Baldwin Park School Police Chief's Employment Uncertain

The employment status of the chief of the Baldwin Park Unified School District Police Department was unclear Wednesday, after the district announced it had appointed an acting chief but declined to answer questions about chief Jill M. Poe, who was placed on leave last month amidst an administrative investigation.

"Baldwin Park Unified School District has named Carl Miedema as its acting school police chief, effective Nov. 13," Superintendent Froilan N. Mendoza told NBCLA in a written statement.

"A graduate of the Orange County Sheriff's Academy, Miedema was hired by the District in 1989 and promoted to sergeant in 2013-14. BPUSD school police serve an integral role in securing our schools and supporting the safety and well-being of our students. Baldwin Park Unified places the highest priority on the safety and security of our students and staff," the statement said.

The BPUSD's Board of Education met in closed session Tuesday to discuss the chief's position, according to the meeting agenda. A spokesperson for the superintendent said Poe was placed on administrative leave in October. She had served as the school district's police chief since 2014.

The leave was announced after a community activist and blogger posted documents that appeared to show Poe had once been convicted of a felony and had been fired from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Poe filed a lawsuit last week against the district and members of the board, alleging she was actually the victim of discrimination, a hostile work environment, and workplace retaliation. 

Poe said in a complaint she was targeted and defamed by the district, in part, because of her sexual orientation and despite what she characterized as her,
"exemplary," work history. Poe said in the complaint that she was being treated unfairly, and accused the district of ignoring criminal accusations made against two other current or former officers.

Court and prosecution records obtained by NBCLA mirrored the information first revealed by the blogger. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office confirmed Poe pleaded no contest, which is legally similar to guilty, to a felony insurance fraud charge in June, 2000. At the time she was an LAPD officer assigned to the West Valley station in Reseda.

The records show Poe was accused of falsely claiming her Toyota 4-Runner had been stolen, and later, accepting an insurance payment as compensation. Poe was sentenced to 2 years, 6 months in prison but the sentence was suspended and she was placed on 3 years probation.

After completing 2 years of probation Poe was allowed to withdraw her felony plea and enter a new plea to a reduced misdemeanor charge of grand theft, according to the DA’s Office. A year later the court granted Poe’s request to have the entire case dismissed.

Around the same time Poe also challenged her termination from the LAPD by suing the City in civil court, and records from that case show the LAPD had filed more than a dozen administrative charges in support of the termination, including allegations of sexual harassment of another officer. That lawsuit was dismissed.

The revelations about her work history were first posted on a blog entitled, "The Legal Lens," which is written by a self-described anti-corruption activist who's also a Baldwin Park resident and attorney. "Legal Lens" author Paul Cook said California law specifically prohibits anyone with a felony conviction from becoming a police officer, even if that conviction is later reduced or dismissed.

"The California government code says if you've been convicted of a felony you can't be a peace officer, let alone the chief," Cook said.

Poe's lawsuit characterized Cook's intention to publicly reveal the past felony case as an extortion attempt, and said LA County District Attorney's Office investigators had told Poe that Cook would face criminal charges.

The DA's Office confirmed Wednesday it had, in fact, taken a complaint about Cook and was still considering whether or not to file criminal charges.

At Tuesday's board of education meeting a Baldwin Park resident also served the board with a lawsuit that alleged the district had failed to comply with the California Public Records Act.

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