A social media post on the Ceres Police Department's own Facebook page has one unidentified officer in potential hot water.
Michael Lawrence posted a detailed message about watching a uniformed Ceres Police officer in a patrol vehicle driving unsafely on his way to drop off a child at Riverbank's Crossroads Elementary School. The alleged incident occurred at approximately 8:10 a.m. on Aug. 10.
Lawrence said he was stopped in a southbound direction on Saxon Way at a three-way stop at Prospectors Parkway. The school crossing guard blew a whistle to stop traffic for pedestrians at the crosswalk. Most of the vehicles stopped and crossing guards, holding up signs, assisted students in crossing.
"I notice in the north-facing lane a vehicle pull out from the line of stopped cars, drive north in oncoming traffic lanes and through the intersection forcing the school crossing guards to run back to the curb," posted Lawrence. "The vehicle then parked in a clearly-marked Day Care Pickup zone. As the vehicle drove by I saw that it was a Ceres Police Department Ford SUV. I watched the driver, wearing a Ceres PD uniform, exit the vehicle."
He snapped a side-profile photo of the officer and posted it on Facebook, adding "I observed the officer mingling on campus for 10 - 15 minutes."
Lawrence said he is a retired officer and that the officer's actions were "not only dangerous and reckless it shows a real lack of clear decision making."
The handler of the Facebook page added for Lawrence to speak to a Watch Commander regarding his concern.
"The complaint is being looked into, I can say that much," said Ceres Police Department Lt. James Yandell. "I can't go into specifics because employee complaints are personnel issues and they're restricted by law."
The officer in question was not identified.
Yandell thinks it is odd that nobody else complained about the alleged incident, given it was the first day of school.
"I'm not saying it's not true but if that's the case, why weren't our phones blowing up the very day of the incident?" asked Lt. Yandell.
He said anyone can make an allegation on Facebook. The department left the comment on its Facebook page out of the interest in "being open and honest and transparent."
"Unless it's offensive or vulgar, you can post just about anything to our Facebook. We're going to leave it on there because it's the right thing to do even though it may not be true."
Ironically Lawrence's post came two days after Ceres Police Department posted on its Facebook page a friendly reminder "of some basic laws that everyone should follow, such as a prohibition on parking and getting out of a vehicle in a red or load zone and failing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Lawrence said he doubts the officer will be disciplined since there was no way a video could be shot since he was behind the wheel at the time.
Yandell said he rejects the publicly held belief that police agencies shield officers but he said "I could argue that is absolutely not the case." He said the Ceres Police Department has and will continue to discipline officers who violate the law or department policy "but the public, by law, is not privy to that." Progressive discipline can start with a counseling letter to formal letter of reprimand to suspension without pay.
He mentioned that one of Ceres' own officers turned in Chris Melton, who was prosecuted for acts of assault while on-duty.