Police Officer’s Falsified Report Leads to Drawn Out Legal Ordeal for Local Resident

On March 7, 2005, police were called out to the Shasta Point Retirement Apartments in Davis on a report of children allegedly left unattended in a vehicle in the parking lot. According to the police report a witness saw two juveniles, ages five and two years old, in a vehicle alone at noon. Nearly an hour later, the witness reported that both juveniles were still in and about this vehicle unsupervised.

Sgt. Delaini arrived on the scene just after 1:00 pm and contacted the mother of the juveniles, Bernita Toney. According to the police report, Ms. Toney told the police a woman who was with a dog had been asked to watch her children. The police would apparently talk to the wrong woman with a dog.

According to Ms. Toney, when Sgt. Delaini arrived at the scene she was kneeled down in the front seat on the passenger side. She stated that when Sgt. Delaini

“looked at the kids his words were they look fine, don’t look like they have been harmed in any way. He went on… They look healthy, not endangered.”

Ms. Toney later wrote,

“I did not leave the children unattended and the first officer on the scene did not find the children unattended.”

It was the next police officer on the scene, Officer Docken, who wrote the report and eventually filed it with the DA when a warrant was issued for the arrest of Ms. Toney for failure to care for her children. The Yolo County District Attorney’s office would charge Ms. Toney with two misdemeanor counts of a

“violation of Section 273a(b) of the California Penal Code, Abusing or Endangering Health of a Child, in that [she] did willfully and unlawfully, under circumstances other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, cause or permit a child to suffer, and inflict thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, and, having the care or custody of said child willfully cause and permit the person and health of said child to be injured, and did permit said child to be placed in a situation that its person and health was endangered.”

According to Officer Docken’s report, the “lady with the dog” was Ms. Burke.

“Witness Burke’s statement: Burke went out the front of the building to walk her dog. She saw two little children in the car parked in front of the building. The rear passenger door was open. She heard crying. She approached the children. The older child shut the door. Burke tried to talk to the children, but they would not talk to her. She was outside for about a minute, before she returned to the lobby. She was in the lobby for about ten minutes before the police arrived…. Burke believes that the children’s mother is a single parent who probably cannot afford to hire someone to watch her children. Burke did not want to see the mother punished.”

This is a key statement as we will later see, for Ms. Burke would testify under oath that she never gave a statement to any officer, investigator, etc. Moreover as Ms. Toney said, “This was not the person I left watching my children.”

The District Attorney’s office offered Ms. Toney diversion and under advice of her public defender, Ms. Toney who believed herself innocent, decided to take diversion. However, in the course of filling out the paperwork, she was required to make statements that she believed cast her within the light of being guilty. She could not in good conscience fill out this paperwork. “Upon receipt of the packet, I found that the questions in the material were impossible to answer. Contents included questions like, where did you commit your crime. The logical option was to retroactively reject the District Attorney’s offer.” And so against the advice of counsel, Ms. Toney rejected the diversion offer and opted to have her day in court in front of a jury.

In the meantime, Ms. Toney filed a complaint against the police for falsifying the police report: “Officer #29 wrote and submitted a police report (05-01347) that contained false information.” She then added,

“I feel this police report was purposely misconstrued to convince members of [the] DA’s office they would have probable cause for my arrest. Probable cause must be based on facts. The fact is, if the report would have been a reflection of the truth there would not [have been] probable cause for my arrest. She was informed that I had [a] witness. She did not give a good faith effort to contact my witness.”

On October 9, 2006 Sgt. Gina Anderson who headed the Professional Standards Unit (until her transfer to Citrus Heights Police Department), sent Ms. Toney a letter.

“I personally viewed your complaint with the Interim Chief of Police, who makes the final decision in all matters of this nature. Your complaint alleging dishonesty has been classified as UNFOUNDED. However, during the course of this investigation I found your criminal case was not sufficiently investigated and therefore a violation of our rules and regulations for which there was a finding of SUSTAINED.”

