El Monte, CA – The El Monte police detective named 2020 Officer of the Year by his union hadn’t worked a single day that year due to having been placed on administrative leave for allegedly dragging his feet on a child abuse case.
El Monte Police Sergeant Jimmie Pitts sent out an email to the El Monte City Council one night prior to the awards ceremony, telling them he believed the reason El Monte Police Detective Carlos Molina was selected for the award wasn’t actually to showcase the merits of his work, the Associated Press reported.
“I feel (Molina) received the votes as a joke or a way to send a message of dissatisfaction,” Sgt. Pitts wrote in the email.
He further asked for the award to be removed from the city council’s agenda, warning that it would end up being a “disservice to the members of the [El Monte Police Officers Association] EMPOA, the City Council and city residents if the awards ceremony moved forward,” according to the Associated Press.
“If the public or media learned that the City Council publicly recognized a police officer who did not work a single day in 2020, but was paid his full salary for the entire year, it could bring unneeded negative attention to our EMPOA, City and Police Department,” the sergeant wrote.
The city went ahead with the ceremony anyway.
Det. Molina was placed on paid administrative leave in September of 2019 and remained there for the entirety of 2020, The Mercury News reported.
He returned to duty in April, but was reassigned as a patrol officer.
Sources said the administrative investigation is still pending arbitration, The Mercury News reported.
The probe was launched after Det. Molina allegedly spent an entire year working on a child abuse investigation without any notable results, according to the paper.
The 21-year department veteran also charged the city over $4,400 in overtime pay during that same period.
The case involved then-23-month-old Britalin Vasquez, who suffered multiple bone fractures and burns, allegedly at the hands of her stepfather, Oswaldo Eduardo Chan, and her mother, Donica Vasquez, The Mercury News reported.
Det. Molina opened the case on Oct. 24, 2018.
It was pulled from him on Oct. 1, 2019, and handed to another detective who wrapped it up in 44 days, The Mercury News reported.
The case was passed on to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which filed felony child abuse charges against Vasquez and Chan.
A total of 10 EMPOA members voted to make Det. Molina the 2020 Officer of the Year, which is intended to honor officers who exhibit “exemplary service,” The Mercury News reported.
Among those who voted in favor of the detective were four members of the union’s seven-member board.
El Monte City Councilman Martin Herrera said he believes the police union voted in favor of Det. Molina as pushback to the city council and the police chief.
“(Molina) did not perform anything in 2020, so how does he get awarded when there were other deserving officers?” Herrera asked The Mercury News. “I think it’s an affront to the city administration and to the council itself. I think the board is being antagonistic, just to be contrary to the city manager and police chief. Why else would they do something like this?”
The members of the EMPOA board and the union attorney, Kimberly Riley, did not respond to multiple requests for comment, The Mercury News reported.
El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso and Det. Molina also did not respond, according to the news outlet.