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California sergeant disciplined for arresting man for being drunk in public in his own garage

After receiving questions from The Sacramento Bee, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office has released records revealing a series of events regarding the discipline of a sergeant who took down and arrested a man in his own garage for being drunk in public.

In February 2020, Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call for family disturbance at a house in Antelope, according to a newly released 588-page disciplinary document. Neither the incident nor the disciplinary records related to the officers involved were previously publicly available.

The Sheriff’s Office posted the records and video regarding Sgt. Brannon Polete’s discipline sometime between Oct. 20 and Nov. 17. The Bee first sent Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Amar Gandhi an email asking why the office was violating a state law by not releasing disciplinary records on Oct. 20.

In addition to this incident, the Sheriff’s Office since Oct. 20 also posted records regarding at least two other incidents. Despite the new releases, there are still roughly 100 incidents where Sacramento Police Department and Sheriff’s Office law enforcement officers shot or severely injured citizens and the agencies have not released internal affairs disciplinary records, a Bee investigation revealed earlier this month. That’s an apparent violation of state law, SB 1421, which passed in 2019, experts say.

Gandhi declined comment for this story other than to say: “The Sheriff’s Office will continue to comply with the law and release information regularly, as required.”

Records from the 2020 incident show that when deputies responded to the Antelope home, they put a man in the back of a deputy vehicle while a woman retrieved her items and left the area.

After letting the man out, he entered the garage, yelling at the deputies near the garage door opening. Polete decided to arrest him for being drunk in public, according to an April 20, 2020, letter from Chet Madison, then a chief deputy.

Records reveal Sheriff’s internal disciplinary process

An investigation began after the homeowner filed a complaint about the incident with the Sheriff’s Office and provided his security camera footage. Asked in an interview with investigators why Polete arrested the man while he was in his own garage, he said he believed case law showed the garage door opening was a “public place.”

“He is now proving to me that he cannot maintain himself at home and that his level of intoxication was to a degree that he needed to go to jail,” Polete told investigators in 2020.

But footage shows the man did not try to leave the garage, Madison wrote in the April 20, 2020, letter.

On the recording, Polete can be heard saying phrases such as “Say you’re f------sorry,” “You are sorry motherf-----” and “You’re a drunk little f---,” Madison wrote.

“Sgt. Polete’s comments are outright wrong, disparaging, unprofessional, and humiliating,” wrote Madison, who has since taken a job as chief of police for Sacramento State. “It’s unimaginable any member of our organization would make a person who is being detained say “I’m sorry,” let alone a Sheriff’s sergeant who is a first line supervisor.”

After the man was handcuffed, Polete applied “pressure to the area of left ear,” the letter stated.

“This action alone served absolutely no purpose and hovers near criminal behavior,” Madison wrote.

Madison recommended Polete be terminated.

Another unnamed deputy on the call said, ‘give me your hands motherf-----,” Madison wrote, then later fist bumped Polete. He unplugged the camera in the garage, his most “egregious action,” the letter stated.

Madison recommended that deputy receive a 20-hour suspension without pay and be transferred to corrections for two years and removed from an explosive ordinance detail. The released documents do not include this officers name or whether these recommendations were followed.

Another unnamed deputy turned off his belt microphone just as Polete “began to make atrocious comments,” Madison wrote. Madison recommended that deputy be terminated. No further information about this deputy was released. The alleged actions of the two unnamed deputies does not fall under a state law that requires law enforcement agencies to release records because they did not involve shooting, causing serious injury, dishonesty, sex assault or discrimination.

How sergeant avoided termination

Polete, a member of the Sheriff’s deputy union, appealed Madison’s recommended termination, and the following month, in May 2020, a so-called Skelly hearing was held before then-Undersheriff Erik Maness. Polete was represented by the Mastagni Law Firm, which often represents police officers facing discipline.

“Polete advised he would be turning 50 in July and would like to be marketable after retirement,” Maness wrote in a memo on May 8, 2020. “He asked again for forgiveness and requested a second chance to retire in good standing with the Sheriff’s Office.”

In the memo, Manessstated that he believed Polete’s actions were not severe enough to warrant being fired and he should instead receive “a severe sanction” that showed his behavior was out of line.

After the hearing, Maness recommended Polete not be fired, but instead serve a 160-hour unpaid suspension, be demoted to a deputy, and transferred to work in one of the county’s two jails for at least two years as punishment. Then-Sheriff Scott Jones approved that discipline.

Polete did not immediately return a message seeking comment for this story.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Gandhi did not answer whether Polete is still a sheriff’s deputy.