In fact, Ms. Burke would tell investigators for the public defenders office and later testify on the stand that the report was false.

According to the report,

“Mrs. Burke was asked if she was talked to by an officer from Davis Police Department. Mrs. Burke replied she was not. Mrs. Burke stated she never talked to any officer about the incident.”

Ms. Burke was then read the statement in the police report from Officer Docken.

“Mrs. Burke stated the statement is a fabrication. Mrs. Burke stated the car door was not open, the children were not crying and she returned to her residence, not the lobby.”

Mrs. Burke then suggested that she

“believes [front desk employee of Apartment complex who phoned the police in the first place] may have told the police officer this information. Mrs. Burke stated [she] assumed all of this and blew everything up.”

Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hayes reportedly wanted to drop the case but was told by her superiors that she had to get the conviction and therefore could not drop this case. We saw similar complaints against Ms. Hayes in the Khalid Berny case where a resident was prosecuted for an offense that was relatively minor and threatened with long imprisonment. This represents a pattern of complaints against the Yolo County District Attorney’s office and their refusal to stop prosecuting cases that lack strong evidentiary support.

Ms. Toney went to trial a few weeks ago and the jury took less than an hour and a half to acquit her of the misdemeanor charges. This is an example of a very unfortunate incident highlighted not only by poor police work and a fabricated police report, but by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office’s overzealous prosecution of all offenses regardless of their lack of sound basis and evidence. The Yolo County District Attorney’s office steadfastly refuses to drop any case and orders their deputy district attorney’s to proceed in an attempt for a conviction often against their better judgment.

According to many people in the system the police report is a key determination of which cases go to trial and which ones do not. In this case, the falsified report led the Yolo County District Attorney’s office to file charges against Ms. Toney and they would have succeeded based on the recommendations of the public defender’s office who recommended to Ms. Toney that she take diversion.

Others have informed me that in other locales, the District Attorney’s office is much more vigilant in overseeing the production of police reports and frequently bounce them back to the police to fill in missing information and to get them right. However, in Yolo County, the District Attorney’s office NEVER bounces them back to the police. This leads police to often cut corners in their investigation.

When they deal with lower income people and minorities such as Ms. Toney they usually get away with it because they are rarely challenged, since they lack the financial resources to contest such charges.

The other concern here is how Sgt. Gina Anderson came up with an unfounded complaint when the witness herself denied she was ever contacted by Officer Docken. Did Sgt. Anderson contact this witness? And if so, how did she arrive at the conclusion that this was unfounded?

What is perhaps more tragic is that this case went on for nearly two years. Because this situation was ongoing, Ms. Toney was unable to complete her certification to become a manicurist and her testing to get her realtor’s license. This gravely impacted her economic situation as a single mother – with two small children and two older children – who was working hard to make a better life for her family. The ongoing legal situation cost her two years worth of lost wages and income.

This case illustrates the continuing problems with both the Davis Police Department and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Law Enforcement

76 comments

  1. I hope Ms. Toney files a lawsuit against the City of Davis and Yolo County. It is apparent, she can show real economic loss and the cause of her loss was directly related to a faulty police report.
    I honestly think this goes beyond simply making errors in reports – the errors are intentional fabrications. I also honestly think there are officers within the Davis Police Department who train each other on how to fabricate reports. I sure this happens in many juristictions, so DPD is not alone. However, I find the practice to be abhorent. When regular citizens walk into court and are caught lying, they go to jail for perjury. Nothing happens to police officers who fabricate reports – they just pass it off as a mistake.
    I wonder who was supervising Officer Docken? I also wonder why no one bothered to compare the two police reports (one by Docken and one by Delaini) and try to reconcile the contradictions, prior to filing charges. I also wonder who was supervising Ms. Hayes in the DA’s office? SAH

