the disciplinary case file of Walnut Creek police officer Curtis Borman shows syringes and suspected methamphetamine pipes confiscated during a Dec. 6, 2016, traffic stop. Borman also found a bag of Vicodin pills during the stop that was never booked into evidence. (Via Walnut Creek Police Department)

Saying there are serious concerns over the work of a Walnut Creek police officer who filed more than two dozen false reports over two years, the Contra Costa County public defender on Monday said she wants a review of all cases he’s been involved in over his career.

“These are issues that can impact our clients' cases,” Public Defender Robin Lipetzky said, adding she will ask Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton to review all the cases handled by Officer Curtis Borman.

Borman made false entries about evidence in 31 police reports filed in 2015 and 2016, according to more than 860 pages of internal affairs reports by the Walnut Creek Police Department made public late Friday under Senate Bill 1421, the state’s new police transparency law. But Lipetzky said she wants a larger review.

“Once you know that this officer is behaving in this way and falsifying reports and mishandling evidence, (a review’s) not limited to the cases that were discovered," Lipetzky said. “There’s an inference that he was probably doing the same types of things on every case he handled."

Borman joined the force in August 2014.

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District Attorney's Office spokesman Scott Alonso said the DA’s conviction integrity unit is already taking the first steps to undergo an internal review of Borman’s cases.

“We’ll conduct a thorough investigation and see what cases he was involved in that resulted in a conviction,” Alonso said.

Documents show Walnut Creek police told the district attorney’s office about the investigation of Borman in 2017.

The new law requires law enforcement agencies to disclose internal investigatory records on officer-involved shootings, use of force that caused serious injury or death, official dishonesty and sexual assault by police.

Overall, investigators found Borman was dishonest in 35 cases, including one where he told a sergeant he had thrown away a bag of Vicodin pills confiscated during an arrest. But when the sergeant told Borman to go retrieve them, the officer admitted he’d lost the drugs.

In many of the cases, Borman wrote in reports that he’d turned in evidence — mostly photos and videos — when he hadn’t, and in some cases had lost them. But the officer wasn’t fired. Instead, Walnut Creek Police Chief Thomas Chaplin gave him a “last-chance” option in June 2017 of reforming his behavior and suspended him without pay for a month.

Chaplin on Monday said he stands by that decision, and said Borman was humble about his mistakes and has worked hard to overcome them. Chaplin said that any review of Borman’s work since he was nearly fired won’t reveal any wrongdoing.

“I do believe that the decision that I made was based on the fact that he could be a credible officer,” Chaplin said. “I didn’t sugarcoat the deep concern that I had about the behavior.”

Stanford law professor Robert Weisberg said the revelations about Borman could “make it too difficult for him to do this job.” Defense lawyers, he said, will file motions to probe his personnel file for other problems or discipline that could impeach his credibility on the stand.

“They’re going to be saying, ‘We want to see it. We want to see it,'" Weisberg said.

The new transparency law, he added, should prove to be a boon to defense lawyers probing officers’ credibility, especially given California’s tight restrictions on police personnel files.

A landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision requires prosecutors to turn over any evidence tending to show the defendant is not guilty of a crime, including information that may tarnish a police officer's credibility. But nothing in California law requires law enforcement agencies to volunteer information about officer misconduct to prosecutors before officers testify, absent a court order.

But information concerning dishonesty by police officers can now be requested by anyone, Weisberg said, including defense attorneys.

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Nate Gartrell of the Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.

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