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  • San Diego Union-Tribune

    San Diego officer resigns after locking himself in patrol car with woman he arrested

    By Lyndsay Winkley,

    Former San Diego police Officer Anthony Hair resigned last year after he locked himself in the back seat with a woman who had been arrested. (Courtesy of the San Diego Police Department)

    It was just after 1:30 a.m. when former San Diego police Officer Anthony Hair told a dispatcher he’d arrived at Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee to drop off a woman he had arrested.

    Hair parked his patrol car, shut off the lights and turned off his body-worn camera.

    Except Hair wasn’t at the jail. He was two blocks away, on a dark, residential road. About 10 minutes later, the officer used his radio to call for assistance.

    He’d locked himself in the back seat with the woman he was transporting.

    Hair later claimed that he thought the woman was in medical distress and that he accidentally trapped himself in the cab while checking on her. Back-seat doors of police cruisers don’t open from the inside.

    He also said he must have knocked off his body-worn camera, since it was in the front seat when another officer showed up to free them.

    An investigation was launched. Both Hair and the woman denied anything sexual occurred in the hour the two were locked inside together. The former officer, who'd been with the agency for less than two years, resigned soon after. Hair could not be reached for comment.

    The incident was one of several investigations the San Diego Police Department made public last month under SB 16 and SB 1421, two laws that make some officer misconduct files public.

    “Mr. Hair’s actions do not represent the values of the San Diego Police Department,” spokesperson Lt. Dan Meyer said. “As soon as the Department became aware of the incident involving Mr. Hair, he was removed from the field, and the investigation began.

    The Department’s Internal Affairs Unit fully investigated the incident.”

    The department only released the files after the Union-Tribune requested them under the state’s Public Records Act. Police officials said they don’t — and aren’t required to — publish the investigations until someone asks for them. But one transparency advocate said the department might consider releasing them proactively.

    David Loy, legal director at the First Amendment Coalition, an open-government advocacy group, noted that when the Legislature passed SB 1421, it noted that effective law enforcement depends on the trust of the community, and that transparency with the community builds trust in law enforcement. Although the department doesn't have to proactively make the files public, "I think it's a really good idea," he said.

    "These are records of overwhelming public interest, and they should be easily available to the public," Loy said. He added later, "The more information people have, the more trust; the less information, the less trust."

    The incident with Hair began on Aug. 14 about 9:15 p.m. in the Bay Park community. The officer was one of several who responded to a police stop involving a stolen vehicle. A woman passenger was wanted on a warrant.

    Hair offered to take her to jail. The officer made several stops that night — at department headquarters to pick up paperwork for the warrant, and Northern Division, where he worked patrol, so she could be interviewed about the stolen car. Eventually, he drove her toward Las Colinas.

    Along the way, conversation between the two seemed to take a turn.

    “You’re not too bad,” the woman can be heard saying on body-worn camera footage. “What’s it gonna hurt me if I work the system, you know what I mean?”

    Less than 10 minutes later she can be heard moaning in a sexual manner.

    Later in the night, the woman appears to tell Hair that she’s open to having sex, according to the footage. The officer replies, “Don’t say that right now, because everything’s being recorded now.”

    Hair didn’t mention these interactions when investigators interviewed him later.

    Instead he explained that the woman wasn’t responding to him, so he grew worried that she was having a medical episode.

    He said his body-worn camera must have fallen off as he went to check on her, but investigators found, upon inspection, that the camera and the magnet mount were secure and “would not fall off or become dislodged in any manner,” the investigation read.

    The investigators also asked Hair for permission to check his uniforms for semen.

    “I don’t know my rights. Do I have to?” the former officer asked. “I don’t think I want to do that.”

    He later consented, and an analysis resulted in a presumptive positive test for semen on Hair’s belt. However, there wasn’t enough genetic material to confirm its presence.

    Hair denied that anything sexual happened that night. The woman also told investigators nothing untoward happened.

    She told investigators that he had asked her for her phone number and gave her an address where they could meet after she got out of jail.

    “I think he used the excuse that he did not think I was breathing so he could be in the back seat with me,” she told investigators.

    Officers contacted by Hair to help him out of the vehicle also had their suspicions.

    “I was thinking what is he doing back there with her? It didn’t feel right to me,” an officer told investigators.

    A day before the officer was set to be interviewed again, on Sept. 14, he resigned, according to the investigation.

    The department continued looking into the matter and found Hair had violated several department policies. He failed to record his entire trip with the woman on his body-worn camera; he sped while driving with her; he didn't notify medical services when he thought she might have be having an emergency; and he was untruthful about the encounter in both his police report and to investigators.

    Hair's case was forwarded to the state's Peace Officer Standards Accountability Board, which will determine if the former officer's certification should be suspended or revoked.

    This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune .

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