  2. I hope Ms. Toney files a lawsuit against the City of Davis and Yolo County. It is apparent, she can show real economic loss and the cause of her loss was directly related to a faulty police report.
    I honestly think this goes beyond simply making errors in reports – the errors are intentional fabrications. I also honestly think there are officers within the Davis Police Department who train each other on how to fabricate reports. I sure this happens in many juristictions, so DPD is not alone. However, I find the practice to be abhorent. When regular citizens walk into court and are caught lying, they go to jail for perjury. Nothing happens to police officers who fabricate reports – they just pass it off as a mistake.
    I wonder who was supervising Officer Docken? I also wonder why no one bothered to compare the two police reports (one by Docken and one by Delaini) and try to reconcile the contradictions, prior to filing charges. I also wonder who was supervising Ms. Hayes in the DA’s office? SAH

  3. I hope Ms. Toney files a lawsuit against the City of Davis and Yolo County. It is apparent, she can show real economic loss and the cause of her loss was directly related to a faulty police report.
    I honestly think this goes beyond simply making errors in reports – the errors are intentional fabrications. I also honestly think there are officers within the Davis Police Department who train each other on how to fabricate reports. I sure this happens in many juristictions, so DPD is not alone. However, I find the practice to be abhorent. When regular citizens walk into court and are caught lying, they go to jail for perjury. Nothing happens to police officers who fabricate reports – they just pass it off as a mistake.
    I wonder who was supervising Officer Docken? I also wonder why no one bothered to compare the two police reports (one by Docken and one by Delaini) and try to reconcile the contradictions, prior to filing charges. I also wonder who was supervising Ms. Hayes in the DA’s office? SAH

  4. I hope Ms. Toney files a lawsuit against the City of Davis and Yolo County. It is apparent, she can show real economic loss and the cause of her loss was directly related to a faulty police report.
    I honestly think this goes beyond simply making errors in reports – the errors are intentional fabrications. I also honestly think there are officers within the Davis Police Department who train each other on how to fabricate reports. I sure this happens in many juristictions, so DPD is not alone. However, I find the practice to be abhorent. When regular citizens walk into court and are caught lying, they go to jail for perjury. Nothing happens to police officers who fabricate reports – they just pass it off as a mistake.
    I wonder who was supervising Officer Docken? I also wonder why no one bothered to compare the two police reports (one by Docken and one by Delaini) and try to reconcile the contradictions, prior to filing charges. I also wonder who was supervising Ms. Hayes in the DA’s office? SAH

  5. The police and the DA’s office love to hammer away at the working classes. They have a grand batting average when it comes to helpless struggling people. I think Richard made a good suggestion.

  6. The police and the DA’s office love to hammer away at the working classes. They have a grand batting average when it comes to helpless struggling people. I think Richard made a good suggestion.

  7. The police and the DA’s office love to hammer away at the working classes. They have a grand batting average when it comes to helpless struggling people. I think Richard made a good suggestion.

  8. The police and the DA’s office love to hammer away at the working classes. They have a grand batting average when it comes to helpless struggling people. I think Richard made a good suggestion.

  9. Sloppy law enforcement work and the inevitable “circling of the wagons” when it is exposed requires STRONG leadership to cull out incompetence and create an ethos of accountability. The Yolo DA’s office looks Sameo-Sameo. Our new Police Chief Black looks tough enough to do the job for Davis.

  10. Sloppy law enforcement work and the inevitable “circling of the wagons” when it is exposed requires STRONG leadership to cull out incompetence and create an ethos of accountability. The Yolo DA’s office looks Sameo-Sameo. Our new Police Chief Black looks tough enough to do the job for Davis.

  11. Sloppy law enforcement work and the inevitable “circling of the wagons” when it is exposed requires STRONG leadership to cull out incompetence and create an ethos of accountability. The Yolo DA’s office looks Sameo-Sameo. Our new Police Chief Black looks tough enough to do the job for Davis.

  12. Sloppy law enforcement work and the inevitable “circling of the wagons” when it is exposed requires STRONG leadership to cull out incompetence and create an ethos of accountability. The Yolo DA’s office looks Sameo-Sameo. Our new Police Chief Black looks tough enough to do the job for Davis.

