The missions, called drug interdiction, were once common practice among law enforcement agencies working together to stem drug trafficking on Highway 101, a thoroughfare between the Emerald Triangle marijuana growing region to the north and the Bay Area. Officers from several departments idled in patrol cars at the Sonoma-Mendocino county line with the goal of stopping vehicles hauling contraband.
Rohnert Park continued those missions even as departments began shifting tactics away from highway stops to focus on heroin and other serious drugs in their jurisdictions, partly in response to loosening marijuana laws.
Last year, Rohnert Park began confronting accusations of misconduct against its officers involved in these drug missions.
Tatum resigned in June while still under investigation by the city prompted by complaints by Flatten, who said officers from the city took his marijuana in December 2017.
Weeks later, Department Director Brian Masterson abruptly announced he would retire.
The city hired former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan to examine the department’s policies and practices in response to the accusations, then tightened its policies for booking evidence and for supervising officers.
In March, Rohnert Park City Council members received a report that an investigation found Huffaker had “engaged in misconduct that warrants termination.” The city agreed to pay $75,000 to Huffaker in a settlement and he agreed not to sue the city.
In their federal racketeering lawsuit, the five plaintiffs claim that “between 2014 and 2017, defendants Tatum and Huffaker conducted hundreds of stops and unlawful searches, outside of the city limits, while personally enriching themselves from the thefts of marijuana and cash.”
They claim the city and department brass failed to follow “contemporary law enforcement standards,” such as requiring officers “report when they were on duty and engaged in interdiction activities outside limits” and report traffic stops to dispatch or supervisors, according to the complaint.
Members of the so-called interdiction team had the discretion to seize marijuana and cash without documenting it or following common chain-of-custody procedures for how law enforcement officers take contraband into evidence and document its destruction, the complaint states.
The five stops all occurred between November 2015 and October 2016 between Geyserville and Cloverdale. All involved California residents, although some…