A video of a Desert Hot Springs Police officer extremely close to a man and yelling in his face went viral. While some on social media said they wanted to know what led up to the confrontation, others wanted the officer dismissed immediately.
Five days after the incident, DHS Police Chief Dale Mondary says the officer is no longer employed with the department.
“Because of POBAR and the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, I can’t really comment any further other than to say that he’s just no longer working with our agency,” he said.
However, Chief Mondary does say he knew about the video before it made the social media rounds, “I have literally been sick to my stomach since Saturday. And I was made aware of this long before it ever went viral, because we try to stay on top of things… so we were already involved in this long before.”
He went on to say, that he didn’t like what he saw, “what I saw on video you know I was disappointed in the officer’s actions; we don’t want to talk to any of our citizens in that manner.”
Chief Mondary says the officer, who has been with the department since September 2017, is a former U.S. Marine, but would not comment on whether or not the officer has been disciplined before for similar conduct.
Also, according to Chief Mondary, speculation that this confrontation was based on race is incorrect.
“This incident has zero to do with race and while it may appear he, in fact, is a white male, he himself is a Hispanic male, that officer does not have a racist bone in his body and he has never, ever exhibited any sort of racial bias the entire time that he’s been employed here,” Mondary said.
Since the video has made rounds on social media, the chief says the officer’s life has been threatened, “The officer even got death threats which is just completely uncalled for, but the support of the community knowing that we would do the right thing that means a lot to us and our reputation. We do have to continue to maintain that public trust.”
He says the officers were responding to a disturbance, and there was some confusion on how the man in the video was involved.
KMIR also asked about the allegations of the other officers covering their body cameras. Mondary says they looked into the allegations, and footage shows they did not cover the cameras. The officers were holding the body camera, but the view was not obstructed.
Chief Mondary does want to make it clear that the officer did not break the law, “I want to emphasize that as strong as I can, that officer did not commit any crime at all. He did not violate that individual’s rights in any shape, fashion form that was a lawful contact, it was a lawful arrest based on probable cause.”
Mondary says the support from local residents who put their trust in him to do the right thing means a lot, and says this has been traumatic on the entire department and is healing.
Chief Mondary says the community’s trust matters, “We are not perfect and we are going to make mistakes … but we do want to do the very best job that we can … and we do want the community to have faith in us.”
The man in the video was detained, but was also released on the scene when he and the other party involved in the disturbance declined to press charges. However, the disturbance incident has since been handed over to the Riverside District Attorney’s Office since one of them was hit with the beer bottle during the altercation.