News - June 10, 2009

Atherton police officer exonerated in 'theft'

by Andrea Gemmet

There is "no foundation" for an allegation of theft against an Atherton police officer, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Officer Dave Metzger was accused of stealing from the Atherton Police Officers Association, triggering an investigation by the DA's office. The accusation turned out to be baseless, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told The Almanac.

"There are times when I say that there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute," Mr. Wagstaffe said. "In this case, we determined that there was no basis for it."

What it came down to was a small item of furniture that was thought to be missing, he said.

"It was simply confusion over what was to be done with this small piece of furniture," Mr. Wagstaffe said.

The case was automatically referred to the DA's office because police departments can't investigate cases that involve their own officers, for obvious reasons.

"With law-enforcement agencies, we have a strict policy that we expect departments to follow. Then no one can reasonably claim a cover-up," said Mr. Wagstaffe.


Posted by wondering, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 9, 2009 at 4:14 pm

If there is "no merit" to this accusation, then why is the officer still on paid administrative leave where he has been continuously for the past 2 and a half months? Would the administration like to answer this?

Posted by Hmmmm, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 10, 2009 at 12:24 am

I agree with Mr. Wagstaffe's comment about police agencies not being permitted to investigate cases involving their own officers, for obvious reasons.

Why then is a police agency, and Atherton is an example of one, permitted to investigate its own citizen's complaints?

The truth of the mater is, though, that prosecutors never press charges against police officers unless there is literally a video tape of wrongdoing. There was one in the Oakland BART shooting, and another in Atherton's own police theft of a resident's golf clubs (that video being of the officer turning in the clubs to be sold at a golf store). Short of that, they turn a blind eye. The optimist would say it's all part of upholding a law and order society, which would be undermined by prosecuting police officers. The pessimist would say someone like Mr. Wagstaffe wants and expects endorsements of police unions and police chiefs as part of his political career. Because of this, his statement about the charges being baseless could well be true, but not necessarily. If you don't believe this, talk with some of the people Mr. Wagstaffe has prosecuted who also have their own explanations of why it was a misunderstanding or confusion over something small.

Posted by taxpaying citizen, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Regarding the first comment, how do you know when someone is on paid leave, is that public knowledge, aren't these personnel issues?

Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I am curious why the department has allowed a sexual harasser to work in the city when the case is being criminally prosecuted but this officer is on paid leave for something that has "No foundation" and was "Exonerated"
Put him back to work and fire the other guy.....cities pay millions each year for much less cases of sexual harassment but Atherton apparently doesn't stand behind the federal laws and regulations it is required to uphold.

Posted by Shocked Resident, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 10, 2009 at 9:53 pm

How does the Mercury News not pick this up or the San Francisco Chronicle? Sounds like we are entering into the Steve Cader years again.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.