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Whistle-blowing Cop Says Exposing Institution Problems Was "Right Thing To Do"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 27, 2004

ELDRIDGE, CALIFORNIA--"It was the right thing to do," the former campus police chief at Sonoma Developmental Center wrote Friday.

"I had to follow my conscience."

Edward Contreras was going on record with his accounts of what happened while he was Chief of Police at SDC from 1995 to 2002 -- accounts related to the safety of the 800 people with developmental disabilities housed there.

During his years as police chief, Contreras found that hundreds of incidents of resident abuse, suspicious injuries, assaults, sexual assaults and deaths were poorly investigated, or not investigated at all. In many cases, administrators kept Contreras from crime scenes within the institution, or only allowed him in after the scenes had been cleaned of evidence, he claimed.

When Contreras tried to bring these concerns to officials with the Department of Developmental Services, the state program which oversees SDC, he was pressured to back away. He accuses administrators of removing investigative records without his permission.

Contreras decided to take his worries to specific legislators and the state's attorney general. One lawmaker launched an investigation, which found wide-spread problems with investigation of crimes against residents of the institution by staff and other residents.

But Contreras found himself the target of retaliation by administrators, who had him demoted, among other things, and removed opportunities for him to advance.

Contreras took the state to court, along with those he said harassed him.

Last September, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that that SDC administration and DDS violated Contreras' civil rights.

And last week he decided to accept a $950,000 settlement of his lawsuits.

"Some have asked me if it was all worth it?" Contreras wrote in his letter for the Sonoma Index-Tribune. "The short answer is yes."

"The one puzzling thing is that no SDC or DDS administrator was held accountable for their actions. Those who were involved are still employed at the facility or in Sacramento or have been promoted."

"But if I made a difference, if because of my actions I improved conditions for the clients at SDC, if as a result of my complaints, these disabled, vulnerable people have a better chance for justice, and if someone out there reads my story and actually makes an effort to reform the system, then it has been worth it."

"Ex-SDC police chief settles with state" (Sonoma Index-Tribune)
"Why I fought the state of California" By Edward Contreras (Sonoma Index-Tribune)
"Editorial: No justice for state's clients" (Sonoma Index-Tribune)
"Sonoma Developmental Center -- Investigations or Cover-ups?" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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