  13. Doug warned us last week that it was time to turn up the heat again on this issue.

    If this is the example of the type of heat that is out there, I think the law enforcement community should be very concerned not only about this blog but also about their own conduct.

  14. Doug warned us last week that it was time to turn up the heat again on this issue.

    If this is the example of the type of heat that is out there, I think the law enforcement community should be very concerned not only about this blog but also about their own conduct.

  15. Doug warned us last week that it was time to turn up the heat again on this issue.

    If this is the example of the type of heat that is out there, I think the law enforcement community should be very concerned not only about this blog but also about their own conduct.

  16. Doug warned us last week that it was time to turn up the heat again on this issue.

    If this is the example of the type of heat that is out there, I think the law enforcement community should be very concerned not only about this blog but also about their own conduct.

  17. Ms. Toney went before the HRC and she along with some others with similar complaints were brushed to the side by then City Manager Jim Antonen and former Police Chief Jim Hyde. She even spoke before council and nothing was done.

    Again, another example of how problems could have been prevented from escalating had people (council majority, police chief, city manager) done their jobs and been held accountable.

    What’s really sad is that Gina Anderson is still practicing law enforcement in another city nearby (Citrus Heights I believe). She received a promotion. And, former Chief Jim Hyde went on to another city to be the Chief again getting more money for doing the same type of poor oversight. Where is the accountability?

    Hopefully Chief Black will require accountability instead of excuses.

    One thing for sure is that we need to remember these issues when the next city council election comes up.

  18. Ms. Toney went before the HRC and she along with some others with similar complaints were brushed to the side by then City Manager Jim Antonen and former Police Chief Jim Hyde. She even spoke before council and nothing was done.

    Again, another example of how problems could have been prevented from escalating had people (council majority, police chief, city manager) done their jobs and been held accountable.

    What’s really sad is that Gina Anderson is still practicing law enforcement in another city nearby (Citrus Heights I believe). She received a promotion. And, former Chief Jim Hyde went on to another city to be the Chief again getting more money for doing the same type of poor oversight. Where is the accountability?

    Hopefully Chief Black will require accountability instead of excuses.

    One thing for sure is that we need to remember these issues when the next city council election comes up.

  19. Ms. Toney went before the HRC and she along with some others with similar complaints were brushed to the side by then City Manager Jim Antonen and former Police Chief Jim Hyde. She even spoke before council and nothing was done.

    Again, another example of how problems could have been prevented from escalating had people (council majority, police chief, city manager) done their jobs and been held accountable.

    What’s really sad is that Gina Anderson is still practicing law enforcement in another city nearby (Citrus Heights I believe). She received a promotion. And, former Chief Jim Hyde went on to another city to be the Chief again getting more money for doing the same type of poor oversight. Where is the accountability?

    Hopefully Chief Black will require accountability instead of excuses.

    One thing for sure is that we need to remember these issues when the next city council election comes up.

  20. Ms. Toney went before the HRC and she along with some others with similar complaints were brushed to the side by then City Manager Jim Antonen and former Police Chief Jim Hyde. She even spoke before council and nothing was done.

    Again, another example of how problems could have been prevented from escalating had people (council majority, police chief, city manager) done their jobs and been held accountable.

    What’s really sad is that Gina Anderson is still practicing law enforcement in another city nearby (Citrus Heights I believe). She received a promotion. And, former Chief Jim Hyde went on to another city to be the Chief again getting more money for doing the same type of poor oversight. Where is the accountability?

    Hopefully Chief Black will require accountability instead of excuses.

    One thing for sure is that we need to remember these issues when the next city council election comes up.

  21. “…Sgt. Gina Anderson … sent Ms. Toney a letter: ‘I personally viewed your complaint with the Interim Chief of Police, who makes the final decision in all matters of this nature. Your complaint alleging dishonesty has been classified as UNFOUNDED.'”

    “The other concern here is how Sgt. Anderson came up with an unfounded complaint when the witness herself denied she was ever contacted by Officer Docken. Did Sgt. Anderson contact this witness? And if so, how did she arrive at the conclusion that this was unfounded?”

