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Neglect of Duty

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In the agricultural town of Salinas, California, police Officer William Yetter repeatedly makes mistakes. First there’s a stolen bike he doesn’t investigate. Then, his bosses discover he’s not filing police reports on time.

Police get a call from a mother whose 14-year-old daughter hasn’t returned home from school.

Meanwhile, Yetter comes across a car parked in a public area. The windows are fogged with steam. When the officer gets a look inside the vehicle, he finds a 23-year-old man without his shirt on and a girl with disheveled clothing.

It’s the missing 14-year-old.

Yetter doesn’t write a report, investigate or arrest the 23-year-old man. He is allowed to leave, and another officer brings the girl home.


Two years later, something similar happens to the girl’s younger sister. She’s in seventh grade when she’s exploited by an older man. Police miss opportunities to intervene until she is taken across the border into Mexico.

In this episode, we look at the steps the department took to investigate Yetter’s alleged misconduct and the investigative steps that were missed along the way.

Follow On Our Watch on SpotifyAppleNPR One or your favorite podcast app. This podcast is produced as part of the California Reporting Project, a coalition of news organizations in California.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit npr.org

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