Undersheriff feels reverberations from SF police brouhaha | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Undersheriff feels reverberations from SF police brouhaha

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

It didn’t surprise Fred Kollar, a former San Francisco police officer, that his ex-partner came forward with news of alleged wrongdoing in the San Francisco Police Department.

Recently promoted to undersheriff of El Dorado County, Kollar recounted his days with Joe Dutto, the SFPD lieutenant who cried foul when his bosses took him off an investigation involving three off-duty officers and a brawl over steak fajitas.

Dutto being removed from the case was the spark that led a San Francisco grand jury to indict the chief of police and six other top officers on obstruction of justice charges following the Nov. 20 incident.

“I remember Joe being, not outspoken, but if something was wrong he’d let you know,” said Kollar, who described himself as more flexible. “If you broke the law, you go to jail. You run a red light, you get a ticket.”

The two went to the police academy together and wound up in the same patrol car when they joined the metropolitan department in 1975. The department now has about 2,200 officers. Their beat was in the center of town, near Divisadero and McAllister streets.

Kollar was 21-years-old, college educated and fresh out the academy. Dutto was equally green, also college educated but older, and had a stint in the military.

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For about 16 months the two shared a patrol car eight hours a day. Dutto attended Kollar’s wedding in 1977.

Kollar remembered how his partner would spot the license plate of a passing vehicle by using the rearview mirror. Dutto would compare the license plate to the hot sheet — a list of stolen cars or vehicles used in a crime and their descriptions.

“He had the unique ability to do that,” Kollar said. “Even at night.”

Kollar left the department in 1980 when he moved to El Dorado County for a quality-of-life change. He now lives in South Lake Tahoe, commutes to Placerville and is in charge of a multimillion-dollar budget and more than 200 employees.

Dutto came up through the ranks as well and headed the investigation into the now-famous brawl and following events that created a political stir in the nation’s most liberal city.

Gary Lacy, El Dorado County’s district attorney since 1994, said if a crime was committed by law enforcement in his jurisdiction, he would not hesitate to take action.

“The majority in law enforcement are good people,” Lacy said. “They don’t mind us going after people who abuse the trust and oath of office.”

Lacy recalled a sheriff’s deputy being prosecuted for a DUI charge. A couple of years ago, he headed a case where a deputy falsified a burglary report.

Although he couldn’t remember using a grand jury to go after law enforcement, Lacy said the selected citizen panel is useful for a variety of reasons, mostly for its subpoena power.

If a prosecutor needs information from a tight-lipped witness, a grand jury can issue a subpoena which would force the person to talk under most circumstances. If a case has several suspects and each has an attorney, a grand jury can indict the suspects while avoiding a complicated preliminary hearing.

If a prosecutor believes crucial evidence exists but can’t prove it, a grand jury can use its powers to investigate.

The relationship between prosecutors and the law at South Lake Tahoe is observed as professional, but friendly. Every Tuesday morning, representatives from the district attorney’s office and surrounding law enforcement agencies, including Douglas County Sheriff’s Department and South Shore’s drug enforcement team, meet to discuss area crime and regional issues. It’s a way to touch base and see colleagues face-to-face, said SLTPD Sgt. Marty Hale.

Kollar said a scandal like what San Francisco is currently experiencing would devastate places like Tahoe and El Dorado County.

People expect things in big cities, Kollar said.

South Lake Tahoe has created its share of national headlines. In the late 1980s, it was rocked by the arrest of the mayor and 20 others on a slew of charges centered around a cocaine ring. It involved the FBI, DEA and U.S. Customs along with all South Shore law enforcement agencies. But nothing in recent memory can come close to a basin law enforcement scandal on the scale of SFPD’s.

Kollar used the SFPD indictments several times last week as an example to remind officers to follow procedures down to the smallest detail.

He wouldn’t provide his opinion on his old employer’s current events, except “anytime the chief is indicted, you have to be surprised.” As for Dutto, Kollar can keep loose tabs on him by paying attention to Bay Area media. Besides the indictments, Kollar remembered one article which had Dutto hiding in a tree and jumping on surprised drug dealers.

“I could envision that,” Kollar said.

And when the questions regarding the indictments’ effects are answered, Kollar guessed his former partner will not be receiving a promotion anytime soon.

“His career (with the department) is in effect over and he knows it,” he said.

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com