    This case illustrates well, assuming all the facts are as you present them, how insufficient internal reviews of police misconduct are, and why police oversight by an outside body or investigator is necessary.

    Further, in cases where our ombudsman (or a court, if it comes to a lawsuit) finds that there was police misconduct, but the internal review found no such misconduct, there ought to be a penalty placed on the internal affairs officer who was responsible for conducting an inadequate internal review. As things now stand, the internal affairs officer suffers no consequences for doing a bad job.

    “When they deal with lower income people and minorities such as Ms. Toney they usually get away with it because they are rarely challenged, since they lack the financial resources to contest such charges.”

    I understand the lower income aspect — a lack of resources (even though this case seems to demonstrate the opposite). But what does being a minority have to do with lack of resources? And how narrowly are you defining ‘minority’?

  22. “…Sgt. Gina Anderson … sent Ms. Toney a letter: ‘I personally viewed your complaint with the Interim Chief of Police, who makes the final decision in all matters of this nature. Your complaint alleging dishonesty has been classified as UNFOUNDED.'”

    “The other concern here is how Sgt. Anderson came up with an unfounded complaint when the witness herself denied she was ever contacted by Officer Docken. Did Sgt. Anderson contact this witness? And if so, how did she arrive at the conclusion that this was unfounded?”

    This case illustrates well, assuming all the facts are as you present them, how insufficient internal reviews of police misconduct are, and why police oversight by an outside body or investigator is necessary.

    Further, in cases where our ombudsman (or a court, if it comes to a lawsuit) finds that there was police misconduct, but the internal review found no such misconduct, there ought to be a penalty placed on the internal affairs officer who was responsible for conducting an inadequate internal review. As things now stand, the internal affairs officer suffers no consequences for doing a bad job.

    “When they deal with lower income people and minorities such as Ms. Toney they usually get away with it because they are rarely challenged, since they lack the financial resources to contest such charges.”

    I understand the lower income aspect — a lack of resources (even though this case seems to demonstrate the opposite). But what does being a minority have to do with lack of resources? And how narrowly are you defining ‘minority’?

  23. “…Sgt. Gina Anderson … sent Ms. Toney a letter: ‘I personally viewed your complaint with the Interim Chief of Police, who makes the final decision in all matters of this nature. Your complaint alleging dishonesty has been classified as UNFOUNDED.'”

    “The other concern here is how Sgt. Anderson came up with an unfounded complaint when the witness herself denied she was ever contacted by Officer Docken. Did Sgt. Anderson contact this witness? And if so, how did she arrive at the conclusion that this was unfounded?”

    This case illustrates well, assuming all the facts are as you present them, how insufficient internal reviews of police misconduct are, and why police oversight by an outside body or investigator is necessary.

    Further, in cases where our ombudsman (or a court, if it comes to a lawsuit) finds that there was police misconduct, but the internal review found no such misconduct, there ought to be a penalty placed on the internal affairs officer who was responsible for conducting an inadequate internal review. As things now stand, the internal affairs officer suffers no consequences for doing a bad job.

    “When they deal with lower income people and minorities such as Ms. Toney they usually get away with it because they are rarely challenged, since they lack the financial resources to contest such charges.”

    I understand the lower income aspect — a lack of resources (even though this case seems to demonstrate the opposite). But what does being a minority have to do with lack of resources? And how narrowly are you defining ‘minority’?

  24. “…Sgt. Gina Anderson … sent Ms. Toney a letter: ‘I personally viewed your complaint with the Interim Chief of Police, who makes the final decision in all matters of this nature. Your complaint alleging dishonesty has been classified as UNFOUNDED.'”

    “The other concern here is how Sgt. Anderson came up with an unfounded complaint when the witness herself denied she was ever contacted by Officer Docken. Did Sgt. Anderson contact this witness? And if so, how did she arrive at the conclusion that this was unfounded?”

