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Alleged Problem Cops Leave BPD

By Judith Scherr
Friday March 02, 2007

Two problem cops, apparently friends, have left the Berkeley Police Department. 

Officers Steven Fleming and Sean Derry, both 30 years old, were put on paid administrative leave in August, before leaving the department, having allegedly committed very different offenses, according to Chief Doug Hambleton, interviewed by the Planet on Tuesday.  

Records detailing the Berkeley police investigation show at least five cases in which investigators suspected that Fleming might have stolen money or other property belonging to people he either arrested or booked into the Berkeley jail. However Assistant Alameda County District Attorney Marty Brown told the Planet he declined to prosecute the case because the evidence wasn’t strong enough to get a conviction. 

Derry was arrested Aug. 12 by San Francisco police, accused of discharging his service revolver while drunk in his San Francisco home. His case is expected to come to court in San Francisco in the near future. Harry Stern, Derry’s attorney, did not return Planet calls for comment. 

Hambleton, who called on the California Department of Justice to assist in the investigation, put Fleming on paid administrative leave in August.  

“We interviewed as many people that he had arrested as we could over the past six months. Several people had credible stories,” Hambleton said. Investigators went back only six months because Fleming had been off duty for a period before that time, Hambleton said without elaborating. 

A three-inch police report details the investigation. Fleming arrested one of his alleged victims Feb. 2 on an outstanding warrant. In an August interview with the arrestee, the police report says the individual was booked into jail after signing a property receipt form, without reading the form. He told investigators that after being taken to Santa Rita Jail, he looked at the receipt and saw it did not reflect the sum he had when arrested. 

“He said he did not tell anyone, because he simply wanted to let it go,” the investigator’s report said. The arrestee was leaving town “and did not want to be bothered by the incident.” 

Another incident involved a person Fleming arrested for vandalism on March 23, who told investigators he had a $100 gift card when arrested; the card was not recorded on the property receipt. Another person Fleming arrested on a DUI claimed his belongings lacked a silver earring when his property was returned to him on his release.  

Another arrestee said Fleming had him stand with his back to him as he was searched. Fleming removed the man’s wallet from his back pocket. The arrestee said there had been $170 in his wallet, but when asked, Fleming said he did not see any money in it. “[The arrestee] said Fleming opened the wallet in front of him and the money was gone,” the police report said. 

According to the police report, the alleged victim said something to Fleming about the missing money, noting: “Fleming sarcastically said something to the effect, ‘You want to file charges against me, file charges.” The arrestee signed the property form under protest, the booking officer told investigators.  

Another officer present during the booking process told investigators that the arrestee told Fleming “I’m not saying you stole it, but I had more money than this.” Fleming then became agitated, saying, “This is motherfucking bull shit” then began to pace in the booking area, according to the second officer, who told investigators she thought Fleming should leave “because she did not want any type of incident to occur.” The officer told investigators that when Fleming left, “He hit a window in anger.” 

Fleming joined the Berkeley force March 9, 2003, after leaving the Richmond Police Department during an initial probation period, according to Hambleton. Fleming’s last day with Berkeley Police was Jan. 31. He earned $94,333 per year and about $47,000 in benefits. 

Fleming refused to speak to investigators, according to the police report. 

Fleming’s stepmother, Capt. Stephanie Fleming, retired in January. Hambleton, who praised Capt. Fleming for her work in the department, said the retirement had been planned for more than a year and was unrelated to accusations against the younger Fleming. 

Sean Derry joined the force as a trainee in January 2003 and became an officer June 27, 2004. His resignation was effective Wednesday. His annual salary was $88,510 plus about 50 percent in benefits. 

Interviewed as part of the investigation into the Fleming case, Derry said he had no knowledge of malfeasance on Fleming’s part or of money problems Fleming might have had. He told investigators that he and Fleming would get together socially for drinks and to smoke cigars. Their families would get together, Derry told investigators. 

“The most important thing about my job is maintaining the integrity of the department,” Hambleton told the Planet. The chief was unable to detail the reasons for the officers’ exits from the department, as they are privileged personnel matters. 

Last year Cary Kent, formerly a BPD sergeant, resigned from force after pleading guilty to felony charges of stealing drugs from the evidence room of which he was in charge. Kent tampered with as many as 286 evidence envelopes in cases dating back to 1998, court records say. He retired from the force rather than submit to an investigation and was sentenced in May to one year of home detention.