Court Decides L.A. County Sheriff Can’t Fire Drug Trafficking Narcotics Detective

Despite the evidence against a Los Angeles County narcotics detective, an appeals court panel decided this week that the sheriff’s department is not allowed to fire him.

Following months of investigating after a tip that Carlos Arellano was fraternizing with criminals, the department accused him of being involved with a drug-trafficking organization, cultivating marijuana plants, and discussing drug payments in phone conversations that fellow detectives overheard on a wiretap, reported The Los Angeles Times.

The initial tip came in 2009, and Arellano was finally fired in 2011. Unfortunately, an appeals court panel decided this week that the officer must keep his job because the law does not allow the department to use evidence from the wiretap in a disciplinary hearing.

The panel is not saying he is innocent, they are just saying that the law states he cannot be fired with evidence gathered from a wiretap.

Arellano’s attorney, Elizabeth Gibbons, applauded the decision, claiming his client was not the person on the wiretap.

The deputy is on paid administrative leave, and was paid $130,000 last year in salary and other compensation.

Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said the department is considering appealing to the California Supreme Court.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Sheriff Jim McDonnell has had difficulties firing deputies like Arellano. The legal system keeps stepping in to make sure the corrupt cops get to keep their jobs and huge paychecks.

The Arellano criminal investigation started in 2009 when a narcotics team investigating a known drug dealer had obtained a judge’s approval for several wiretaps during an inquiry focusing on drug activity at the El Dorado restaurant in Palmdale. On an intercepted call, a person identified by investigators as Arellano spoke about obtaining cloned marijuana plants and demanded money from the restaurant’s owner, who was a suspected drug distributor, reported The Times.

The wiretaps confirmed the deputy was involved with a drug-trafficking organization, obtained marijuana plants from the organization, and maintained relationships with criminals and known narcotics traffickers.

The criminal investigation ended in 2010, with no criminal charges because, “Under California law, conversations caught on a wiretap cannot be used to prosecute someone solely for marijuana activity.”

After the evidence was suppressed, it no longer mattered that Arellano violated department policies relating to fraternizing with criminals, obstructing an investigation, and making false statements.

Arellano was given a 5 day suspension without pay for using another deputy’s password to access a database that contains confidential information about suspects and fugitives.