Update Jan. 22: Officer Stonebarger has been on paid medical leave from the city of Arcata since Aug. 27, Police Chief Tom Chapman said today. The leave has stretched to nearly five months so far, and according to the disciplinary records it began the same day that the officer had been scheduled to meet with the chief about his transfer and loss of speciality pay. Instead, that morning, Stonebarger's lawyer said his client would be responding in writing, because he had sustained an injury the night before.
The nature of the injury was not specified.
Original post: The Lost Coast Outpost reports that Kevin Stonebarger, an Arcata police officer who served briefly in the county's Drug Task Force, has filed a claim against the city of Arcata, alleging that he was defamed and lost his slot as a firearms instructor at College of the Redwoods.
What did that claim of defamation involve?
Stonebarger alleges that someone tipped the college off that he had been disciplined for a Feb. 22, 2012, dispute with a tow truck driver, who had been called to tow the illegally parked vehicle of another task force member.
It was a messy episode, LoCo reports, with allegations of shouting, bullying, flashing badges but then refusing to give a badge number or name, and threatening a candy store owner with arrest because he started recording the thing with his cell phone. (His was the parking space occupied by one of drug enforcers while they were lunching at Eureka's Pho Thien Long.)
The claim, which LoCo says the city of Arcata has denied, was backed up with a fat bunch of documents that apparently have been dragged into what could become a lawsuit. Among them are a Sept. 7, 2012, notice of disciplinary action from Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman to Stonebarger.
It reads in part:
"Asserting your authority as a sworn police officer to order people to stop engaging in perfectly legal conduct was inappropriate and a violation of departmental policy. Furthermore, the manner in which you handled this incident was discourteous, disrespectful, and frankly an embarrassment to the Department. I am shocked to hear that you believe you handled it the ‘best I possibly could.' ..."
The notice also points out that Stonebarger had had previous conversations with the chief about "poor interpersonal skills and judgment" and was only allowed onto the task force under special provisions for additional supervision.