California police chief fired over stolen gun scandal

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2015 1:15 PM

KENSINGTON, Calif. (AP) — A small California town has fired its police chief over his handling of an investigation into a sergeant accused of having his gun, badge and handcuffs stolen by a prostitute at a Nevada hotel.

The dismissal came after incensed residents denounced the chief's handling of the case in the community north of Oakland.

The governing board of Kensington announced Monday that it was ending contract negotiations with 59-year-old Chief Greg Harman, the Oakland Tribune reported (http://bayareane.ws/1MtH7xu ).

Harman's last day on the job is set to be May 31. He didn't immediately respond to a call and email from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday.

Many residents criticized Harman after the newspaper reported nine days ago that a prostitute stole Sgt. Keith Barrow's gun, badge, ammunition and handcuffs from a Reno hotel room as Barrow slept. Barrow's attorney, Justin Buffington has said his client may have been drugged.

The weapon was recovered the next day when the prostitute's pimp shot himself in the leg during a pawnshop altercation.

Residents were upset that Harman left Barrow on active duty while the incident was investigated for nearly eight months, saying he found Barrow not to be a threat.

Barrow wasn't placed on leave earlier this month after the theft was revealed publicly. He'll serve a suspension.

The wealthy town of 5,000 people is governed by a five-member board with Harman at its helm. Public records show Harman was paid $262,000 in cash and benefits to supervise nine officers and also serve as general manager of the unincorporated town's services and police protection district.

The board is also dealing with a federal civil rights lawsuit naming Barrow as a defendant in the case alleging improper conduct by a drug enforcement task force several years ago.

The suit alleges that Barrow was one of several officers who acted improperly during the raid of a store in Marin County in September, violating the civil rights of its owner while either stealing or causing to be stolen $5,500 in cash, as well as jewelry and other items, according to a copy of the suit obtained by the Tribune.

The suit names a regional police cooperative, the West Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, known as WestNET, to which Kensington contributes both funding and Barrow's participation, as well as Barrow and several other officers individually.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in September but does not list an attorney for Barrow. Deputy Attorney General John Devine, who is representing WestNET, did not immediately respond to an email from the AP seeking comment.

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Information from: The Oakland Tribune, http://www.oaklandtribune.com