Alleged Drug-Running Cop Can’t Be Fired, Court Says

A Los Angeles County narcotics detective accused of participating in a drug running scheme can have his job back, an appellate court ruled last week. Wednesday’s decision dealt another major blow to Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s ongoing efforts to rein in troubled members of the department.

According to the county, wiretap evidence had revealed that the officer, Carlos Arellano, was involved with drug-trafficking “and that he maintained relationships with criminals and known narcotics traffickers.” Because the wiretap audio pertained to a scheme involving marijuana, Arellano could not be criminally prosecuted. Instead, the department used the audio as justification for his firing.

On Wednesday, the court panel ruled that the wiretap evidence could not be used for disciplinary proceedings. In doing so, it concurred with the county’s Civil Service Commission, which had adopted a recommendation for a five-day suspension without pay for misuse of the JDIC law enforcement data system only.

Arellano’s attorney praised Wednesday’s decision, calling the case against her client “an overreaction from the Sheriff’s Department.” Since the Civil Service Commission’s ruling, her client has been on paid administrative leave and earned $130,000 last year. Arellano has maintained that it is not his voice on the tape.

Wednesday’s decision was one of several roadblocks Sheriff Jim McDonnell has encountered in his efforts to overhaul a department beset by years of scandal. Last year, the Civil Service Commission ruled that a deputy convicted of filing a false police report had to be reinstated as well.

Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said the department will consider appealing Wednesday’s ruling before the California Supreme Court.