    This case illustrates well, assuming all the facts are as you present them, how insufficient internal reviews of police misconduct are, and why police oversight by an outside body or investigator is necessary.

    Further, in cases where our ombudsman (or a court, if it comes to a lawsuit) finds that there was police misconduct, but the internal review found no such misconduct, there ought to be a penalty placed on the internal affairs officer who was responsible for conducting an inadequate internal review. As things now stand, the internal affairs officer suffers no consequences for doing a bad job.

    “When they deal with lower income people and minorities such as Ms. Toney they usually get away with it because they are rarely challenged, since they lack the financial resources to contest such charges.”

    I understand the lower income aspect — a lack of resources (even though this case seems to demonstrate the opposite). But what does being a minority have to do with lack of resources? And how narrowly are you defining ‘minority’?

  25. Rich:

    You raise one of the chief obstacles in police oversight. It goes further than just lack of accountability by the IA, but also by police officers themselves. John Burris in his book highlights numerous cases that went to court with findings against police officers. Often nothing happens to officers who are found to have committed violations. Reports do not even go into their service records, so they end up getting promoted as though nothing had happened.

    We can quibble all day long about the most effective oversight policy, but unless you find a way to deal with police officers and IAs that are not doing their jobs properly, nothing will change.

    As to your other question–statistically speaking African Americans suffer disproportionately even when controlling for income. I suspect, and this is a guess, it is probably because there is a presumption that African Americans are poor and poorly education. And in fact, while Ms. Toney is in a tough financial situation, she also has a degree in engineering from UC davis.

  26. Rich:

    You raise one of the chief obstacles in police oversight. It goes further than just lack of accountability by the IA, but also by police officers themselves. John Burris in his book highlights numerous cases that went to court with findings against police officers. Often nothing happens to officers who are found to have committed violations. Reports do not even go into their service records, so they end up getting promoted as though nothing had happened.

    We can quibble all day long about the most effective oversight policy, but unless you find a way to deal with police officers and IAs that are not doing their jobs properly, nothing will change.

    As to your other question–statistically speaking African Americans suffer disproportionately even when controlling for income. I suspect, and this is a guess, it is probably because there is a presumption that African Americans are poor and poorly education. And in fact, while Ms. Toney is in a tough financial situation, she also has a degree in engineering from UC davis.

  27. Rich:

    You raise one of the chief obstacles in police oversight. It goes further than just lack of accountability by the IA, but also by police officers themselves. John Burris in his book highlights numerous cases that went to court with findings against police officers. Often nothing happens to officers who are found to have committed violations. Reports do not even go into their service records, so they end up getting promoted as though nothing had happened.

    We can quibble all day long about the most effective oversight policy, but unless you find a way to deal with police officers and IAs that are not doing their jobs properly, nothing will change.

    As to your other question–statistically speaking African Americans suffer disproportionately even when controlling for income. I suspect, and this is a guess, it is probably because there is a presumption that African Americans are poor and poorly education. And in fact, while Ms. Toney is in a tough financial situation, she also has a degree in engineering from UC davis.

  28. Rich:

    You raise one of the chief obstacles in police oversight. It goes further than just lack of accountability by the IA, but also by police officers themselves. John Burris in his book highlights numerous cases that went to court with findings against police officers. Often nothing happens to officers who are found to have committed violations. Reports do not even go into their service records, so they end up getting promoted as though nothing had happened.

    We can quibble all day long about the most effective oversight policy, but unless you find a way to deal with police officers and IAs that are not doing their jobs properly, nothing will change.

    As to your other question–statistically speaking African Americans suffer disproportionately even when controlling for income. I suspect, and this is a guess, it is probably because there is a presumption that African Americans are poor and poorly education. And in fact, while Ms. Toney is in a tough financial situation, she also has a degree in engineering from UC davis.

  29. Having served in the US military, I see an analogy with the Davis Police with regard to the difficulty of maintaining an atmosphere of care and due diligence in a non-frontline environment. This may be a situation that can only be addressed by continuous strong leadership and oversight that demands accountibility.